FTC Begins Investigating Google For Antitrust Violations Over "Home Screen Advantage" 151

The New York Times reports that the regulators of the Federal Trade Commission have a new target at Google: Android. Specifically, according to "two people involved in the [preliminary] inquiry," the FTC is looking askance at how Google treats its other software products and services (like Maps) in relation to the mobile OS. While Android itself can be bundled on phones, tablets, and other devices without charge, Google insists on a trade-off when it comes to its own services, like its app store, Google Play: to include access to those services, without which a typical Android device is far less valuable, hardware manufacturers must also include Google's designated apps (Gmail, Google Maps, and the Google search engine interface). Says the article: In recent months, a number of mobile application makers have complained to the Justice Department that this requirement — the “home-screen advantage” — makes it all but impossible for them to compete in a world where people are spending less time on desktop computers and more time on mobile phones. ... Since then, the F.T.C. has worked out an agreement with the Justice Department to investigate the claims, the people involved in the inquiry said.

Apple Admits iCloud Problem Has Killed iOS 9 'App Slicing' 143

Mark Wilson writes: One of the key features of iOS 9 — and one of the reasons 16GB iPhones were not killed — is app slicing. This innocuous-sounding feature reduces the amount of space apps take up on iPhones and iPads... or at least it does when it is working. At the moment Apple has a problem with iCloud which is preventing app slicing from working correctly. The feature works by only downloading the components of an app that are needed to perform specific tasks on a particular device, but at the moment regular, universal apps are delivered by default.
The Internet

US Rank Drops To 55th In 4G LTE Speeds 70

alphadogg writes: The U.S. has fallen to No. 55 in LTE performance as speeds rise rapidly in countries that have leapfrogged some early adopters of the popular cellular system. The average download speed on U.S. 4G networks inched up to 10Mbps (bits per second) in the June-August quarter, according to research company OpenSignal. That was an improvement from 9Mbps in the previous quarter, but the country's global ranking fell from 43rd as users in other countries enjoyed much larger gains.

Ask Slashdot: Recommendations For a Reliable Linux Laptop? 235

An anonymous reader writes: I will be looking for a new laptop soon and I'm mostly interested in high reliability and Linux friendliness. I have been using an MSI laptop (with Windows 7) for the last five years as my main workhorse and did not have a single, even minor problem with the hardware nor the OS. It turned out to be a slam-dunk, although I didn't do any particular research before buying it, so I was just lucky. I would like to be more careful this time around, so this is a hardware question: What laptop do you recommend for high reliability with Linux? I will also appreciate any advice on what to avoid and any unfortunate horror stories; I guess we can all learn from those. Anti-recommendations are probably just as valuable, a lesson I learned when an HP laptop I bought (low-end, I admit) turned out to be notoriously fickle when it comes to Linux support. Since our anonymous submitter doesn't specify his budget, it would be good if you specify the price for any specific laptops you recommend.

South Korea's "Smart Sheriff" Nanny App Puts Children At Risk 54

Starting in April, the South Korean government required that cellphones sold to anyone below the age of 19 be equipped with approved monitoring software that would allow the user's parents to monitor their phone use, report their location, and more. Now, however, researchers have discovered that one of the most popular of the approved apps, called Smart Sheriff, may not actually be very smart to have on one's phone. Researchers from Citizen Lab and Cure53, at the request of the Open Technology Fund, have analyzed the code of Smart Sheriff, and found that it actually endangers, rather than protects, the users. Reports the Associated Press, in a story carried by the Houston Chronicle: Children's phone numbers, birth dates, web browsing history and other personal data were being sent across the Internet unencrypted, making them easy to intercept. Authentication weaknesses meant Smart Sheriff could easily be hijacked, turned off or tricked into sending bogus alerts to parents. Even worse, they found that many weaknesses could be exploited at scale, meaning that thousands or even all of the app's 380,000 users could be compromised at once.

Apple Cleaning Up App Store After Its First Major Attack 246

Reuters reports that Apple is cleaning up hundreds of malicious iOS apps after what is described as the first major attack on its App Store. Hundreds of the stores apps were infected with malware called XcodeGhost, which used as a vector a counterfeit version of iOS IDE Xcode. Things could be a lot worse, though: Palo Alto Networks Director of Threat Intelligence Ryan Olson said the malware had limited functionality and his firm had uncovered no examples of data theft or other harm as a result of the attack. Still, he said it was "a pretty big deal" because it showed that the App Store could be compromised if hackers infected machines of software developers writing legitimate apps. Other attackers may copy that approach, which is hard to defend against, he said.

Microsoft and Others Mean Stiff Competition For Apple iPad Pro 279

MojoKid writes: When Microsoft first announced the Surface Pro back in 2012, many Apple fans snickered. Here was Microsoft, releasing a somewhat thick and heavy tablet that not only had a kickstand, but also an odd cover that doubled as a keyboard. And to top things off, the device made use of a stylus. Steve Jobs famously said in 2010, "If you see a stylus, they blew it." But Microsoft forged ahead with the Surface Pro 2, and later with the Surface Pro 3. Not only were customers becoming more aware of the Surface but competitors were also taking note. We've seen Lenovo introduce the ideapad MIIX 700, which incorporates its own kickstand and an Intel Skylake-based Core m7 processor. And most recently, we've seen Apple pull a literal 180 on this design and platform approach, announcing the iPad Pro — a device that features a fabric keyboard cover similar in concept to the Surface Pro and a stylus. Dell and ASUS have also brought compelling offerings to the table as well. However, the big head-to-head competition will no doubt be between the Surface Pro 4, which is set to be unveiled early next month and Apple's iPad Pro when it finally goes on sale.

Google Releases Open Source Plans For Cardboard V2 Virtual Reality Viewer 26

An anonymous reader writes: After revealing an improved version of Cardboard, the super-low cost virtual reality smartphone adapter, Google has now also freely released the detailed design documents, encouraging people to use them for projects ranging from DIY fun to full blown manufacturing. The v2 version of Cardboard is easier to assemble, has larger lenses, a universal input button, and is bigger overall to support larger phones.

Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Android Malware? 191

An anonymous reader writes: What's your approach to detecting and dealing with Android malware? I have a fairly new, fairly fancy phone running Android Lollipop, the recently degraded performance of which leads me to believe that it's infected with malware. That, and a friend who noticed a lot of strange activity coming from my phone's IP — sorry, I don't have the logs, but he pointed out that there were pings coming from my phone to a lot of sketchy addresses — which pretty much seals the deal. There have been lots of stories lately about Android malware that remind me of the old saw about weather: everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. However, that can't be completely true, and before I reach a phone crisis, I'd like to get some sane, sage advice about diagnosing malware, and disposing of it, or at least mitigating its damage. When it comes to diagnosing, I don't know what software to trust. I've heard positive things from friends (and seen both positive reviews and terrible negative ones, raising even more meta questions about trust) about Malwarebytes, so I installed their mobile version. This dutifully scans my system, and reports no errors and malware. Which doesn't mean there isn't any, though I'd be happy to find out that I'm just being paranoid. The OS is stock (Motorola Nexus 6) and kept up to date. I have only very conventional apps, all downloaded from Google's Play store, and believe it or not I don't visit any dodgy websites on my phone, at least not intentionally. So: what's the most reliable way to get an accurate view of whether I am dealing with malware at all, and hopefully to eradicate it? Good malware hides well, I know, but is there any tool on the side of the righteous that is currently best at rooting it out? If I find a specific form of malware on my phone, how can I remove it?

AT&T Says Malware Secretly Unlocked Hundreds of Thousands of Phones 123

alphadogg writes: AT&T said three of its employees secretly installed software on its network so a cellphone unlocking service could surreptitiously funnel hundreds of thousands of requests to its servers to remove software locks on phones. The locks prevent phones from being used on competing networks and have been an important tool used by cellular carriers to prevent customers from jumping ship.

Appeals Court Bans Features From Older Samsung Phones 69

walterbyrd writes with news that Apple has finally emerged victorious in a long-standing patent case against Samsung — though it's more of a moral victory than a practical one. Samsung is no longer allowed to sell some of its older phones unless the company disables features that infringe upon Apple patents. "The market impact will likely be limited, since the lawsuit was filed in 2012 and covers products that came out that year, like the Galaxy S3. Furthermore, software updates to Samsung software mean that the patents may not be infringed anymore. For instance, Samsung's Android phones no longer use a 'slide to unlock' feature on the bottom of the phone. In dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Sharon Prost paints a sharply different picture (PDF) from the majority. 'This is not a close case,' she writes, noting that Apple's patents cover a spelling correction feature it doesn't use, and two others cover 'minor features' out of 'many thousands.'"

One Day After iOS 9's Launch, Ad Blockers Top Apple's App Store 241 writes: Sarah Perez reports at TechCrunch that only one day after the release of Apple's newly released version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 9, ad blockers are topping the charts in the App Store and it seems that new iOS 9 users are thrilled to have access to this added functionality. The Top Paid iOS app is the new ad-blocker Peace, a $2.99 download from Instapaper founder Marco Arment. Peace currently supports a number of exclusive features that aren't found in other blockers yet. Most notably, it uses Ghostery's more robust blocklist, which Arment licensed from the larger company by offering them a percentage of the app's revenue. "I can't believe how many trackers are on popular sites," says Arment. "I can't believe how fast the web is without them." Other ad blockers are also topping the paid app chart as of today, including the Purify Blocker (#3), Crystal (#6), Blockr (#12). (Ranks as of the time of writing.) With the arrival of these apps, publishers and advertisers are fretting about the immediate impact to their bottom lines and business, which means they'll likely soon try to find ways to sneak around the blockers. In that case, it should be interesting to see which of the apps will be able to maintain their high degree of ad blocking over time.

It's no surprise that advertisers and publishers who make their money from advertising aren't exactly fans of blockers. What is surprising is that no one seemed to disagree with the argument that online ads have gotten out of control. "I think if we don't acknowledge that, we'd be fools," says Scott Cunningham, "So does that mean ad blockers are good or right? Absolutely not. Do we have an accountability and responsibility to address these things? Absolutely — and there's a lot that we're doing now." Harry Kargman agrees that in many cases, online ads have created "a bad consumer experience — from an annoyance perspective, a privacy perspective, a usability perspective." At the same time, Kargman says that as the industry works to solve these problems, it also needs to convince people that when you use an ad blocker, "That's stealing. It's no different than ripping music. It's no different than pirating movies."

D-Link Accidentally Publishes Private Code Signing Keys 67

New submitter bartvbl writes: As part of the GPL license, D-Link makes its firmware source code available for many of its devices. When looking through the files I accidentally stumbled upon 4 different private keys used for code signing. Only one — the one belonging to D-Link itself — was still valid at the time. I have successfully used this key to sign an executable as D-Link. A Dutch news site published the full story (translated to english with Google Translate).

Android Lollipop Can Be Hacked With Very Long Password 170

Complex passwords are the way to beat some attacks, but for phones running the latest version of Android, that's not necessarily so: puddingebola writes with an excerpt from an article at CNN: Locked phones require a passcode. But there's a way to get around that. Just type in an insanely long password. That overloads the computer, which redirects you to the phone's home screen. It's a time-consuming hack, but it's actually easy to pull off. In a report published Tuesday, computer security researcher John Gordon documented the vulnerability and posted a video of the hack. It only affects smartphones using the latest version of the Android operating system, Lollipop.

iPad Mini-Style Specs, On the Cheap, In Android-Based ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 87

MojoKid writes: The ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 is a well-designed Android tablet based on an Intel X86 platform that boasts better specs than the iPad mini 3 in many areas and is also less expensive. As configured, the ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA has an MSRP of $299, which is $99 less than the 16GB iPad mini 3, and $199 less than 64GB model. However, it's based on a quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and modern amenities like 802.11ac Wi-Fi, a USB Type-C port and a 2048X1536 IPS display. A 2GB RAM and 32GB variant can be found for $199 as well. In the benchmarks, the ZenPad S 8.0 handles pretty well, offering middle-of-the-pack performance in both standard CPU tests as well as gaming, in addition to running the latest version of Android Lollipop.