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In Brief

The British carrier EE, which got a headstart on its rivals in offering high-speed 4G/LTE mobile broadband, said on Tuesday that it now has over 2 million 4G subscribers. What’s more, takeup seems to be accelerating – it took 10 months to score a million, and only 4 months to score the second million – and EE claimed it has the fastest 4G sign-up rate outside South Korea. The company, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom and Orange, also said its LTE services would cover 70 percent of the UK population by the end of this month.

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In Brief

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.

In Brief

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.

On The Web

P2P piracy may be less in the spotlight than it used to be, but people are still trading a whole lot of files: Data published by Torrentfreak shows that the Pirate Bay saw file uploads surge by 50 percent in 2012, despite various legal attacks against the site that forced it to change domains multiple times, and resulted in it being blocked in a number of European countries. In November of 2013 alone, 74,195 torrents were uploaded to the site. Two years ago, that number was at just 38,319. Those torrents are shared by around 19 million people at a time, according to Torrentfreak.

In Brief

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.

In Brief

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.

In Brief

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.”

In Brief

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.

In Brief

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.

In Brief

U.K.-based network operator EE announced one of many expected roaming partnerships on Monday with the first being with AT&T. The carrier bills itself as the biggest and fastest in the U.K and says AT&T customers from the U.S. can expect average speeds of 24 to 30 Mbps in major cities. This freedom isn’t expected to come free, or even cheap though, says ZDNet. Last week AT&T announced a similar deal with Canada’s Rogers Communications with international data plans for roaming starting at $30 for a measly 120 MB per month.

In Brief

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.

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