A family tracking app was leaking real-time location data

A popular family tracking app was leaking the real-time locations of more than 238,000 users for weeks after the developer left a server exposed without a password.

The app, Family Locator, built by Australia-based software house React Apps, allows families to track each other in real-time, such as spouses or parents wanting to know where their children are. It also lets users set up geofenced alerts to send a notification when a family member enters or leaves a certain location, such as school or work.

But the backend MongoDB database was left unprotected and accessible by anyone who knew where to look.

Sanyam Jain, a security researcher and a member of the GDI Foundation, found the database and reported the findings to TechCrunch.

Based on a review of the database, each account record contained a user’s name, email address, profile photo and their plaintext passwords. Each account also kept a record of their own and other family members’ real-time locations precise to just a few feet. Any user who had a geofence set up also had those coordinates stored in the database, along with what the user called them — such as “home” or “work.”

None of the data was encrypted.

TechCrunch verified the contents of the database by downloading the app and signing up using a dummy email address. Within seconds, our real-time location appeared as precise coordinates in the database.

We contacted one app user at random who, albeit surprised and startled by the findings, confirmed to TechCrunch that the coordinates found under their record were accurate. The Florida-based user, who did not want to be named, said that the database was the location of their business. The user also confirmed that a family member listed in the app was their child, a student at a nearby high school.

Several other records we reviewed also included the real-time locations of parents and their children.

TechCrunch spent a week trying to contact the developer, React Apps, to no avail. The company’s website had no contact information — nor did its bare-bones privacy policy. The website had a privacy-enabled hidden WHOIS record, masking the owner’s email address. We even bought the company’s business records from the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, only to learn the company owner’s name — Sandip Mann Singh — but no contact information. We sent several messages through the company’s feedback form, but received no acknowledgement.

On Friday, we asked Microsoft, which hosted the database on its Azure cloud, to contact the developer. Hours later, the database was finally pulled offline.

It’s not known precisely how long the database was exposed for. Singh still hasn’t acknowledged the data leak.

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Flying taxi startup Blade is helping Silicon Valley CEOs bypass traffic

One year after a $38 million Series B valued on-demand aviation startup Blade at $140 million, the company has begun taxiing the Bay Area’s elite.

As part of a new pilot program, Blade has given 200 people in San Francisco and Silicon Valley exclusive access to its mobile app, allowing them to book helicopters, private jets and even seaplanes at a moments notice for $200 per seat, at least.

Blade, backed by Lerer Hippeau, Airbus, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and others, currently flies passengers around the New York City area, where it’s headquartered, offering the region’s wealthy $800 flights to the Hamptons, among other flights at various price points. According to Business Insider, it has worked with Uber in the past to help deep-pocketed Coachella attendees fly to and from the Van Nuys Airport to Palm Springs, renting out six-seat helicopters for more than $4,000 a pop.

Its latest pilot seems to target business travelers, connecting riders to the San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport to Palo Alto, San Jose, Monterey and Napa Valley. The goal is to shorten trips made excruciatingly long due to bad traffic in major cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Recently, the startup partnered with American Airlines to better establish its network of helicopters, a big step for the company as it works to integrate with existing transportation infrastructure.

Blade, led by founder and chief executive officer Rob Wiesenthal, a former Warner Music Group executive, has raised about $50 million in venture capital funding to date. To launch at scale and, ultimately, to compete with the likes of soon-to-be-public transportation behemoth Uber, it will have to land a lot more investment support.

Uber too has lofty plans to develop a consumer aerial ridesharing business, as do several other privately-funded startups. Called UberAIR, Uber will offer short-term shareable flights to commuters as soon as 2023. The company has raised billions of dollars to turn this sci-fi concept into reality.

Then there’s Kitty Hawk, a company launched by former Google vice president and Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun, which is developing an aircraft that can take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane for short-term urban transportation purposes. Others in the air taxi or vertical take-off and landing aircraft space, including Volocopter, Lilium and Joby Aviation, have raised tens of millions to eliminate traffic congestion or, rather, to chauffer the rich.

Blade’s next stop is India, the Financial Times reports, where it will conduct a pilot connecting travelers in downtown Mumbai and Pune. The company tells TechCrunch they are currently exploring one additional domestic pilot and one additional international pilot.

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High school performs 'Alien' as a play and it looks spectacular

If you need proof that kids these days are alright and amazing, simply cast your eyes on the students at New Jersey’s North Bergen High School who put on a stage play version of the classic sci-fi horror film Alien

The play was complete with all the trappings of the film, including the infamous facehugger alien, the stomach-bursting scene, and, yes, the large, menacing xenomorph that has come to haunt the nightmares of generations of moviegoers. 

And it all looked amazing.

The school put on a pair of performances for the play in recent days and photos and videos have gone viral quickly, being shared all across platforms like Reddit and Twitter. 

Behold, a high school recreation of the famous facehugger scene from the film.

Also, whichever student made the xenomorph costume for the play deserves all the awards. 

There’s more on the entire production from one of the students involved in the production in this Reddit thread that gives some insight as to how they pulled off some of the special effects and adds that most of the sets were made of recycled materials.

Additionally, the student says the production will be available on video in May and he plans to upload the whole thing, so keep your eyes peeled. 

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Image: North Bergen High School/YouTube

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Wow: U.S. gov't warns there's a spring flood risk for two-thirds of the Lower 48

NOAA's flood outlook for the 2019 spring..
NOAA’s flood outlook for the 2019 spring..
Image: NOAA

In Nebraska and Iowa there’s a brown sea where there should be homes, roads, gas stations, and open country. 

Historic floods have deluged vast swaths of the Midwest — even flooding a third of the U.S. Air Force base that houses the nation’s critical U.S. Strategic Command. But the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the floods aren’t nearly over. The agency’s 2019 Spring Outlook found that nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states are at risk for flooding in the coming months. 

“The extensive flooding we’ve seen in the past two weeks will continue through May and become more dire and may be exacerbated in the coming weeks as the water flows downstream,” Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center, said in a statement. 

“This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.” 

Regions in Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa have already seen historic flooding, with some major rivers — particularly the Missouri River — absolutely smashing previous flood records by some four feet. What’s more, many of the nation’s well-engineered levees have failed to contain the record floodwaters

The dramatic flooding — which is already forecast to cost well over $1 billion in damages — is consistent with a big uptick in heavy rains over the last half-century: Between 1958 and 2012, the amount of rain in the heaviest rainfall events in the Midwest shot up by a whopping 37 percent, according to U.S. government scientists. 

This is in large part due to Earth’s changing atmosphere. Specifically, the climate has warmed by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit), and because of simple physics, the warmer air is able to hold more water vapor. Specifically, for every 1 degree Celsius of warming, the air can hold seven percent more water

After the rapid melting of winter snow and deluges of rain in mid-March, NOAA expects the flood risk to continue as more rain falls and then travels down already overloaded rivers.

Extreme flooding along the Missouri River.

Extreme flooding along the Missouri River.

Image: NOAa

“As this excess water flows downstream through the river basins, the flood threat will become worse and geographically more widespread,” NOAA concluded.

The agency forecasts flood risk by accounting for how much snow is left to melt, areas experiencing drought, how saturated soils are with moisture, the depth of frozen soil, the height of rivers, and expected precipitation. As the floodmap shows, regions near the Mississipi river and vast swaths of land in the Great Plains and Midwest are at risk for major and moderate flooding. 

NOAA's Spring Outlook flood risk map.

NOAA’s Spring Outlook flood risk map.

Image: noaa

After surveying conditions along the Nebraska-Iowa border on Thursday, Nebraska’s State Patrol tweeted: “None of this is supposed to be under water.” 

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Save up to 30% off bed and bath must-haves during The Home Depot’s Spring Savings

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Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

Image: The Home Depot

It’s been a loong winter with way too much time spent binge-watching in bed. All the more reason to strip those stale sheets, replace your threadbare towels, and hit up The Home Depot’s online-only Spring Savings.  

Think high-quality basics: super-soft sheets, bath mats, and towels that aren’t adorned with weird bleach stains. In other words: bedding and bath essentials that make you feel like a grown-up. Below, find a look to match your style and then shop The Home Depot’s Spring Savings.

Image: The Home Depot

Grown up neutrals

Image: The Home Depot

A neutral color palette opens up even the smallest studio in a big way. You can play with pops of color, experiment with textures, or layer crisp whites with neutrals for a sophisticated Instagram backdrop. To get this dressed-to-impress look, start with a crisp white duvet and pair with some sweet flax sheets.

Breezy boho

Image: The Home Depot

This laid-back look is a breeze to create. For bedding, opt for cool blues in a breathable fabric like this linen duvet set. Add some throw pillows in sunset tones that remind you of the Pacific Ocean, then bring cabana vibes to your bathroom with aqua towels, a bathmat, and shower curtain. And of course, the more houseplants the better!

Pattern player

Image: the home depot

Whether you’re a graphic designer or an Insta-artist, adding bold patterns to your space screams creative genius. Go bold with a chevron duvet set, then add some contrasting geometric sheets. Next, hang some funky towels in your bathroom. The trick is to mix hues and shapes that seem like they shouldn’t work together — but somehow do. It’s all part of your mystery.

Image: The Home Depot

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