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Businesses

Qualcomm Says Apple Broke Contract, Hindered Performance of Its Chipsets (arstechnica.com) 92

Qualcomm has filed a 139-page rebuttal of a lawsuit lodged by Apple in January in which the US chipmaker counterclaimed that the iPhone giant was "misrepresenting facts and making false statements." From a report on ArsTechnica: It alleged that Apple had "breached" and "mischaracterized" deals it had in place with Qualcomm and accused the Tim Cook-run firm of interfering with the chipmaker's "long-standing agreements" with iPhone and iPad manufacturers, such as Foxconn. In a statement, Qualcomm said, "Apple effectively chose to limit the performance of the Qualcomm-based iPhones by not taking advantage of the full potential speed of which Qualcomm's modems are capable. Apple's actions were intended to prevent consumers from realizing that iPhones containing Qualcomm chipsets performed far better than iPhones containing chipsets supplied by Intel."
Cellphones

FCC Kills Plan To Allow Mobile Phone Conversations On Flights (pcworld.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: On Monday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission killed a plan to allow mobile phone calls during commercial airline flights. Since 2013, the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration have considered allowing airline passengers to talk on the phones during flights, although the FAA also proposed rules requiring airlines to give passengers notice if they planned to allow phone calls. The plan to allow mobile phone calls on flights drew sharp objections from some passengers and flight attendants who had visions of dozens of passengers trying to talk over each other for entire flights. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday killed his agency's 2013 proceeding that sought to relax rules governing the use of mobile phones on airplanes. Under the FCC proposal, airlines would have decided if they allowed mobile phone conversations during flights.
Iphone

The iPhone 7 Has Arbitrary Software Locks That Prevent Repair (vice.com) 199

Jason Koebler, reporting for Motherboard: Apple has taken new and extreme measures to make the iPhone unrepairable. The company is now using software locks to prevent independent repair of specific parts of the phone. Specifically, the home buttons of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are not user replaceable, raising questions about both the future repairability of Apple products and the future of the thriving independent repair industry. The iPhone 7 home button will only work with the original home button that it was shipped with; if it breaks and needs to be replaced, a new one will only work if it is "recalibrated" in an Apple Store.
Communications

Comcast Launches New Wireless Service, Xfinity Mobile (cnbc.com) 46

Comcast announced Xfinity Mobile on Thursday, a new wireless service that will be available for its nearly 25 million broadband customers. From a report on CNBC: The company is hoping the new service will lock in existing customers as well as attract new ones, going after the 130 million mobile phone lines in places where Comcast offers services. The company says the service is "designed for the way people use their phones today, with Internet and data at the center of the experience." Comcast is not taking a Wi-Fi-first approach, but is pairing 4G LTE via Verizon's network along with Comcast's 16 million Wi-Fi hotspots, to which the service will automatically connect.
Android

Android Devices Can Be Fatally Hacked By Malicious Wi-Fi Networks (arstechnica.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A broad array of Android phones is vulnerable to attacks that use booby-trapped Wi-Fi signals to achieve full device takeover, a researcher has demonstrated. The vulnerability resides in a widely used Wi-Fi chipset manufactured by Broadcom and used in both iOS and Android devices. Apple patched the vulnerability with Monday's release of iOS 10.3.1. "An attacker within range may be able to execute arbitrary code on the Wi-Fi chip," Apple's accompanying advisory warned. In a highly detailed blog post published Tuesday, the Google Project Zero researcher who discovered the flaw said it allowed the execution of malicious code on a fully updated 6P "by Wi-Fi proximity alone, requiring no user interaction." Google is in the process of releasing an update in its April security bulletin. The fix is available only to a select number of device models, and even then it can take two weeks or more to be available as an over-the-air update to those who are eligible. Company representatives didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment for this post. The proof-of-concept exploit developed by Project Zero researcher Gal Beniamini uses Wi-Fi frames that contain irregular values. The values, in turn, cause the firmware running on Broadcom's wireless system-on-chip to overflow its stack. By using the frames to target timers responsible for carrying out regularly occurring events such as performing scans for adjacent networks, Beniamini managed to overwrite specific regions of device memory with arbitrary shellcode. Beniamini's code does nothing more than write a benign value to a specific memory address. Attackers could obviously exploit the same series of flaws to surreptitiously execute malicious code on vulnerable devices within range of a rogue access point.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Will Refund Millions of Unauthorized In-App Purchases Made By Kids (techcrunch.com) 49

Amazon will refund millions of dollars worth of unauthorized in-app purchased made by kids, having dropped its appeal of last year's ruling by a federal judge who sided with the Federal Trade Commission in the agency's lawsuit against Amazon. "The FTC's original complaint said that Amazon should be liable for millions of dollars it charged customers, because of the way its Appstore software was designed -- that is, it allowed kids to spend unlimited amounts of money in games and other apps without requiring parental consent," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The issue had to do with the way the Amazon Appstore's in-app purchasing system worked. The Amazon Appstore is the store that comes preloaded on Amazon mobile devices, like Kindle Fire tablets, for example, though there is a way to load it onto other Android devices, too. In Amazon's Appstore, which launched back in 2011, the company didn't originally require passwords on in-app purchases. This allowed kids to buy coins and other items to their hearts' content. One particularly awful example involved a game called "Ice Age Village" that offered an in-app purchase of $99.99. Amazon introduced password-protected in-app purchases in March 2012, but then only on those where the purchase exceeded $20. In early 2013, it updated the system again to require passwords, but also allowed a 15-minute window afterwards where no password was required. The FTC said Amazon didn't obtain "informed consent" until July 2014. To make matters worse, parents complaining weren't told how to get a refund and Amazon had even suggested at times that refunds weren't possible, the FTC's complaint had said. More than $70 million in in-app charges made between November 2011 and May 2016 may be eligible for refunds, the FTC notes. It's not likely that all affected customers will take the time to make their requests, however.
Canada

Canada's RCMP National Police Force Reveals Use of Secretive Cellphone Surveillance Technology (www.cbc.ca) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca: The RCMP for the first time is publicly confirming it uses cellphone surveillance devices in investigations across Canada -- but at the same time says the potential of unauthorized snooping in Ottawa, as reported by CBC News, poses a threat to national security. The RCMP held the briefing in the wake of a CBC News investigation that found evidence that devices known as IMSI catchers may be in use near government buildings in Ottawa for the purpose of illegal spying. After shrouding their own use of the technology in secrecy for years, the RCMP took the unprecedented step of speaking publicly about the devices -- also known as Stingrays or Mobile Device Identifiers (MDIs) -- to address public concern amidst mounting questions about their use. The RCMP says that MDIs -- of which it owns 10 -- have become "vital tools" deployed scores of times to identify and track mobile devices in 19 criminal investigations last year and another 24 in 2015. [RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam] says in all cases but one in 2016, police got warrants. The one exception was an exigent circumstance -- in other words, an emergency scenario "such as a kidnapping," said Adam, whose office tracks every instance where an MDI has been used by the RCMP. He says using an MDI requires senior police approval as well as getting a judge's order. And he says the technology provides only a first step in an investigation allowing officers to identify a device. He says only then can police apply for additional warrants to obtain a user's "basic subscriber information" such as name and address connected to the phone. Then, he says, only if the phone and suspect are targets of the investigation can police seek additional warrants to track the device or conduct a wiretap to capture communications. Adam says the RCMP currently has 24 technicians trained and authorized to deploy the devices across Canada. He knows other police forces own and use them too, but declined to name them.
Cellphones

Scientists Invent Smartphone Screen Material That Can Repair Its Own Scratches (ibtimes.co.uk) 55

drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Researchers say they have developed a new material that could pave the way for self-repairing smartphones, robots and other electronic devices. Scientists from the American Chemical Society claim that the material, which can stretch up to 50 times its usual size, is able to heal itself "like nothing has happened" even when cut in two. The material is flexible, transparent and shares similar properties to human skin. When exposed to electrical signals, a current is generated that creates a chemical bonding reaction between molecules. The most obvious applications for electronics devices seems to be self-healing displays, although lead researcher Dr Chao Wang is also exploring the possibility of a self-healing lithium-ion battery. While the technology is similar to the hydrogen-infused rear cover found on the LG G Flex, which allows for small scratches to be healed, the material developed by the American Medical Society is a completely new innovation that can "automatically stitch itself back together" within one day of being sliced into pieces. The team will present its research at a Tuesday meeting of the American Chemical Society, according to Business Insider.
Privacy

'Extreme Vetting' Would Require Visitors To US To Share Contacts, Passwords (theguardian.com) 505

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration is considering whether or not to deploy "extreme vetting" practices at airports around the world, which could force tourists from Britain and other countries visiting the U.S. to reveal their mobile phone contacts, social media passwords and financial data. "Travelers who want to enter the U.S. could also face questioning over their ideology, as Washington moves away from a default position of allowing people in to a more skeptical approach to visitors," reports The Guardian. From the report: Trump made the "extreme vetting" of foreign nationals to combat terrorism a major theme of his presidential election campaign. But his executive order imposing a travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries has twice been blocked in court. Media reports suggest it has already hurt the tourism industry. The changes might include visitors from the 38 countries -- the UK, France, Australia and Japan among them -- that participate in the visa waiver program, which requires adherence to strict U.S. standards in data sharing, passport control and other factors, one senior official told the Journal. This could require people to hand over their phones so officials can study their stored contacts and possibly other information. The aim is to "figure out who you are communicating with," a senior Department of Homeland Security official was quoted as saying. "What you can get on the average person's phone can be invaluable." A second change would ask applicants for their social media handles and passwords, so that officials could see information posted privately in addition to public posts, the Journal said. The Journal report said the DHS official working on the review said questions under consideration included whether visa applicants believe in so-called honor killings, how they view the treatment of women in society, whether they value the "sanctity of human life" and who they view as a legitimate target in a military operation.
Communications

IoT Garage Door Opener Maker Bricks Customer's Product After Bad Review (arstechnica.com) 421

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Denis Grisak, the man behind the Internet-connected garage opener Garadget, is having a very bad week. Grisak and his Colorado-based company SoftComplex launched Garadget, a device built using Wi-Fi-based cloud connectivity from Particle, on Indiegogo earlier this year, hitting 209 percent of his launch goal in February. But this week, his response to an unhappy customer has gotten Garadget a totally different sort of attention. On April 1, a customer who purchased Garadget on Amazon using the name R. Martin reported problems with the iPhone application that controls Garadget. He left an angry comment on the Garadget community board: "Just installed and attempting to register a door when the app started doing this. Have uninstalled and reinstalled iPhone app, powered phone off/on - wondering what kind of piece of shit I just purchased here..." Shortly afterward, not having gotten a response, Martin left a 1-star review of Garadget on Amazon: "Junk - DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY - iPhone app is a piece of junk, crashes constantly, start-up company that obviously has not performed proper quality assurance tests on their products." Grisak then responded by bricking Martin's product remotely, posting on the support forum: "Martin, The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. I'm happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I'm not going to tolerate any tantrums. At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036... will be denied server connection."
Android

Android Overtakes Windows as the Internet's Most Used Operating System (betanews.com) 138

As expected last month, Android has surpassed Windows to become the world's most used operating system, according to the web analytics firm StatCounter. From a report: Usage figures published by StatCounter show that Android accounted for 37.93 percent of the worldwide OS Internet usage share in March. Windows is not far behind at 37.91 percent, but Android taking the lead is being described as a "milestone in technology history." The fact that Android is now topping the charts can be attributed to the fact that mobile devices are now used to connect to the Internet far more frequently than desktop computers and laptop. Coupled with declining PC sales, Windows is starting to lose out overall, although it still accounts for 84 percent of the worldwide desktop operating system market.
Wireless Networking

The US May Finally See Widespread 'Super Wi-Fi' Deployment (siliconvalley.com) 76

The end of the FCC's spectrum auction last week "should give a clear indication of how much space will be available in each TV market for Super Wi-Fi," according to the Bay Area Newsgroup. An anonymous reader quotes their report: [T]he technology has promised speedy internet for rural citizens and to help urban dwellers get connected in buildings and rooms that are now twilight zones for Wi-Fi signals... And because the spectrum is regulated and largely reserved for television signals, Super Wi-Fi transmissions don't have to contend with interference from random devices like microwaves or cordless phones, as do signals in other wireless bands. Super Wi-Fi signals generally won't be as fast as regular Wi-Fi signals, but for many customers, they'll be faster and provide better service than what they'd get otherwise...

It's widely expected that there will be plenty of room for Super Wi-Fi in rural areas where there are few television signals, which is why companies like Cal.net and Q-Wireless have pressed forward with the technology even before the auction closes. The big question is whether regulators will preserve sufficient space for Super Wi-Fi in areas like New York and Los Angeles where there are lots of broadcast stations and in cities like Detroit and San Diego that have to share the airwaves with cities from other countries. If there's not enough space in those areas, Super Wi-Fi, in this country at least, will likely be relegated to rural areas.

Facebook

Telcos Gear Up To Fight Facebook and Google Over How You Log Into Websites (mashable.com) 50

Mashable has an interesting article that talks about the penetration of "social authentication" services: There are two ways to log in on websites: try to recall the email address and password you registered with -- or simply hit the "Facebook Login" button. The convenience of the latter underscores the popularity of social authentication options. You'll see Facebook and Google login buttons on popular sites including Netflix, Uber, Spotify, Imgur and Linkedin, just to name some. Facebook itself estimates that some 350 million people log into a new app or site with their Facebook credentials every month. Olga Kuznetsova, Engineering Manager at Facebook told us that the Facebook Login button ranks in the top three of consumer account creation and sign-in preferences worldwide. More than 85 of the top 100 apps in the U.S. market use Facebook's Login gateway as a login, she added. For years, Google and Facebook have assumed control over the social authentication space, the article adds, citing numbers from companies and analysts. But interestingly, telecom operators are prepping to fight for a slice of the space. So-called mobile identity is one of several projects being developed in the industry to reinforce the position of network operators, which have already suffered an erosion of their traditional communications businesses by the rise of large US technology groups such as Facebook and Google, analysts say. The article adds: Mobile Connect is an authentication solution that the GSMA, the global telecoms industry trade organisation, has been working on for over three years. Through Mobile Connect, GSMA is offering users a much more convenient and "more secure" sign-in option, Jaikishan Rajaraman, global head of technology at GSMA said. The authentication service only requires users to enter their phone number when signing in. There is no password box. When a customer enters her phone number, her carrier (telecom operator, in this case) vouches for her identity. Incredibly, over 42 operators in 22 nations are on-board with Mobile Connect, and the service is already live to over 3.1 billion people. The article adds that GSMA is in talks with governments to add Mobile Connect on their websites and apps. Interestingly, banks, that have long resisted the idea of having Google's and Facebook's authentication service, are also showing interesting.
Microsoft

Windows 10 Mobile Needs To Be Put Out of Its Misery (betanews.com) 180

From a column on BetaNews: It's time for Microsoft to pull the plug. Windows 10 Mobile has been on life support for a long time, and the software giant is only making things worse by not giving it the mercy killing it deserves. It may sound harsh, but there's no future for Windows on smartphones in its current state. Microsoft wants to keep the door open to future developments but, let's face it, when it decided to sell Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ through its stores it basically sealed its own platform's fate. There is no turning back from this. We know it and its fans know it too. [...] Really, the only reason I can see Microsoft developing Windows 10 Mobile -- or Windows on smartphones -- further is to give its fans the illusion that something could happen. One day. Someday. Eventually. Maybe. Hopefully. If all the stars align. And Apple and Google and all the other successful vendors are wiped out from the face of the Earth. Hey, it could happen!
Cellphones

Smartphones May Be To Blame For Unprecedented Spike In Pedestrian Deaths, Says Report (cnn.com) 200

According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, the United States saw its largest annual increase in pedestrian fatalities since such record keeping began 40 years ago. "The [association] estimated there were 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than 20 years," reports CNN. "Since 2010, pedestrian fatalities have grown at four times the rate of overall traffic deaths." From the report: The thing that has changed dramatically in recent years is smartphone use. The volume of wireless data used from 2014 to 2015 more than doubled, according to the Wireless Association. Drivers and pedestrians who are distracted by their smartphones are less likely to be aware of their surroundings, creating the potential for danger. The Governors Highway Safety Association looked at data from the first six months of 2016 that came from 50 state highway safety offices and the District of Columbia. The complete data will be available later this year. The findings come as traffic safety experts have called for totally eliminating deaths on roadways. Near-term solutions include designing roads and vehicles to be safer. Cutting down on speeding and drunk driving are obvious targets.

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