This year’s CES is a frustrating affair — so many cool new context-aware toys to play with, and so little reassurance from the manufacturers that their use will stay secure or private. Read more »
The Dutch cable market may be about to see some major consolidation, as the biggest broadband provider outside China continues its expansion plans. Read more »
Google has bought a small Swiss app developer called Bitspin, known for its Timely alarm clock app. Timely has a neat gesture-based user interface, a “Smart Rise” mode that gently introduces the alarm sound ahead of time in order to wake the user from a deep sleep, and the ability to synchronize alarms between devices. The Zurich-based outfit said in a weekend post that the app would “continue to work as it always has,” but I daresay we’ll also see the stock Android alarm get a bit smarter soon.
Android will be hitting the asphalt by the end of this year, according to the new consortium. Read more »
Around 250 leading academics from around the world have decried the online spying activities of U.S. and European intelligence services in an “Academics Against Mass Surveillance” manifesto, published on Friday. The signatories work in a variety of fields, including human rights, law, privacy, sociology, security and media. One, Cambridge University Head of Cryptography Ross Anderson, also gave an interview to Forbes in which he called for the abolition of the UK Security Service, also known as MI5, arguing that national security should be a job for the police. In December more than 500 of the world’s leading authors also banded together in a coalition dubbed Writers Against Mass Surveillance.
Cash-rich Vodafone is keen on becoming India’s largest mobile carrier by buying out Tata Teleservices, according to a report in the Economic Times. Vodafone is currently the number two player, not far behind Bharti Airtel (155 million subscribers to Airtel’s 196 million), and Tata DoCoMo is around sixth place with 90 million subscribers. However, according to the report, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo – Tata Teleservices’ partner – has the right of first refusal for Tata’s majority stake in the venture. If NTT doesn’t want to buy out Tata, Tata could potentially force NTT to sell out alongside it. Vodafone declined my request for comment.
The NSA is trying to build a quantum computer in order to break today’s digital encryption and create new types of encryption, the Washington Post has used documents leaked by Edward Snowden to reveal. Quantum computers can theoretically compute much faster than today’s “classical” bit-based systems, which would help them break encryption by brute force, a.k.a. high-speed guesswork – most encryption today relies on the fact that cracking it by brute force would take unfeasibly long. However, though some firms such as D-Wave claim to have built small-scale, early-stage versions, no-one has managed to build a large-scale quantum computer yet.
It may be technically fascinating, but — nine months into writing about the hyper-volatile crypto-currency — I’ve completely lost track of why we need or want Bitcoin. Read more »
The NSA developed a tool 6 years ago to let it attack the then-new iPhone, according to documents from that time, revealed on Monday by journalist Jacob Appelbaum and Der Spiegel. The tool, DROPOUTJEEP, gave the agency “the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device, SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc.” Other documents also published on Monday describe software implants for extracting phonebook, SMS, call log and geolocation information from SIM cards, as well as for targeting the now-defunct Windows Mobile OS. Der Spiegel said in September that the NSA could hack into iPhones, as well as Android and BlackBerry devices.
A Russian hacker took control of a BBC file transfer server and tried to sell access to it on Christmas Day, according to a Reuters report. The attack was apparently detected by a U.S. firm called Hold Security, and the media giant reckons it has now secured the server again. According to the report, there is no evidence that the hacker, known rather unimaginatively as “Hash”, succeeded in finding other miscreants willing to pay him for access to the BBC’s systems.
The U.S. networking equipment manufacturer, which has already warned over the revenue implications of the Snowden revelations, says it is trying to find out more about the NSA’s alleged exploitation of its security architecture. Read more »
Google and Audi are gearing up to reveal a partnership at the Consumer Electronics Show next week, according to the Wall Street Journal. The tie-in would see the creation of infotainment systems, based on Android, that rival Apple’s upcoming iOS in the Car feature. This fits well with an EE Times report earlier in December that said Google would launch an industry consortium around such technology at CES, using Miracast to wirelessly screencast Android apps from the phone to the in-car screen.
Germany’s Der Spiegel has published details of some of the techniques used by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit, which allows the agency to perform targeted, aggressive hacking. Read more »
Following allegations that RSA took $10 million from the NSA to use as default a tool we now know to have been subverted, the security outfit has denied knowing that it was signing up to betray its customers. Read more »
The Cologne district court seems to have realised it messed up when it allowed a law firm to send thousands of cash-demanding letters to users of the porn platform RedTube. Read more »
Another day, another addition to our pool of knowledge regarding U.S. and British surveillance activities. According to the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times, targets of the intelligence agencies have included (deep breath): Unicef, Médecins du Monde, the UN development program, the UN food program, the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, Israel’s former prime minister and defense secretary, the head of the Economic Community of West African States, other African leaders and their families, French defense contractor Thales, French oil giant Total, and EU competition chief Joaquin Almunia — although he was in charge of the EU economy at the time. File under “Diplomatic Disasters.”
The Spanish handset maker Geeksphone has released some specifications for its Revolution phone, which will allow users to change operating systems without voiding the warranty — it will come with Android as standard, but users will also be able to install Mozilla’s Firefox OS (or Boot2Gecko, as it’s known in the case of non-Mozilla partners such as Geeksphone). Now we know the Revolution will be based on a 1.6GHz Intel Z2560 processor and will sport a 4.7-inch IPS qHD screen. It will have a 2,000mAh battery and an 8-megapixel camera with flash. It will also have expandable storage, although Geeksphone hasn’t specified the built-in storage yet.
The European Commission’s competition head has said Google’s latest proposals still don’t eliminate the Commission’s concerns — but the company still has a chance to tweak them. Read more »
Strong encryption may still work, despite the best efforts of the NSA, but a new research paper suggests that clever audio analysis can recover users’ private encryption keys. The exploit takes advantage of the fact that processors make noises that can sometimes betray what they’re doing — noises that even a mobile device’s microphone can pick up. Actually doing this would require a very, very specific set of circumstances, but the heavily paranoid might want to make sure they’re using the latest GnuPG RSA encryption software, namely version 2.x.
Apple shied away from an earlier plan to standardize on a common phone charger, but it won’t be able to dodge this new, environment-driven piece of legislation. Read more »
The newly-launched Jolla smartphone, made by a crew of mostly ex-Nokia employees, is now available for purchase by people in the EU, Norway and Switzerland through the firm’s new online shop. This will be the third batch of €399 ($546) Jolla handsets to go on sale, with the last one having been largely aimed at patriotic Finns. Jolla said on Thursday that already-ordered phones would be delivered in time for Christmas – there’s been a hold-up due to “some technical logistics issues” — while newly-ordered devices will ship from January.
The British government forced ISPs to turn on porn filters by default. Who could have guessed these filters would block things like sex education and domestic abuse support services? Read more »
The world of technology looks a whole lot different at the end of 2013 than it did at the start. Here’s to the year that changed everything by demonstrating the extent and power of state — and commercial — surveillance. Read more »
U.S. web firms may have to agree to a new set of rules for handling European citizens’ data, if draft recommendations issued on Wednesday become the real deal next year. Read more »
The messaging service is now tightly integrated with Microsoft’s PC-slash-tablet OS, although the recently-launched Viber Out feature doesn’t appear to be included. Read more »
Cloud storage outfit Tresorit still hasn’t been hacked, it would like the world to know. Having posted a $10,000 hacker bounty in April, the firm has now upped the stakes to $25,000 and invited researchers from the likes of MIT and Stanford to take up the challenge. Tresorit is trying to pitch itself to the security-conscious – it encrypts data before it leaves the device, and it recently moved its operations from Hungary to Switzerland, claiming Swiss neutrality laws would provide extra jurisdictional protection for its users.
The new version of the Norwegian software firm’s gesture-centric browser also claims speed and security enhancements. Read more »
Google revealed last week that it was getting into the robot-building game in a big way, in order to push into the manufacturing and logistics industries. Now it’s bought Boston Dynamics, probably the most high-profile maker of prototype robot soldiers both strong and speedy. The deal makes Google a defense contractor — for now at least, as the company says it will honor Boston Dynamics’ existing military contracts. We can only hope Google doesn’t have plans to raise an army of its own.
The deal will help ARM-based mobile devices to support increasingly photo-realistic gaming effects, and Geomerics will also continue development for consoles and other platforms. Read more »
The EU regulatory agency wants consumers who are considering jumping on the Bitcoin bandwagon to realize that there’s not much in the way of regulation to protect them. Read more »
IBM was one of the first big U.S. tech firms to pay the price for the NSA scandal. Although nobody has ever proven a link between the company and the agency, IBM joined Cisco in seeing a sudden collapse in Chinese sales after the Snowden leaks. China is also investigating the company, along with Oracle and EMC. Now an IBM shareholder is suing the company, alleging that it concealed its NSA ties and the attendant risk to its Chinese market position, and that it lobbied Congress to let it share Chinese customers’ data with the NSA. The company said the allegations are “ludicrous and irresponsible.”
Moped’s failed messaging service will shut down at the end of the month, but its features will probably prove a lot more useful as part of the more successful Wunderlist task management apps. Read more »
Microsoft and other complainants in the Google EU antitrust case have commissioned an eye-tracking study to demonstrate the alleged ineffectiveness of Google’s proposed concessions. All this proves is that it’s time to move on. Read more »
The EU Advocate General has urged legislators to fix the controversial Data Retention Directive by properly defining safeguards, but member states’ control over national security affairs could make that a tall order. Read more »
The deal tells Truecaller users if the person calling them has a Twitter account, and even allows limited Twitter functionality from within the Truecaller smartphone client. Read more »
The app search outfit has taken its Contextual App Advertising system out of private beta, promising the most accurate contextual placement for ads. Read more »
The EU’s General Court has dismissed Cisco’s challenge against the European Commission’s approval of Microsoft’s Skype takeover. But it did so mostly because Microsoft is no longer the market-dominating powerhouse it once was. Read more »
Nokia may be working on an Android device as a successor to its low-end Asha efforts, but for new owner Microsoft the project risks consumer confusion and further entrenchment of an Android-first mentality among developers. Read more »
Privacy advocates have always been down on cookies, but news that the NSA and GCHQ tap into their power highlights the dangers that are inherent to today’s online advertising systems. Read more »
The new version of the free operating system reduces the role of “random number generators” built into Intel and Via chips, most likely over fears that these mechanisms may have been compromised by intelligence agencies. Read more »