It’s the late 1980s, and this pilot fish is working as a teller at small suburban bank with a few branches.
“Automation is catching on, but slowly,” says fish. “We have terminals to process deposits, withdrawals and money orders — but at the end of the day, the branch manager still takes our totals and enters them into a handwritten ledger.”
The terminals use a text-based menu for everything, but for some operations that require a manager’s approval — say, printing a cashier’s check — the manager must walk over, hold down an override key and type in a password to let the teller access the check-printing menu.
Fish notices that the console beeps now and then during the password process. But it doesn’t happen every time, and there’s no pattern he can detect.
So on a slow day, with no one in line, fish tries holding down the override key and pressing another key at random.
The terminal beeps.
“I go through the alphabet,” fish says. “On S, it doesn’t beep.
“I blink. Is the security system so brain-dead that it actually warns you when you’re mistyping the override password?”
He repeats the process. On SA, SB, SC and so on through the alphabet, there are beeps. But on SU, no beeps.
Fish already has a pretty good idea what the override password is. He goes to the check-printing screen, holds down the override key and types “SUPERVISOR.”
No beeps — and he’s in.
Then fish feeds an ordinary piece of paper (instead of a blank check) into the printer next to his terminal, and prints out a “check” for $100,000.
He shows it to his manager. Manager just grimaces and says, “Don’t do that again.”
Says fish, “I worked there for two years, and that password never changed.
“When I later became a sysadmin, I instituted strict password policies back when it was still common to have your username and password be the same. Whenever I got pushback — ‘Why are you being so difficult about passwords?’ — I’d tell the story of my $100,000 check, and ask how much they could afford to lose because of a lax password policy.
When you think a bit of technology isn’t going to evolve anymore, someone finds a way to change it up. For standard wired power banks, there’s not much else that can change, as they’re already pushing the limits of battery capacities.
However, the team behind a new power bank called the SuperMini actually found a way to squeeze a 10,000mAh battery into a package that’s smaller than other ones out there. That means you’ll get a high capacity in a package that’s about the size of a credit card (albeit quite a bit thicker than one).
SuperMini Power Bank Features
The main thing that makes SuperMini stand out is its physical size. It’s 3.1-inches long, 2.2-inches wide, and 1-inch deep. In addition to being quite small, it’s also pretty light, tipping the scales at 6.35oz. It’s about an inch smaller than typical 10,000mAh power banks on the market in terms of length, which makes it quite a bit easier to carry around in a pocket.
As far as outputs, there’s both USB-C and USB-A, and both feature 18W of power delivery. In about 30 minutes, the battery pack can charge an iPhone XS to about 50%, which is pretty solid. Additionally, the battery itself will reach a full charge in about three hours, so you won’t have to wait too long to get it back on the go.
That 10,000mAh capacity will get you about 2.8 iPhone XS charges, .8 iPad Pro charges, 2.5 Galaxy S9 charges, and 1.7 Nintendo Switch charges.
A new variant of Houdini Malware is making the rounds. Through a combination of phishing tactics and link clicks, it tries to install and scrape bank account details via keylogging. As always, use caution when checking emails “from your bank.”
Targets receive an email purporting to be from their bank with instructions to click a link to finish a financial transaction. Clicking the link leads to a download of malware which includes a keylogger, a mail credential viewer, and a browser credential viewer. Even these parts of the software are unoriginal and taken from elsewhere. The goal here is maximum damage for minimum effort.
Once the malware is on your system, it tries to steal your bank login info and pass that back to the attackers. They’ll, in turn, use your credentials to make fraudulent purchases.
The age-old advice of being careful what you do in email applies here. If your bank ever does email you with a message or issue, don’t click on the links in the email. Instead, open a browser and navigate directly to your bank’s website. Or call your bank.
No bank (or realistically any institution) will email you and ask for information it should already know. But unfortunately, they do email you with information about recent transactions and include links to websites. It’s best to avoid clicking on those links and browse to your bank’s site manually. [ZDNet]
Target’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Weekend: Much to the frustration of Target shoppers everywhere, Target’s POS system went down nationwide on Saturday. It took most of the day to get it running again, only to have credit card systems go down on Sunday. Target says the problems weren’t malware or hacking, just unrelated IT system errors. [TechCrunch]
Genius.com accused Google of stealing its lyrics: You might think it’d be impossible to steal lyrics results, but Genius.com says Google is doing exactly that. The company employed a neat trick to prove the site scraping: It alternated apostrophe types between straight and curly to spell out “Red Handed” in Morse code, which showed up on Google. You could call that: Genius. [The Verge]
Windows Update Causes Black Screens: Some users are reporting that taking the latest Windows patches leaves them with a black screen. Microsoft is investigating, and solving the problem is as easy as using Ctrl+Alt+Del, which does bring up the security screen, and then restarting. Maybe Windows wants you to take a rest break? [TechRadar]
Google Assistant answers, “Dude, where’s my car?”: Google Now used to have a Parking card to help you find your car when you came out of the mall or grocery store. That card went away with the switch to Google Assistant, and you had to mark your spot manually instead. Thankfully, Google brought the card back so you can find it between those two SUVs in no man’s land. [9to5Google]
Walmart’s new grocery delivery subscription is $98 a year: The grocery wars are heating up, and all the major players offering pickup or delivery service at this point. Walmart is expanding its options with a new $98 yearly subscription. Pay that up front, and you skip all fees for grocery delivery for the rest of the year. You’ll just have to order at least $30 of groceries, which for families is an easy task. [Digital Trends]
Alexa’s Kid Skills can now offer purchases: Amazon announced a new option for Alexa Skill developers: “In skill purchases.” A few skills already took advantage of the new capability, like Capstone’s You Choose Superman Adventures, and more are probably on the way. The good news is, before a purchase completes, Amazon will text the primary account holder for confirmation. That should prevent surprise charges. Hopefully. [VentureBeat]
Niantic sued a Pokémon Go cheating group: Gotta sue them all? A group calling themselves Global++ had been hacking Pokémon Go, Ingress, and the Harry Potter: Wizards Unite beta to enable cheats that made the games easier. They then released those hacked versions for others to download. Naturally, Niantic wasn’t happy about this and sued. Global++ appears to be offline now, so mission accomplished. [Engadget]
Samsung says you should run virus scans on your TV: Samsung now includes antivirus on its smart TVs for some reason and is suggesting you use it to ensure your TV runs smoothly. In addition to being unnecessary advice, it’s hard not to interpret the whole thing as “our TVs are insecure.” Makes you want to buy another Samsung model, right? [PCMag]
Diamonds are a girl’s scientist’s best friend. Scientists theorize that Dark Matter makes up much of Universe’s mass, and so you’d think it would be trivial to find. The problem is, Dark Matter doesn’t emit light or energy. For that reason, and others, scientists haven’t been able to observe Dark Matter directly.
At best, we have theories that it exists because … well, something like it must exist. We can observe the rotation of galaxies, and they don’t seem to act as we would expect. The stars at a galaxy’s edge rotate much faster than expected, and the only reason we can think of that is a bunch invisible matter causing that rotation.
Now scientists want to build a new detector using super-cold crystals to find dark matter. They plan to reduce the temperature of the crystals to near absolute zero (–273.15°C or –459.67°F). The hope is to detect sound waves when a dark matter hits an atomic nucleus or electron in the diamond. The carbon atom structure of diamonds makes them the perfect choice for the experiment.
All we ask is that everyone involved avoid making any ice/diamond related puns. Batman and Robin ruined those forever, thank you very much. [ScienceNews]
Mobile banking should be effortless, with financial institutions sharing data, offering helpful suggestions and automating frequent tasks. But according to a new report from Forrester Research on mobile banking apps, far too many banks offer frustrating apps that show little thought given to how consumers interact with their financial institutions — or at least how they should.
“Banks too often send customers to separate apps or web pages to view content. These experiences, which are often inconsistent with the main app, can feel disjointed and confusing for the customer,” said the report. “Menus disappear or compete with each other, names and icons have multiple meanings, or links take the customer out of the app without warning.”
One key example, noted lead author and Forrester senior analyst Peter Wannemacher, is alerts/messaging. Chase, for instance, marks its app icon on users’ devices with a red number indicating how many messages are unread, but it is unclear where the messages are. Are they in “View Alerts”? The “Secure Message Center”? Even worse, users tend to expect the “alerts” to be on critical matters — a potential fraud action or an especially large withdrawal — but they are often actually about mundane matters, such as flagging that the regular monthly statement has been mailed. Alert fatigue quickly sets in.
Not so serendipitously, as I was writing this column, I received an alert from Chase. It showed one message in “View Alerts.” I clicked on “View Alerts.” It displayed a list of various accounts and payment cards, but it gave no indication of where the message was. I clicked on several and didn’t find anything new. The alert notification then disappeared. Oh well. I hope it wasn’t anything important.
“I literally use Chase as an example of how not to do that alert experience,” Wannemacher said in a Computerworld interview. “It’s very bad for the customer to have alerts that are all over the place.”
Wannemacher added, “Alerts are powerful drivers of engagement that every bank wants.” I would quibble and say that that sentence needs to be modified to, “When done properly, alerts are powerful drivers of engagement that every bank wants.” Done improperly, they can anger and confuse customers and ultimately cause them to cut back on engagement. In short, waste your customers’ time at your own peril.
“Today, millions of US banking customers use apps to manage their money, yet these experiences rarely evoke positive emotions — some are frustrating and negative, while others are simply neutral and utilitarian,” the report said. Forrester did find “a few glimpses of how banks can evoke positive emotions: For example, Wells Fargo provides in-line guidance on how to avoid service fees directly within the transaction list.”
Typically, these mobile content issues are dictated by various product business units or marketing. But Wannemacher makes an argument that IT — and sometimes security and compliance people — must get more involved in the process. Referencing missing elements in some of these apps, Wannemacher said that “the IT folks, they have a role to make sure it’s there. We talk about grabbing the steering wheel if no one else will.”
In fintech discussions today, most argue that mobile apps need to go far beyond making existing banking tasks easier. The apps must take the next step and make consumer financial lives better. Bots, for example, can propose a budget based on a history of a consumer’s activities and then actively help the consumer stick with the budget. For example, when the phone detects that the consumer has walked into a favorite retailer or restaurant, it can issue an alert along the lines of, “You have $35 remaining in this month’s clothing budget line and you have 19 days left this month. It also looks like you’re in a Target, and you have typically spent $40 on each shopping trip.”
Or it might proactively help with savings, by saying something such as, “It looks like you can make a $50 investment in your savings account. May I move the money now?”
Wannemacher saw search as a critical area where banking apps tend to fall short — and there is no easy fix. “There is a ton of integration work for search to work well,” he said.
Another two areas where Wannemacher saw shortfalls with bank mobile apps were security — where banks should do quite well, since they understand security quite well — and privacy, where banks should be horrible, since they see data acquisition as a critical part of their survival and growth strategy.
Speaking about security, Wannemacher said the problem was not in the apps’ security per se as much as in banks’ efforts to make customers aware of security mechanisms already in place. This is where banks have to wrestle with the same security conundrum that all businesses face: On the one hand, they want to shout about all of the security that they have in place. On the other hand, customers generally don’t want to read about it. When banks display their security measures — by frequently requesting passwords, asking for biometric authentication, providing a USB fob for onetime authentication (which won’t work for most mobile applications) — customers dislike the friction that is added to the experience. When banks push top-level authentication that has relatively little friction (such as behavioral analytics, where the app detects how the phone is being held and the typing speed and precise geolocation and uses that to try and find fraudsters), it works well, but the customers wonder if their money is being held securely. Yes, I know: it’s hard to win either way.
For privacy, Wannemacher said that banks must make the options for customers to change their data-sharing permissions easy to find and to manage. “It’s almost always poorly delivered to the customer,” he said. “I think these will be egregious failures if they are not solved within a few years.”
In the report’s research, Wannemacher’s team did find some bank apps — or at least apps that had good parts:
USAA: “Although it has not made major changes to its app in the past year, USAA remains the US leader in mobile banking experiences, with a wide range of useful features and good UX design. USAA leads in five areas of mobile banking — login and security alerts, money management, money movement, assisted service features, and content — more categories than any other U.S. bank we reviewed.”
Bank of America: “The Bank of America has steadily improved its app over the past year, earning the second-highest overall score and narrowing the gap with USAA. Bank of America leads in three areas: marketing and sales, privacy and security cues and content, and self-service features. There is no category of our review where Bank of America falls far short of customer expectations — something no other US bank achieved.8 At the heart of its mobile app sits Erica, the bank’s in-app chatbot that acts as a search mechanism, a proactive guide for the customer, and a curator of personalized insights about the customer’s spending and financial life.”
Chase, Chime, Citi, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo: “Each demonstrates some best practices. Chime leads in search and navigation,with sticky screen headers, a persistent bottom navigation bar that guides customers to key task flows, and calls to action that are clear and conversational rather than written in bank speak. Wells Fargo helps customers see and manage upcoming transfers, letting them easily view, cancel, or even amend a future-dated account transfer. Citi’s app nails best practices for content — it is useful, easy to read thanks to strong visual design choices, and easy to understand. Chase, meanwhile, has implemented Zelle P2P payments in a way that makes it easy for customers: The Chase app can group multiple emails and phone numbers for a single Zelle contact.”
Our verdict of the Mipow Power Cube X: A functional and beautifully designed charger. Well built, but a little overpriced for the features and battery capacity.710
The Mipow Power Cube X is a Qi wireless charger, but it also sports a detachable 5000 mAh power bank for wireless charging on the go. Currently retailing for $79, and available in a choice of black or white color schemes. Is this the one charger to rule them all? Read on to find out.
Don’t forget to enter our giveaway contest at the end of this review, where you can win a Power Cube X, courtesy of Mipow.
Design and Features
This charger and power bank comprises of two parts. The Power Cube itself contains the battery and wireless charging components. This contains status lights, along with a USB Type-A output port, and a USB Type-C input port, for charging the battery. This sleek battery is very smooth. The rear is brushed aluminum alloy, while the front is glossy plastic. It doesn’t appear to attract fingerprints immediately. The rear of the battery also houses a proprietary two pin charging/power delivery connection. This is used in conjunction with the dock to simultaneously charge the battery, and supply power to any devices charging wirelessly.
The Power Cube X Smart Dock is reminiscent of a children’s toy. Its plain matte finish and rubber feet ensure stability on any surface. This dock houses a USB Type-C port for its main power input, along with another USB Type-A port, so you can pass through the power to charge wired devices too.
Aside from the charging connection to the battery, there’s not much else to look at. The smooth battery-shaped groove in this dock ensures the battery sits almost flush with the surface. The top edge contains an inset channel to make battery removal an easy task.
Both the Power Cube X and dock feel well designed. The smart dock measures 7.32 x 3.85 x 0.74 inches (186 x 98 x 19 mm) and weighs 4.93 oz (140g). The power cube itself weighs 4.23 oz (120g), and measures 5.66 x 2.79 x 0.59 inches (144 x 71 x 15 mm). This is quite large for such a low capacity power bank (5000mAh), but don’t forget this also houses the Qi wireless charging technology.
It features foreign object protection, so only suitable devices receive power. It also has over-charge protection so your phone battery won’t explode once it reaches 100% charge.
This total output current of 3 amps is ample, and should provide enough power to charge all but the largest of phone batteries in a reasonable time. Unfortunately, the wireless output voltage and current of 1 amp is rather low for a device made in 2019. Sure, it will charge your phone, but slowly. The Qi specification allows for higher current delivery, so this lower wireless power output is outdated. Still, if you’re charging your phone overnight, or using the wireless charger as a mini cradle for your device throughout the day, you shouldn’t encounter any problems running out of charge.
This 5000 mAh capacity is on the low side, but it should be sufficient for one to two charges, depending on your mobile device.
This cycle life of “greater than 300 charges” is only OK. Premium battery packs can often handle over 1000 charge cycles, so the fact that Mipow won’t commit to a higher number of claimed power cycles perhaps illustrates where they may have cut corners on quality.
Using the Power Cube X
This charger is super simple to use. Once charged, or mounted in the dock and actively charging, you can place your phone on top to begin charging. As mentioned above, the reduced current available when wirelessly charging means modern devices take that little bit longer to fully charge. Using a Google Pixel 3 XL, Android alerts me that “this device is charging slowly”.
One quirk I noticed is that wireless charging does not often begin when using the battery alone. To initiate a charge, you have to “wake up” the charger by touching it until a light appears. Once awake, devices charge without issue. This is not a problem when the battery is connected to the dock.
Wireless charging requires your mobile devices to sit at a specific angle and orientation. Your phone won’t charge if you haphazardly throw it on to the charger, without care for its orientation. This isn’t the fault of Mipow, it’s just a limitation of the underlying Qi wireless charging technology. Still, it’s something to be aware of. You can read more about why this happens in our wireless charging technology guide What You Need to Know About Wireless Charging
This charger makes a very faint noise when charging wirelessly, and this only happens when a device is charging wirelessly. It’s very faint, and you’ll need to hold your ear almost next to the charger, but it’s there. This isn’t likely to cause many problems with your sleep as it’s so quiet, and it’s nothing like the high-pitched whine you sometimes hear with cheap chargers. When no device is wirelessly charging, the Power Cube X is silent.
Should You Buy the Mipow Power Cube X?
It’s difficult to fully recommend the Power Cube X. While it’s undoubtedly a beautifully designed and well-made product, it’s a little expensive for what you get. You can easily buy a wireless charger and higher capacity power bank for less money. Many of the issues with speed are due to the limitations of Qi wireless charging itself, but many alternative wireless chargers use the newer standards for faster charging of your tech.
That said, it’s a wonderful piece of design and engineering. If you want to reduce the number of cables and devices in your life, or are looking for a well-designed charger to live on your desk or bedside unit, then the Power Cube X is a solid choice. We’d like to see a mains adapter included in the box and an increase in the battery capacity in the future, but this is still an excellent product.
If you’d like to win a brand new Mipow Power Cube X in white with Smart Dock, then enter our giveaway contest below!