LA warns of ‘juice-jacking’ malware, but admits it has no cases

Los Angeles’ district attorney is warning travelers to avoid public USB charging points because “they may contain dangerous malware.”

Reading the advisory, you might be forgiven for thinking that every USB outlet you see is just waiting for you to plug in your phone so it can steal your data. This so-called “juice-jacking” attack involves criminals loading malware “on charging stations or cables they leave plugged in at the stations so they may infect the phones and other electronic devices of unsuspecting users,” it reads. “The malware may lock the device or export data and passwords directly to the scammer.”

But the county’s chief prosecutor’s office told TechCrunch said that it has “no cases” of juice-jacking on its books, though it said there are known cases on the east coast.When asked where those cases were, the spokesperson did not know. And when asked what prompted the alert to begin with, the spokesperson said it was part of “an ongoing fraud education campaign.”

Which begs the question — why?

Security researcher Kevin Beaumont tweeted that he hasn’t seen “any evidence of malware being used in the wild on these things.” In fact, ask around and you’ll find very little out there. Several security researchers have dropped me messages saying they’ve seen proof-of-concepts, but nothing actively malicious.

Juice-jacking is a real threat, but it’s an incredibly complicated and imperfect way to attack someone when there are far easier ways.

The idea, though — that you can plug in your phone and have your secrets stolen — is not entirely farfetched. Over the years there have been numerous efforts to demonstrate that it’s possible. As ZDNet points out in its coverage of the juice-jacking warning, the FBI sent out a nationwide alert about the threat after security researcher Samy Kamkar developed an Ardunio-based implant designed to look like a USB charger to wirelessly sniff the air for leaky key strokes. And just earlier this year, a security researcher developed an iPhone charger cable clone that let a nearby hacker run commands on the vulnerable computer.

LA recommend using an AC power outlet and not a charging station, and to take your cables with you. That’s sound advice, but it’s just one of many things you need to do to keep your devices and data safe.

The new AirFly Pro is the perfect travel buddy for your AirPods Pro

Accessory maker TwelveSouth has a solid lineup of gadgets, many of which fill a niche that their products uniquely address — and address remarkably well. The AirFly Pro ($54.99) is a new iteration on one of those, providing a way to connect Bluetooth headphones to any audio source with a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s being sold at Apple Stores, too, as part of its launch today — and there’s good reason for that: This is the ideal way to make sure you can use your AirPods Pro just about everywhere, including with airplane seatback entertainment systems.

The AirFly Pro will work with any Bluetooth headphones, not just AirPods Pro — but the latest noise-canceling earbuds from Apple are among the best available when it comes to both active noise cancellation and sound quality, both great assets for frequent travelers and people more likely to encounter an in-flight entertainment system. But the AirFly Pro has additional tricks up its sleeve that earn it the “Pro” designation.

This is the first version of the product from TwelveSouth that offers the ability to stream audio in, as well as out. That means you can use it with a car stereo system that only has auxiliary audio in, for instance, to stream directly from your iPhone to the vehicle’s sound system. The AirFly Pro can also serve that function for home stereo sound equipment, speakers or other audio equipment that accepts audio in, but not Bluetooth streaming connections.

One other neat trick the AirFly Pro packs: audio sharing, so that you can connect two pairs of headphones at once. This is similar to the native audio sharing feature that Apple introduced for its own AirPod line in the most recent iOS update, but it works through the AirFly with any audio source, and any Bluetooth headphones. That’s yet another great feature for when you’re traveling with a partner.

I’ve had a bit of time to spend with the AirFly Pro, and so far it has been rock solid, with easy pairing and setup, and a convenient keychain ring/3.5mm connector cap for making it easier to keep with you. It charges via USB-C, and there’s a USB-A to USB-C cable included, too. The on-board battery lasts for 16 or more hours, which is more than enough time for even the longest of flights, and again, you’re getting that audio sharing feature which is super handy even around the house for just checking something out on the iPad on your couch.

Alongside the AirFly Pro, TwelveSouth also introduced new AirFly Duo and AirFly USB-C models. The difference is that neither of these offer that wireless audio input mode — but you get up to four more hours of battery life for the trade-off. The USB-C model also offers USB-C audio compatibility, for connecting to devices that use that connection for sound instead of 3.5mm, and both of these still offer dual headphone connectivity, for $5 less, at $49.99 each.

Google updates its Titan security keys with USB-C

Google has revealed its latest Titan security key — and it’s now compatible with USB-C devices.

The latest Titan key arrives just weeks after its closest market rival Yubico — which also manufactures the Titan security key for Google — released its own USB-C and Lightning-compatible key, but almost two years after the release its dedicated USB-C key.

These security keys offer near-unbeatable security against a variety of threats to your online accounts, from phishing to nation-state attackers. When you want to log in to one of your accounts, you plug in the key to your device and it authenticates you. Most people don’t need a security key, but they are available for particularly high-risk users, like journalists, politicians and activists, who are frequently targeted by hostile nation states.

By Google’s own data, security keys are far stronger than other options, like a text message sent to your phone.

Many companies, like Coinbase, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter and Google, support the use of security keys. But although the list of supported companies is not vast, it continues to grow as security key usage increases.

Google said its newest key will be available from October 15 for $40.

Nomad’s new Base Station Pro offers a taste of what Apple’s AirPower had promised

Accessory maker Nomad already offers a couple of excellent wireless chargers that work great with Apple and other Qi-compatible devices, but they’re introducing a new one that could be their most versatile yet. Using technology provided by partner Aira, called “FreePower,” the new Nomad Base Station Pro will be able to charge up to three devices at once placed in any orientation on its surface — cool both because of the three-device simultaneous support and the fact that you don’t have to make sure the gadget you’re charging is lined up exactly right on the charger, as is typically the case.

This is pretty similar to what Apple’s AirPower promised, before its unfortunate demise. The hardware similarly makes use of a matrix of multiple charging coils, which interlink to offer charging capabilities across the surface of the Base Station Pro. Perhaps intentionally, Aira’s website URL is “airapower.com,” one letter off from Apple’s shelved first-party accessory.

Nomad’s charger inherits the same aesthetics of the company’s existing chargers, which means you get a black soft leather surface for putting your devices on top of, and the surrounding frame is made of slate-gray aluminum. The charger should look and feel very premium, if Nomad’s other Base Stations are any indication.

The Base Station Pro supports charging speeds of up to 5W each, which is not the max supported by the iPhone or other devices — but according to Aira co-founder Jake Slatnick, that’s not actually much of a limitation at all.

“An interesting detail that we’ve learned through benchmarking is that our 5W output charge time is comparable to other 10W advertised chargers,” Slatnick explained via email. “It turns out, as soon as the phone starts to heat up, the charge speed slows down significantly, usually below 5W. The 7.5W+ chargers seem to only last at those speeds for a few minutes. We think the performance right now is on par with everything else and that it shouldn’t be noticeable to most users.”

The Nomad Base Station Pro supports up to three devices, all at 5W; you could use it to charge say, two iPhones and AirPods with Apple’s wireless charging case all at once.

Nomad also includes a 27W USB-C charger with Power Delivery in the box with the Base Station Pro, and a USB-C cable to connect to the charger. This probably will be a fairly premium-priced piece of hardware, but we’ll find out for sure when pre-orders begin in November.

The one significant way this differs from what Apple was building, at least for Apple fans, is that it doesn’t provide charging for the Apple Watch. Nomad has a Base Station model that offers an integrated Apple Watch charger, but of course with that you’re not getting the “place anywhere” overlapping coil design built for this new model.

Gnarbox 2.0 backup SSD is a photographer’s best friend in the field and at home

Working photographers, and enthusiasts who just love taking plenty of pictures, know that even the biggest SD cards can sometimes fill up, especially when you’re working with large file sizes, shooting both JPG and RAW, and shooting 4K video. The solution? A good mobile backup drive. There are a number of options out there that fit the bill, but the newly released Gnarbox 2.0 might be the best of them all, because it works like a miniature independent photo computer in addition to packing speedy SSD storage onboard.

This is the second generation of Gnarbox’s backup solution, and while I used the original, HDD-based version to great effect for a long time, the 2.0 version adds a ton of useful features, including super-fast SSD storage ranging from 256GB to 1TB in capacity, a new OLED display that makes it even easier to use in the field, and a removable battery that means you can pack spares to stay powered up and ready.

Simple, no fuss backup

It’s not the fanciest feature that the Gnarbox 2.0 offers, but it might be the one you use most: Quick and painless backup of SD cards. There’s an SD port on the device itself that can transfer at speeds up of to 75MB/s, and it has USB-C ports that can transfer direct from cameras or from card readers at up to 350MB/s depending on their transfer capabilities. When you plug in an SD card or camera, you get an option on the screen to totally back up the contents of the attached drive with one click, which makes it incredibly easy to dump and delete and clear up space to keep shooting.

Gnarbox 2.0 6

During a 9-day trip that included two events and a vacation to shoot, I made frequent use of this feature. Shooting with the new Sony A7R IV in both RAW and JPG, even my 128GB SD + 64GB SD backup cards filled up pretty quickly, but I would just slide one of the cards into the Gnarbox’s slot and hit the backup button before changing venues and it’d be fully backed up within a few minutes.

In my experience, this process has been rock-solid reliable, and gives me effectively 10x the space for a shoot vs. just relying on my cards alone (I don’t typically have a similar sized backup SD card on the road, let alone 10). By default, the Gnarbox 2.0 stores all your media in backup folders organized by capture date, too, which makes them super easy to sort through once you get back to base.

A mobile review and rating machine

Once all that great capture content is on your Gnarbox 2.0, you can also very easily connect to the drive using Gnarbox’s mobile apps to either review what you’ve got, or go through and rate your photos quickly to make the process of working through them once you’re installed at your workstation easier.

There are two apps from Gnarbox available right now, including Gnarbox Safekeep and Gnarbox Selects. Safekeep gives you access to all your device’s settings and can also act as a file browser for shuttling photos between apps. But Selects is probably what you’re going to be using most – it not only offers fast RAW previews (compatible with every major camera’s RAW formats) but also lets you quickly add ratings, keyboard tags and more to make sure your collection is primed for edit when you get back to your desktop.

With Selects, you can review either files on the Gnarbox SSD itself, or on attached memory cards or storage media (so yes, you can use this with something like a Samsung T5 if you’re already using that as a backup solution). All this info will then show up in applications like Adobe Lightroom to expedite your workflow.

This can shave hours off the process of organizing your photos, since it means you can do the rating and reviewing up front without having to wait for everything to import and then trying to recall what you were going for with the shoot in the field after the fact.

Easy sharing from the field

Speaking of saving time, the Gnarbox 2.0 also helps you move more quickly from capture to sharing, which is incredibly useful if you’re working on a live event or doing photojournalism of something happening in the moment. The device supports Lightroom mobile out of the box, meaning you can navigate to it as a source for a new collection and move files over directly when connected to your phone or tablet. This makes it awesome for adding quick edits to RAW files, exporting finished JPGs and sharing directly to social apps and websites.

With Apple’s new iOS 13 filesystem changes, the Gnarbox 2.0 can also be addressed as a mass storage device, so you should be pretty wide open in terms of options for working with various editing software. This is also great for mobile video workflows, since Gnarbox 2.0 works just as well for storing video capture as well as photos.

Home workstation companion

Gnarbox 2.0 3The Gnarbox 2.0 is great on the go, but it’s also perfect for plugging in as a home work drive once you’re back from the shoot. I’m reviewing the 1TB version, so the amount of available on board storage is a big advantage here, since it can essentially provide all the space you need to give you all of your working files in one place.

As mentioned, it supports high-speed USB-C transfer, which makes working with the files directly from the drive on your main workstation much more pleasant. That also means you don’t necessarily have to move things over local to get to work, which saves you a step and spares your computer’s disk space.

Gnarbox 2.0 switches to USB Mass Storage mode pretty easily, using the onboard OLED menu system. You do need to make this switch manually however, because by default the USB-C port that it uses to make the computer connection is used for charging the Gnarbox’s battery. Once you’re in that mode, however, it’s as easy as connecting Gnarbox 2.0 to your computer and then navigating to it as you would any other connected mass storage device.

Photos on the drive are organized by capture date, as mentioned (you can customize how it creates its folder structure if you want) and you can also select it as an import target in any photo editing software, like Lightroom or Capture One.

Bottom line

Gnarbox 2.0 5Gnarbox has taken their time to create a thoughtful and thorough successor to their original product with the Gnarbox 2.0. It’s a unique blend of field photo server and mini computer, made more versatile with clever touches like the removable battery packs and dust/splash resistance. Ultimately, there really isn’t anything in the market that can compete with the Gnarbox 2.0 on everything it provides, though devices like WD’s My Passport Wireless Pro and the LaCie Rugged Boss SSD can offer some key parts at lower prices depending on your needs.

At $899 for the 1TB version I reviewed, ($499 and $599 for the 256 and 512GB versions, respectively), the Gnarbox 2.0 clearly isn’t for everyone. It’s a professional tool for a professional workflow, and it’s priced as such. That said, the value it provides for busy photographers who need a companion storage solution with utmost flexibility for working both at home and on the road is definitely going to make it worth the cost of admission for some.

This hacker’s iPhone charging cable can hijack your computer

Most people don’t think twice about picking up a phone charging cable and plugging it in. But one hacker’s project wants to change that and raise awareness of the dangers of potentially malicious charging cables.

A hacker who goes by the online handle MG took an innocent-looking Apple USB Lightning cable and rigged it with a small Wi-Fi-enabled implant, which, when plugged into a computer, lets a nearby hacker run commands as if they were sitting in front of the screen.

Dubbed the O.MG cable, it looks and works almost indistinguishably from an iPhone charging cable. But all an attacker has to do is swap out the legitimate cable for the malicious cable and wait until a target plugs it into their computer. From a nearby device and within Wi-Fi range (or attached to a nearby Wi-Fi network), an attacker can wirelessly transmit malicious payloads on the computer, either from pre-set commands or an attacker’s own code.

Once plugged in, an attacker can remotely control the affected computer to send realistic-looking phishing pages to a victim’s screen, or remotely lock a computer screen to collect the user’s password when they log back in.

MG focused his first attempt on an Apple Lightning cable, but the implant can be used in almost any cable and against most target computers.

“This specific Lightning cable allows for cross-platform attack payloads, and the implant I have created is easily adapted to other USB cable types,” MG said. “Apple just happens to be the most difficult to implant, so it was a good proof of capabilities.”

In his day job as a red teamer at Verizon Media (which owns TechCrunch), he develops innovative hacking methods and techniques to identify and fix security vulnerabilities before malicious attackers find them. Although a personal project, MG said his malicious cable can help red teamers think about defending against different kinds of threats.

“Suddenly we now have victim-deployed hardware that may not be noticed for much longer periods of time,” he explained. “This changes how you think about defense tactics. We have seen that the NSA has had similar capabilities for over a decade, but it isn’t really in most people’s threat models because it isn’t seen as common enough.”

“Most people know not to plug in random flash drives these days, but they aren’t expecting a cable to be a threat,” he said. “So this helps drive home education that goes deeper.”

MG spent thousands of dollars of his own money and countless hours working on his project. Each cable took him about four hours to assemble. He also worked with several other hackers to write some of the code and develop exploits, and gave away his supply of hand-built cables to Def Con attendees with a plan to sell them online in the near future, he said.

But the O.MG cable isn’t done yet. MG said he’s working with others to improve the cable’s functionality and expand its feature set.

“It really just comes down to time and resources at this point. I have a huge list in my head that needs to become reality,” he said.

(via Motherboard)

No one, not even the Secret Service, should randomly plug in a strange USB stick

If you’ve been on Twitter today, you’ve probably seen one story making the rounds.

The case follows a Chinese national, Yujing Zhang, who is accused of trying to sneak into President Trump’s private Florida resort Mar-a-Largo last month. She was caught by the Secret Service with four cellphones, a laptop, cash, an external hard drive, and a signals detector to spot hidden cameras, and a thumb drive.

The arrest sparked new concerns about the president’s security amid concerns that foreign governments have tried to infiltrate the resort.

Allegations aside and notwithstanding, what sent alarm bells ringing was how the Secret Service handled the USB drive — which cannot be understated — were not good.

From the Miami Herald:

Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich, who interviewed Zhang on the day of her arrest, testified at the hearing. He stated that when another agent put Zhang’s thumb-drive into his computer, it immediately began to install files, a “very out-of-the-ordinary” event that he had never seen happen before during this kind of analysis. The agent had to immediately stop the analysis to halt any further corruption of his computer, Ivanovich said. The analysis is ongoing but still inconclusive, he testified.

What’s the big deal, you might think? You might not think it but USB keys are a surprisingly easy and effective way to install malware — or even destroy computers. In 2016, security researcher Elie Bursztein found dropping malware-laden USB sticks was an “effective” way of tricking someone into plugging it into their computer. As soon as the drive plugs in, it can install malware that can remotely surveil and control the affected device — and spread throughout a network. Some USB drives can even fry the innards of some computers.

It didn’t take long for security folks to seize on the security snafu.

Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec and former NSA hacker, criticized the agent’s actions “threatened his own computing system and possibly the rest of the Secret Service network.”

“It’s entirely possible that the sensitivities over determining whether Zhang was targeting Mar-a-Lago or the president — or whether she was a legitimate guest or member — may have contributed to the agent’s actions on the ground,” he said, “Never before has the Secret Service had to deal with this type of scenario and they’re probably still working out the playbook.”

The big question is whether or not the agent’s computer was airgapped — which is when the computer is completely isolated from the internet or any other computer. We’ve asked the Secret Service for comment.

Williams said the best way to forensically examine a suspect USB drive is by plugging the device into an isolated Linux-based computer that doesn’t automatically mount the drive to the operating system.

“We would then create a forensic image of the USB and extract any malware for analysis in the lab,” he said. “While there is still a very small risk that the malware targets Linux, that’s not the normal case.”

But based on the agent’s description, it doesn’t sound like many — or any — precautions were made.

With USB 4, Thunderbolt and USB will converge

Your cable nightmare might soon be over. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has unveiled the specifications of USB 4.0, as Engadget reports. And USB 4.0 looks a lot like Thunderbolt 3.

While specifications won’t be finalized until later this year, USB 4 should support speeds of 40 Gbps. The USB-IF is using Thunderbolt 3 as the foundation for USB 4.

Intel originally developed the Thunderbolt interface with Apple back in 2011. It was supposed to be a faster and more versatile interface that supports multiple protocols. For instance, you can use Thunderbolt cables and devices to connect displays and hard drives. You can daisy-chain your peripherals, which can be useful for external graphics cards, for instance.

With Thunderbolt 3, Intel added USB 3.1 Gen 2 support, which means that you can plug a USB device to a Thunderbolt port. And Intel adopted the USB-C port. In other words, Thunderbolt ports became USB ports with Thunderbolt capabilities on top. It means that any USB device can be used with a Thunderbolt port. If you’re using a MacBook Pro, you’ve probably taken advantage of that feature.

But USB devices plugged into Thunderbolt ports don’t magically become Thunderbolt devices. If you plug an external USB 3.0 hard drive in a Thunderbolt port, you’re limited to USB 3.0 speeds.

Even though Thunderbolt is technically superior, it hasn’t been as popular as USB devices. Device manufacturers had to pay royalty fees to Intel (Correction: Thunderbolt 3 has always been royalty-free, but specifications weren’t public). Making a Thunderbolt device is also more expensive in general.

A couple of years ago, Intel announced that it would make Thunderbolt available to everyone without any royalty fee. So the USB-IF is taking advantage of that by integrating Thunderbolt 3 specifications into USB 4.

USB 4.0 will support charging speeds of 100W of power, transfer speeds of 40 Gbps and enough video bandwidth for two 4K displays or one 5K display. USB 4 should also be backward-compatible with USB 3.x, 2.x and 1.x devices.

If you have a USB 3.x cable with Type-C connectors, you may have to upgrade to USB 4 cables. But Thunderbolt 3 should work fine, as they’re essentially the same thing as USB 4 cables. I hope there will be a way to distinguish USB 3.x ports from USB 4 ports though.

Intel won’t drop the Thunderbolt name altogether. Thunderbolt devices are certified by Intel, while you don’t need any certification to release a USB device.

USB 4 sounds like a great way to start from a clean slate. One port and one cable type to rule them all. But let’s hope manufacturers follow the official specifications and don’t try to cut corners.

EcoFlow raises $4M from unconventional investors to grow its mobile power business

EcoFlow, a U.S.-Chinese hardware firm developed by former DJI engineers that sells portable power stations, has pulled in a Series A round of over $4 million ahead of the imminent launch of new products and an international sales expansion.

The Shenzhen/San Francisco-based company has taken an interesting route. Founded in 2016, the startup burst on to the scene when it launched its River product in an Indiegogo campaign that pulled in $1 million. Today, River is available in the U.S. where it is sold via Home Depot, Camping World, Amazon, HSN and the EcoFlow website for $599 upwards.

That’s pretty impressive progress for a young company, and CEO and co-founder Eli Harris told TechCrunch in an interview that relationships with key partners are at the core of that. In particular, EcoFlow has raised strategic investment from supply chain partners rather than traditional VC and that is the case again. This new $4 million came courtesy of battery makers Guangzhou Penghui Energy and SCUD Group, industrial design tooling factory ESID, and supply chain-focused firms Delian Capital and Chunjia Assets.

Names that aren’t known in Silicon Valley, for sure, but the key is what they bring to the table.

“Our investors are almost entirely vertically integrated with every component in our supply chain,” Harris said. “That gives us access to these top-tier manufacturers that no startups could enjoy and help us get direct access to vendors at large companies.”

Aside from reaching quality components and getting a good price, relationships with these component makers help EcoFlow with its cash flow — always a challenge puzzle piece for hardware startups. Harris explained that the relationships allow his company to delay paying for components rather than having to pay upfront — before product is sold and revenue comes in — which optimizes the books and means the capital can be put to work on R&D, sales and marketing and more.

The River itself is touted as industry-leading portable power. Aside from an aesthetic design, the li-ion-based device has a total output of 500 watts, weighs just 11 pounds and features two quick-charge USB ports, two USB type C ports, two standard USB ports, two AC outlets, two DC outlets and one 12V car port.

Now EcoFlow is doubling down with plans to launch two new products before the end of this year. Harris isn’t providing specific details right now, but he said the company is looking to take advantage of its promising growth.

“We think we are around 18 months ahead of the market in terms of engineering capabilities. Most experienced battery players are going after electronic vehicles and industrial opportunities, while smaller players have issues getting to manufactures, talent and money to build portable energy solutions,” he said.

While $699 may make the product a luxury for some — despite a $100 price cut — Harris said that the price is likely to decrease going forward as technology develops.

“Batteries are expensive products but we will see costs come down with the expansion of the EV market, so we’ll be trending in the right direction. But people who understand the tech don’t think it is an expensive product,” Harris explained.

“A lot of the tech we use now will be utilized in future products so that’ll mean lower development costs as we leverage existing IP. We’re also exploring using second life batteries since cells are one of the biggest expenses of the product,” he added.

Working with those battery makers that it also counts as investors could help on that second-life battery push, which could cut the costs to one-fourth of what EcoFlow pays now.

While tactically selected investors are a boon for many reasons, Harris admitted that they do require educating of the investor-investee relationship as it is unconventional in their space. But, he said, increasingly large component and manufacturing firms are keen to do startup investments to help get new ideas, open relationships in the U.S. and explore other new areas of focus.

“A lot of the manufacturing industry players have been stuck in that OEM wheelhouse and there’s more competition now. The previous models of just churning out product might not be sustainable, and margins are thinner,” he said.

Most immediately, EcoFlow is looking to expand sales beyond the U.S and Canada with plans to move into Europe later this year. It also plans to raise a “significant” funding round before 2018 is out as the two new products hit the market.

Note: the original version of this story has been updated to correct the price of the River.

Rylo’s shoot first, frame later camera is ideal for casual adventure-seekers

Action cameras are a gadget that mostly cater to a person’s wish to see themselves in a certain way: Most people aren’t skiing off mountains or cliff diving most of the time, but they aspire to. The issue with most action cameras, though, is that even when you actually do something cool, you still have to shoot the right angle to capture the moment, which is itself a skill. That’s the beauty of Rylo, a tiny 360 camera that minimizes the skill required and makes it easy to get the shots you want.

Rylo is compact enough to have roughly the footprint of a GoPro, but with dual lenses for 4K, 360-degree video capture. It has a removable battery pack good for an hour of continuous video recording, and a micro USB port for charging. In the box, you’ll get either a micro USB to Lightning, or micro USB to micro USB and USB C cables, depending on whether you pick up the Android or the iOS version, and you handle all editing on the mobile device you already have with you always.

The device itself feels solid, and has stood up to a lot of travel and various conditions over the course of my usage. The anodized aluminum exterior can take some lumps, and the OLED screen on the device provides just enough info when you’re shooting, without overwhelming. There’s no viewfinder, but the point of the Rylo is that you don’t need one – it’s capturing a full 360-degree image all the time, and you position your shot after the fact in editing.

Rylo includes a 16GB microSD card in the box, too, but you can use up to 256GB versions for more storage. A single button on top controls both power functions and recording, and the simplicity is nice when you’re in the moment and just want to start shooting without worrying about settings.

The basic functionality of Rylo is more than most people will need out of a device like this: Using the app, you can select out an HD, flat frame of video to export, and easily trim the length plus make adjustments to picture, including basic edits like highlights, color and contrast. Rylo’s built-in stabilization keeps things surprisingly smooth, even when you’re driving very fast along a bumpy road with what amounts to nearly race-tuned tires and suspension.

Then, if you want to get really fancy, you can do things like add motion to your clips, including being able to make dead-simple smooth pans from one focus point to another. The end result looks like you’re using a gimbal or other stabilized film camera, but all the equipment you need is the Rylo itself, plus any mount, including the handle/tripod mount that comes in the box, or anything that works with a GoPro.

You can even set a specific follow point, allowing you to track a specific object or person throughout the clip. This works well, though sometimes it’ll lose track of the person or thing if there’s low light or the thing it’s following gets blocked. The app will let you know it’s lost its target, however, and in practice it works well enough to create good-looking videos for things like bicycling and riding ATVs, for instance.

Other companies are trying to do similar things with their own hardware, including GoPro with the Fusion and Insta360 with its Insta360 One. But Rylo’s solution has the advantage of being dead simple to use, with easily portable hardware that’s durable and compatible with existing GoPro mount accessories. The included micro USB to Lightning cable isn’t easily replaced, except for from Rylo itself, and it’s also small and easy to lose, so that’s my main complaint when it comes to the system as a whole.

In the end, the Rylo does what it’s designed to do: Takes the sting out of creating cool action clips and compelling short movies for people working mostly from their mobile devices. It’s not as flexible for pros looking for a way to integrated more interesting camera angles into their desktop workflow because of how tied content captured on the Rylo is to the Rylo app itself, but it seems clearly designed for a consumer enthusiast market anyway.

At $499, the Rylo isn’t all that much more expensive than the GoPro Hero 6. It’s still a significant investment, and the image quality isn’t up to the 4K video output by the GoPro, but for users who just want to make cool videos to share among friends using social tools, Rylo’s ease of use and incredibly low bar in terms of filming expertise required is hard to beat.