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December, 2018

HQ Trivia and Vine co-founder Colin Kroll found dead of suspected overdose

Colin Kroll, the 35-year-old co-founder and CEO of the HQ Trivia app, has been found dead of an apparent drug overdose in his apartment, TechCrunch has confirmed.

A spokesman for the NYPD told us that a female called 911 for a wellness check on Kroll’s apartment and he was found dead inside at 08:00 hours today.

The police department said the investigation is ongoing but added that the cause of death is “allegedly a drug overdose”.

“We’re still waiting on the ME’s report to confirm that,” he added.

The story was reported earlier by TMZ — which cites a police source saying cocaine and heroin were believed to be involved.

We reached out to HQ for comment but the company has declined to make a statement at this time.

Kroll was only named CEO of the HQ Trivia mobile game show app three months ago, replacing fellow co-founder Rus Yusupov who moved over to serve as chief creative officer.

Prior to taking the CEO role Kroll served as HQ’s CTO. He co-founded the startup in 2015, a few months after moving on from Vine — the Twitter-owned short video format startup.

It’s not clear who will take over the CEO role for HQ Trivia at this stage but Yusupov looks a likely candidate, at least in the interim.

In recent months the startup has been beta testing a follow up mobile game show, called HQ Words. The original format, HQ Trivia, airs twice per day and awards winners as much as $100,000 for successfully answering 12 questions.

The trivia app debuted last August and was a viral success. But the question hanging over HQ Trivia and its co-founders is how to sustain an early winning streak, once the novelty of the original show ran its course.

Kroll started his career as a software engineer at Right Media, which went on to be acquired by Yahoo in 2006.

From then until 2011, he led the engineering team in Yahoo’s search and advertising tech group before joining luxury travel site Jetsetter as VP of Product — where he went on to be promoted to CTO. In 2012 he left to start Vine with co-founders Dominik Hofmann and Yusopov.

3D-printed heads let hackers – and cops – unlock your phone

There’s a lot you can make with a 3D printer: from prosthetics, corneas, and firearms — even an Olympic-standard luge.

You can even 3D print a life-size replica of a human head — and not just for Hollywood. Forbes reporter Thomas Brewster commissioned a 3D printed model of his own head to test the face unlocking systems on a range of phones — four Android models and an iPhone X.

Bad news if you’re an Android user: all four phones unlocked with the 3D printed head.

Gone, it seems, are the days of the trusty passcode, which many still find cumbersome, fiddly, and inconvenient — especially when you unlock your phone dozens of times a day. Phone makers are taking to the more convenient unlock methods. Even if Google’s latest Pixel 3 shunned facial recognition, many Android models — including popular Samsung devices — are relying more on your facial biometrics. In its latest models, Apple effectively killed its fingerprint-reading Touch ID in favor of its newer Face ID.

But that poses a problem for your data if a mere 3D-printed model can trick your phone into giving up your secrets. That makes life much easier for hackers, who have no rulebook to go from. But what about the police or the feds, who do?

It’s no secret that biometrics — your fingerprints and your face — aren’t protected under the Fifth Amendment. That means police can’t compel you to give up your passcode, but they can forcibly depress your fingerprint to unlock your phone, or hold it to your face while you’re looking at it. And the police know it — it happens more often than you might realize.

But there’s also little in the way of stopping police from 3D printing or replicating a set of biometrics to break into a phone.

“Legally, it’s no different from using fingerprints to unlock a device,” said Orin Kerr, professor at USC Gould School of Law, in an email. “The government needs to get the biometric unlocking information somehow,” by either the finger pattern shape or the head shape, he said.

Although a warrant “wouldn’t necessarily be a requirement” to get the biometric data, one would be needed to use the data to unlock a device, he said.

Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project On Government Oversight, said it was doable but isn’t the most practical or cost-effective way for cops to get access to phone data.

“A situation where you couldn’t get the actual person but could use a 3D print model may exist,” he said. “I think the big threat is that a system where anyone — cops or criminals — can get into your phone by holding your face up to it is a system with serious security limits.”

The FBI alone has thousands of devices in its custody — even after admitting the number of encrypted devices is far lower than first reported. With the ubiquitous nature of surveillance, now even more powerful with high-resolution cameras and facial recognition software, it’s easier than ever for police to obtain our biometric data as we go about our everyday lives.

Those cheering on the “death of the password” might want to think again. They’re still the only thing that’s keeping your data safe from the law.

40 easy (and free) ways to feel festive this holiday season

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There’s a lot of pressure around the holiday season. It’s full of things for which it’s easy to have overblown expectations — New Year’s Eve, for example, and the unintentional friendship quality metric known as “giving gifts.” Not helping: the state of the world, which is bad.

It’s understandable, then, if you’re not feeling particularly festive. This year, I’ve struggled to get into the holiday spirit (whatever that is) and my lack of excitement is matched only by my guilt for its absence. It’s Christmas! What, within my extremely limited budget (zero dollars), can I do to feel more … holiday-ish? Read more…

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