Privacy

Hackers Can Track Subway Riders' Movements By Smartphone Accelerometer 37

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-follow-you-with dept.
Patrick O'Neill writes: Tens of millions of daily subway riders around the world can be tracked through their smartphones by a new attack, according to research from China's Nanjing University. The new attack even works underground and doesn't utilize GPS or cell networks. Instead, the attacker steals data from a phone's accelerometer. Because each subway in the world has a unique movement fingerprint, the phone's motion sensor can give away a person's daily movements with up to 92% accuracy.
Cellphones

Mozilla Drops $25 Smartphone Plans, Will Focus On Higher Quality Devices 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the disposing-of-disposable-technology dept.
An anonymous reader writes: When Mozilla developed Firefox OS, its goal was not to provide the best smartphone experience, but to provide a "good enough" smartphone experience for a very low price. Unfortunately, these cheap handsets failed to make a dent in the overall smartphone market, and the organization is now shifting its strategy to start producing a better experience for better devices. CEO Chris Beard said, "If you are going to try to play in that world, you need to offer something that is so valuable that people are willing to give up access to the broader ecosystem. In the mass market, that's basically impossible." Of course, when moving to the midrange smartphone market, or even the high end, there's still plenty of competition, so the new strategy may not work any better. However, they've hinted at plans to start supporting Android apps, which could help them play catch-up. Beard seems fixated on this new goal: "We won't allow ourselves to be distracted, and we won't expand to new segments until significant traction is demonstrated." He adds, "We will build products that feel like Mozilla."
Privacy

San Bernardino Sheriff Has Used Stingray Over 300 Times With No Warrant 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: After a records request by Ars, the sheriff in San Bernardino County (SBSD) sent an example of a template for a "pen register and trap and trace order" application. The county attorneys claim what they sent was a warrant application template, even though it is not. The application cites no legal authority on which to base the request. "This is astonishing because it suggests the absence of legal authorization (because if there were clear legal authorization you can bet the government would be citing it)," Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, told Ars. "Alternatively, it might suggest that the government just doesn't care about legal authorization. Either interpretation is profoundly troubling," he added. Further documents reveal that the agency has used a Stingray 303 times between January 1, 2014 and May 7, 2015.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone? 307

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-a-dumberer-phone? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: For those of us who don't need or want a smartphone, what would be the best dumb phone around? Do you have a preference over flip or candy bar ones? What about ones that have FM radio? Do any of you still use dumb phones in this smart phone era? Related question: What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life? I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback, but I do miss being able to go 5 or more days on a single charge.
Education

Schools That Ban Mobile Phones See Better Academic Results 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-thing-down dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Jamie Doward reports at The Guardian that according to a recent study in the UK, the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week's schooling over a pupil's academic year with the test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4% after schools banned mobile phones, "We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days." In the UK, more than 90% of teenagers own a mobile phone; in the US, just under three quarters have one. In a survey conducted in 2001, no school banned mobiles. By 2007, this had risen to 50%, and by 2012 some 98% of schools either did not allow phones on school premises or required them to be handed in at the beginning of the day. But some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city's chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

The research was carried out at Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester schools before and after bans were introduced (PDF). It factored in characteristics such as gender, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs status and prior educational attainment. "Technological advancements are commonly viewed as increasing productivity," write Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy. "Modern technology is used in the classroom to engage students and improve performance. There are, however, potential drawbacks as well, as they could lead to distractions."
Government

GCHQ Officials Given Immunity From Hacking Charges 118

Posted by Soulskill
from the government-in-CYA-mode dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that members of British intelligence agency GCHQ have been granted immunity from prosecution for any laws they might have violated while hacking into citizens' computers or cellphones. The immunity was granted by changes to the Computer Misuse Act that weren't noticed until now, and not discussed or debated when implemented. While different legislation has long been thought to grant permission for illegal activities abroad, civil rights groups were unaware that domestic hacking activities were covered now as well. The legislative changes were passed on March 3rd, 2015, long after domestic spying became a hot-button issue, and almost a year after Privacy International and several ISPs filed complaints challenging it.
Cellphones

FCC May Stop 911 Access For NSI Phones 211

Posted by timothy
from the why-we-can't-have-nice-things dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's generally known that if you call 911 from a cell phone in the USA, you will be connected to the nearest Public Safety Access Point, whether or not the phone has an active account. This is the basis for programs that distribute donated phones for emergency-only use. However, the FCC has proposed a rule change that would eliminate the requirement for telephone companies to connect 911 calls made by NSI (non-service-initialized) phones. The main reason for the proposed rule change are the problems caused by fraudulent 911 calls made through NSI phones. Yet respondents cited by the FCC show that as many as 30% of 911 calls from NSI phones are for legitimate emergencies. The comment period for the proposed rule change ends on June 6th, 2015.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu May Beat Windows 10 To Phone-PC Convergence After All 125

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-in-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that Mark Shuttleworth plans to have a Ubuntu smartphone that can be used as a PC out sometime this year. "Despite the recent announcement that Windows 10 phones will be able to be used as PCs when connected to an external monitor, Ubuntu—the first operating system to toy with the idea—hasn't conceded the smartphone-PC convergence race to Microsoft just yet. 'While I enjoy the race, I also like to win,' Ubuntu Foundation founder Mark Shuttleworth said during a Ubuntu Online Summit keynote, before announcing that Canonical will partner with a hardware manufacturer to release a Ubuntu Phone with smartphone-PC convergence features this year.
Android

Google Can't Ignore the Android Update Problem Any Longer 434

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-bet-they-can dept.
An anonymous reader writes: An editorial at Tom's Hardware makes the case that Google's Android fragmentation problem has gotten too big to ignore any longer. Android 5.0 Lollipop and its successor 5.1 have seen very low adoption rates — 9.0% and 0.7% respectively. Almost 40% of users are still on KitKat. 6% lag far behind on Gingerbread and Froyo. The article points out that even Microsoft is now making efforts to both streamline Windows upgrades and adapt Android (and iOS) apps to run on Windows.

If Google doesn't adapt, "it risks having users (slowly but surely) switch to more secure platforms that do give them updates in a timely manner. And if users want those platforms, OEMs will have no choice but to switch to them too, leaving Google with less and less Android adoption." The author also says OEMs and carriers can no longer be trusted to handle operating system updates, because they've proven themselves quite incapable of doing so in a reasonable manner.
Cellphones

Meet the Firmware Lead For Google's Project Ara Modular Smartphone (Video) 25

Posted by Roblimo
from the build-it-one-piece-at-a-time dept.
According to Wikipedia, 'Project Ara is the codename for an initiative that aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones.' Google is the sponsor, and the project seems to be moving faster than some people expect it to. There's a Project Ara website, of course, a GitHub repository, a Facebook page, even an Ara subreddit. During his conversation with Timothy Lord, Ara firmware project lead (and spokesman) Marti Bolivar said it won't be long before prototype Ara modular phones start user testing. Meanwhile, if you want to see what Marti and his coworkers have been up to lately, besides this interview, you can read a transcription of his talk (including slides) from the January Project Ara Developers Conference in Singapore.
China

China's Tencent Launches Smart Hardware OS To Rival Alibaba 22

Posted by timothy
from the diversity-in-approach dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Chinese internet and media giant Tencent Holdings has today launched an operating system for mobile devices such as internet-connected phones, TVs, smartwatches and other IoT products. Tencent Operating System (OS) TOS+ is open to all developers and manufacturers free of charge should they agree to share their revenue – a framework similar to Google's popular Android mobile OS. The new Tencent OS offering, which provides voice recognition and mobile payment systems, will rival other home-grown operating systems looking to conquer the smart hardware arena with connected wearables, TVs and smart homeware technology. These competitors include smartphone maker Xiaomi and Asia's largest internet company Alibaba, who hopes to see its recently launched Yun OS eventually installed on tens of millions of smartphones. The Chinese systems for mobile and hardware products provide an alternative to Google's services, which constantly face challenges across the country due to strict censorship and licensing laws.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Most Stable Smartphones These Days? 484

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-dad's-flip-phone-is-pretty-stable dept.
janimal writes: The iPhone used to be the smartphone that "just works." Ever since the 4S days, this has been true less and less with each generation. My wife's iPhone 6 needs to be restarted several times per week for things like internet search or making calls to work. An older 5S I'm using also doesn't consistently stream to Apple TV, doesn't display song names correctly on Apple TV and third party peripherals. In short, as features increase, the iPhone's stability is decreasing. In your opinion, which smartphone brand these days is taking up the slack and delivering a fully featured smartphone that "just works"?
Cellphones

Turning a Smartphone Display Into a Biometric Scanner 16

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-make-the-obvious-jokes dept.
New submitter jan_jes writes: Recent mobile phones integrate fingerprint scanners to authenticate users biometrically and replace passwords, making authentication more convenient. Researchers at Yahoo Labs have created a new technology called "Bodyprint," which turns your smartphone's touchscreen display into a biometric scanner. It allows the touch sensor to scan users' body parts (PDF) such as ears, fingers, fists, and palms by pressing them against the display. Bodyprint implements the four-eye principle for locking sensitive documents — accessing the document can require the presence of two or more people involved with the project. Another application is authenticating a user to answer a call by scanning their ear pressed against the phone.
Cellphones

Patents Show Google Fi Was Envisioned Before the iPhone Was Released 31

Posted by timothy
from the I-could-show-you-my-notes-from-7th-grade dept.
smaxp writes: Contrary to reports, Google didn't become a mobile carrier with the introduction of Google Fi. Google Fi was launched to prove that a network-of-networks serves smartphone users better than a single mobile carrier's network. Patents related to Google Fi, filed in early 2007, explain Google's vision – smartphones negotiate for and connect to the fastest network available. The patent and Google Fi share a common notion that the smartphone should connect to the fastest network available, not a single carrier's network that may not provide the best performance. It breaks the exclusive relationship between a smartphone and a single carrier. Meanwhile, a story at BostInno points out that Google's not the only one with a network-hopping hybrid approach to phone calls.
Google

Google Launches Project Fi Mobile Phone Service 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-carrier-in-town dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Google unveiled today a new cell phone service called Project Fi. It offers the same basic functionality as traditional wireless carriers, such as voice, text and Internet access, but at a lower price than most common plans. From the article: "Google hopes to stand out by changing the way it charges customers. Typically, smartphone owners pay wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon a bulk rate for a certain amount of data. Google says it will let customers pay for only what data they use on their phones, from doing things like making calls, listening to music and using apps, potentially saving them significant amounts of money. For now, the program is invite-only and will only be available on Google's Nexus 6 smartphone."
Bug

Networking Library Bug Breaks HTTPS In ~1,500 iOS Apps 73

Posted by Soulskill
from the snake-in-the-walled-garden dept.
mrflash818 writes: A new report from analytics service SourceDNA found that roughly 1,500 iOS apps (with about 2 million total installs) contain a vulnerability that cripples HTTPS and makes man-in-the-middle attacks against those apps easy to pull off. "The weakness is the result of a bug in an older version of the AFNetworking, an open-source code library that allows developers to drop networking capabilities into their apps. Although AFNetworking maintainers fixed the flaw three weeks ago with the release of version 2.5.2, at least 1,500 iOS apps remain vulnerable because they still use version 2.5.1. That version became available in January and introduced the HTTPS-crippling flaw."
Wireless Networking

Wi-Fi Attack Breaks iPhones By Locking Them Into an Endless Loop 1

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-around-and-around-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Skycure demonstrated a novel attack at the RSA 2015 conference that affects iPhones and other iOS devices. The attack, which takes advantage of new and previously announced vulnerabilities, locks iPhones into a never-ending reboot cycle effectively rendering them useless. Skycure CEO Adi Sharabani explained that this attack began when Skycure researchers bought a new router and were messing around with its network settings. In doing so, they discovered a particular configuration that caused apps in iPhones connected to that router to crash whenever they launched.
Privacy

Baltimore Police Used Stingrays For Phone Tracking Over 25,000 Times 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-remember-that-episode-of-The-Wire dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Baltimore Police Department is starting to come clean about its use of cell-phone signal interceptors — commonly known as Stingrays — and the numbers are alarming. According to recent court testimony reported by The Baltimore Sun, the city's police have used Stingray devices with a court order more than 25,000 times. It's a massive number, representing an average of nearly nine uses a day for eight years (the BPD acquired the technology in 2007), and it doesn't include any emergency uses of the device, which would have proceeded without a court order.
Cellphones

Does Lack of FM Support On Phones Increase Your Chances of Dying In a Disaster? 350

Posted by timothy
from the well-if-you-put-it-that-way dept.
theodp writes "You may not know it," reports NPR's Emma Bowman, "but most of today's smartphones have FM radios inside of them. But the FM chip is not activated on two-thirds of devices. That's because mobile makers have the FM capability switched off. The National Association of Broadcasters has been asking mobile makers to change this. But the mobile industry, which profits from selling data to smartphone users, says that with the consumer's move toward mobile streaming apps, the demand for radio simply isn't there." But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says radio-enabled smartphones could sure come in handy during times of emergency. So, is it irresponsible not to activate the FM chips? And should it's-the-app-way-or-the-highway Apple follow Microsoft's lead and make no-static-at-all FM available on iPhones?
Displays

Sharp Announces 4K Smartphone Display 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-pixels-than-you-know-what-to-do-with dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Japanese electronics giant Sharp has announced production of 5.5" displays with 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution. They'll hit the market next year. The display will have a pixel density of 806 PPI. It's not known yet which smartphone makers will build devices with these screens. The displays cost significantly more than a more typical 1080p or 1440p display, so they'll probably only make it into high-end phones. On the other hand, this will help to drive down prices for lower-resolution displays, so it could indirectly benefit everybody.