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Smartphones Are 'Contaminating' Family Life, Study Suggests ( 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets can be distracting from child-rearing, upending family routines and fueling stress in the home, a small, new study finds. Incoming communication from work, friends and the world at large is "contaminating" family mealtime, bedtime and playtime, said study lead author Dr. Jenny Radesky. She's an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. Her comments stem from her team's study involving interviews with 35 parents and caregivers of young children in the Boston area. "This tension, this stress, of trying to balance newly emerging technologies with the established patterns and rituals of our lives is extremely common, and was expressed by almost all of our participants," Radesky said. "We have to toggle between what might be stress-inducing or highly cognitively demanding mobile content and responding to our kids' behavior," she said. The result, said Radesky, is often a rise in parent-child tension and overall stress. Modern parents and caregivers interact with tablets, smartphones and other communication devices for about three hours a day, the study authors said in background notes. Radesky's team previously found that when parents used mobile devices during meals they interacted less with their children, and became stressed when children tried to grab their attention away from the device. The new study included 22 mothers, nine fathers and four grandmothers. Participants were between 23 and 55 years old (average age 36) and cared for toddlers or young children up to age 8. Roughly one-third were single parents, and nearly six in 10 were white. On the plus side, many parents said that mobile devices facilitated their ability to work from home. But that could fuel anxiety, too. Some said smartphones provided access to the outside world, and alleviated some of the boredom and stress of child-rearing. On the down side, caregivers described being caught in a tug-of-war between their devices and their children. The study findings were published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Apple's Redesigned London Store Has Untethered iPhones ( 76

Apple is putting a lot of faith into its customers' hands. The company is stopping the practice of tethering iPhones to demo desks. (It's a common practice, and pretty much everyone does it for their top smartphones). From a CNET report, which describes Apple's redesigned London store: Perhaps the most interesting feature of the store is that when it opens to the public at the weekend the devices won't be tethered to the tables as they were previously, and are in other stores around the world. Apple says this is to allow people to hold them properly, try cases on them and even see how they feel in your pocket. It's a bold move, especially given the lack of visible security in the building. We couldn't spot a single CCTV camera, although any phone taken out of the store will set off an alarm. If not returned, the phones will also be rendered unusable.

Google To Divide Its Index, Giving Mobile Users Better and Fresher Content ( 113

Desktop Google searches could soon feel slightly out of touch compared to those done via smartphones as the company begins to push mobile search. Google has said it is fully splitting its search index into two versions: a rapid updated mobile one, and a secondary search index for the desktop web. SearchEngineLand reports: The news came today during a keynote address from Gary Illyes, a webmaster trends analyst with Google, at Pubcon. Illyes didn't give a timeline in his talk, but in a follow-up with Search Engine Land, he confirmed that it would happen within "months." Google first announced that it was experimenting with the idea of a mobile index last year at SMX East. Since that time, Google's clearly decided that a mobile index makes sense and is moving ahead with the idea. It's unclear exactly how the mobile index will work. For example, since the mobile index is the "primary" index, will it really not be used for any desktop queries? Will it only contain "mobile-friendly" content? How out-of-date will the desktop index be? Desktop usage is now a minority of Google queries but still generates substantial usage. The most substantial change will likely be that by having a mobile index, Google can run its ranking algorithm in a different fashion across "pure" mobile content rather than the current system that extracts data from desktop content to determine mobile rankings.

DHS Warns of Mirai Botnet Threat To Cellular Modems ( 21

chicksdaddy writes from a report via The Security Ledger: The Mirai malware that is behind massive denial of service attacks involving hundreds of thousands of "Internet of Things" devices may also affect cellular modems that connect those devices to the internet, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning. An alert issued by DHS's Industrial Control System CERT on Wednesday warned that cellular gateways manufactured by Sierra Wireless are vulnerable to compromise by the Mirai malware. While the routers are not actively being targeted by the malware, "unchanged default factory credentials, which are publicly available, could allow the devices to be compromised," ICS-CERT warned. The alert comes after a number of reports identified devices infected with the Mirai malware as the source of massive denial of service attacks against media websites like Krebs on Security and the French hosting company OVH. The attacks emanated from a global network of hundreds of thousands of infected IP-enabled closed circuit video cameras, digital video recorders (DVRs), network video recorders (NVRs) and other devices. Analysis by the firm Imperva found that Mirai is purpose-built to infect Internet of Things devices and enlist them in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The malware searches broadly for insecure or weakly secured IoT devices that can be remotely accessed and broken into with easily guessed (factory default) usernames and passwords. The report adds: "Sierra said in an alert that the company has 'confirmed reports of the 'Mirai' malware infecting AirLink gateways that are using the default ACEmanager password and are reachable from the public internet.' Sierra Wireless LS300, GX400, GX/ES440, GX/ES450, and RV50 were identified in the bulletin as vulnerable to compromise by Mirai. Furthermore, devices attached to he gateway's local area network may also be vulnerable to infection by the Mirai malware, ICS-CERT warned. Sierra Wireless asked affected users to reboot their gateway. Mirai is memory resident malware, meaning that is erased upon reboot. Furthermore, administrators were advised to change the password to the management interface by logging in locally, or remotely to a vulnerable device."

Samsung Will Credit You $100 If You Exchange Your Note 7 For Another Samsung Phone ( 123

In an effort to presumably stop customers from jumping ship to the iPhone 7 or other non-Samsung device, Samsung is offering up to $100 in credit to every customer who exchanges their Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone. Mashable reports: The company said so in its updated Note 7 recall page which plainly states that the recall has now been expanded to "all Galaxy Note 7 devices," and asks consumers with a Note 7 to power it down and return it to the place of purchase. Bear in mind that the new offer, which goes live on Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. ET, is only for U.S. customers, as users in other parts of the world have different recall programs in place. Furthermore, if you've already exchanged your Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone, you "will receive up to a $75 bill credit from select carrier or retail outlets in addition to the $25 you previously received." Even if you exchange your Note 7 for another brand or ask for a refund, you will still receive a $25 bill credit from select carriers and retailers -- again, less any incentive credits you've already received. "As a sign of our appreciation for your patience and loyalty, we are offering up to a $100 bill credit from select carrier or retail outlets if you exchange your Galaxy Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone, less any incentive credits already received," Samsung wrote.

Android Devices That Contain Foxconn Firmware May Have a Secret Backdoor ( 95

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: Some Android devices that contain firmware created by Foxconn may be vulnerable via a debugging feature left inside the bootloader, which acts as a backdoor and bypasses authentication procedures for any intruder with USB access to a vulnerable phone. By sending the "reboot-ftm" command to Android devices that contain Foxconn firmware, an attacker would authenticate via USB, and boot the device, running as root with SELinux disabled. There isn't a list of affected devices available yet, but Jon Sawyer, the researchers that discovered this hidden command, provides instructions on how to detect if a phone is affected. "Due to the ability to get a root shell on a password protected or encrypted device, Pork Explosion would be of value for forensic data extraction, brute forcing encryption keys, or unlocking the boot loader of a device without resetting user data. Phone vendors were unaware this backdoor has been placed into their products," Sawyer says.

4Chan Hackers Claim To Have Remotely Wiped John Podesta's iPhone and iPad ( 269

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmodo: For the past several days, WikiLeaks has been publishing thousands of emails belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta -- and the leaks are starting to cause some serious damage. Gizmodo reports: "Many of the leaked emails contained contact info, cell phone numbers, and account data, none of which was redacted by Wikileaks before being posted. With this information accessible to anyone with the time and energy to read through it all, users on 4chan's /pol/ (politically incorrect) board were able to gain access to Podesta's Twitter account, tweeting a message in support of Trump. Imageboard posters also stumbled on an email containing Podesta's Apple ID -- and appear to have exploited it. 'iPad/iPhone info and data wiped out,' a post on Endchan claimed, show screenshots of what seems to be the hacker gaining access to Find My iPhone using Podesta's credentials. If Podesta's Apple ID was compromised, it stands to reason that his iCloud account was similarly vulnerable. And sure enough, Redditor's on r/The_Donald claim Podesta's iCloud data was downloaded. A hacker known as CyberZeist also appears to have uncovered the passwords to dozens of senators' email addresses, as well as social security numbers and credit card info for many Democrats including Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and acting Chair of the DNC Donna Brazile. The information was posted to pastebin.

Yahoo Patents Smart Billboard That Would Deliver Targeted Ads To Passersby or Motorists ( 131

An anonymous reader writes: Yahoo has filed a patent for advertising billboards outfitted with a wide array of sensors -- including drone-based cameras -- which would use facial and vehicle recognition, data brokers, cell-tower information and social network information to attempt to identify worthwhile advertising targets and aim personalized ads at them as they pass on foot or in cars. The scheme, which was submitted on October 6th, anticipates using the same kind of micro-auction processes that currently determine which ads users see in webpages and mobile apps. The implementation of public ad-targeting brings up some fascinating and chilling prospects, as users find that the ads which "bloom" around them betray much about their private lives. Yahoo provides an example via its patent application: "According to one example, a digital billboard adjacent a busy freeway might be instrumented with or located near traffic sensors that detect information about the context of the vehicles approaching the billboard, e.g., the number and average speed of the vehicles. Such information might be used in conjunction with information about the time of day and/or the day of the week (e.g., Monday morning rush hour) to select advertisements for display that would appeal to an expected demographic and to display the advertisements for durations that are commensurate with the level of traffic congestion." The patent application also mentions how it will gather required information from individuals: "Various types of data (e.g., cell tower data, mobile app location data, image data, etc.) can be used to identify specific individuals in an audience in position to view advertising content. Similarly, vehicle navigation/tracking data from vehicles equipped with such systems could be used to identify specific vehicles and/or vehicle owners. Demographic data (e.g., as obtained from a marketing or user database) for the audience can thus be determined for the purpose of, for example, determining whether and/or the degree to which the demographic profile of the audience corresponds to a target demographic."

Netflix Now Only Has 31 Movies From IMDB's Top 250 List ( 181

According to Streaming Observer News, the quality and quantity of Netflix's movie library has declined over the last two years when cross-referenced with IMDB's Top 250 movies list. From the report: Well, it's a pretty common fact at this point that Netflix's library is shrinking. Of course, what Netflix needs to do as it shrinks its licensed movie library is make sure that movies it does have are good ones. But according to our analysis, it's going backwards, unfortunately. A while back we noticed a post from this Reddit member who, two years ago, cross-referenced the IMDB (Internet Movie Database) top 250 movies list with Netflix's movie library to find out how many of the top movies Netflix carried. When u/clayton_frisbie posted his list on Reddit, Netflix had 49 of the Top 250 movies on the IMDB list. That's just under 20 percent, which isn't terrible. But we wondered how that number has held up over the last two years in the face of a quickly shrinking library. So we reran the analysis. How many of the top 250 movies does Netflix now have? As of September 2016, that number has dropped to 31, or about 12 percent. [You can view the list via Streaming Observer News.]

Samsung Ships Flameproof Boxes For Note 7 Returns ( 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Samsung has been forced to cease production of its disastrous Galaxy Note 7 Smartphones because they keep catching fire, but it still has to address the problem of cleaning up its mess. The phone has been recalled twice, and owners now have to send their incendiary handsets back to the South Korean firm. And that poses a bit of a problem: if you need to issue a recall for a phone that is prone to spontaneously combust, you don't want those phones catching fire in transit. Samsung's solution is a fancy "Note 7 Return Kit," and it has sent one to XDA Developers. The kit contains a special "Recovery Box" that's lined with ceramic fiber paper to provide some protection against incineration. Samsung warns that some people will have a bad reaction to this lining, so the recovery kit also includes some gloves to protect your hands. They don't appear to be flame retardant, so if your Note 7 is currently ablaze, we'd suggest minimizing contact with it. Samsung also includes a shipping label to send the phone back. The box reinforces that flying ban, noting that the devices are only to be shipped by ground, safely within reach of the quenching hoses of the fire department.

PC Industry Is Now On a Two-Year Downslide ( 310

According to analyst firm Gartner, PC shipments have declined for eight consecutive quarters -- "the longest duration of decline in the history of the PC industry." The company found that worldwide PC shipments totaled 68.9 million units in the third quart of 2016, a 5.7 percent decline from the third quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: The firm cites poor back-to-school sales and lowered demand in emerging markets. But the larger issue, as it has been for quite some time, is more existential than that. "The PC is not a high priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to," writes Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa. "Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again." The threat, of course, comes from smartphones, which have more aggressive upgrade cycles than PCs and have over time grown powerful enough to compete with desktop and laptop computers at performing less intensive tasks. Tablets too have become more capable, with Apple pushing its iPad Pro line as a viable laptop replacement. PC makers are feeling the pressure. HP, Dell, and Asus each had low single-digit growth, but Acer, Apple, and Lenovo all experienced declines, with Apple and Lenovo each suffering double-digit drops. Meanwhile, the rest of the PC market, which collectively ships more units per quarter than any of the big-name brands, is down more than 16 percent. Some good news is that 2-in-1 devices have experienced year-over-year growth. Kitigawa also notes: "While our PC shipment report does not include Chromebooks, our early indicator shows that Chromebooks exceeded PC shipment growth."

Mobile VR Is 'Coasting On Novelty', Says John Carmack ( 51

John Carmack, chief technology officer at Oculus, says mobile VR is currently "coasting on novelty." Speaking during the Oculus Connect event, Carmack urged developers to "be harder" on themselves and create experiences on par with non-VR applications and games. "We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before," he said. From a CNET report:"But we need to start judging ourselves. Not on a curve, but in an absolute sense. Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other [non-VR] things have done?" During his speech, Carmack highlighted loading times in mobile VR games as a key area in need of improvement, saying that making users sit through 30-seconds of loading is too long, given the brevity of most currently available VR experiences. "That's acceptable if you're going to sit down and play for an hour ... but [in VR] initial startup time really is poisonous. An analogy I like to say is, imagine if your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You'd use it a lot less." He continued: "There are apps that I wanted to play, that I thought looked great, that I stopped playing because they had too long of a load time. I would say 20 seconds should be an absolute limit on load times, and even then I'm pushing people to get it much, much lower."

Sprint To Provide 1 Million Students With Free Internet, Mobile Devices ( 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Wireless carrier Sprint Corp on Tuesday pledged to provide 1 million U.S. high school students with free mobile devices and internet access as part of a White House initiative to expand opportunities for lower income kids. Marcelo Claure, chief executive of Sprint, said the plan builds on the company's prior commitment through the White House's ConnectED program to get 50,000 students high speed internet. He said Sprint realized that while providing students with internet at school was helpful, students would still need to be able to use the internet at home. "We are going to equip 1 million kids with the tools they need to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams," Claure told reporters on a White House call. Sprint aims to give cell phones, tablets, laptops or mobile hot spots to students who do not have internet at home. Students would be able to choose the type of device that might meet their needs and it would be coupled with four years of free data plans. The company hopes to reach its goal of a million students in five years. Manufacturers have agreed to provide the mobile devices at no cost, Claure said. He also said the company would encourage customers to donate their old devices to the program and that it would not cost Sprint much to allow the free use of its network.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Block Tool For Cops To Surveil You On Social Media ( 80

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California announced that, after the organization obtained revealing documents through public records access requests, Facebook and Instagram have cut off data access to a company that sells surveillance products for law enforcement. Twitter has also curbed the surveillance product's access. Motherboard reports: The product, called Geofeedia, is used by law enforcement to monitor social media on a large scale, and relies on social media sites' APIs or other means of access. According to one internal email between a Geofeedia representative and police, the company claimed their product "covered Ferguson/Mike Brown nationally with great success," in reference to the fatal police shooting of a black teenager in Missouri in 2014, and subsequent protests. "Our location-based intelligence platform enables hundreds of organizations around the world to predict, analyze, and act based on real-time social media signals," the company's website reads. According to the ACLU, Instagram provided Geofeedia access to its API; Facebook gave access to a data feed called the Topic Feed API, which presents users with a ranked list of public posts; and Twitter provided Geofeedia, through an intermediary, with searchable access to its database of public tweets. Instagram and Facebook terminated Geofeedia's access on September 19, and Twitter announced on Tuesday that it had suspended Geofeedia's commercial access to Twitter data.

UK Is Banning Apple Watch From Cabinet Meetings Over Russian Hacking Fears ( 106

Mickeycaskill quotes a report from TechWeekEurope UK: Ministers have been forbidden to wear the Apple Watch during cabinet meetings due to the risk they could be hacked by Russian agents, according to a report. Prime minister Theresa May imposed the new rules following several high-profile hacks that have been blamed on Russia. Several cabinet ministers previously wore the Apple Watch, including former Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Mobile phones have already been banned due to similar concerns. Politically motivated hackers have caused disruption in several recent incidents, including the hack of the Democratic National Committee, which resulted in the release of a large cache of internal emails. One of the paper's sources said: "The Russians are trying to hack everything."

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