Safety Flashback: This Week’s Top Headlines to Stay Aware

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Need to Know from SafeWise

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the most crucial safety news you need to know. From the digital realm of online safety to child product recalls, natural disaster updates, and the latest on dangerous TikTok challenges, we've got you covered.

Stay informed, stay safe, and dive into the headlines that matter most in today's ever-evolving landscape of hazards and precautions. Your safety matters and this is where you'll find the news you need to protect what matters most.

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Apple rushes emergency security patches amid pegasus spyware threat

In a swift response to a growing Pegasus spyware threat, Apple released emergency patches for iPhone, Mac, and Apple Watch on Thursday. (If you haven't updated your iOS today, do it now!)

Some security flaws were reportedly exploited to deploy the notorious spyware, which NSO Group sells to national governments. The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto uncovered the exploits, including a zero-click vulnerability dubbed "BLASTPASS."

Apple acknowledged the active exploitation of these issues and urged users to consider activating Lockdown Mode for added protection. NSO Group offered no comment on the allegations.

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Need to Know: Lockdown Mode for Apple devices

Introduced in 2022, Apple's Lockdown Mode is a powerful tool against spyware threats, including Pegasus. This feature significantly reduces attack vectors by limiting iPhone functionality, such as blocking attachments in messages and preventing web link previews, common methods for spyware transmission.

Lockdown Mode also thwarts attempts to seize or control devices through wired connections. Security experts laud it as a vital defense mechanism that NSO Group despises. To stay safe, consider activating Lockdown Mode if you suspect you're a target.

Tomy recalls 83,000 highchairs over safety concerns

Tomy, the children's products company, is recalling approximately 83,000 highchairs in the U.S. and 2,850 in Canada due to a safety issue that may cause children to fall. The recall affects certain Boon Flair and Flair Elite highchairs, where bolts securing the seats can loosen, leading to seat detachment. There have been 34 reported incidents in the U.S., resulting in 24 falls and 11 injuries.

Caregivers can check affected model numbers and manufacturing dates online or call toll-free at 866-725-4407 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.

Snapchat boosts teen safety with enhanced protections

Snapchat is rolling out new safety measures to shield teenagers aged 13 to 17 from unwanted contact and online threats. These changes include:

  • In-app alerts for friend requests from strangers
  • Stricter friending rules
  • A strike system to combat age-inappropriate content

Snapchat is also introducing educational content to inform minors and parents about online risks, along with resources and hotlines for support. These measures are designed to ensure a safer and more age-appropriate experience for young users in an increasingly connected digital world.

AirTag tracker busts Delta employee for stolen headphones

We recommend Apple AirTags to travelers to keep tabs on their belongings during flights, but one Delta passenger got more than he bargained for. After leaving his noise-canceling headphones on a flight, Mat Krantz used an AirTag to locate them at an employee's house in Raleigh. Instead of a visit, he wisely contacted the police, who confronted the thief and returned the headphones. Delta has reported that the involved employee no longer works for the airline.

FEMA names 483 U.S. zones for climate resilience

Nearly 500 U.S. communities have been designated as Community Disaster Resilience Zones by FEMA. These zones, spanning rural, urban, and suburban areas, will receive priority access to federal funding to fortify their defenses against climate-related and other hazards.

FEMA considered various natural risk factors and socioeconomic conditions in its selection process. Notably, California, Texas, and Florida, known for hurricanes and wildfires, have the highest number of zones. According to our annual State of Safety survey, these three states also land in the top five most worried about natural disasters. FEMA’s initiative aims to bolster resilience in the face of increasingly intense climate change impacts.

Google enhances privacy tools: Automatic alerts for personal info and improved explicit content removal

Google is stepping up its privacy game with its "results about you" tool updates. Now, the dashboard identifies existing search results displaying personal contact info and automatically alerts you if these details resurface. While manual removal requests are still required, Google will carefully screen them to ensure they don't impact broadly useful content like news articles.

Additionally, the company is streamlining the process to remove nonconsensual explicit imagery. As of August, Google automatically blurs explicit images in search results to protect families from accidental encounters. Stay tuned for these (and more) privacy enhancements, initially available in English within the U.S.

Warning heeded: Paqui pulls super spicy chips after tragic incident

In response to a tragic incident where a 14-year-old boy died after consuming an "extremely hot tortilla chip," Paqui is removing its "One Chip Challenge" product from store shelves.

The chip, infused with some of the world's spiciest chile peppers, is meant for adults only and carries explicit labels warning against consumption by children or those sensitive to spicy foods. However, a rise in teenagers trying the chips prompted the company to take action.

While the product meets food safety standards, Paqui is working with retailers to ensure its removal as a precautionary measure.

The "One Chip Challenge" isn't the first TikTok stunt to end in tragedy. Last year, we reported on the danger of BORG drinking, which sent several teens and college students to the hospital. To protect your loved ones, see our tips to stay safe on TikTok.

Walmart responds to rising retail challenges with police stations and upgrades

In the face of escalating retail challenges post-pandemic, Walmart is taking proactive steps to combat inventory shrinkage and improve safety. With 60% of retail workers reporting on-the-job violence in the past year, Walmart, in particular, has felt the impact due to its widespread presence.

The retail giant has already closed 22 stores in 2023, citing escalating losses and crime as factors.

To address these issues, Walmart plans to reopen its Vine City location in Atlanta with significant upgrades, including a pharmacy, grocery store, and a police station to boost safety and combat crime. The police substation will provide a space for officers to charge their equipment and conduct meetings, aiming to deter in-store crime and create a safer shopping environment.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens hopes that this initiative will help prevent future store closures, as seen in Chicago and Portland. Walmart intends to stay in Atlanta, provided the situation remains viable.

Back to masks: Schools respond to COVID-19 uptick and new variants

As COVID-19 cases see a slight rise nationwide and new variants emerge, some schools are reinstating mask mandates for the new academic year. Recent data from the CDC shows a 15.7% increase in hospitalizations and a 1.4% rise in positive tests in one week.

The CDC also highlights the presence of the BA.2.86 variant, which may impact those previously vaccinated or infected. On top of school systems, some health organizations like Kaiser Permanente and United Health Services are requiring masks again, prioritizing safety in the face of evolving circumstances.

(End of) summer surprise: Watermelons bursting in extreme heat

Unbelievable but true: watermelons are foaming, oozing, and even bursting in the summer heat. Verified by videos and photos on social media, witnesses describe a nauseating smell akin to vomit.

Blame extreme temperatures for a wild fermentation process (like when brewing beer or wine) as the sugar turns into alcohol inside the fruit. Suspected culprits? Bacteria in US watermelon-growing states like Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, and Texas infiltrating damaged rinds and stems. Some melons have burst within 24 hours of purchase, so we recommend digging into these end-of-season treats sooner than later.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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