In the news: 5 tech news stories worth another look

Debbie Thomson

Hackers are known for the headaches they can cause. But two men used their technological talents to help United Airlines – and they each received one million frequent flyer miles for their effort.

CNN Money reported that Kyle Lovett and Jordan Wiens were the big winners in the airline’s new program, which rewards hackers who identify security bugs in United’s system.

The mileage that’s awarded ranges from 50,000 to one million, depending on the severity of the glitch.

“Such awards, known as ‘bug bounties’ are paid to any hacker that can help United identify a problem with its system,” the report said. “Many companies and security firms offer bug bounties, including Google and Facebook, but United says it's the first airline to do so.”

According to Reuters, which first reported the story, Wiens spotted a bug that could have allowed a hacker to hijack one of United’s websites.

Industry experts place a $15,000 price tag on United’s top reward.

Hackers can hit the jackpot – and be helpful – after all.

What else made this round-up? Read on:

On the decline
It’s been a long time – 12 years, actually – since the majority of emails weren’t spam.

According to the June report released by security firm Symantec, 49.7% of emails earned spam status. Legitimate emails last outnumbered junk messages in 2003.

Here’s the caveat, which the Verge points out: The sample size used to calculate the percentage is small and therefore far from “perfect.”

The finding is based solely on Symantec clients. They account for two percent of the antivirus market.

However, if you’re a glass-half-full person who’s looking for something to celebrate in the fight against spam, this news is it.

“… it’s still powerful evidence that spam is on the decline. Symantec’s rate for April was 52.1%, suggesting a rapid drop in the volume of junk.”

The brides big day
How many brides-to-be would willingly let total strangers take charge of all their wedding-day decisions? Samantha Carisch relinquished control as contest winner of The Knot’s “Most high-tech wedding” of the year.

According to Mashable, everything was crowdsourced online. That let Carsich spend more time with her mother, Kathy, whose battle with cancer prevented her from helping to plan and attend the wedding.

But Kathy was connected. The wedding was live streamed. Drones captured aerial images. A GoPro in the bouquet gave a unique perspective of Carisch's walk down the aisle.

“It’s amazing that we’ll have so much unique footage, angles and data from the day that paint a bigger picture of what everything was like,” Carisch told Mashable.

Six-digit security
Apple’s iOS 9 is currently in beta. And one of the differences in this iteration of the operating system is the option to create a longer passcode – six digits instead of four.

The feature, as you can guess, is designed to improve the security on devices.

However, according to CNET, iOS 9 doesn’t immediately make the six-digit option available upon upgrading. You have to select it.

CNET has the step-by-step instructions.

No ifs, ands or butts
A U.S. federal appeals court in Kentucky ruled the “butt dial” is not an adequate defense when fighting to ensure a conversation stays private.

According to SC Magazine: “There is no expectation of privacy in the event of a ‘butt dial’ — an inadvertent call made when a caller sits on a phone — when a caller hadn’t taken reasonable steps to prevent it.”

Kentucky businessman James Huff and his wife sued executive assistant Carol Shaw over a call she shouldn’t have heard. Shaw recorded some of what she felt was talk about illegal activity.

Bertha Huff’s portion of the lawsuit was ultimately overturned since she wasn’t responsible for the accidental dial. James Huff, however, wasn’t so lucky.

It’s a good reminder to always watch what you say.

Consider yourself warned.