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How a social engineering hack turned these Facebook pages into a dumping ground for spam

Hannah Shaw, better known as the “Kitten Lady,” teaches people how to care for neonatal cats, and has raised more than $1 million for animal shelters and rescues. Her Facebook page has gained over a million followers since she began making cat content, but she almost lost it all to a social engineering hack that took over access to her Meta business account.

“I built that community for more than a decade. Thinking that I might lose it was pretty devastating,” Shaw said.

Influencers rely on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for their income. These sites have evolved from side project enablers to the sole source of income for some content creators. However, bad actors have found ways to also take a piece of the piece from those earning an honest living there. Yes, high-level hackers tend to seek entities with deep pockets, targeting them with highly complicated attacks. But much of the cyber criminality today is social engineering jobs, ripping off mid-level creators with much fewer resources than a multinational corporation, but also significantly less technical know-how.

A creator who goes by Hobby Bobbins — who gained a cult following within her niche of vintage clothing restoration — walked me through how all of this happened to her. The attack occurred in almost the exact same steps that led to Shaw’s account takeover. It started with an interview request from an individual going by Rex Hall, who claimed to be a manager for the show “Podcast and Chill with MacG.” This appears to be a real podcast, although no one named Rex Hall seems to be publicly associated with it. (We reached out to the podcasters to determine if they're aware their brand is being used to perpetrate a social engineering scheme and have not heard back.) "Podcast and Chill" is based in South Africa, and according to its Twitter bio, its purpose is in part for "documenting black excellence.” It doesn’t specifically focus on the topics Shaw or Bobbins cover, like animal wellness or vintage clothing. But influencers receive these requests constantly, the podcast hosts had a digital footprint and "Rex" was able to answer any questions that Bobbins had.

The malicious actor asked their targets to hop on a Zoom call for pre-interview prep, including setting up Facebook Live to bring in revenue. “Everything seemed normal at first, the only odd thing was his camera was not on. But even that is not too odd, a lot of people don’t want to be on camera,” Shaw said. After a labyrinth of back and forth over backend settings, the scammer leads their targets to a backend setting called “datasets.” It’s an obscure page, often used to give people admin access to a business account. But victims thought it was a normal part of setting up for Facebook Live because it does include event management options.

Both Shaw and Bobbins pushed back on the request to access datasets and turned off their screen sharing to avoid giving too much away. But the hackers still got in by insisting they help with setup, saying that they needed to view one seemingly innocuous link. In datasets, creators generated a unique URL that the scammers could use to get into the account. “When he captured that direct URL, it basically generated that email invite for him without ever having to access my email without him even needing to know a password or anything,” Bobbins said. “All he had to do was put in the link and accept the invite and then it automatically added his own personal Facebook to my page.”

After gaining access, "Rex" was able to make themself an admin of the page. With that power, they could remove Bobbins’ ability to log in. Support tickets with Meta sent her in circles trying to get her account back. Bobbins’ lost her way to communicate with her 400,000 followers, and hackers deleted years of content she had dedicated her career to making.

The scammers cleaned the page to make room for bogus links that led to ad-filled sites to generate easy revenue. They put in a list of about 100 blocked words so that followers couldn’t flag to each other that the account had been hacked. “Anybody who commented on my page that said ‘stolen’ or ‘hacked’ or ‘scam’ or whatever would be automatically blocked out. So, none of my other followers could see the people who knew that my account was hacked,” said Bobbins. She lost an unknown number of views and “hundreds of dollars” worth of sales each day that her account had been taken over.

Shaw and Bobbins both went to Meta for help, but it was fruitless. “There is zero support for a problem like this with Facebook,” Bobbins said. Resetting her password went nowhere, because it couldn’t change the admin settings that the hackers had changed. When Bobbins finally figured out how to contact the help desk at Facebook with a support ticket, it was closed out “almost instantly” with no help received, she said. In response to our questions about this attack vector or what they’re doing to help creators keep accounts secure, Meta recommended users implement multifactor authentication and report any issues to its support center. But Shaw and Bottoms both have two-factor authentication turned on, and their accounts still got taken over. Meta did, however, introduce better customer service as a feature in its paid verification package earlier this year, another way social media platforms are charging for security features.

Shaw got her account back in about 72 hours from the initial attack by using her following to find a person who could help, but Bobbins wasn’t as lucky. She’s still struggling with access today, over a month since the hack occurred. She briefly got back in and was able to begin manually reuploading her past content. Beyond that, those who accessed the accounts changed location permissions, turned off messaging capabilities, removed her shop from her page, blocked certain followers and took away her $5 per month subscribers. The web of damage became so widespread, Bobbins created a list of the footprints left by the attacker to help others undo the changes. Since the account takeover, Bobbins has struggled to keep access to her account, with unusual flags on seemingly unwarranted copyright violations and other issues kicking her out.

“There’s no extra step that can be taken right now to protect somebody from the thing that I just went through,” Bobbins said. The only prevention for a crime like this is spreading the word, so that others don't fall for the same social engineering trick. That’s why Shaw is helping bring together more than a dozen of other victims of the same scam to minimize damage and call for greater creator security.

Still, there’s no real solution without the platforms creating major change. Platforms should do a better job of quickly investigating complaints from followers because right now the onus is on the page owners to figure it out, said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. While there are a lot of prescribed processes for traditional identity theft, like freezing your credit, there aren’t well-defined practices for social media account takeovers because creators are at the mercy of these platforms.

If you stumble upon what appears to be an account takeover as a follower, Velasquez recommends getting in touch with the creator outside of that specific platform to let them know a hack is occurring. Victims of an account takeover can also alert the Internet Crimes Complaint Center about the incident, but there’s not much else they can do. Or, creators can avoid using the platform altogether. “At this moment in time, I don't recommend that anybody accepts Facebook Live interviews,” Shaw said.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best iPads for 2024: How to pick the best Apple tablet for you

Finding the best iPad for you can be complicated. Between the 10th-generation iPad, the iPad Air and the M2 iPad Pro, Apple sells three tablets with roughly 11-inch screens and broadly similar designs, but key differences when it comes to internal components and accessory support. The older 10.2-inch iPad and iPad mini are still hanging around more than two years after their initial release dates as well. If you’re looking to buy a new iPad, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of each model and rounded up the best values of the bunch.

Before we dig in, a word of warning: Apple is very likely to introduce new iPads in the coming months. The company did not release any new tablets in 2023, but reliable Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has said that Apple plans to update its entire lineup throughout 2024. According to Gurman, the next refreshes could arrive as soon as March and include overhauled iPad Pros with OLED displays as well as updated iPad Airs. For the latter, both Gurman and longtime Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo have suggested that Apple will roll out a new Air model with a 12.9-inch display. Updates to the entry-level iPad and iPad mini are also reportedly on the way. So if you can hold off on buying a new iPad right now, you should do so. But if you need a new tablet today, or if you just want to grab an existing model at a discount, here’s how the current lineup stacks up.

Best for most: iPad Air

Of the six iPad models currently on sale, the iPad Air is the closest to being universally appealing. We gave the latest Air a review score of 90: It has the same elegant and comfortable design language as the iPad Pro at a lower price, with a bright, sharp and accurate 10.9-inch display surrounded by thin bezels and flat edges. It comes with a USB-C port, just like recent MacBooks and iPhones, and while it's not a Thunderbolt connection as on the iPad Pro, simply being able to charge the Air with the same cable you use with your other gadgets is a plus.

Apple refreshed the Air in 2022 with its M1 system-on-a-chip, which is the same silicon found in the entry-level MacBook Air. This isn’t Apple’s newest SoC, but it’s still more than powerful enough for virtually any task you can throw at it, and an increasing number of iPadOS features are exclusive to M-series chips.

The iPad Air is also compatible with Apple’s best accessories, including the second-generation Pencil stylus and the (excellent) Magic Keyboard, just like the 11-inch iPad Pro. These add a good bit of cost to the bottom line, but for digital artists or frequent typers, they’re there.

The middle of Apple’s iPad lineup is a bit congested. If you need more than the Air’s default 64GB of storage, you might as well step up to the 11-inch iPad Pro, which starts at 128GB and packs a better 120Hz display and faster M2 chip for not much more than a higher-capacity Air. (The display on the 2021 iPad Pro is better, too.) The newer 10.9-inch iPad isn’t bad, either, but with its non-laminated display and lacking accessory support, it’s a harder sell unless you see it on deep discount. Still, while the iPad Air isn't cheap, it's the best blend of price and performance for most people.

Best budget: iPad (9th generation)

If you can’t afford the Air, or if you just don’t use your tablet heavily enough to warrant spending that much, get the 9th-gen iPad instead. It'll reportedly be phased out in 2024, but at $329 for a 64GB model — and regularly available for less than $300 — it’s by far the most wallet-friendly way into iPadOS right now. And though its hardware is an obvious step down from the models above, it’s still capable for the essentials.

We gave the 9th-gen iPad model a review score of 86 in 2021. It's the only "current" iPad to follow Apple’s older design language: It’s just a tiny bit thicker and heavier than the 10th-gen iPad and iPad Air, but its wider bezels mean there’s only enough room for a 10.2-inch display. Like the 10th-gen iPad, that screen is more susceptible to glare and not laminated, though it’s just as sharp. There’s a Home button on the bottom bezel with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and the device charges via Lightning port rather than USB-C. Its speakers don’t sound as nice, either, but it’s the only iPad to still have a headphone jack. Its 12MP front camera is also fine, though it’s not landscape-oriented as on the 10th-gen iPad.

The 9th-gen iPad runs on Apple’s A13 Bionic chip, which is the same SoC used in 2019’s iPhone 11 series. It's not as fluid or futureproof as the M1, but it’s still quick enough for casual tasks. In terms of first-party accessories, the tablet supports Apple's Smart Keyboard and first-gen Pencil stylus. Those aren't as convenient than the company’s newer options, but they’re serviceable.

In the end, it’s all about the price. The 10th-gen iPad is better in a vacuum, but the 9th-gen model is much more affordable, and those savings go a long way toward papering over its issues.

Best for one-handed use: iPad mini 

The iPad mini is exactly what it sounds like: the small iPad. It’s easily the shortest (7.69 x 5.3 x 0.25 inches) and lightest (0.65 pounds for the WiFi model) of every current iPad, with an 8.3-inch display that’s more comfortable to operate with one hand.

We gave the iPad mini a review score of 89 in 2021. Its design follows closely after that of the iPad Air: squared-off edges, thin bezels, no Home button, a Touch ID sensor in the power button, stereo speakers, solid cameras and a USB-C port. Its display is technically sharper, but otherwise gives you the same max brightness, lamination, anti-reflective coating and wide color gamut. It doesn’t have a “Smart Connector” to hook up Apple-made keyboards, but it does support the second-generation Apple Pencil.

The mini runs on Apple’s A15 Bionic SoC, the same as the one in 2021’s iPhone 13 phones. This is technically faster than the chip inside the 10th-gen iPad model and, again, more than powerful enough for most tasks, though it’s a step behind the laptop-grade M1 or M2 chip.

The mini has an MSRP of $499 for the 64GB model and $649 for the 256GB model. That’s a lot, though in recent months we’ve seen both SKUs available online for up to $100 less. If you specifically want a smaller tablet — whether it’s to easily stuff in a bag, use with one hand or treat like a high-end e-reader — this is the only one Apple sells, and the best option in its size range altogether.

Best for power users: iPad Pro 12.9-inch

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro exists in something of its own realm within the iPad lineup. It starts at $1,099 for 128GB of storage, which is $100 more than the entry-level MacBook Air. That’s well beyond what anyone needs to pay to do the vast majority of iPad things and a huge chunk of change for a platform that still has issues with laptop-style productivity. That said, this is the best pure piece of tablet hardware that Apple makes.

We gave the latest iPad Pro a review score of 87 in November 2022. The displays on both the 11- and 12.9-inch Pros can get brighter than the one on the Air, and both feature a 120Hz refresh rate that makes scrolling look more fluid than the Air's 60Hz panel. The 12.9-inch Pro’s Liquid Retina display is more of an upgrade than the 11-inch model, however, as it’s the only iPad to use mini-LED backlighting, which can deliver higher peak brightness, improved contrast and a generally more realistic image. 

The Pro also runs on Apple’s M2 SoC, which isn’t a huge upgrade over the M1 in real-world use but offers more performance overhead going forward. It has the same 12MP rear camera as the Air, but adds a 10MP ultrawide lens and an LED flash (plus a LIDAR scanner for AR apps). The 12MP front cameras, meanwhile, can take shots in portrait mode.

Beyond that, the Pro has a faster Thunderbolt USB-C port, more robust speakers and Face ID support. There are more storage options, going all the way up to 2TB, and the 1TB and 2TB models double the RAM from 8GB to 16GB (albeit at a super high cost). The device still works with all of Apple’s best accessories, and it can recognize when an Apple Pencil is hovering above the display and preview would-be inputs.

It's a powerhouse of a tablet, and if you do want to use an iPad more heavily for work, the roomier display on the 12.9-inch Pro should make it the most amenable option for all-day, laptop-style use. You’ll want to add a keyboard to get the most out of that, but if you’re spending this much on an iPad to begin with, that may not be as big of a deal.

Like the iPad mini, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is very much a niche device. It’s prohibitively expensive, and its hulking size makes it less portable than other iPads. Certain creative types have made it work as a Mac laptop replacement, but for most, iPadOS still makes multitasking and other computer-y tasks more convoluted than they’d be on a MacBook. This latest iteration is only a minor upgrade over the last-gen model too. Nevertheless, as a tablet, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is deeply powerful.


The 10th-generation iPad rests outside on top of a stack of books, on a wooden desktop, with its screen active, displaying a colorful home screen with various iPadOS widgets and apps.
Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

How long do iPads typically last?

If history is any indication, expect Apple to update your iPad to the latest version of iPadOS for at least five years, if not longer. The new iPadOS 17 update, for example, is available on iPad Pros dating back to 2017 and other iPads dating back to 2018. How long your iPad’s hardware will last depends on which model you buy and how well you maintain it (if you’re particularly clumsy, consider an iPad case). A more powerful iPad Pro will feel fast for a longer time than an entry-level iPad, but each model should remain at least serviceable until Apple stops updating it, at minimum.

What’s the difference between the iPad and the iPad Air?

Compared to the 10th-gen iPad, the 5th-gen iPad Air runs on a stronger M1 chip (instead of the A14 Bionic) and has twice as much RAM (8GB instead of 4GB). Having an M-series SoC gives the Air access to certain iPadOS features such as Stage Manager. Its display supports a wider P3 color gamut, has an anti-reflective coating and is fully laminated. Being laminated means there’s no “air gap” between the display and the glass covering it, so it feels more like you’re directly touching what’s on screen instead of interacting with an image below the glass. 

The Air also works with Apple’s latest Pencil stylus, Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. Its USB-C port supports data transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps (the iPad’s goes up to 480 Mbps). Although the two tablets look very similar, the Air is marginally lighter (1.02 pounds instead of 1.05 pounds) and thinner (0.24 inches instead of 0.28 inches).

The 10th-gen iPad is less expensive than the iPad Air, with an MSRP starting at $449 instead of $599. It’s the only iPad with a front-facing camera along the long edge of the tablet, which can be a more natural position for video calls. It also supports Bluetooth 5.2, whereas the Air uses Bluetooth 5.0. It works with the first-gen Apple Pencil – which is more convoluted to charge – and a unique keyboard accessory called the Magic Keyboard Folio.

Apple also sells the 9th-gen iPad, as we detail above. That one uses a more dated design language with larger bezels, a Home button and a Lightning port, but it starts at $329.

How do I take a screenshot on an iPad?

As we note in our screenshot how-to guide, you can take a screenshot on your iPad by pressing the top button and either volume button at the same time. If you have an older iPad with a Home button, simultaneously press the top button and the Home button instead.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Morning After: Apple may launch an M3 MacBook Air in March

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple is planning big hardware announcements for early 2024. In his Power On newsletter, Gurman predicts the company will release the next iPad Pro and iPad Air generation in March. Gurman says the M3 MacBook Air will also likely come in March, in the usual 13- and 15-inch configurations. And Apple may kill off the 2020 M1 MacBook Air at that point too.

The company is also reportedly planning to make more apparent distinctions between its iPad families. The iPad Pro is expected to get Apple’s new M3 chip, an OLED display and come in two sizes: 11 and 13 inches. Meanwhile, the iPad Air will come in a 10.9-inch and a new 12.9-inch version and use the M2 chip.

If you’re waiting for a new Mac Studio and Mac Pro, those will land later.

— Mat Smith

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Researchers made VR goggles for mice

For science, not a bet.

Dom Pinke/ Northwestern University

Scientists have been using virtual reality setups to study brain activity in lab mice for years. In the past, they surrounded the mice with flat displays, with obvious limitations for simulating a realistic environment. Now, a team at Northwestern University developed tiny VR goggles to fit over a mouse’s face. Like you see above.

In their tests, the researchers say the mice appeared to take to the new VR environment more quickly than they did with the past setups. To recreate overhead threats, like birds swooping in for a meal, the team projected expanding dark spots at the tops of the displays. The way they react to threats “is not a learned behavior; it’s an imprinted behavior,” said co-first author Dom Pinke.

Continue reading.

Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories are back on X

Jones’ account was reinstated after users voted in a poll this weekend.

Alex Jones is back on X, five years after then-Twitter decided to permanently ban him and his show, Infowars, for violating the site’s policy on “abusive behavior.” Elon Musk created a poll on X over the weekend asking users to vote on whether to reinstate Jones. Jones won the vote.

Musk wrote, “I vehemently disagree with what he said about Sandy Hook, but are we a platform that believes in freedom of speech or are we not? That is what it comes down to in the end. If the people vote him back on, this will be bad for X financially, but principles matter more than money.” Principles? On X?

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Fortnite Festival tries to bring back the heyday of music gaming

It helps that it’s free.

Epic Games

Epic has launched an entirely new mode called Fortnite Festival, a social space where players can team up to perform their favorite songs or jam together on new mixes, all within Fortnite. The main stage, or championship stage, is basically the Rock Band experience recreated in Fortnite. You form a band with friends and choose a song to perform. Then you play the song using the standard music game format where notes slide down vertical bars, hitting the correct button when the note reaches the bottom. Meanwhile, the jam stage draws from Harmonix’s more recent (and less popular) mixing titles, Dropmix and Fuser.

Continue reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Researchers made VR goggles for mice to study how their brains respond to swooping predators

Believe it or not, scientists have been using virtual reality setups to study brain activity in lab mice for years. In the past, this has been done by surrounding the mice with flat displays — a tactic that has obvious limitations for simulating a realistic environment. Now, in an attempt to create a more immersive experience, a team at Northwestern University actually developed tiny VR goggles that fit over a mouse’s face… and most of its body. This has allowed them to simulate overhead threats for the first time, and map the mice’s brain activity all the while.

The system, dubbed Miniature Rodent Stereo Illumination VR (or iMRSIV), isn’t strapped onto the mouse’s head like a VR headset for humans. Instead, the goggles are positioned at the front of a treadmill, surrounding the mouse’s entire field of view as it runs in place. “We designed and built a custom holder for the goggles,” said John Issa, the study’s co-first author. “The whole optical display — the screens and the lenses — go all the way around the mouse.”

What a mouse sees inside the VR goggles
Dom Pinke/ Northwestern University

In their tests, the researchers say the mice appeared to take to the new VR environment more quickly than they did with the past setups. To recreate the presence of overhead threats, like birds swooping in for a meal, the team projected expanding dark spots at the tops of the displays. The way they react to threats like this “is not a learned behavior; it’s an imprinted behavior,” said co-first author Dom Pinke. “It’s wired inside the mouse’s brain.”

With this method, the researchers were able to record both the mice’s outward physical responses, like freezing in place or speeding up, and their neural activity. In the future, they may flip the scenario and let the mice act as predators, to see what goes on as they hunt insects. A paper on the technique was published in the journal Neuron on Friday. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at