Advertising

Samsung's AdBlock Fast Removed From the Play Store (androidheadlines.com) 163

New submitter Alexander Maxham writes with the news reported at Android Headlines that Samsung's ad-blocking Android app called AdBlock Fast "was apparently ousted from the Play Store for violating section 4.4 of the Developer Distribution Agreement, stating that an app cannot disrupt or interfere with devices, networks or other parties' apps and services. (Also noted by Engadget.)
Cellphones

Exploitable Backhole Accidentally Left In Some MediaTek-based Phones (ndtv.com) 79

Lirodon writes: MediaTek has confirmed findings by security researcher Justin Case, who discovered that some devices running Android KitKat on MediaTek processors (often used in lower-cost devices) had a debug function, meant to be removed on production devices, accidentally left in by their manufacturer. This hole could be used to trivially gain root access, among other possibilities.
Android

LG G3 'Snap' Vulnerability Leaves Owners At Risk of Data Theft (betanews.com) 39

Mark Wilson writes: Security researchers have discovered a vulnerability in LG G3 smartphones which could be exploited to run arbitrary JavaScript to steal data. The issue has been named Snap, and was discovered by Israeli security firms BugSec and Cynet. What is particularly concerning about Snap is that it affects the Smart Notice which is installed on all LG G3s by default. By embedding malicious script in a contact, it is possible to use WebView to run server side code via JavaScript. If exploited, the vulnerability could be used to gather information from SD cards, steal data from the likes of WhatsApp, and steal private photos.
Cellphones

ACLU Sues Anaheim Police For Public Records On Cell Phone Surveillance (scpr.org) 29

New submitter Lacey Waymire writes: The ACLU of Northern California is suing for a release of public records regarding Anaheim police's use of cell phone surveillance devices. "We don't think any surveillance devices, particularly these sorts of invasive cell phone surveillance devices, should ever be acquired or used without intense public debate and the adoption of safeguards to ensure they are only used in ways that follow our Constitution and laws," attorney Matt Cagle said. (See this Boing Boing posting with a bit more on "the happiest surveillance state on earth.")
Cellphones

WhatsApp Will Get Indicators To Highlight Encrypted Chats (softpedia.com) 27

An anonymous reader writes: WhatsApp 3.0 will come with two privacy-related changes. The first is in the Security section and is in the form of a new setting called "Show security indicators." Turning on this setting will add a lock icon to your WhatsApp whenever you're having encrypted conversations. The second new setting is in the Account section, with the addition of a new option that says "Share my account info." This setting will send the user's WhatsApp data to Facebook servers "to improve [their] Facebook experiences."
IOS

iOS App Update Technique Puts Users At Risk (csoonline.com) 67

itwbennett writes: An increasing number of iOS application developers use a technique that allows them to remotely modify the code in their apps without going through Apple's normal review process, potentially opening the door to abuse and security risks for users. An implementation of this technique, which is a variation of hot patching, comes from an open-source project called JSPatch. After adding the JSPatch engine to their application, developers can configure the app to always load JavaScript code from a remote server they control. This code is then interpreted by the JSPatch engine and converted into Objective-C. 'JSPatch is a boon to iOS developers,' security researchers from FireEye said in a blog post. 'In the right hands, it can be used to quickly and effectively deploy patches and code updates. But in a non-utopian world like ours, we need to assume that bad actors will leverage this technology for unintended purposes.'
The Courts

Stingray Case Lawyers: "Everyone Knows Cell Phones Generate Location Data" (techdirt.com) 171

An anonymous reader writes with news that the Maryland Attorney General is arguing that anyone who has ever used a smartphone knows it's tracking them, so no warrant is needed for stingrays. Techdirt says: "Up in Baltimore, where law enforcement Stingray device use hit critical mass faster and more furiously than anywhere else in the country (to date...) with the exposure of 4,300 deployments in seven years, the government is still arguing there's no reason to bring search warrants into this. The state's Attorney General apparently would like the Baltimore PD's use of pen register orders to remain standard operating procedure. According to a brief filed in a criminal case relying on the warrantless deployment of an IMSI catcher (in this case a Hailstorm), the state believes there's no reason for police to seek a warrant because everyone "knows" cell phones generate data when they're turned on or in use.

The brief reads in part: 'The whereabouts of a cellular telephone are not "withdrawn from public view" until it is turned off, or its SIM card removed. Anyone who has ever used a smartphone is aware that the phone broadcasts its position on the map, leading to, for example, search results and advertising tailored for the user's location, or to a "ride-sharing" car appearing at one's address. And certainly anyone who has ever used any sort of cellular telephone knows that it must be in contact with an outside cell tower to function.'"
Books

A New, App-Based Format For Novels (theguardian.com) 57

HughPickens.com writes: The Guardian reports that Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, plans to release his new novel, a historical drama set in London during the 1840s, in installments via an app. It's a tradition that dates back to Charles Dickens, but utilizes modern technology. Each of Belgravia's 11 chapters will be delivered on a weekly basis, and will come with multimedia extras including music, character portraits, family trees and an audio book version. "To marry the traditions of the Victorian novel to modern technology, allowing the reader, or listener, an involvement with the characters and the background of the story and the world in which it takes place, that would not have been possible until now, and yet to preserve within that the strongest traditions of storytelling, seems to me a marvelous goal and a real adventure," says Fellowes.

Publisher Jamie Raab says the format appealed to her precisely because of Fellowes's television background and his ability to keep audiences engaged in a story over months and even years. "I've always been intrigued by the idea of publishing a novel in short episodic bites. He gets how to keep the story paced so that you're caught up in the current episode, then you're left with a cliffhanger."

Blackberry

BlackBerry Will Continue Operations In Pakistan (fortune.com) 36

An anonymous reader writes: At the end of November, BlackBerry announced it would pull its operations out of Pakistan after the country's government demanded access to BlackBerry's user data. The Pakistan government has now dropped that request, and BlackBerry will continue operating there as a result. In a statement, BlackBerry COO Marty Beard said, "We are grateful to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Pakistani government for accepting BlackBerry's position that we cannot provide the content of our customers' BES traffic, nor will we provide access to our BES servers."
AT&T

Carrier iQ Goes Under, AT&T Buys Assets and Staff (techcrunch.com) 26

An anonymous reader writes: You may recall a company called CarrierIQ from when it angered tech-savvy internet users four years ago. They developed software that allowed explicit monitoring of anything happening on a cell phone, down to individual keystrokes. It was pre-installed on millions of phones at the time, and Carrier iQ unsuccessfully tried to silence the researchers working to uncover it. As the article notes, the company and its software "became synonymous with creepy, unseen monitoring of everything that you do on a smartphone on behalf of carriers and phone makers." Well, it seems they never really recovered. Carrier iQ seems to have evaporated. The bad news is that they sold most of their assets to AT&T, and handed off some employees as well. AT&T says they've continued to use Carrier iQ's software over the past few years to "improve the customer's network and wireless service experience."
Verizon

Verizon Offering $650 To Switch To Their Network (pcmag.com) 83

An anonymous reader writes: Verizon is offering up to $650 to customers who switch to their network. PC Mag reports: "To get the discount, you'll need to port your number to Verizon, trade in your current device, and buy a new 4G LTE smartphone. Verizon will give you up to $650 on a prepaid card to cover the installment plan balance, minus the device trade-in value, or up to a $350 via a prepaid card to cover your old carrier's early termination fees (minus the device trade-in value). Your existing phone needs to be in 'good working condition,' and you have to keep your new Verizon line active for at least six months."
Microsoft

The Reason a Surface Phone Won't Fix Microsoft's Mobile Problem (windows10update.com) 154

Ammalgam writes: Microsoft's CMO recently admitted that Microsoft was behind in the mobile arena and needed time to build a competitive phone. In the Windows community however, some feel that the Windows Phone platform is out of time. On Windows10Update.com, the author discusses some of the reasons why a "Surface Phone" might not be enough to fundamentally change public perception about Microsoft mobile phones.
Microsoft

Microsoft CMO Confirms Development of 'Spiritual Equivalent' of Surface Phone (hothardware.com) 165

MojoKid writes: We all know what Microsoft wants to do with Windows 10. It's supposedly the last monolithic release of Windows and the ultimate plan is to unite hardware from different device categories under a single, universal ecosystem. That includes smartphones, which is an area where Microsoft has historically struggled hard to compete. The release of a premium "Surface Phone" of some sort, however, could prove to be a game changer. Microsoft is aggressively pushing Windows 10 upgrades, and makes no bones about it, all in an effort to get developers on board to build universal Windows 10 cross-platform apps and spur mobile development. In that respect, Microsoft needs to finally make an impact in the handset space and Windows 10 Mobile is the company's one shot to do just that. And it appears that Microsoft is working on what could be essentially a true Surface Phone, or at least something very similar. In a recent interview, Mary Jo Foley pushed Microsoft's Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela on the prospect of a Surface Phone and he confirmed the company is working on a "breakthrough" phone that is the "spiritual equivalent" of their very successful line of Surface branded products. Capossela has been with Microsoft for over two decades. He used to write speeches for Bill Gates and is intimately familiar with Microsoft's many products and strategies.
Cellphones

Switzerland Moves Toward a Universal Phone Charger Standard (vice.com) 401

Press2ToContinue writes: Apple's Lightning cable cartel be damned: Switzerland is moving forward with a plan for a single, universal phone charger across the country, standardizing phone chargers across the board. While the exact standard hasn't been mentioned yet, it wouldn't be hard to guess the standard: Micro USB, used across phone platforms, most especially Android, which has a gigantic chunk of the cell phone market worldwide.

The likely loser? Apple, which has relied on proprietary chargers since introducing the iPhone in 2007. While many companies have tried releasing generic cables, Apple often relies on DRM software to ensure that it's an Apple certified cable, charging $19 a piece for the Lightning charger used by the iPhone 5 and 6 and similar models.

What do you think -- are government-mandated standards for chargers a good idea? Despite the success of the standard household 3-prong electrical plug, doesn't this hamper progress?
China seems to have done most of the work on the wall-circuit side of the equation,several years ago. But as to the "standard" 3-prong plug, any particular plug type is only as universal as the sockets and voltages they supply.
The Internet

Vice: Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving In America (vice.com) 150

An anonymous reader points out Vice's rather dark view of the state of Internet freedom, the author of which posits that "one fact about the internet is quickly becoming clear this year: Americans' freedom to access the open internet is rapidly dissolving." As evidence, the writer points out negative trends in broadband adoption, legal moves to weaken encryption, industry consolidation that means fewer competitors in some areas, increasing use of data caps, and increasing reliance by many (especially poorer) Americans on mobile phones as their only internet-connected devices. (On the other hand, it's worth pointing out that there are now free encryption-centric apps for voice and text communication that give ordinary people privacy options, and both unlocked phones and inexpensive data plans are far closer to the American norm than they were a few years ago.)
Businesses

Fujitsu Spins Off Its PC and Mobile Divisions (engadget.com) 100

An anonymous reader writes: Back in February, Sony unloaded the part of its business that built PCs. Now, a year later, competitor Fujitsu is doing the same. The company announced it would be spinning off its PC and mobile business, effective 1 February 2016. Your first reaction was probably, "Fujitsu had a PC and mobile business?" You're not alone, and this is likely why the split is happening. In their press release, they say, "With the ongoing commoditization of ubiquitous products, mainly of PCs and smart phones, it has become increasingly difficult to achieve differentiation, and competition with emerging global vendors has intensified." More simply: they couldn't make a competitive product. Hopefully, this is the start of a trend; the race to zero in the Windows laptop market is finally killing off some of the participants.
Power

Sony Creating Sulfur-Based Batteries With 40% More Capacity Than Li-Ion (hothardware.com) 151

MojoKid writes: Since the original iPhone was released in 2007, we have seen some incredible advances in smartphone processing power along with a wealth of feature improvements like faster Wi-Fi and cellular speeds and larger, higher resolution displays. However, battery technology, for the most part, hasn't kept up. There are a few major battery suppliers but Sony is currently an underdog, commanding just 8 percent of the market for compact lithium-ion batteries. Its three largest competitors — Samsung (SDI), Panasonic and LG Chem — each command around 20 percent of the market. In an effort to change that, Sony is developing a new type of battery chemistry that can boost runtimes by 40 percent compared to lithium-ion batteries of the same volume. Sony's batteries use a sulfur compound instead of lithium compounds for the positive electrodes, reportedly allowing for much great energy density. Sulfur batteries can also supposedly be made 30 percent smaller than traditional lithium-ion cells while maintaining the same run times. The company is now working to ensure that the new battery chemistry is safe enough for commercial use.
Firefox

Mozilla Will Stop Developing and Selling Firefox OS Smartphones (techcrunch.com) 174

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla announced today at its developer event in Orlando that the company is ending its smartphone experiment. Mozilla will stop developing and selling Firefox OS smartphones. Ari Jaaksi, Mozilla's SVP of Connected Devices, said, "We are proud of the benefits Firefox OS added to the Web platform and will continue to experiment with the user experience across connected devices." However, he added that it didn't end up providing a great user experience, so they decided to move their efforts elsewhere within the "connected devices" ecosystem. The TechCrunch article notes, "Mozilla has been on a streamlining track lately. Last week it announced that it would be looking for alternative homes for its Thunderbird email and chat client. The aim is for the company to focus more on its strongest and core products and reputation."
Security

Millions of Smart TVs, Phones and Routers At Risk From Old Vulnerability (trendmicro.com) 65

itwbennett writes: Adding fuel to the growing concern over how manufacturers of devices such as routers and smart TVs deal with security vulnerabilities that emerge in their products, Trend Micro found that a 3-year-old vulnerability in a software component used in millions of smart TVs, routers and phones still hasn't been patched by many vendors. Although a patch was issued for the component in December 2012, Trend Micro found 547 apps that use an older unpatched version of it, wrote Veo Zhang, a mobile threats analyst on the Trend Micro blog. 'These are very popular apps that put millions of users in danger; aside from mobile devices, routers, and smart TVs are all at risk as well,' he wrote.
Cellphones

Cellphones Really Are Not As Good As They Were 10 Years Ago At Making Calls (telegraph.co.uk) 215

whoever57 writes: If you ever thought that your cellphone does not make calls as well as the cellphone you had 10 years ago, you may be right. The UK's Ofcom (roughly equivalent to the FCC) tested cellphones and found that many needed a much higher signal than the standards recommend in order to send and receive data. This applied to 2G, 3G and 4G connections. Confirmation bias has me nodding along; Google Fi has been dropping a huge percentage of my calls lately, and I've been unfairly reminiscing about the good old days with a heavy Nokia 5100 series phone.

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