Ex-NSA staffer reveals way to hack Mac’s camera and mic

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Mac App Store
You might want to put tape over your webcam.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Security researchers discovered a new way to hack the Mac’s built-in webcam this week, and the method is undetectable by users.

Apple built a green LED light into every Mac with firmware-level protection that turns on anytime the sensor is tripped by unauthorized access. The security feature has become increasingly difficult for hackers to beat, but former NSA staffer Patrick Wardle found a way to piggyback on outgoing feeds and record them.

Slack voice calls give you another reason to ditch Skype

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Cult of Mac runs on Slack. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
You can now make calls on Slack.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The popular messaging platform Slack is ready to go from text-only to providing voice calls for teams that use the service to communicate.

Starting today, paying teams using the iOS, Mac and Chrome apps will be able to make group calls, giving you one less reason to keep Skype installed on your Mac.

Embedded iPad helps artist really get into his work

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Skype for iPad
Above: art supplies.
Photo: Skype

A painting by artist Jorge Pardo is taking work away from bull-slinging gallery explainers.

The piece, which is currently showing at Art Basel in Miami, depicts an impressionist version of the artist on a slide at a water park. It comes from a photograph his daughter took and looks really cool, but that’s not the most interesting part of the work.

That honor belongs to the iPad set into the lower-right corner of the piece that can let anyone who walks by connect to Pardo via Skype.

I Am Bread, Clashem, and other awesome apps of the week

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appsoftheweek_1024
Saturday? More like App-aday, amirite? (I'm sorry about this.)
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The weekend is short enough as it is, and Cult of Mac knows you don’t want to spend it searching through the App Store for the best apps you might have missed over the past week.

Whether you’re after wacky bread-related games for your iPhone, video chatting tools for your iPad, or or a nifty travel-related messaging service for your Apple Watch, we’ve dutifully combed through the best offerings of the past 7 days to find something for everyone.

Check below to see our picks:

8 characters that cause Skype to have a catastrophic breakdown

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Thankfully Mac users are safe. Kind of.
It's the second major app-crashing bug we've had in one week.
Photo: FailGif

It’s a bad week for simple messages capable of bringing down entire apps. Following on from Apple’s Messages-crashing “Unicode of death” code, a nasty bug has been discovered in Skype, which promises to crash the software every time you attempt to sign in.

Thankfully, the bug doesn’t appear to have any effect on Skype for Mac, although it does work on the iOS version, as well as the Windows and Android versions.

And getting rid of it’s not easy.

MegaUpload founder brings video calling to your browser

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Steve Wozniak's Recent Meeting With Kim Dotcom.
Kim Dotcom, as pictured with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Photo: Kim Dotcom/Instagram

The infamous brains behind MegaUpload, Kim Dotcom, has just launched the beta version of his latest product: a browser-based encrypted video calling and file-sharing service he hopes will take on the Microsoft-owned Skype.

Called MegaChat, the service uses what is called User Controlled Encryption (UCE), meaning that you get a decryption key provided, and are then free to send it to people so that they you can trade files with them. Like the Web-based MegaUpload, no software installation is required, although there are Chrome and Firefox extensions which aid with improved performance and security.

Skype’s new service is like a Star Trek universal translator for the real world

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Even school kids can see the potential. Photo: Skype/Microsoft
Even school kids can see the potential. Photo: Skype/Microsoft

Star Trek Captains Picard and Kirk could talk to any alien, no matter how different it was from humanity, thanks to the universal translator, a magical sci-fi device that explained away why strange civilizations in far-away solar systems all spoke English.

That future just got a little less far-fetched, thanks to Skype Translator, a new preview service that uses technology from Microsoft Research to translate two different languages back and forth in real time.

This is heady stuff, as school kids in Seattle and Mexico City seem to instantly recognize when they chat back and forth in English and Spanish via the Skype service in the video below.