Nature and Virtual Reality

Did you know that 12.000 years ago about 6.6 trillion trees grew on our planet? Today there are still just over 3 million: In the last 8.000 years alone about 80 percent of our forests have been destroyed. And can you imagine, that there are children who have never seen a forest before and probably never will? So on March 21, the International Day of Forests, I would like to remind us of the importance of trees, and how much we need forests, not just to decorate golf courses, but as habitats for animals and plants, and also understand, how virtual reality may change what we see, know and learn about faraway jungles and natural habitats, only a small group of people has ever seen before.

Burning Trees

We’re losing one of the world’s most precious commodities – our forests. In 2018, 3.6 million hectares of rainforest disappeared – an area the size of Belgium. In 2019 it was the Australian bushfires which took almost 25.5 million acres of woodland with it – the same landmass as South Korea. And, despite the many protests, there is still the ongoing deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest for farming and cattle which is taking place at an alarming rate and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has surged to its highest rate in more than a decade.

This simply can’t go on. For me, the world’s forests represent nature’s zoo – a home to so many species but also a playground for people of all ages to enjoy bike rides, walks or camping. They’re a personal haven to so many and a home to billions of creatures. They provide an opportunity for people of all walks of life to escape the stresses of the world and be close to nature – something that those of us living in big cities or built-up urban areas rarely get the chance to do.

Take a Virtual Tour Through the Jungle

So, with the destruction of the world’s forests showing no sign of slowing, it made me wonder if we are heading towards a time where we don’t even have the chance to enjoy and explore the many natural wonders our forests hold. I hope this will never be the case, but what if it did? How could future generations benefit from the learning and understanding of the world around you that you can only get from our forestlands?

The answer is technology, specifically virtual reality (VR) technology. Advancements and innovations in this space now mean that it is just as easy to strap on a VR headset and explore the world from the safety and comfort of your own home. With this has come an increased interest in how we can explore and learn about global forestry and to witness their natural beauty and learn of their history without even being there.

360° Virtual Reality Tour

The 360-degree film, called “Under the Canopy,” takes viewers into the depths of the Amazon allowing you to experience the region’s diverse environment as if you were there in person. But it’s not just about the picturesque views and beautiful vistas, the film also shares a very important message with viewers – unless we as the human race make changes, this incredible landscape is under threat and is likely to be destroyed unless we all collectively work towards keeping this landscape protected.

Virtual Reality and Education

By having the opportunity to explore these areas of natural beauty in VR we can learn so much. Education on the important role forests play in helping our climate and sustaining a vast eco-system of plants and animals is extremely important for both current and future generations. Without this technology, many of us will miss out on the vital education they provide. We won’t learn about the impact of deforestation on both the forest eco-system and the world and we won’t know how to best respond to the threat of climate change and do more to protect the wilderness and wildlife.

From this perspective, it is important that big tech firms and the many global and regional organisations responsible for the protection and upkeep of the world’s forests come together to make this happen. Tech companies have the platforms and resources to be able to deliver on the many promises VR and related technology can offer. We all know that technology is one of the best platforms for helping engage children with learning so it makes sense that it is used to encourage kids to become involved with preserving forests and perhaps consider a future career in forest preservation and management.

Fighting Climate Change

But aside from the obvious benefits, VR has in enacting behavioural change through education, there are of course many other uses. But for me, the most important is how VR technology can help us do more to respond to the current climate change emergency. I’ve been so inspired to find many filmmakers and advocacy groups using VR content as a platform for helping the world better understand the need to act on this important issue. One of my favourites from a few years ago is the film ‘This is Climate Change’. This four-part film explores the key topics of deforestation, global warming, wildfires and famine with viewers experiencing first-hand how the world and civilization suffer as a consequence of these changes. Experiencing the impact first-hand is quite an emotional ride but one that leaves you wanting to do more to help. And if VR can make such an impact on each and every one of us, imagine the enormous positive change we could all help bring about.

Technologies for on and off the slope

Ever since I started snowboarding at the age of 20, I have been in love with it. Like many other hobbies, the beginning can be kind of hard, but as soon as you got the technique, you are addicted. I regularly go snowboarding and try not to miss any chance to ride, but this year’s season was sadly short, due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19).

So, I thought to myself, why not write about my favorite hobby to shorten the wait for the next season for you and for me. I believe everyone who is into snowboarding like I am, feels the same: When you are standing on your board, it is a very special moment. Your mind is clear and fully synchronized with your body. Even though it gets exhausting after a long day in the cold sometimes, it is like a switch to another reality where nature, board and you are interconnected.

All the better, in the past year’s several technologies have entered the snowboarding scene which makes the hobby even more interesting for a techie like me.

Keep connected on your snowboard

Ingo Joseph –

The very first rule if you go biking, hiking, snowboarding or climbing off the beaten track: You should never go alone. And technology can help you to stay connected to your outdoor partner. Sure, if you lose sight of your partner you could use your smartphone to call or write them, but a phone is sometimes hard to reach when you are stuck in a skiing suit. That’s why I’m using a smartwatch. In addition to tracking your distance and speed or checking the weather conditions, it can be used to send text or voice messages to your friends, too. On Apple Watches, for instance, you have a Walkie-Talkie-App to instantly send voice messages. It is very convenient but might not work when you are on a mountain or in the deepest wilderness, because it depends on the connection of your smartphone. In this case, you could use real Walkie-Talkies, which is a bit old-school, but always work.

High Tech clothes – snowboarding with comfort

Of course, fashion is a big topic in snowboarding. For me, it is a part of your snowboard riding style. Though, clothes for winter sports have to do more than the usual activewear. Besides looking smart, they also have to keep riders warm and protected. Some manufacturers go even a step further and combine fashion with technology.

The designers of the brand Kjus, for example, produce a jacket with so-called HYDRO_BOT technology, which is an electrified membrane that creates an electroosmotic flow to actively pump sweat to the outside of the jacket. The moisture management can be controlled with the touch of a button or the corresponding app. No more hassle with lots of layers to cool down or warm-up while riding.

Another interesting product is the BT 2.0 Glove: A glove that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. When someone calls you, a little display on the glove shows you who is calling, and you can pick up and speak to them with a built-in speaker and microphone. I believe, this could look a bit strange to people around you when you are talking to your glove, but on the other hand, it’s the closest you will get to feeling like 007.

Stay safe on track

The necessity of wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding is a no-brainer. Luckily, nothing really-really bad happened to me, but I often heard horror stories of people who crashed or got buried by an avalanche. Especially when freeriding you expose yourself to danger even when you are a pro.

Alaskan Playground with John Jackson

But if you want to go offsite of crowded slopes, you should always be prepared for worst-case scenarios. An avalanche airbag can be a sensible addition to your gear. Some manufacturers provide integration of an airbag in a backpack, which is practical and could save your life. According to a study, 440 people were killed by avalanches in the U.S. in the past 45 years. If you get hit by massive amounts of snow you can pull the strap, the airbag inflates and you stay on top and have a higher chance to survive.

Another great technology, which could save your life are avalanche transceivers. This tiny device, which you should keep close to your body, sends strong radio signals if activated. A sensible complement is the RECCO reflector. The passive transponder, which does not require a power source or activation, is integrated into many products such as jackets, helmets or shoes and reflects the signals of an active sender. Both technologies help rescue teams to scan the snow masses in a short amount of time. But be aware that RECCO reflectors are not a substitute to avalanche transceivers! If you want to make sure that your gear has a build-in transponder, pay attention to this label below.

In terms of rescue, the Czech Mountain Rescue Service goes a step further and combine signal detection with drones. Thereby they reduce their search times by up to 50 percent because a drone can scan a large avalanche site more quickly than a person on foot.

Mountain Rescue – Drone saves lives after avalanche

It’s astonishing to see how technology is used in many creative ways, whether it is for communication, comfort or safety. And there is even more potential. Maybe there will be AI-based full-body airbags that analyze the current situation and inflate right before an accident? Or ski lifts will become obsolete due to drones? I am excited for the next season. And you?

Data versus Trust

Your phone, your watch, your home – as long as it has a smart in front of its name it has your data. With every click you make, every location you track and every question you ask Siri or Google, your information is being harvested. The collection of users’ personal information improves consumer experiences and delivered services, yet also poses additional online threats and risks. The past decade has demonstrated several cases proving that sometimes it is not only a risk, but a certain danger. With that in mind, what kind of privacy hazards could come our way in the 2020s?

Data Control

As we see it now, governments will continue to excerpt stricter control over user data and tighten security. This may be blamed on intensifying terrorism and instability in the world and worryingly wide access to users’ personal information from businesses.

Data at Risk

Crowd walking over binary code

While the rationale behind the above is clear, enhanced access to user data naturally implies many risks, such as unauthorized access and consequently compromising privacy or even leaking information.

The biggest challenge posed to regulating parties will always be: constantly adapting regulations at the same speed new technologies are being developed. We currently don’t see a huge trend in companies changing their behavior in dealing with user data. The only improvement is that users are being asked to give their consent over how the data is used, and it is now mandatory in many countries. We don’t see any strong trend in adding real life security for protecting sensitive user data. Moreover, there’s already a growing gap between regulation and real life practice. With the latter being much faster – we have toothless regulations as result.

Advice here is simple – try to limit your data-sharing patterns online. Avoid exposing your data and sensitive information unless it is necessary.

Cyber Battle for Privacy

The trends outlined above will clearly drive privacy protection technologies. Tech-savvy users will know their way around such solutions, with more technologies arising to circumvent them – inevitably extending the arms race in this area.

At the same time, users will become more proactive when it comes to their privacy, and this will influence higher demand for password managers, VPN services, tokens for two-factor authentication (2FA) and special privacy solutions. However, protection mechanisms like 2FA tokens and password managers are just at the endpoint, while attacks and misuse are often happening at the backend. These tools are good and needed to protect the local environment but do not protect against attacks and abuse of the utilized systems like the cloud for example. VPNs are useful to protect against data collection in certain scenarios – like real IP-addresses or geolocation – but still do not protect against voluntarily shared data by users with services like Google and Facebook etc.

Advice here is keep an eye on new ways to protect your privacy and use only trusted solutions. Invest your time in exploring the issue because security of your privacy is not just a new luxury – it is as essential as brushing your teeth every day.

Data Currency

Amusing online tests and other applications that gamify the processing of user data harvesting and collection will still be around as they bring engagement to owners and entertainment to users. However, while compromising their data – and this is why their enduring popularity should not stay unnoticed, nor underestimated.

Advice here is to, if possible, not take part in unnecessary applications of the kind and do not share your private information. Nothing comes for free, and if something does – it is mostly paid for with your discreetly collected data.

Fighting Public Manipulation

These attacks are happening for many years already – and there is no reason for them to stop. The upcoming decade will not only open yet another round in the political pendulum of global society due to a new US presidential election – new technology for fake visual and audio IDs already exist. These two factors will bring undesired attention and abuse from all sorts of parties. The good thing is that where there is action, there is also reaction – and we definitely can count on new methods to withstand the risks of public manipulation.

What does it have to do with privacy? If you’re not vigilant, your data could be exploited in these manipulated visual and audio IDs. To protect yourself from this, do not expose yourself if you are not sure you are dealing with a proven and truly secure platform.

IoT vendors will start investing in security on a new scale

The last few years have been very turbulent for the cybersecurity industry. Hacks and specific malware, data breaches, geopolitical tensions and disinformation campaigns across the globe – you name it – have all caused challenges.

We think that this sort of activity will push vendors to a new level of collaboration for the sake of security. Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance have announced the creation of a new working group to develop and promote the adoption of a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among IoT products, with security as a fundamental design tenet. Hopefully, others will follow their lead.

In that sense, the 2020s will be an interesting decade filled with both challenges and opportunities.

Technology on Tyuleny

The engine of the ship Afina, our home on the From Kurils with Love expedition, was quiet. The only noise making its way into our cabins came from the sound of waves slapping against the hull of the ship. As I emerged from below deck, I saw it was misty that day. The only sense of direction I had was a vague one- we were somewhere in the North Pacific, a few hundred kilometers northwest of Japan, in a place that you would never have found on a map if not for the likes of Google maps: Tyuleny Island.

Getting ready


The film crew, myself included, scrambled to get ready that morning. We were pushing through the chaos of the end of the trip- exhaustion, scattered gear, and the slight hangover that comes from time spent on a ship with old (and new) friends.

Dr. Vladimir Burkanov, our unexpected guest on the journey, was already drifting into the fog in a zodiac. It was laden with 42-gallon barrels filled of water that would supply the research station on Tyuleny Island.

We struggled to catch up with him, but a few minutes later, I was on another zodiac speeding off into the mist towards the island. All around me the heads of dozens, if not hundreds, of northern fur seals snuck out of the water surface. They silently stared at us, curious at the sight of the vessel passing by, before dipping back into the depths.

The smell of nature

Renan Ozturk

Soon after the island came into view. The Tyuleny Island Research Station sat behind the slope of a narrow, boulder filled beach. At first glance I remember thinking that the boulders were moving. And sure enough, they were, but they weren’t boulders- almost every corner of open space was covered with sprawling masses of the northern fur seals and Stellar sea lions.

It wasn’t long after that I noticed the smell- not an unfamiliar one to me, but… one that seemed stronger than I had experienced before. Much stronger.

It was the smell of not tens, or hundreds, or even thousands of northern fur seals and Stellar sea lions, but tens of thousands. 50.000 of them, to be precise.

If, at this point in the story, you are wondering how and why so many large animals can make a living on an island that doesn’t even reach 650 meters at its longest point- you are asking the right question.

The changes in the population of northern fur seals and Stellar sea lions here, along with their behavior and mating habits, are the exact reason Vladimir and his team spend months at the Tyuleny Island research station.

No kitchen, no heating – pure research

Chris Burkard

As I walked into the Tyuleny Island Research station, a building without heating or a working kitchen, I was surprised to see Vladimir’s students and colleagues inside one of the rooms with computer screens dotted with aerial imagery and complex computing software.

The team inside the room was a small one: besides Vladimir and his colleague and the field station leader Ivan Usatov, efforts on Tyuleny are built upon the work of Anya Kirillova, a researcher from Nizhniy Novgorod; Dasha Gerasimova, a veterinary student from Irkutsk, Egor Vasyukov, a student from Kirov, and Sasha Igitov, volunteer from Kirov.

The Challenge: Studying 50.000 marine mammals

Taylor Rees

Studying such a large population is a daunting task. Simply navigating through the cacophony of sounds and smells while weaving through the moving maze of seal and sea lion bodies was a challenge for us as one-day visitors to the island. As an ocean scientist myself, I couldn’t imagine the amount of labor that would be needed to get regular counts of the population here and how it changes on a week-to-week and day-to-day basis. On top of that, the team on the island is a small team with limited resources, supported only by occasional supply runs, making it all seem like an impossible task. Each survey would take days of intense work, and in order to get the best quality of data, this process would need to happen ad infinitum during each field season.

But Vladimir and his team have found a way to survey the populations anywhere from four to six times a day. How?

The technology behind the research

Chris Burkard

It all started when Vladimir’s colleague Ivan taught himself to use U-Net: a type of convolutional neural network, originally made for medical purposes, which is designed to work with limited numbers of images as a training set.

Using U-net alongside existing drone technology, Vladimir and his team can capture aerial imagery suited to specific research questions. In some cases, for example, the team wants counts of Stellar sea lions and northern fur seals by age/sex (pups, juveniles, mature adults). Data related to other behaviors is also captured, like how many males and females have territory, tracking specific individuals with brands or injuries, or estimating body size.

Taylor Rees

Each of these surveys requires a huge amount of data, and getting the surveys right takes practice. Test flight paths have to be developed in order to find the best altitude, speed, time of day, and image overlap that maximizes the image quality of the drones. Anywhere from one thousand to three thousand images are collected per survey – again, with 4-6 surveys a day. Once the images are all normalized to the same scale and stitched together -often called an orthophoto plan, in technical terms- an application in the statistical programming language R created by Ivan Usatov automatically processes the images and collects the relevant information.

With that, a survey that might take days of labor can now be processed from start to finish in just six hours after the images are collected, all with an error rate in the range of 4-8%.

So what are the implications of this new integration of drone technology into Vladimir’s work?

While we chose to integrate technology can be complicated, it became clear that the use of drones and modern computing techniques on Tyuleny has an outsized impact in their capacity to understand marine mammals in the region. With a bit of luck and a lot of effort, the strategic use of technology by the team here may one day help conserve the natural beauty in this tiny corner of the planet.

Kinetic Energy is all around

Kinetic energy is not something we talk about a lot, but it is one of the most exciting technologies coming to market and potential solution to the world’s over-reliance on legacy sources of energy such as fossil fuel. So why is it so important? Simply put, kinetic energy is all around us and if harnessed correctly, it could become one of the most important sources of clean energy we have at our disposal and an important weapon in helping fight climate change.

What is kinetic energy?

manu mangalassery –

In short, it is the energy of motion. When you move your body or a physical object, you are doing so with kinetic energy. A person walking, a ball being kicked or even an item falling from a table all possess kinetic energy – it is the force that is propelling them forward. You can even work out the amount of kinetic energy in joules using a simple equation, which I won’t bore you with here, but what this means is that every individual and object have the potential to produce kinetic energy.

This is why I am talking about kinetic energy with such a passion – because it has such amazing potential – we just need to change our behaviours to tap into this technology and ensure there is a planet Earth left in all our futures.

Why is it so important?

Pixabay –

With 67 countries and eight US states working towards carbon net neutral targets, clean energy solutions need to be identified and implemented as soon as possible.

In tandem, as set out by the World Economic Forum way back in 2017, many countries are also working to reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars in use by 2040 at the latest, although some countries such as UK and Norway look to achieve that by at least 2035.

This is where kinetic energy comes into the equation. Most self-charging hybrid electric vehicles are based on kinetic energy. Have you ever booked an Uber and rode in one of the world’s most popular self-charging hybrids – the Toyota Prius? Well if you have, you have been in a car that is powered by kinetic energy. Every time the car breaks, kinetic energy is produced which is stored in the cars batteries and then reused to help drive the car forward. So, it makes sense that as we slowly wean the planet off of its reliance on fossil fuels, particularly to power the many, many, many cars on the road, kinetic energy capabilities offer the perfect ‘clean energy’ solution. In fact, as of 2020, Uber insists that every one of its London drivers needs to drive a fully electric or petrol/electric hybrid car.

Where else can kinetic energy be used?

Hasan Albari –

But of course, this technology doesn’t come cheap and, right now, electric cars are not something we can all afford. But there are many ways in which we can all harness and use kinetic energy in our day to day lives. Take your phone for example, you charge it every day, right? Well, swap your phone charger for a kinetic charger. There are some which are powered by a hand crank and others powered by a battery that is charged by a sensor in your trainers as you run. These are just some of the examples of products already available, but a wider variety of devices will soon hit the market that will help charge all of your most important devices – from your phone to your computer and most devices in between.

But aside from the obvious solutions, there are a handful of other technologies to take advantage of. One of my favourites is the self-charging floor, a technology that is already at work in Las Vegas, lighting up a handful of ‘the strips’ streets. But imagine applying this technology to your office space where workers are constantly walking back and forth between their desks and meeting rooms. One company, called Energy Floors, is hoping to achieve just that and are beginning to design kinetic installations for spaces of all sizes.

Of course, businesses are not going to switch to 100 per cent kinetic energy soon, but products such as the Flywheel Batteries will help businesses create and store kinetic energy locally. Flywheel storage facilities make use of a flywheel system that constantly accelerates and decelerates a rotor in order to store kinetic energy.

How will the future with kinetic energy look like?

Nita –

There are also a handful of start-ups harnessing energy in different and unique ways. Kite Power Systems is looking to harness the power of kites by floating them high up in the sky where there are far more power wind speeds. The movement of the kites in the wind turns a turbine which, in turn (pun totally intended), generates clean energy. American Wind has invented the world’s smallest wind turbine – one that can generate almost 1,000 times more than a solar panel. That’s quite impressive for something no bigger than a 30 cm cube.

Finally, there is Constructis, an innovative new energy start-up that wants to use its technology to collect kinetic energy from every vehicle on the road by capturing energy as they drive over it. Think of it as an energy harvesting speed bump.

When it all comes down to it, we all have a responsibility to do more to change how we source and consume energy so that we become less reliant on less green energy solutions. There is no doubt that we are only at the start of the journey towards to a kinetically powered future, but when we get there I have a feeling it will be a very bright future.


Made for Space – used on Earth

With so much interest today in commercial space travel, you may think that space technologies are exclusively concerned with finding new planets to inhabit, like Elon Musk’s mission to colonize Mars. Some think of space travel as a leisure pursuit for billionaires who’ve already been everywhere they want on Earth.

But what’s less discussed is the contribution space technologies have made to life on Earth. Let’s explore five of the most remarkable achievements enabled by space travel, which we now experience every day.

Is there mouse on Mars?

John Petalcurin –

We interface with computers today using a keyboard and mouse or trackpad, a convenience we take for granted. But in the early days of computing in the 1950s, computers had no graphical interface and only worked using command lines.

In the early 1960s, NASA funded Doug Englebart’s experiments with different input systems to improve the way people could interact with computer screens. NASA needed advanced data input and analysis to enhance their space travel operations. Most researchers expected the winning device to be a light pen, but the technology that won out was the mouse.

The invention of the mouse wasn’t the program’s only claim to fame: project sponsor Bob Taylor left NASA in ’65 to head up the ARPAnet project for the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), giving rise to the birth of the internet.

Cleaning up the stardust

Jarmoluk –

Wherever you live, you (hopefully) regularly clean your home. Today, your weapon of choice is most likely a vacuum cleaner. I prefer to use the handy cordless vacuum cleaner, another tech that originated from NASA research. The first device of this kind was the 1979 Black & Decker “Dustbuster,” commissioned by NASA for its Apollo mission to be powerful enough to collect core samples from the lunar surface.

Satellites make the world go round

Pixabay –

We live in the communication and information age. At the heart of our global communications technologies are satellites – space-based communication we use every day when we make a cellphone call, use the internet or watch satellite TV.

Communications satellites are artificial satellites that relay and amplifies radio communications between a source transmitter and receiver in different locations on Earth. There are now about 2,000 communication satellites in Earth’s orbit, owned and used by commercial companies as well as governments and the military.

Ponder this great innovation in transmitting long-distance data next time you upload a selfie to your Instagram. Beam me up, Scotty.

Navigating road, air and sea from the stars

Ingo Joseph –

When you travel by car, boat or airplane, there’s one common technology you will probably use to aid your navigation: GPS (global positioning system), based on a satellite infrastructure.

GPS was started in ’73 by the US Department of Defense, with the prototype space satellite launched five years later. It was initially used exclusively by the US military, but following an order from President Ronald Reagan, civilians started to use the technology for the first time in the 1980s.

And did you know that GPS is not the only existing satellite navigation system? There are a few more which essentially differ in their accuracy. The most common are Galileo (EU), GLONASS (Russia) and BeiDou (China).

Today, no more arguing with your map-bearing co-navigator about whether you took the wrong turn on the highway. The noughties saw the birth of a new co-pilot for drivers to spar with: the sat nav. Turn around when possible.

Improving lives on Earth with healthcare innovation

Anna Shvets –

One field of innovation, which benefits us all, is improvements in the healthcare sector. Thanks to space travel, we’ve experienced faster progress with pacemakers, laser surgery, diagnostic imaging scan technologies (CT and CAT scans), and robots for surgery and production of artificial organs and prostheses.

Suits with embedded biomedical sensors to study how the body responds to living in space led to the creation of a baby monitoring system to protect against cot deaths.

And the innovation continues. In 2019, the UK Space Agency funded Adaptix to develop a pioneering portable 3D medical X-ray machine, based on the technology used to study stars in distant galaxies.

Space technologies are benefiting industry right now. And there are many new space tech-powered business opportunities to get involved with in agriculture, logistics, mining and more. I’m looking forward to seeing what new technologies space travel will bring humankind in the future.


Remote Work in Times of Corona

Who knew at the beginning of the year that most of us would be sitting and working from home? And though some of us were familiar with remote work or planned home office days regularly, many entered a whole new aspect of work. If you ask me, I think many companies will allow more of their employees to work from home more often, as they see that there is no lack in work ethics or quality – remote workers even tend to be more productive, as they can schedule their time more flexible. But where there is light, there is also darkness: As more people start working from home, cybercriminals see increasing chances in stealing our data. Therefore, it is important to not forget that you are also handling important and critical information at the home office. But how can we manage to work efficiently and at the same time stay safe online? We at Tomorrow Unlocked got you covered!

What We Love About Remote Work

It is no longer a secret that people are more productive when working at home. A huge benefit of remote work is that it may decrease physical and mental health issues, because work-related stress such as commuting is reduced, and people can find jobs in different areas, even when living in economically disadvantaged regions or countries. It could also be a great driver of helping young mothers or fathers who need to work from home in order to take care of their kids. Remote work opens up so many opportunities for professionals all over the world and gives them huge flexibility to build their work around their personal life and not the other way around.

Remote Work: Trends and Technology

To be able to work remotely you need to have the appropriate devices. You cannot work outside your home office if you only have a desktop pc or take a call from your boss if you have no landline or mobile connection at your location. Most of the times your company will provide you with the mobile devices you need: laptop, smartphone, smartwatch or tablet. Some companies allow you to work with your own private devices which is called “BYOD” and stands for “Bring Your Own Devices” (not to be mistaken with BYOB), which is ideal and employer-friendly, as you can choose those devices you like to work with depending on your situation.

Cloud software is one of the most important topics when working remote. You need to be able to share your data with your team fast and connect with them even faster, and the more you work at home the more you will enjoy working with collaboration software like Microsoft Teams or Slack.

Risks of Remote Work

The more we work from home the more cyber criminals try knocking at our door. Though we are securing our front door and don’t let anyone in we don’t know – a lot of us forget locking the backdoor. Which is – according to most of our favorite real crime series – an easy way for criminals to enter. Some of the risks are: Insecure WiFi and 4G/5G connections, malware and ransomware, phishing, decentralized IT control or apps with too many permissions.

Safe Remote Work

As bad as the risks sound there are easy ways you can keep your data secure:

  • Avoid any suspicious links or applications if you don’t know the source
  • Always keep your software up-to-date and switch on your firewall
  • Stay alert online! Read links and service agreements carefully and only use certified and secure programs or websites: e.g. do not put in your login data if it clearly says in the URL, please…
  • Switch on password protection and use Face ID or Touch ID
  • Encrypt your devices
  • Make backups on a regular basis
  • Install and turn on tracking applications for your devices: e.g. find my iPhone
  • Enable remote access to your devices
  • Educate yourself to stay up to date and aware of current threats

Filming in the pandemic

Shooting instructions for the pandemic

We would really prefer to send you a camera team, but these times demand different solutions. So, here an introduction and some instructions for the lockdown-shoot.

General instructions/tips

For an ideal film, we need something called ‘cutaways’. These are little video snippets that we can cut in, which are not direct interview scenes. So, if there is any way that you could use the GoPro camera we sent you, to film a few scenes of yourself working on the computer, walking through your flat, typing on your phone or being in a phone conversation, that helps us a lot. If not possible, don’t worry.

The more cameras the better. When interviewing you, we’d preferably film that from different angles. We are sure you have a camera on your computer and we sent you a GoPro. The GoPro comes with a stand and can be placed on your desk or wherever you want to be interviewed. It has a little screen on the back so you can control the picture. At the same time, it would be great if you could use your computer as a second camera. In Windows 10, just type ‘Camera’ in your search bar and open the app. On a Mac, follow these instructions: Please record audio there, too. If you have a podcast microphone or so, please use it with the computer recording.

The GoPro

The package we sent you contains a GoPro with a stand and a light.

You can switch the GoPro on with the power button on the side. Then just arrange it, check that you are happy with the picture and push the button on top to start the recording.

The light can help if the lighting in your room is not great. Basically, we want to avoid shadows on your face and the wall behind you. It is difficult to tell you exactly what to do with it without being there, but if you think it might be too dark at your shooting location, use the light. Ideally, place the light above the camera.

The shoot

We will connect to you via Whatsapp video chat. Place your phone on the desk, best in a way that you will not directly look into any of the other cameras. We will ask you to clap in your hands from time to time, please do that, it will help us align sounds and footage from both cameras. Besides that it is only a conversation, so don’t worry.

The data

When done, please send the GoPro back as it is. We will take the data from the card.

For the computer recording,please use this to transfer to us:

Thank you so much for your understanding and your support!

The Tomorrow Unlocked Team!

Making films in lockdown by Kolibri Pictures

If you could stop a devastating cyberattack, would you think about yourself first, or just act? This is the uncensored story of the WannaCry ransomware attack, how Marcus Hutchins went from cyber celebrity to wanted cyber criminal overnight and where he is now.

The story of WannaCry and hacker Marcus Hutchins

“I was shaking, I think I sweated through my T-shirt and blazer. I did not know how to feel – it just felt like everything was coming to an end, but not in a good way…”

For Marcus Hutchins, a dream that turned into a nightmare ended in July 2019 with a compassionate sentence by a Milwaukee judge. “I just got out of my court hearing for the sentencing. I wasn’t sure how it would go down. I was very, very nervous,” he told us after leaving the courtroom. “But the judge took a broad view of the entire circumstances. He weighed up my past work helping security. He ended up ruling ‘time served,’ which was a big surprise to me. But it does make sense, when you weigh in that I’ve been forced to stay in a foreign country for two years.”

Marcus’s story starts with what strangely became his downfall – stopping a catastrophic ransomware attack called WannaCry.

What is the WannaCry ransomware attack?

Hutchins became an overnight cybersecurity celebrity in 2017. “I came back from lunch, saw all the news about something targeting the NHS and decided to dig a little deeper, which was when I noticed an unregistered domain inside the code.” He registered the domain and the infection count went down. He had found the ‘kill switch’ for the WannaCry epidemic.

WannaCry cyberhero or Marcus Hutchins, cybercriminal?

It changed his life. He became a hero, then fell to zero a few weeks later. “I woke up to see my face over a two-page spread of the Daily Mail. Media had posted my address in the paper, which meant the bad guys I am fighting know where I live.”

Marcus Hutchins arrested at Defcon 2017

After saving the world from the worst ransomware attack in history, Hutchins became a cyber hero. The pinnacle of his fame was global hacker conference Defcon 2017. Marcus had become a demi-god among cyber researchers, journalists and the public before the event. After a week in the Las Vegas sun, partying and rubbing shoulders with the industry’s biggest names, everything would come crashing down.

Big Mac to banged up – WannaCry ransomware attack continued

That week, Marcus Hutchins had shared a mansion with his friends – think huge pool, all-night parties and legal marijuana. Allegedly, while picking up a McDonalds delivery outside the mansion one morning, he noticed an unmarked FBI vehicle.

At the airport, his suspicions were confirmed, “I am completely exhausted. I have no idea what’s going on and I’m just relaxing waiting for my flight. And a man and two other people in uniform approached me and asked, “Are you Marcus Hutchins?” I said yes, and they asked me to come with them. It turned out the guy was an FBI agent and that’s when they arrested me.”

At this point, Hutchins is in a sleep-deprived state of shock. Things aren’t looking good. The FBI showed a warrant for his arrest on conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse. It wasn’t for his role in WannaCry, but for a cyber ghost from his past: malware called Kronos, created on the sunny shores of Devon, UK, was of critical importance to the FBI.

Marcus Hutchins' arrest – a global phenomenon

When the world got hold of Hutchins’ arrest, social media was awash with support and slander. One cybersecurity researcher suggested Hutchins created WannaCry himself only to stop it as it spiraled out of control. But as supporters who raised the alarm on the FBI’s treatment of Hutchins, Twitter bulged with support for Marcus’ character.

Eventually, Hutchins was bailed to a halfway house with a curfew and GPS monitoring. The Twitter community again came to his aid and two lawyers took Hutchins’ case for free. They were able to overturn the curfew and GPS monitoring.

Would prosecutors persuade Hutchins to squeal?

The FBI said if Hutchins called out other hackers he knew of, they’d let him off. On principle, Marcus opposed snitching. Instead, he set his sights on a criminal trial. Hutchins’ cybersecurity background, diligence and good heart played in his favor when the day came.

Much to Hutchins’ surprise, the judge ruled his hero status could almost warrant a full pardon, but that was out of the question. Rather than a 10-year prison sentence and a 500,000 US dollar fine, Marcus stepped out of the courtroom with one year supervised release.

Wait, what? After months of anxiety, Marcus was a free-ish man. The judge smiled on him that day, understanding Hutchins had already served a type of sentence being kept in the US without the right to go home.

Where is Marcus Hutchins now?

Hutchins has retreated from the public spotlight for now. Keep an eye on his Twitter, @MalwareTechBlog, for updates on what he’ll do next. From a recent interview in WIRED, it sounds like a return to his childhood love, surfing:

“Someday, I’d like to be able to live in a house by the ocean like this, where I can look out the window and if the waves are good, go right out and surf.”

The WannaCry documentary – Marcus Hutchins' untold story

There’s much more to Marcus Hutchins’ story, in his own words. The cybersecurity hero who stopped WannaCry turned cybercrime defendant speaks in our exclusive documentary.

Explore more of history’s craziest and most mysterious cybercrime with our hacker:HUNTER series.

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