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Cellphones

Feds: We're Pulling Data From 100 Phones Seized During Trump Inauguration (arstechnica.com) 226

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In new filings, prosecutors told a court in Washington, DC that within the coming weeks, they expect to extract all data from the seized cellphones of more than 100 allegedly violent protesters arrested during the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Prosecutors also said that this search is validated by recently issued warrants. The court filing, which was first reported Wednesday by BuzzFeed News, states that approximately half of the protestors prosecuted with rioting or inciting a riot had their phones taken by authorities. Prosecutors hope to uncover any evidence relevant to the case. Under normal judicial procedures, the feds have vowed to share such data with defense attorneys and to delete all irrelevant data. "All of the Rioter Cell Phones were locked, which requires more time-sensitive efforts to try to obtain the data," Jennifer Kerkhoff, an assistant United States attorney, wrote. Such phone extraction is common by law enforcement nationwide using hardware and software created by Cellebrite and other similar firms. Pulling data off phones is likely more difficult under fully updated iPhones and Android devices.
United States

71 Percent of Android Phones On Major US Carriers Have Out of Date Security Patches (betanews.com) 103

Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: Slow patching of security flaws is leaving many US mobile users at risk of falling victim to data breaches according to the findings of a new report. The study from mobile defense specialist Skycure analyzed patch updates among the five leading wireless carriers in the US and finds that 71 percent of mobile devices still run on security patches more than two months old. This is despite Google releasing Android patches every month, indeed six percent of devices are running patches that are six or more months old. Without the most updated patches, these devices are susceptible to attacks, including rapidly rising network attacks and new malware, also detailed in the report.
Google

Android O First Developer Preview Featuring Notification Channels, Background Limits Now Available (googleblog.com) 64

A year after Google released the Android N Developer Preview, the company has made available the developer preview of the next major version of Android, "Android O." You will not want to put it on your primary Android smartphone as the preview is likely to have rough edges. Google says as much. "it's early days, there are more features coming, and there's still plenty of stabilization and performance work ahead of us. But it's booting :)."

The company is using the developer preview to give beta testers a sneak peek into some new features, such as "notification channels," which will offer users the ability to group notifications. There is also Picture in Picture, which will enable you to have a video appear in a small window on top of homescreen or any application. Google is also adding "multi-display support" and improved "keyboard navigation." Your guess is as good as mine as to what these features will actually do. There's also better "background limits" which will supposedly help save battery, and wider Wi-Fi support to include things like Neighborhood Aware Networking (NAN).

No word on what "O" in Android O stands for.
Android

Samsung Announces Bixby, Its New Digital Assistant Launching With the Galaxy S8 (phonedog.com) 71

Samsung has taken the wraps off its new digital assistant that will be launching with the upcoming Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus smartphones. Called "Bixby," the new assistant will use artificial intelligence to enable users to do everything that is possible to do by touch, but with voice. PhoneDog reports: Samsung is touting three main features of its new assistant. The first is "Completeness," which means that when an app is Bixby-enabled, the assistant will able to perform almost every task that the app normally supports using touch. The second Bixby property is "Context Awareness." This means that when Bixby is activated, it'l be able to understand the current context and the state of the app that you're in without interrupting the work that you're doing. Finally, there's "Cognitive Tolerance." Samsung says that Bixby is smart enough to understand commands with incomplete commands, meaning that you don't have to remember the exact phrase that you have to say to perform a task with an assistant. Bixby will also ask you for more information when performing a task and then execute it. A select number of apps on the Galaxy S8 will be Bixby-enabled at launch, and Samsung plans to add more over time. The company also intends to release an SDK so that third-party app developers can add Bixby support to their apps.
Google

Google Maps Lets You Record Your Parking Location, Time Left At the Meter (techcrunch.com) 50

Google Maps has received a neat feature that will help users remember where they parked. "This appears as a new menu option when you tap the blue dot, and will place a 'P' icon on the map so you can find your way back to your spot," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Google had already introduced its own proactive parking saving feature via Google Now, but it had worked by tapping into your phone's sensors and making a determination that you had most likely parked at a given spot. Sometimes, you might see this information appear when it was unwarranted, however -- like if you got off a bus or exited a taxi, Google says. The new feature in Google Maps requires a manual entry, but this is actually a bit of an advantage over the guessing done by Google Now, because it allows you to input more information about your spot. Like Apple Maps, you can add notes about where you parked -- something that's helpful for jotting down cross streets or which floor of a garage you're on, for example. But Google Maps also supports adding multiple photos of your parking location -- a common way people often note the parking space number in the garage, and then, via a separate shot, the floor, row, aisle and/or color code for the garage level itself. In addition, Google's parking location saver will let you enter in how much time you have left at the spot. This is handy if you're in a temporary parking area (e.g. "two hour parking"), or at metered space. The time left is displayed on the map, and when it's due to expire, Google Maps will alert you via push notification.
Android

Android Creator Lost Out On a Big Investment, and Apple May Be To Blame (cnbc.com) 74

Earlier this year, we learned that Andy Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, has built a new company called Essential. The company was reportedly working on a "high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel." It appears things aren't chugging along so smoothly. From a report: Andy Rubin, a co-creator of Android, lost out on a $100 million investment from SoftBank as Apple deepened ties with the Japanese investor, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. Rubin's company, Essential Products, is reportedly planning to release a new high-end smartphone this spring, and SoftBank planned to market the phone in Japan, the Journal said. But Apple subsequently agreed to commit $1 billion to SoftBank's Vision Fund, a move that "complicated" SoftBank's investment in Essential Products, the Journal reported Monday. Apple did not directly block the deal, the Journal said, though Rubin's premium phone would be released ahead of the highly anticipated 10th anniversary iPhone. The deal was "nearly complete," sources told the Journal.
Cellphones

Class-Action Lawsuit Targets LG Over Legendary G4, V10 Bootloop Issues (arstechnica.com) 31

For those affected by LG's infamous bootloop issue with the G4 and V10, you might find some joy in this: several (upset) owners of these devices have lodged a proposed class-action lawsuit in a California federal court. They claim that a repeating bootloop issue "renders the phones inoperable and unfit for any use." In other words: bricked. Ars Technica reports: Thousands of complaints about the G4 have been highlighted on Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. There was even an online petition to "launch a replacement program for defective LG G4s." Not to be outdone, the V10 has been the subject of many online complaints as well. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday said that LG replaced his G4 two times and that his third G4 constantly freezes. The new phone, says the suit, is "manifesting signs of the bootloop defect and is unmerchantable." A year ago, LG acknowledged the problem with the G4 and said it was the result of "loose contact between components." The company began offering replacement devices and fixes. The suit said that even after the January 2016 announcement, "LG continued to manufacture LG Phones with the bootloop defect." The suit claims that both models' processors were inadequately soldered to the motherboard, rendering them "unable to withstand the heat." Initially, the phones begin to freeze, suffer slowdowns, overheat, and reboot at random. Eventually, the suit says, they fail "entirely."
Software

Swatch Takes on Google, Apple With Watch Operating System (bloomberg.com) 65

Corinne Gretler, reporting for Bloomberg: Swatch said it's developing an alternative to the iOS and Android operating systems for smartwatches as Switzerland's largest maker of timepieces vies with Silicon Valley for control of consumers' wrists. The company's Tissot brand will introduce a model around the end of 2018 that uses the Swiss-made system, which will also be able to connect small objects and wearables, Swatch Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said in an interview Thursday. The technology will need less battery power and it will protect data better, he said later at a press conference. Switzerland's four-century-old watch industry has been adjusting to new competition since Apple entered its territory with the Apple Watch in 2015. Hayek faces the uphill challenge of trying to outsmart Google and Apple, which have fended off would-be rivals to their operation systems in smartphones and watches.
Security

Many Smartphone Owners Don't Take Steps To Secure Their Devices (pewresearch.org) 143

From Pew Research's new report: More than a quarter (28%) of smartphone owners say they do not use a screen lock or other security features to access their phone. And while a majority of smartphone users say they have updated their phone's apps or operating system, about 40% say they only update when it's convenient for them. Meanwhile, some users forgo updating their phones altogether: Around one-in-ten smartphone owners report they never update their phone's operating system (14%) or update the apps on their phone (10%).
Android

Kickstarter Campaign Aims To Add a Full Android Device To the Back of Your iPhone (macrumors.com) 158

A new Kickstarter campaign aims to expand the iPhone's functionality with its "Eye Smart iPhone Case," which features a fully functional Android device built into the case itself. The campaign was launched on March 1 and has already raised over $100,000. Mac Rumors reports: An always-on 5-inch AMOLED display is built into the case, which runs the Android 7.1 Nougat operating system. The case connects to the iPhone using its Lightning port to enable file transfers, power delivery, and more. A microSD card slot provides up to 256GB of storage for holding photos, videos, and other media, all of which is accessible using the Android file explorer. A built-in 2,800 mAh battery provides additional charge to the iPhone, and the Eye case itself supports Qi wireless charging. Two SIM card slots are included, and higher-end models support 4G LTE connectivity, so up to three phone numbers can be used with an iPhone. Android exclusive features, like native call recording, the file explorer, customization, file transfers, and Android apps are all made available to iPhone users via the Eye case. A 3.5mm headphone jack lets iPhone owners with an iPhone 7 or an iPhone 7 Plus to use wired headphones with the device, and the Eye case includes NFC, an IR blaster and receiver for controlling TVs and other devices, and a car mount. It's available for the iPhone 6 and later, and will allegedly be available for the new wave of iPhones coming in 2017 within a month of their release. The Smart iPhone Case is available for a Super early bird pledge of $95, with prices going up for 4G connectivity. The estimated retail price is between $189 and $229.
Google

You Can Now Send, Request Money In Gmail On Android (techcrunch.com) 38

While Google Wallet has been integrated into Gmail on the web since 2013, it has yet to be available for mobile users. Today, Google is officially rolling out the new integration so that users of the Gmail app on Android will be able to send or request money with anyone -- even those who don't have a Gmail email address. TechCrunch reports: The user experience has been designed to make exchanging money as easy as attaching a file, Google explains in its announcement. To access the new feature, you tap the attachment icon (the paperclip), then choose either send or request money, depending on your needs. A pop-up window appears where you can input the amount and add a note, and send. The entire process takes place in the Gmail app -- you don't have to have Google Wallet installed. In addition, recipients can configure it so the money they receive through Gmail goes directly into their bank account. There are no fees involved, notes Google. The goal, seemingly, is to take on quick payment apps like PayPal, Venmo or Square Cash, by offering a feature to move money right within Gmail's app. This could be useful for those times where the money is already a topic of an email conversation -- like when you're planning a trip with friends, or getting the family to go in together on a gift for your parents, for example.
Portables

Can Crowdfunding Bring Back The Netbook? (salon.com) 243

"The mini-laptop's market niche got swamped by the iPad and the phablet," writes Salon, since the stripped-down hardware of tablets made them cheaper to produce. But now netbooks could be making a grassroots-fueled comeback, "thanks to the lower costs in electronics manufacturing and the fact that individual investors can come together to crowdfund projects." An anonymous reader quotes Salon: Michael Mrozek, the Germany-based creator of creator of the DragonBox Pyra, says "I never understood why they were gone in the first place. I have no idea why you would use a tablet. I tried one, and it's awkward to use it for anything else than browsing the Web"... He has already managed to raise several hundred thousand dollars through a private pre-order system set up on his geek's paradise online store. Once those initial orders have been filled, Mrozek said he will probably start up a mainstream crowdfunding campaign for his Linux handheld... "The niche was always there, but thanks to the Internet and crowdfunding, it's easy to reach everyone who's interested in such a device so even a niche product still gets you enough users to sell it. That wasn't possible 10 years ago."
Meanwhile, in just under two weeks Planet Computer raised $446,000 on Indiegogo, more than double the original $200,000 goal for their netbook-like Gemini computer (with a keyboard designed by the creator of the original Psion netbook). Planet's CEO Janko Mrsic-Flogel says "It's a bit like Volkswagen bringing back the Beetle," and predicts that the worldwide demand for netbooks could reach 10 million a year.
Android

Malware Found Preinstalled On 38 Android Phones Used By 2 Companies (arstechnica.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: An assortment of malware was found on 38 Android devices belonging to two unidentified companies. This is according to a blog post published Friday by Check Point Software Technologies, maker of a mobile threat prevention app. The malicious apps weren't part of the official ROM firmware supplied by the phone manufacturers but were added later somewhere along the supply chain. In six of the cases, the malware was installed to the ROM using system privileges, a technique that requires the firmware to be completely reinstalled for the phone to be disinfected. Most of the malicious apps were info stealers and programs that displayed ads on the phones. One malicious ad-display app, dubbed "Loki," gains powerful system privileges on the devices it infects. Another app was a mobile ransomware title known as "Slocker," which uses Tor to conceal the identity of its operators. Check Point didn't disclose the names of the companies that owned the infected phones. Padon said it's not clear if the two companies were specifically targeted or if the infections were part of a broader, more opportunistic campaign. The presence of ransomware and other easy-to-detect malware seems to suggest the latter. Check Point also doesn't know where the infected phones were obtained. One of the affected parties was a "large telecommunications company" and the other was a "multinational technology company."
Desktops (Apple)

MAC Address Randomization Flaws Leave Android and iOS Phones Open To Tracking (theregister.co.uk) 56

New submitter cryptizard writes: Modern Android and iOS versions include a technology called MAC address randomization to prevent passive tracking of users as they move from location to location. Unfortunately, researchers have revealed that this technology is implemented sporadically by device manufacturers and is often deployed with significant flaws that allow it to be easily defeated. A research paper [published by U.S. Naval Academy researchers] highlights a number of flaws in both Android and iOS that allow an adversary to track users even when their phones are using randomized MAC addresses. Most significantly, they demonstrate that a flaw in the way wireless chipsets handle low-level control messages can be exploited to track 100% of devices, regardless of manufacturer or operating system.
Google

Google Launches Official Gmail Add-On Program (pcworld.com) 32

Google is making it possible for developers to bring their services into Gmail using new integrations called Add-ons. From a report on PCWorld: It's built so that developers can write one set of code in Google's Apps Script language and have their integration run in Gmail on the web, as well as inside Google's Android and iOS apps for the service. For example, a QuickBooks add-on would let users easily send invoices to people who they're emailing. Google already offers Add-ons for its Docs word processing and Sheets spreadsheet software. This sort of system could be useful for users because it helps them get work done without leaving Gmail. It also helps draw users into Google's official email app, rather than use one of the many other clients that can access the service, including Microsoft Outlook.
PlayStation (Games)

PlayStation 4.5 Update Brings HDD Support, PS4 Pro 'Boost Mode' (theinquirer.net) 40

Sony has officially pushed out the PlayStation 4.5 System Update, codenamed "Susuke," which brings a new Boost Mode for PS4 Pro owners and lets PS4 owners download and install games directly to USB 3.0 hard drives up to 8TB in size. The INQUIRER reports: PS4 Pro owners are also being treated to a new Boost Mode, will offer improved performance for PS4 games released before the Pro console. "This feature has been designed to provide better performance for select legacy titles that have not been patched to take advantage of the PS4 Pro's faster CPU and its faster and double-sized GPU," Sony said in a blog post. "This can provide a noticeable frame rate boost to some games with variable frame rates, and can provide frame rate stability for games that are programmed to run at 30 Hz or 60 Hz." The PS 4.5 update brings an improved 2D mode to owners of Sony's PlayStation VR headset, which the firm claims will improve the resolution of the system screen displayed on your TV is significantly better when you're out of VR mode. The resolution of Cinematic Mode on PlayStation VR is also getting a boost, with Sony noting "if your PS VR screen size is set to Small or Medium, the frame rate of content viewed in Cinematic Mode goes up from 90Hz to 120Hz with this update." Other new features include added support for voice chat when using Remote Play on Windows, Mac or an Xperia device, an 'Off Console' icon that tells gamers when a friend is logged in but away from their device and updates to the PS Messages and PS Communities apps on iOS and Android.
Crime

Federal Criminal Probe Being Opened Into WikiLeaks' Publication of CIA Documents (cnn.com) 236

A federal criminal investigation is being opened into WikiLeaks' publication of documents detailing alleged CIA hacking operations, CNN reports citing several U.S. officials. From the report: The officials said the FBI and CIA are coordinating reviews of the matter. The investigation is looking into how the documents came into WikiLeaks' possession and whether they might have been leaked by an employee or contractor. The CIA is also trying to determine if there are other unpublished documents WikiLeaks may have. The documents published so far are largely genuine, officials said, though they are not yet certain if all of them are and whether some of the documents may have been altered. One of the biggest concerns for the federal government is if WikiLeaks publishes critical computer code on how operations are conducted, other hackers could take that code and cause havoc overseas. Security expert Robert Graham, wrote on Tuesday: The CIA didn't remotely hack a TV. The docs are clear that they can update the software running on the TV using a USB drive. There's no evidence of them doing so remotely over the Internet. The CIA didn't defeat Signal/WhatsApp encryption. The CIA has some exploits for Android/iPhone. If they can get on your phone, then, of course they can record audio and screenshots. Technically, this bypasses/defeats encryption -- but such phrases used by Wikileaks are highly misleading, since nothing related to Signal/WhatsApp is happening. [...] This hurts the CIA a lot. Already, one AV researcher has told me that a virus they once suspected came from the Russians or Chinese can now be attributed to the CIA, as it matches the description perfectly to something in the leak. We can develop anti-virus and intrusion-detection signatures based on this information that will defeat much of what we read in these documents. This would put a multi-year delay in the CIA's development efforts. Plus, it'll now go on a witch-hunt looking for the leaker, which will erode morale.
Privacy

Hey CIA, You Held On To Security Flaw Information -- But Now It's Out. That's Not How It Should Work (eff.org) 246

Cindy Cohn, writing for EFF: The dark side of this story is that the documents confirm that the CIA holds on to security vulnerabilities in software and devices -- including Android phones, iPhones, and Samsung televisions -- that millions of people around the world rely on. The agency appears to have failed to accurately assess the risk of not disclosing vulnerabilities to responsible vendors and failed to follow even the limited Vulnerabilities Equities Process. As these leaks show, we're all made less safe by the CIA's decision to keep -- rather than ensure the patching of -- vulnerabilities. Even spy agencies like the CIA have a responsibility to protect the security and privacy of Americans.
Privacy

WikiLeaks CIA Files: The 6 Biggest Spying Secrets Revealed By the Release of 'Vault 7' (independent.co.uk) 457

Earlier today, WikiLeaks unleashed a cache of thousands of files it calls "Year Zero," which is part one of the release associated with "Vault 7." Since there are over 8,000 pages in this release, it will take some time for journalists to comb through the release. The Independent has highlighted six of the "biggest secrets and pieces of information yet to emerge from the huge dump" in their report. 1) The CIA has the ability to break into Android and iPhone handsets, and all kinds of computers. The U.S. intelligence agency has been involved in a concerted effort to write various kinds of malware to spy on just about every piece of electronic equipment that people use. That includes iPhones, Androids and computers running Windows, macOS and Linux.
2) Doing so would make apps like Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp entirely insecure. Encrypted messaging apps are only as secure as the devices they are used on -- if an operating system is compromised, then the messages can be read before they are encrypted and sent to the other user(s).
3) The CIA could use smart TVs to listen in on conversations that happened around them. One of the most eye-catching programs detailed in the documents is "Weeping Angel." That allows intelligence agencies to install special software that allows TVs to be turned into listening devices -- so that even when they appear to be switched off, they're actually on.
4) The agency explored hacking into cars and crashing them, allowing "nearly undetectable assassinations." Many of the documents reference tools that appear to have dangerous and unknown uses. One file, for instance, shows that the CIA was looking into ways of remotely controlling cars and vans by hacking into them.
5) The CIA hid vulnerabilities that could be used by hackers from other countries or governments. Such bugs were found in the biggest consumer electronics in the world, including phones and computers made Apple, Google and Microsoft. But those companies didn't get the chance to fix those exploits because the agency kept them secret in order to keep using them, the documents suggest.
6) More information is coming. The documents have still not been looked through entirely. There are 8,378 pages of files, some of which have already been analyzed but many of which haven't. And that's not to mention the other sets of documents that are coming. The "Year Zero" leaks are just the first in a series of "Vault 7" dumps, Julian Assange said.
You can view the Vault 7 Part 1 'Year Zero' release here via WikiLeaks. The Intercept has an in-depth report focusing on how the "CIA Could Turn Smart TVs Into Listening Devices."
Windows

Android is About To Eclipse Windows as the World's Most-Used Operating System (cnet.com) 169

John Falcone, writing for CNET: Android is poised to overtake Windows as the world's most-used operating system. That's the word from web analytics service StatCounter, which monitors worldwide web traffic with an eye towards device operating systems. The firm found that 37.4 percent of devices online were Android -- just a hair behind Windows at 38.6 percent. Perhaps the bigger concern for Microsoft are the trend lines, however: Windows is on a steady march down from 82 percent in 2012, while Android is mirroring it upward from 2.2 percent in the same 5-year period.

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