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iRobot’s entry-level Roombas offer app control on the cheap

iRobot is bringing Wi-Fi connectivity to its cheaper Roomba vacuum cleaning robots. The company is unveiling two new models today, the 690 and 890, which sit below its top-of-the-line 960 and 980 machines. Unlike the 650 and 860 — its previous low-end robots — they can be controlled through the iRobot Home app. That means you customise their cleaning schedule, check their “cleaning status” and access customer support from any Android or iOS device. The Roomba 690 goes on sale today for $375 in the US — the same price as the 650 it’s replacing. The Roomba 890, meanwhile, will be out in “late Q2” for a yet-to-be-confirmed price.

As promised, iRobot is also adding Alexa support for its Wi-Fi connected cleaners. So if you have an Amazon Echo hooked up in your home, you can start, stop or dock the robot with voice alone. The “skill” is enabled by barking “Alexa, open Roomba,” or by selecting the Roomba skill inside the Alexa app. It’s a small, but neat trick that Neato, one of iRobot’s biggest competitors, introduced for its own cleaners late last year. For now, the Roomba integration is exclusive to the US — here’s hoping it’s available internationally when the 690 and 890 launch outside North America.

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Windows 10 included password manager with huge security hole

There's a good reason why security analysts get nervous about bundled third-party software: it can introduce vulnerabilities that the companies can't control. And Microsoft, unfortunately, has learned that the hard way. Google researcher Tavis Ormandy discovered that a Windows 10 image came bundled with a third-party password manager, Keeper, which came with a glaring browser plugin flaw -- a malicious website could steal passwords. Ormandy's copy was an MSDN image meant for developers, but Reddit users noted that they received the vulnerable copy of Keeper after clean reinstalls of regular copies and even a brand new laptop.

A Microsoft spokesperson told Ars Technica that the Keeper team had patched the exploit (in response to Ormandy's private disclosure), so it shouldn't be an issue if your software is up to date. Also, you were only exposed if you enabled the plugin.

However, the very existence of the hole has still raised a concern: are Microsoft's security tests as thorough for third-party apps as its own software? The company has declined to comment, but that kind of screening may prove crucial if Microsoft is going to maintain the trust of Windows users. It doesn't matter how secure Microsoft's code is if a bundled app undermines everything.

Source: Monorail, Tavis Ormandy (Twitter)