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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.
Security

It's Possible To Hack a Smartphone With Sound Waves, Researchers Show (cnbc.com) 41

A security loophole that would allow someone to add extra steps to the counter on your Fitbit monitor might seem harmless. But researchers say it points to the broader risks that come with technology's embedding into the nooks of our lives. John Markoff, writes for the NYTimes: On Tuesday, a group of computer security researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of South Carolina will demonstrate that they have found a vulnerability that allows them to take control of or surreptitiously influence devices through the tiny accelerometers that are standard components in consumer products like smartphones, fitness monitors and even automobiles. In their paper, the researchers describe how they added fake steps to a Fitbit fitness monitor and played a "malicious" music file from the speaker of a smartphone to control the phone's accelerometer. That allowed them to interfere with software that relies on the smartphone, like an app used to pilot a radio-controlled toy car. "It's like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words" and enter commands rather than just shut down the phone, said Kevin Fu, an author of the paper, who is also an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan and the chief executive of Virta Labs, a company that focuses on cybersecurity in health care. "You can think of it as a musical virus."
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.
Verizon

Verizon Wireless Wades Right Back Into the Net Neutrality Debate With Fios Deal (theverge.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T's book by zero rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap. (It should be noted that Verizon Wireless and Fios are separate subsidiaries, but both are owned by Verizon Communications.) This builds on Verizon's previous decision to zero rate its Go90 mobile app for customers of its own wireless service, which net neutrality advocates see as prioritizing its own products to the detriment of those from competitors and upstarts. One notable exception here is for customers with unlimited mobile data plans. Streaming Fios Mobile content will in fact count toward the unlimited plans' 22GB a month cap, after which Verizon will cap speeds. This caveat is not made clear in Verizon's marketing language, and instead is found only in the App Store release notes.
Security

Nearly 200,000 Wi-Fi Cameras Are Open To Hacking (bleepingcomputer.com) 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: What started as an analysis of a simple security flaw in a random wireless IP camera turned into seven vulnerabilities that affect over 1,250 camera models and expose nearly 200,000 cameras to hacking. The flaws affect a generically named product called Wireless IP Camera (P2P) WIFICAM, manufactured by a (currently unnamed) Chinese company, who sells it as a white-label product to several other camera vendors. Security researcher Pierre Kim says the firmware produced by this Chinese vendor comes with several flaws, which have all made their way down the line into the products of other companies that bought the white-label (unbranded) camera. In total, nearly 1,250 camera models based on the original camera are affected. At the heart of many of these issues is the GoAhead web server, which allows camera owners to manage their device via a web-based dashboard. According to Kim, the cameras are affected by a total of seven security flaws. Yesterday, Kim said that around 185,000 vulnerable cameras could be easily identified via Shodan. Today, the same query yields 198,500 vulnerable cameras. Proof-of-concept exploit code for each of the seven flaws is available on Kim's blog, along with a list of all the 1,250+ vulnerable camera models.
Network

T-Mobile Raises Deprioritization Threshold To 30GB (tmonews.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TmoNews: T-Mobile's new deprioritization threshold is 30GB of usage in a single billing cycle. While T-Mo didn't make an official announcement about the change, you can see in this cached page that the network management policy says 28GB: "Based on network statistics for the most recent quarter, customers who use more than 28GB of data during a billing cycle will have their data usage prioritized below other customers' data usage for the remainder of the billing cycle in times and at locations where there are competing customer demands for network resources." Navigating to the webpage today now says 30GB. What this change means is that if you use more than 30GB of data in one billing cycle, your data usage will be prioritized below others for the remainder of that billing cycle. The only time that you're likely to see the effects of that, though, is when you're at a location on the network that is congested, during which time you may see slower speeds. Once you move to a different location or the congestion goes down, your speeds will likely go back up. And once the new billing cycle rolls around, your usage will be reset.
Google

Google Confirms Small Number of Pixel Phones Have Broken Microphones (theverge.com) 68

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: Google says that a small number of Pixel phones have broken microphones that need to be sent back for replacement. The issue is seemingly not that widespread. Google claims the issue is present on less than 1 percent of devices -- the company also announced that it would replace defective phones last month, and it went largely unnoticed until now. Google says the primary cause for Pixels having microphone issues is a "hairline crack in the solder connection on the audio codec," which causes all three of the device's mics to go out at once. The issue has apparently been known about for several months now. Google says it's been "taking additional steps to reinforce the connection" since January and that phones built or refurbished since then should be fine.
AT&T

FCC Investigating Coast-To-Coast 911 Outage For AT&T Wireless Users (nbcnews.com) 53

AT&T says it has fixed a nationwide outage that prevented its wireless customers from making 911 emergency calls. "Service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911. We apologize to those affected," the company officials said in a statement. The outage was serious enough to gain the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, said via Twitter that they are investigating what went wrong. NBC News reports: The company didn't say how widespread the outage was, but as reports poured in from across the country, Karima Holmes, director of unified communications for the Washington, D.C., government, said her office had been "advised there is a nationwide outage for AT&T." At 10:20 p.m. ET, about 10 minutes before AT&T gave the all-clear, DownDetector, a site that monitors internet traffic for real-time information on wireless and broadband carriers, indicated that outage reports for AT&T were clustered most prominently around New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. But emergency authorities across the country confirmed 911 outages and publicized direct police, fire and ambulance dispatch telephone numbers that AT&T customers should call in emergencies.
Security

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Best Protect Client Files From Wireless Hacking? 140

dryriver writes: A client has given you confidential digital files containing a design for a not-yet-public consumer product. You need to work on those files on a Windows 10 PC that has a wireless chipset built into it. What can you do, assuming that you have to work under Windows 10, that would make 3rd party wireless access to this PC difficult or impossible? I can imagine that under a more transparent, open-source, power-user OS like Linux, it would be a piece of cake to kill all wireless access completely and reliably even if the system contains wireless hardware. But what about a I-like-to-phone-home-sometimes, non open-source OS like Windows 10 that is nowhere near as open and transparent? Is there a good strategy for making outside wireless access to a Windows 10 machine difficult or impossible?
Spam

Exploit that Caused iPhones To Repeatedly Dial 911 Reveals Grave Cybersecurity Threat, Say Experts (9to5mac.com) 71

Ben Lovejoy, writing for 9to5Mac: We reported back in October on an iOS exploit that caused iPhones to repeatedly dial 911 without user intervention. It was said then that the volume of calls meant one 911 center was in 'immediate danger' of losing service, while two other centers had been at risk -- but a full investigation has now concluded that the incident was much more serious than it appeared at the time. It was initially thought that a few hundred calls were generated in a short time, but investigators now believe that one tweeted link that activated the exploit was clicked on 117,502 times, each click triggering a 911 call. The WSJ reports that law-enforcement officials and 911 experts fear that a targeted attack using the same technique could prove devastating. Of the 6,500 911 call centers nationwide, just 420 are believed to have implemented a cybersecurity program designed to protect them from this kind of attack.
Communications

New Technique Turns Random Objects Into FM Radio Stations (thestack.com) 69

"A new technology is enabling everyday objects, such as posters and clothing, to be transformed into FM radio stations," reports The Stack, citing research from the University of Washington. An anonymous reader quotes their report. The team has introduced a technique called "backscattering" which uses ambient low-power radio signals to broadcast messages from random objects to smartphones in the local vicinity.The researchers hope that the development could help support various smart city applications, and picture a future where anything from a poster at a bus stop to a road sign can transmit audio updates and information to passers-by.

During testing, the researchers were able to use the backscattering technique to create a "singing poster" which could send out the music of an advertised band to smartphone users at a distance of up to 4 meters and to cars in an 18-meter [59-foot] radius. "What we want to do is enable smart cities and fabrics where everyday objects in outdoor environments -- whether it's posters or street signs or even the shirt you're wearing -- can 'talk' to you by sending information to your phone or car," explained lead faculty and UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering Shyam Gollakota.

Cellphones

Jolla Sailfish Will Build A Google-Free Mobile OS For China (silicon.co.uk) 60

Jolla released their Android-free mobile Linux OS (Sailfish) on their own smartphones, "but has always intended to offer it to other manufacturers," according to Silicon. The next Sailfish smartphone was the Inex Aqua Fish, and people with Sony Xperia phones can now also run Sailfish through the Sony Open Devices Program. But their next big customer is the nation of China. Mickeycaskill quotes Silicon. The Sailfish China Consortium has gained the exclusive rights and license to develop a Chinese operating system based on Sailfish. Russia is also using Sailfish to build a national mobile OS in a bid to reduce its reliance on Western technology and reduce the risk of foreign surveillance. Jolla claimed that there have been many attempts to build a national OS on Android but these had been unsuccessful because of Google's control over the code.
One of the consortium's investors claims "several" major Chinese companies are already interested in joining them, adding "I have been closely following Sailfish OS development, and seen many Chinese projects fail, while Jolla's Sailfish OS has been steadily progressing. Sailfish OS is the only viable alternative for China."
Cellphones

California Government On the Dangers of Cellphones (cbslocal.com) 237

mi quotes a report from CBS Local: After keeping it hidden for years, California's Department of Public Health has released a draft document outlining health officials' concerns about cellphone radiation exposure. The previously unpublished document was released this week after a judge indicated she would order the documents be disclosed. Health officials' overall recommendation is to "increase the distance between you and your phone" by using a headset, the speaker phone function and text messaging. Health officials recommend not sleeping near your phone and not carry it in your pocket or directly on your body, unless it is off. The fact sheet also states that "EMFs can pass deeper into a child's brain than and adult's" so suggests parents limit their child's cellphone use to texting, important call and emergencies.
Businesses

Apple Cracks Down Further On Cobalt Supplier in Congo as Child Labor Persists (washingtonpost.com) 86

Last year, a Washington Post investigation found several instances of miners -- including children -- labored in hazardous, even deadly, conditions at Congo's artisanal cobalt supply chain. Amnesty International and other human rights groups also have alleged problems. Earlier this week, British broadcaster Sky New published an investigation that alleged continued problems in the cobalt supply chain. The Washington Post now reports: Apple said it has temporarily stopped buying cobalt mined by hand in Congo while it continues to deal with problems with child labor and harsh work conditions. The Post connected this troubling trade to Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company, a Chinese firm that is the largest buyer of artisanal cobalt in Congo and whose minerals are used in Apple products. Last year, Apple pledged to clean up its cobalt supply chain, but the tech giant said it wanted to avoid hurting the Congolese miners by cutting them off. Mining provides vital income for hundreds of thousands of people in one of the poorest countries in the world. Now, Apple says it has stopped -- for now -- buying cobalt from artisanal mines (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). "We have been working with Huayou on a program that will verify individual artisanal mines, according to our standards," Apple said in a statement, "and these mines will re-enter our supply chain when we are confident that the appropriate protections are in place."
Iphone

An 81-Year-Old Woman Just Created Her Own iPhone App (cnn.com) 60

After 43 years working in one of Japan's leading banks, 81-year-old Masako Wakamiya has launched an iPhone app called "Hinadan" that shows users how to stage traditional dolls for the Hinamatsuri festival. From a report on CNN Money: She says she felt compelled to do something after noticing a shortage of fun apps aimed at people her age. "We easily lose games when playing against young people, since our finger movements can't match their speed," Wakamiya told CNN. The retired banker asked a bunch of people to create games for seniors, but no one was interested. So she took matters into her own hands and achieved something many people half her age haven't done. "I wanted to create a fun app to get elderly people interested in smartphones," she said. "It took about half a year to develop." Wakamiya started using computers at age 60 when she was caring for her elderly mother and finding it difficult to get out and socialize with friends.
Android

Sorry, Apple, the Headphone Jack Isn't Going Anywhere (yahoo.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Rob Pegoraro via Yahoo Finance: Two things unite almost every phone on display here at Mobile World Congress 2017: Android and a headphone jack. Apple doesn't exhibit its wares at this trade show, so the domination of Google's operating system is predictable. But the headphone jack's persistence did not look so inevitable when Apple cut it from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last September. Lenovo's Motorola subsidiary had already shipped a phone without a headphone hack, the Moto Z, and Apple's influence over the rest of the smartphone industry remains formidable -- indeed, within months, the Chinese firm LeEco had debuted a lineup of Android phones devoid of headphone jacks. As my colleague David Pogue predicted in a post approving Apple's move: "Other brands worldwide will be following suit." The hardware on display here at the world's largest mobile tech conference, though, suggests otherwise. Two days of walking around the show floor showed companies expressing a consistent unwillingness to abandon the humble headphone jack, even on models as thin as, or thinner than, the iPhone 7. The MWC floor revealed only one company willing to do away with the headphone jack: HTC. The Taiwan-based firm, which has struggled financially for years despite shipping such well-reviewed models as the HTC 10, used its exhibit to showcase the U Ultra and the U Play, which rely on their USB-C ports for audio output. Unlike, Apple, though, the company didn't make the move to save space, but rather to incorporate its "USonic" feature, which lets the phones' headphones calibrate themselves to your ears and provide noise cancellation.
Government

UK: New Drivers Caught Using a Phone Will Lose Their License (bbc.com) 180

Under new rules in England, Scotland and Wales, drivers caught using a phone within two years of passing their test will have their license revoked. BBC reports: Penalties for using a phone at the wheel double from March 1 to six points and a 200 British pound fine. New drivers who get six points or more must retake their practical and theory. More experienced drivers can be banned if they get 12 points in three years. Can I check social media or texts if I'm queuing in traffic or stopped at traffic lights? No -- a hand held phone cannot be used, even if stopped at lights. Texting and scrolling social media (even if the phone is mounted on a hands-free holder) is distracting and dangerous. It doesn't come under the handheld mobile phone law but the police may decide to charge you with a number of other offenses. Can I use my phone to listen to music, play podcasts or watch video clips? You can't watch video clips -- not even if your phone is mounted in a hands-free holder. You can use your phone to listen to music and podcasts but only if your phone is in a hands-free holder or connected by Bluetooth. However, just as you can be distracted by the noise of a car radio, if it affects your ability to drive safely, you could still be prosecuted by the police. Can I use my phone's sat nav? Yes -- as long as the phone is mounted in a hands-free holder. If it's in your hands, it's illegal. However, if you are distracted by the sat nav and it affects your ability to drive safely, you could still be prosecuted by the police.
Chrome

Google Pulls the Plug On Its Pixel Laptops (engadget.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Although its new flagship phones have been doing brisk sales, Google's high-end, $1,299 Pixel-branded Chromebooks won't be seeing much love from the search giant in the near future. According to TechCrunch, reporting from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Google's SVP of hardware Rick Osterloh has announced the second version of the Pixel laptop will be the last of its kind. As TechCrunch notes, Google is trimming down the Pixel line to just the smartphones and the Pixel C tablet for now. Although there may be other devices carrying the name in the future, Osterloh said it was unlikely that its own laptops would be one of them.

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