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Cyber Spies and the Coronavirus  

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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
Robotics Engineer Moderator
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1794
2020-03-06 9:59 pm  

I'm a creature of habit to the extreme.  I've been shopping at Walmart for my groceries for many years now.   And I have to confess that I buy pretty mundane groceries.  I'm happy eating the same few things all the time.  I mean, I have a varied diet, but it's still pretty much the same old things over and over again.

In any case I have always shopped in-person.  I walk through the store and pick the stuff off the shelves myself and I even ring them out at a self-serve station paying for them with my debit card.

So far so good.

But now we have this nasty corona virus threat.  I already have COPD if I get the corona virus you'll see another tick mark on corona virus deaths.  Let's face it, if I'm already wheezing now it's a fair bet that I'm not going to do well trying to fight off the corona virus.

Okay, not meant to panic anyone, but it never hurts to play it safe right?   I already live all alone in a cottage in the woods so I'm fairly much in a state of self-quarantine naturally.  However I do need to go buy groceries.   In fact, I would like to go out and stock up on food so I don't need to go shopping for a while.  Why expose myself to the public when I don't need to?

So to make a long story a bit shorter I've decided to use the Walmart pick-up program.   I'll still need to drive over to the store to pick up the groceries.  And I'll still need to interact with the person who brings them out to my car.  But let's face it, that brings the contact with other people to about as minimum as it can be.

So where does the cyber spy come in?

Well, I just set up an account on Walmart to do this grocery pick-up thingy.   And then I started to shop online at Walmart to fill my cart with the things I would like to buy.   On their online shopping page they  have a feature where you can click on a heart to put your favorite foods into your favorites list.

However, I first needed to search for these favorite products of mine right?  Nope!  That's not right.

I searched for the first item I normally buy and low and behold it was already marked with a heart!

WHAT?  How in the world did they know that this was my favorite product?    So then I instantly went to my Favorites list to see what all was already on it.  And low and behold everything I normally buy was ALREADY on my favorites list!!!!

How in the world did Walmart know what I'm buying?  The only thing I can figure is that they somehow figured it out by my checkout information based on my debit card purchases.  How else could they have known?

They must know the email address associated with our debit cards and then create a favorites list based on what we have been buying on a regular basis.   The email address is the only thing that could link the information to the newly created account.  I haven't even given them my debit card number on the web yet because I haven't yet checked out.  All they have right now is my email address.

So they must be able to match up my email address to the debit card I've been using at their stores.

How else could they have created that favorites list?

There can be no doubt that the items on the favorite lists are EXACTLY what I normally buy.  I'm quite sure that this list isn't going to be identical for other people.  I mean this list gets right down to the precise brands and sizes of things that I normally buy.  It's MY LIST to be sure.  There's no question about that.

So apparently they already know what I buy, and all they needed to know to obtain that information was my email address.  They must have been able to match that up with my store purchases.

How else could they know?

It's 1984 folks!  Big Brother is watching you!

I really don't care.  And to be honest it ended up making my online shopping much easier since all my favorite products were already on my favorited list saving me from having to look them up individually.  But still, it's kind of spooky to know that everything you do is basically public information.   Even when you aren't aware of it.  Had it not been for the corona virus I may have never been tempted to use Walmart's pick-up service.  It was only when I signed up for this service that I discovered that they already know what I buy. ? 

In any case, until this corona virus thingy passes over I'm going to take advantage of the pick-up service to avoid having to go into the stores and get sneezed on by everyone in there.  At least this way I'll only get sneezed on by the person who brings the groceries out to my car. ? 

It's still a high risk situation.  But until they offer delivery to your front porch it's the best I can do for now. ? 

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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byron
(@byron)
Reputable Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 354
2020-03-06 11:38 pm  

@robo-pi

you are in a high risk category and its very wise to take precautions.  As the USA does not have a national health service I don't know if you get any official advice though I expect your media will cover it.  The way the virus spreads is by droplets from an infected person lungs.  Someone can be infected without showing any symptoms and they can sneeze and contaminate a surface and then someone else can touch said surface and spread it to another like your grocery box.  The virus will not survive long on the surface and will usually be gone in 24 hours, but 72 at the latest.   If you contaminate your hands from a surface you will not get the virus unless your hand touch your face, eyes or other orifices.  A good wash of the hands will remove any virus they contain, but you must wash them well.  The advice given is to sing happy birthday twice during a wash to ensure they receive a thorough wash.  

It may be as well your robot is not yet in being as it would shurely bring you some cake (double portions) when you sing happy birthday twice each time you come home with groceries 

take care.


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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
Robotics Engineer Moderator
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1794
2020-03-07 12:01 am  
Posted by: @byron

you are in a high risk category and its very wise to take precautions

That's what I'm thinking.  At 70 years old with COPD I don't think it's a good time to be playing with respiratory viruses. ? 

Younger people who are in good health needn't worry so much about this.   If fact if they get mildly sick and then recover that will basically serve as a free vaccination from future encounters.

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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robotBuilder
(@robotbuilder)
Honorable Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 505
2020-03-07 4:58 am  

@robo-pi

Yes I thought about you when the virus starting spreading and thought it would be nice for us older people to self isolate in the forest until a vaccine is developed.  From what you say you are at very high risk.  Keeping your hands away from your mouth, nose or eyes is very difficult and you only have to slip up once.  Maybe walk around wearing a full face covering motor bike helmet?   But potentially you are in a better position than many other older people.  You might need to decontaminate the boxes and food packages before touching them and to play extra safe wash your hands thoroughly after touching anything.  Maybe use gloves?  Eventually everyone will be exposed to the virus by those who show no symptoms which is said to be 80%.

 


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Pugwash
(@pugwash)
Noble Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1007
2020-03-07 10:43 am  

@robo-pi

I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.
Of course you are my bright little star,
I've miles
And miles
Of files
Pretty files of your forefather's fruit
And now to suit our
Great computer,
You're magnetic ink.

I'm more than that, I know I am, at least, I think I must be.

Prophetic words from the nineteen sixties! And this was before big business got hold of the possibility of data analysis!

So apparently they already know what I buy, and all they needed to know to obtain that information was my email address.  They must have been able to match that up with my store purchases.

Somewhere in the past your email address and credit card number have been linked and it only needs to happen once, and it doesn't have to be anything associated directly with Walmart, as this sort of data is traded on a daily basis worldwide: The only way to protect yourself is by always paying cash.

These big corporations collect data any way they can and link it all together, although I don't think some of these algorithms were invented by humans, especially those that send me an email offering to sell me something I have already bought. E.G. Dumbfuck eBay algorithms.

And I have never figured out why youTube tries to repeatedly show me ads that I click away after 5 seconds, isn't it actually worth their while to show me something new that I haven't seen 20 times before and ignored?

As you lead such a hermit style life, and even with your pre-conditions, I rate your chance of survival as HIGH. I live in a city of almost 2 million people, and we already have 6 confirmed cases of Corona infections, but I have not been stocking up on toilet paper and cans of Ravioli. ? If I run out, I will just do as I did while travelling through Arab countries. A bar of soap and a dedicated flannel, which I have always considered much more hygienic than smearing faeces around my rear end with a piece of paper.

@casey The WHO recently announced that 40-70% of the world population will contract a Corona infection, the only thing that is unsure is the death rate but it is probably going to be higher than the Spanish flu.

RELAX! This only Mother Nature getting her revenge on humanity, and it won't be the last time.


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Pugwash
(@pugwash)
Noble Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1007
2020-03-07 10:57 am  

@byron

As the USA does not have a national health service I don't know if you get any official advice though I expect your media will cover it. 

The media in the US is to busy covering Dr Donald Trump MD's lies about the spread of Corona, but perhaps Pence will pray for you because they are not listening to the WHO or CDC.

It is probably not wise to rely on the NHS if Corona becomes a pandemic in the UK, especially after years of austerity measures by successive Tory governments.

The NHS may not be the best system in the world but it is far better than most and everybody that needs treatment will get it, albeit only eventually. Why has BJ announced the building of 200 new hospitals in NE England? Because the Tories closed almost all of them over the past 30 years, where there was actually a need to build more.

My sister was a nurse in South Wales until she retired, and the stories she told were horrific, especially about staff shortages. So if Corona hits the UK, there is only one thing to do. PANIC!!!


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Pugwash
(@pugwash)
Noble Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1007
2020-03-07 11:01 am  

@byron

The advice given is to sing happy birthday twice during a wash to ensure they receive a thorough wash.

At last and finally, a serious suggestion for the use of a Rasberry Pi powered robot ? 


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Pugwash
(@pugwash)
Noble Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1007
2020-03-07 11:14 am  

@robo-pi

So apparently they already know what I buy, and all they needed to know to obtain that information was my email address.  They must have been able to match that up with my store purchases.

As a precaution, you could set up an email account just for your Walmart account

groceries@gmail.com

for instance, that would break the chain!


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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
Robotics Engineer Moderator
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1794
2020-03-07 4:15 pm  
Posted by: @pugwash

but I have not been stocking up on toilet paper and cans of Ravioli. ?

Sheesh!  Everybody knows whats on my favorites list. ?   Well, no toilet paper, but I did get 10 cans of Ravioli. ? 

Posted by: @pugwash

Posted by: @pugwash

As you lead such a hermit style life, and even with your pre-conditions, I rate your chance of survival as HIGH. I live in a city of almost 2 million people, and we already have 6 confirmed cases of Corona infections

 

As a precaution, you could set up an email account just for your Walmart account

groceries@gmail.com

for instance, that would break the chain!

That probably would break the chain, the only problem is that the original connection would still be there.  And if I actually ordered my groceries with the new email address, then that address would instantly be associated with my debit card too.   So resistance if futile.

Actually I don't mind.  In fact, in terms of convenience it was actually pretty nice that all my favorite items were already on my favorites list.  I was just a bit surprised that they were able to put that information together.  They are clearly spying on us.  They do this so they can target us with ads tailored to what we would most likely want to purchase.

Posted by: @pugwash

@byron

The advice given is to sing happy birthday twice during a wash to ensure they receive a thorough wash.

At last and finally, a serious suggestion for the use of a Rasberry Pi powered robot ? 

Actually if I could use the Raspberry Pi to drive my car over to pick up the groceries that would be super cool.  Then I wouldn't need to go out at all. ? 

Posted by: @pugwash

As you lead such a hermit style life, and even with your pre-conditions, I rate your chance of survival as HIGH. I live in a city of almost 2 million people, and we already have 6 confirmed cases of Corona infections

That's a bummer!  No way to escape the masses.   Is your city taking any action to lock-down as much public interactions as possible?  That's the first thing I would do if I was in charge of the health of the city.   I'd be telling people to do exactly what I'm doing.  Start using pick-up services to avoid going into stores, etc.  It's not "panic", it's just the only wise thing to do if we're serious about curbing the spread of the virus.

In fact, we really need to train our societies to do these sorts of things.  After all, even if this particular virus isn't totally deadly, the next one that comes along might actually be more deadly.  So having a system in place for these kind of events is the only serious way to go.  In some sense this Corona virus might be a blessing in disguise for humanity as a whole because it might help them think about preparing for future bio-hazards.

We should be doing that anyway. Who knows when some terrorist group, or even some hostile nation will purposefully design a deadly virus to unleash on purpose.  We clearly aren't prepared for any sort of biological warfare, whether natural or man-made.

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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Pugwash
(@pugwash)
Noble Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1007
2020-03-07 5:08 pm  

@robo-pi

Actually if I could use the Raspberry Pi to drive my car over to pick up the groceries that would be super cool.  Then I wouldn't need to go out at all. 

Now that would probably cause more of a blood bath than the virus itself, take Tesla for example!

That's a bummer!  No way to escape the masses.   Is your city taking any action to lock-down as much public interactions as possible?

Most upcoming exhibitions and international conferences have been cancelled or postponed. Football (soccer) matches haven't yet been affected. But I guess that is just a matter of time.

Five cases have been traced back to holidaymakers returning from Northern Italy skiing holidays and the last one arrived here from Iran. All have been quarantined at home for two weeks, no deaths or anybody in IC. The authorities are handling everything as they should.

We are lucky that our political leader is NOT a Muppet!

I know, that was an insult to Muppets!


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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
Robotics Engineer Moderator
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1794
2020-03-07 5:56 pm  

Don't Panic!

UPDATE:

Ok, so yesterday I made this online order for my supplies.  The order wasn't that big it only came to about $130 which is typical of what I buy when stocking up for a month or so which I often do normally.

In any case, yesterday when I made the list everything was in stock.  But it was too late to call in the order and go over to pick it up.  So I had to wait until today.

But when I went to my shopping cart almost everything was marked "out of stock".  There must have been a run on the store last night!  And I live in a very rural area where the current threat of the virus is extremely low, at least for now.

In any case, now I'll have to wait until new stock comes in.  This was a bit of a surprise actually.  So apparently I'm not the only one who is thinking of stocking up on food.   Fortunately I already have quite a bit of food here.  Maybe close to enough to hold up for a month.  But I really wanted to grab that extra order to extend my capabilities to maybe 2 or 3 months.

In any case, now I'll have to wait for them to restock.  The more time that passes the greater the chance that the virus will spread.  That's why I wanted to do this "early", but apparently I wasn't early enough.

Hopefully they'll be restocked by Monday and I can pick it up early next week. 

I'm even thinking of just ordering it mail-order so I won't need to go out at all.   The problem with that is that you do end up paying quite a bit more.

In any case, it looks like everyone is in panic mode.   Or maybe this is normal for  a weekend?   After all Friday and Saturday are big shopping days for most people. 

Even in normal times I typically go over on week night after midnight.  I like it when the store is basically empty.

Oh well, I'll just keep an eye on my shopping cart and if they restock I'll hit the order button!  I expect that should happen at least by Monday or early next week.  I'd just feel better if I can have a well-stocked kitchen ASAP.

Then I won't need to go out again for months. ? 

I should have done this earlier.  What was I thinking?   I'm as bad as my own government.  I wait until it's too late and then react.   Shame on me!

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
Robotics Engineer Moderator
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1794
2020-03-07 6:31 pm  

My Mistake!

Well, it wasn't really my mistake.  But after I made the previous post I went back to the shopping cart again and this time the "out of stock" warnings were all gone!   Apparently there must have been something wrong with the shopping cart software the last time I looked at it.   That scared me. ? 

So not to worry!  There was no run on the store.  It was just a lousy app.

So I just now placed the order to pick up my survival food kit.    It should be ready around 5 or 6 pm.  They are supposed to send me an email when it's ready and I'll drive over and pick it up.   This should be a piece of cake.

I'll let you know later today how well it all worked out.  It's also my understanding that they bring the groceries out in plastic tubs and so you need to either have bags or boxes to transfer the food into.  I'm just going to take over a bunch of rectangular plastic tubs so they can just put it from one tub into the other.

This is my first experience with a Walmart Pick-up service so I hope it  goes smoothly.

I'll let you know after I make the pick up.

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
Robotics Engineer Moderator
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1794
2020-03-07 7:27 pm  

Saved in Seconds!

I made a mistake on the order.  I ordered 10 cans of chili that I don't like!   What an idiot I am!

So I went back to my online order to see if I could change it.  It said that I have until 2PM to change the order.  It was currently 1:58PM!

YIKES!

So I rushed to delete the chili I didn't want and then I  had to go and look up the chili I do like and add it to the order.   In the meantime I had to do a Google search to even discover how to do this!  Time was ticking away.

I got back to shopping cart at exactly 2:00PM and added the chili I like to the order.  And it took.  Yeah!

I made it in time.  That's better than having 10 cans of chili I don't like.  Now I'll have 10 cans of chili I do like.

Isn't life wonderful? ? 

 

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
Robotics Engineer Moderator
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1794
2020-03-08 12:47 am  

Reassurance report:

Okay, I got the email telling me the order was ready.   So I when to my shopping cart and clicked "Check In".

You're supposed to do that 10 minutes before you leave to pick up the groceries.   It actually takes me 20 minutes to get there, but that's the best I could do.

When I got to the Walmart I was surprised to find the parking lot scarcely populated.  I drove up to the pick up stalls and they were all empty.  No one around.   I pulled into one and it has a sign with a phone number to call to let them know you are there.  Good thing I have  a Trackfone.  I don't have a  fancy mobile phone like most people.  So anyway I called the number and a fellow came out  straight-away with a huge dolly filled with my order.   I got out and helped him load it into the car.  So there was some exposure to another person there.   Although I'm really not that concerned at this point in time.  I just wanted to try this pick-up service out.   And it's actually pretty COOL. ?   I think I'll be using this system more often.  It's a totally free service, there is no extra charge to have someone do your shopping for you.  Imagine that!  Wonderful!

Anyway, I had to go inside the store anyway to get a propane tank exchange. ? 

The store was not the least bit crowded which was very nice.   In fact, the lady that rang up my propane told me that it's extremely quite for a Saturday at 5:00pm.   I couldn't agree more.  Usually it's packed with long lines at the registers.

In any case since the store was so empty I decided to go into the grocery area anyway and pick up some salad produce.  I prefer to pick that kind of thing out by hand myself.   And by the way there was no run on the store.  If anything the shelves are OVER-stocked.   Apparently people must be avoiding going to the store entirely.   The few people who were shopping were behaving exactly as they would at any normal time.  That give a false sense of security.  I mean, after all, what do they know?   Just because they have no concerns doesn't mean there's no invisible danger lurking in the air that they breathe.

In any case.  I got my salad stuff and did a self check out.  Being careful, but not paranoid about touching any surfaces that I didn't need to touch.   I did punch in my debit card number without insulating my finger tip with a paper towel from the keyboard though.  SHAME ON ME!  I'm living dangerously.

Then I went over the pharmacy department and shook hands with all the sick people there who were waiting for their prescription meds.  Then then drove home whilst picking my nose without having washed my hands first. ?   Just kidding!

Final Report on the High-Tech Pick-up service.

After I got home I put all the groceries away and marked off everything on the list.  It's was a perfect order, almost.  They did seem to make one mistake.  I ordered 10 cans of baked beans and they gave me 13 cans.   At no extra charge.   So I won 3 cans of beans I guess. ? 

Everything else was pretty much as ordered.  They did make one substitute for one item which they told me about when I picked up the order.  I could have rejected the substitute at that time but I accepted it.  I had ordered 409 spray cleaner and they substituted a bleach type bathroom cleaner.  What a weird substitute!  But that's okay, my bathroom could use a good cleaning anyway, so perhaps it's an omen.

So anyway, this was really just a test to try out this pick-service to see how well it works.  I'm totally pleased with it.  So I'll be using this pick-up service a lot more in the future.  Even if there is no threat of any virus.  I should have been shopping like this a long time go.  Saves me the trouble of having to go into the store and pick everything up myself.  This way you just drive up, they load it in your car, and off you go.  Can't get much easier than that.

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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Pugwash
(@pugwash)
Noble Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1007
2020-03-08 3:19 pm  

@robo-pi

Just watch these two videos back to back, I don't think you would be telling your fellow countrymen NOT to panic. If I was an American I would be seriously concerned, that despite boasting some of the worlds top universities, your politicians are acting as if they come from some third world banana republic!

And you can finish off with this!

And remember "Death is only Natures way of telling you to SLOW DOWN!" ? ? ? 


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