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Gary Edwards

Google's ARC Beta runs Android apps on Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, and Linux | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • So calling all developers: You can now (probably, maybe) run your Android apps on just about anything—Android, Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, and Linux—provided you fiddle with the ARC Welder and submit your app to the Chrome Web Store.
  • The App Runtime for Chrome and Native Client are hugely important projects because they potentially allow Google to push a "universal binary" strategy on developers. "Write your app for Android, and we'll make it run on almost every popular OS! (other than iOS)" Google Play Services support is a major improvement for ARC and signals just how ambitious this project is. Some day it will be a great sales pitch to convince developers to write for Android first, which gives them apps on all these desktop OSes for free.
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    Thanks Marbux. ARC appears to be an extraordinary technology. Funny but Florian has been pushing Native Client (NaCL) since it was first ported from Firefox to Chrome. Looks like he was right. "In September, Google launched ARC-the "App Runtime for Chrome,"-a project that allowed Android apps to run on Chrome OS. A few days later, a hack revealed the project's full potential: it enabled ARC on every "desktop" version of Chrome, meaning you could unofficially run Android apps on Chrome OS, Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. ARC made Android apps run on nearly every computing platform (save iOS). ARC is an early beta though so Google has kept the project's reach very limited-only a handful of apps have been ported to ARC, which have all been the result of close collaborations between Google and the app developer. Now though, Google is taking two big steps forward with the latest developer preview: it's allowing any developer to run their app on ARC via a new Chrome app packager, and it's allowing ARC to run on any desktop OS with a Chrome browser. ARC runs Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS thanks to Native Client (abbreviated "NaCL"). NaCL is a Chrome sandboxing technology that allows Chrome apps and plugins to run at "near native" speeds, taking full advantage of the system's CPU and GPU. Native Client turns Chrome into a development platform, write to it, and it'll run on all desktop Chrome browsers. Google ported a full Android stack to Native Client, allowing Android apps to run on most major OSes. With the original ARC release, there was no official process to getting an Android app running on the Chrome platform (other than working with Google). Now Google has released the adorably-named ARC Welder, a Chrome app which will convert any Android app into an ARC-powered Chrome app. It's mainly for developers to package up an APK and submit it to the Chrome Web Store, but anyone can package and launch an APK from the app directly."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Apple's Insistence On DRM And Other Restrictions Means EFF's New App Is Android-Only | Techdirt - 1 views

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    "from the eff-your-walled-garden dept The EFF has produced a new mobile app that allows users to access its alert center and instantly take action on issues pertaining to digital rights and other areas the group focuses on. And, it's Android-only, because the EFF took a long look at Apple's walled garden and said, "Include us out.""
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    "from the eff-your-walled-garden dept The EFF has produced a new mobile app that allows users to access its alert center and instantly take action on issues pertaining to digital rights and other areas the group focuses on. And, it's Android-only, because the EFF took a long look at Apple's walled garden and said, "Include us out.""
Paul Merrell

Staggering Variety of Clandestine Trackers Found In Popular Android Apps - 0 views

  • Researchers at Yale Privacy Lab and French nonprofit Exodus Privacy have documented the proliferation of tracking software on smartphones, finding that weather, flashlight, rideshare, and dating apps, among others, are infested with dozens of different types of trackers collecting vast amounts of information to better target advertising. Exodus security researchers identified 44 trackers in more than 300 apps for Google’s Android smartphone operating system. The apps, collectively, have been downloaded billions of times. Yale Privacy Lab, within the university’s law school, is working to replicate the Exodus findings and has already released reports on 25 of the trackers. Yale Privacy Lab researchers have only been able to analyze Android apps, but believe many of the trackers also exist on iOS, since companies often distribute for both platforms. To find trackers, the Exodus researchers built a custom auditing platform for Android apps, which searched through the apps for digital “signatures” distilled from known trackers. A signature might be a tell-tale set of keywords or string of bytes found in an app file, or a mathematically-derived “hash” summary of the file itself. The findings underscore the pervasiveness of tracking despite a permissions system on Android that supposedly puts users in control of their own data. They also highlight how a large and varied set of firms are working to enable tracking.
Gary Edwards

Is Linux dead for the desktop? - 1 views

  • Linux never had the apps
  • Charles King, an IT analyst who follows enterprise trends, says the big change is in IT. At one time, executives in charge of computing services were mostly concerned with operating systems and applications for massive throng of traditional business users. Those users have now flocked to mobile computing devices, but they still have a Windows PC sitting on their desk.
  • Today, Microsoft's lock (on the desktop, anyway) remains secure, even in the face of Apple's surge," King says. "Ironically enough, though, the open source model remains alive and well but mostly in the development of new standards and development platforms."
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  • David Johnson
  • What corporate end users really need is familiarity, consistency and compatibility - something Apple, Microsoft and Google seem more adept at offering."
  • Can desktop Linux OS be saved? Johnson says the best example of how to save Linux OS is the Chrome OS, an all-in-one laptop and desktop offering available through major consumer electronics companies such as LG (with their Chromebase all-in-one) and the Samsung Chromebook 2
  • The problem is that Chrome OS and Android aren't the same as Linux OS on the desktop. It's a complete reinvention. There are few Windows-like productivity apps and no knowledge worker apps designed for keyboard and mouse.
  • All of experts agree - Windows won every battle for the business user.
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    "For executives in charge of desktop deployments in a large company, Linux OS was once hailed as a saviour for corporate end users. With incredibly low pricing - free, with fee-based support plans, for example - distributions such as Ubuntu Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise offered a "good enough" user interface, along with plenty of powerful apps and a rich browser. A few years ago, both Dell and HP jumped on the bandwagon; today, they still offer "developer" and "workstation" models that come pre-loaded with a Linux install. Plus, anyone who follows the Linux market knows that Google has reimagined Linux as a user-friendly tablet interface (the wildly popular Android OS) and a browser-only desktop variant (Chrome OS). Linux also shows up on countless connected home gadgets, fitness trackers, watches and other low-cost devices, mostly because OS costs are so low. The desktop computing OS for end users has failed to capture any attention lately, though. Al Gillen, the programme vice president for servers and system software at IDC, says the Linux OS as a computing platform for end users is at least comatose - and probably dead. Yes, it has reemerged on Android and other devices, but it has gone almost completely silent as a competitor to Windows for mass deployment. As they say, you can hear the crickets chirping."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

How to Install and Run Android Apps in a Linux OS - Softpedia - 1 views

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    "Users only need to have Google Chrome installed Google has extended the support for its ARC Welder app and now Linux users can also run Android apps (APKs) right in their browser, with just the help of a downloadable Chrome app."
Matteo Spreafico

Google Redefines Disruption: The "Less Than Free" Business Model - 0 views

  • In the summer of 2007, excitement regarding the criticality of map data (specifically turn-by-turn navigation data) reached a fever pitch.  On July 23, 2007, TomTom, the leading portable GPS device maker, agreed to buy Tele Atlas for US$2.7 billion. Shortly thereafter, on October 1, Nokia agreed to buy NavTeq for a cool US$8.1 billion. Meanwhile Google was still evolving its strategy and no longer wanted to be limited by the terms of its two contracts. As such, they informed Tele Atlas and NavTeq that they wanted to modify their license terms to allow more liberty with respect to syndication and proliferation. NavTeq balked, and in September of 2008 Google quietly dropped NavTeq, moving to just one partner for its core mapping data. Tele Atlas eventually agreed to the term modifications, but perhaps they should have sensed something bigger at play.
  • Rumors abound about just how many cars Google has on the roads building it own turn-by-turn mapping data as well as its unique “Google Streetview” database. Whatever it is, it must be huge. This October 13th, just over one year after dropping NavTeq, the other shoe dropped as well. Google disconnected from Tele Atlas and began to offer maps that were free and clear of either license. These maps are based on a combination of their own data as well as freely available data. Two weeks after this, Google announces free turn-by-turn directions for all Android phones. This couldn’t have been a great day for the deal teams that worked on the respective Tele Atlas and NavTeq acquisitions.
  • Google’s free navigation feature announcement dealt a crushing blow to the GPS stocks. Garmin fell 16%. TomTom fell 21%. Imagine trying to maintain high royalty rates against this strategic move by Google. Android is not only a phone OS, it’s a CE OS. If Ford or BMW want to build an in-dash Android GPS, guess what? Google will give it to them for free.
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  • I then asked my friend, “so why would they ever use the Google (non open source) license version.”  (EDIT: One of the commenters below pointed out that all Android is open source, and the Google apps pack, including the GPS, is licensed on top.  Doesn’t change the argument, but wanted the correct data included here.)  Here was the big punch line – because Google will give you ad splits on search if you use that version!  That’s right; Google will pay you to use their mobile OS. I like to call this the “less than free” business model.
  • “Less than free” may not stop with the mobile phone. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt has been quite outspoken about his support for the Google Chrome OS. And there is no reason to believe that the “less than free” business model will not be used here as well. If Sony or HP or Dell builds a netbook based on Chrome OS, they will make money on every search each user initiates. Google, eager to protect its search share and market volume, will gladly pay the ad splits. Microsoft, who was already forced to lower Windows netbook pricing to fend off Linux, will be dancing with a business model inversion of epic proportion – from “you pay me” to “I pay you.”  It’s really hard to build a compensation package for your sales team on those economics.
Gary Edwards

10 important tips for living a multi-platform life | CITEworld - 0 views

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    "With the rise of different mobile platforms and content ecosystems over the past decade, the technology world is becoming increasingly fragmented. Fifteen years ago, there were only a handful of platforms that mattered -- Windows PCs, Macs, and perhaps Linux on the desktop, and primarily BlackBerry in the mobile space. Today, the number is far greater -- Windows (further divided into the pre- and post-Windows 8 offerings), OS X, Linux, Chrome OS, Android (in many varying incarnations), iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Amazon's Kindle and Fire products, to name the most common. Each of these platforms has become increasingly insular, making lock-in to a specific vendor, device, or OS much more common.  Featured Resource Presented by Citrix Systems 10 essential elements for a secure enterprise mobility strategy Best practices for protecting sensitive business information while making people productive from LEARN MORE Although it is possible to switch from an iPhone to Android, or from Windows to Mac, there is often a trade-off in making the switch. Apps, music, ebooks, and other content may need to be re-purchased. There will likely be some learning curve. The offerings in the new ecosystem -- apps or content -- may not match the experience to which we've become accustomed, and some may not be available at all.  Here's some guidance on how to switch platforms."
Gary Edwards

Google Unveils Native Office Editing to Google Docs and Android for Work - 0 views

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    "Google today announced that it will bring native Office editing to its Google Docs cloud service. The company also unveiled a new Android for Work program that will help enterprises deploy devices." ....... What? This is huge but the article only provides the announcement.
Paul Merrell

Cy Vance's Proposal to Backdoor Encrypted Devices Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities | Just Security - 0 views

  • Less than a week after the attacks in Paris — while the public and policymakers were still reeling, and the investigation had barely gotten off the ground — Cy Vance, Manhattan’s District Attorney, released a policy paper calling for legislation requiring companies to provide the government with backdoor access to their smartphones and other mobile devices. This is the first concrete proposal of this type since September 2014, when FBI Director James Comey reignited the “Crypto Wars” in response to Apple’s and Google’s decisions to use default encryption on their smartphones. Though Comey seized on Apple’s and Google’s decisions to encrypt their devices by default, his concerns are primarily related to end-to-end encryption, which protects communications that are in transit. Vance’s proposal, on the other hand, is only concerned with device encryption, which protects data stored on phones. It is still unclear whether encryption played any role in the Paris attacks, though we do know that the attackers were using unencrypted SMS text messages on the night of the attack, and that some of them were even known to intelligence agencies and had previously been under surveillance. But regardless of whether encryption was used at some point during the planning of the attacks, as I lay out below, prohibiting companies from selling encrypted devices would not prevent criminals or terrorists from being able to access unbreakable encryption. Vance’s primary complaint is that Apple’s and Google’s decisions to provide their customers with more secure devices through encryption interferes with criminal investigations. He claims encryption prevents law enforcement from accessing stored data like iMessages, photos and videos, Internet search histories, and third party app data. He makes several arguments to justify his proposal to build backdoors into encrypted smartphones, but none of them hold water.
  • Before addressing the major privacy, security, and implementation concerns that his proposal raises, it is worth noting that while an increase in use of fully encrypted devices could interfere with some law enforcement investigations, it will help prevent far more crimes — especially smartphone theft, and the consequent potential for identity theft. According to Consumer Reports, in 2014 there were more than two million victims of smartphone theft, and nearly two-thirds of all smartphone users either took no steps to secure their phones or their data or failed to implement passcode access for their phones. Default encryption could reduce instances of theft because perpetrators would no longer be able to break into the phone to steal the data.
  • Vance argues that creating a weakness in encryption to allow law enforcement to access data stored on devices does not raise serious concerns for security and privacy, since in order to exploit the vulnerability one would need access to the actual device. He considers this an acceptable risk, claiming it would not be the same as creating a widespread vulnerability in encryption protecting communications in transit (like emails), and that it would be cheap and easy for companies to implement. But Vance seems to be underestimating the risks involved with his plan. It is increasingly important that smartphones and other devices are protected by the strongest encryption possible. Our devices and the apps on them contain astonishing amounts of personal information, so much that an unprecedented level of harm could be caused if a smartphone or device with an exploitable vulnerability is stolen, not least in the forms of identity fraud and credit card theft. We bank on our phones, and have access to credit card payments with services like Apple Pay. Our contact lists are stored on our phones, including phone numbers, emails, social media accounts, and addresses. Passwords are often stored on people’s phones. And phones and apps are often full of personal details about their lives, from food diaries to logs of favorite places to personal photographs. Symantec conducted a study, where the company spread 50 “lost” phones in public to see what people who picked up the phones would do with them. The company found that 95 percent of those people tried to access the phone, and while nearly 90 percent tried to access private information stored on the phone or in other private accounts such as banking services and email, only 50 percent attempted contacting the owner.
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  • Vance attempts to downplay this serious risk by asserting that anyone can use the “Find My Phone” or Android Device Manager services that allow owners to delete the data on their phones if stolen. However, this does not stand up to scrutiny. These services are effective only when an owner realizes their phone is missing and can take swift action on another computer or device. This delay ensures some period of vulnerability. Encryption, on the other hand, protects everyone immediately and always. Additionally, Vance argues that it is safer to build backdoors into encrypted devices than it is to do so for encrypted communications in transit. It is true that there is a difference in the threats posed by the two types of encryption backdoors that are being debated. However, some manner of widespread vulnerability will inevitably result from a backdoor to encrypted devices. Indeed, the NSA and GCHQ reportedly hacked into a database to obtain cell phone SIM card encryption keys in order defeat the security protecting users’ communications and activities and to conduct surveillance. Clearly, the reality is that the threat of such a breach, whether from a hacker or a nation state actor, is very real. Even if companies go the extra mile and create a different means of access for every phone, such as a separate access key for each phone, significant vulnerabilities will be created. It would still be possible for a malicious actor to gain access to the database containing those keys, which would enable them to defeat the encryption on any smartphone they took possession of. Additionally, the cost of implementation and maintenance of such a complex system could be high.
  • Privacy is another concern that Vance dismisses too easily. Despite Vance’s arguments otherwise, building backdoors into device encryption undermines privacy. Our government does not impose a similar requirement in any other context. Police can enter homes with warrants, but there is no requirement that people record their conversations and interactions just in case they someday become useful in an investigation. The conversations that we once had through disposable letters and in-person conversations now happen over the Internet and on phones. Just because the medium has changed does not mean our right to privacy has.
  • In addition to his weak reasoning for why it would be feasible to create backdoors to encrypted devices without creating undue security risks or harming privacy, Vance makes several flawed policy-based arguments in favor of his proposal. He argues that criminals benefit from devices that are protected by strong encryption. That may be true, but strong encryption is also a critical tool used by billions of average people around the world every day to protect their transactions, communications, and private information. Lawyers, doctors, and journalists rely on encryption to protect their clients, patients, and sources. Government officials, from the President to the directors of the NSA and FBI, and members of Congress, depend on strong encryption for cybersecurity and data security. There are far more innocent Americans who benefit from strong encryption than there are criminals who exploit it. Encryption is also essential to our economy. Device manufacturers could suffer major economic losses if they are prohibited from competing with foreign manufacturers who offer more secure devices. Encryption also protects major companies from corporate and nation-state espionage. As more daily business activities are done on smartphones and other devices, they may now hold highly proprietary or sensitive information. Those devices could be targeted even more than they are now if all that has to be done to access that information is to steal an employee’s smartphone and exploit a vulnerability the manufacturer was required to create.
  • Vance also suggests that the US would be justified in creating such a requirement since other Western nations are contemplating requiring encryption backdoors as well. Regardless of whether other countries are debating similar proposals, we cannot afford a race to the bottom on cybersecurity. Heads of the intelligence community regularly warn that cybersecurity is the top threat to our national security. Strong encryption is our best defense against cyber threats, and following in the footsteps of other countries by weakening that critical tool would do incalculable harm. Furthermore, even if the US or other countries did implement such a proposal, criminals could gain access to devices with strong encryption through the black market. Thus, only innocent people would be negatively affected, and some of those innocent people might even become criminals simply by trying to protect their privacy by securing their data and devices. Finally, Vance argues that David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, supported the idea that court-ordered decryption doesn’t violate human rights, provided certain criteria are met, in his report on the topic. However, in the context of Vance’s proposal, this seems to conflate the concepts of court-ordered decryption and of government-mandated encryption backdoors. The Kaye report was unequivocal about the importance of encryption for free speech and human rights. The report concluded that:
  • States should promote strong encryption and anonymity. National laws should recognize that individuals are free to protect the privacy of their digital communications by using encryption technology and tools that allow anonymity online. … States should not restrict encryption and anonymity, which facilitate and often enable the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Blanket prohibitions fail to be necessary and proportionate. States should avoid all measures that weaken the security that individuals may enjoy online, such as backdoors, weak encryption standards and key escrows. Additionally, the group of intelligence experts that was hand-picked by the President to issue a report and recommendations on surveillance and technology, concluded that: [R]egarding encryption, the U.S. Government should: (1) fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards; (2) not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software; and (3) increase the use of encryption and urge US companies to do so, in order to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage.
  • The clear consensus among human rights experts and several high-ranking intelligence experts, including the former directors of the NSA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and DHS, is that mandating encryption backdoors is dangerous. Unaddressed Concerns: Preventing Encrypted Devices from Entering the US and the Slippery Slope In addition to the significant faults in Vance’s arguments in favor of his proposal, he fails to address the question of how such a restriction would be effectively implemented. There is no effective mechanism for preventing code from becoming available for download online, even if it is illegal. One critical issue the Vance proposal fails to address is how the government would prevent, or even identify, encrypted smartphones when individuals bring them into the United States. DHS would have to train customs agents to search the contents of every person’s phone in order to identify whether it is encrypted, and then confiscate the phones that are. Legal and policy considerations aside, this kind of policy is, at the very least, impractical. Preventing strong encryption from entering the US is not like preventing guns or drugs from entering the country — encrypted phones aren’t immediately obvious as is contraband. Millions of people use encrypted devices, and tens of millions more devices are shipped to and sold in the US each year.
  • Finally, there is a real concern that if Vance’s proposal were accepted, it would be the first step down a slippery slope. Right now, his proposal only calls for access to smartphones and devices running mobile operating systems. While this policy in and of itself would cover a number of commonplace devices, it may eventually be expanded to cover laptop and desktop computers, as well as communications in transit. The expansion of this kind of policy is even more worrisome when taking into account the speed at which technology evolves and becomes widely adopted. Ten years ago, the iPhone did not even exist. Who is to say what technology will be commonplace in 10 or 20 years that is not even around today. There is a very real question about how far law enforcement will go to gain access to information. Things that once seemed like merely science fiction, such as wearable technology and artificial intelligence that could be implanted in and work with the human nervous system, are now available. If and when there comes a time when our “smart phone” is not really a device at all, but is rather an implant, surely we would not grant law enforcement access to our minds.
  • Policymakers should dismiss Vance’s proposal to prohibit the use of strong encryption to protect our smartphones and devices in order to ensure law enforcement access. Undermining encryption, regardless of whether it is protecting data in transit or at rest, would take us down a dangerous and harmful path. Instead, law enforcement and the intelligence community should be working to alter their skills and tactics in a fast-evolving technological world so that they are not so dependent on information that will increasingly be protected by encryption.
Paul Merrell

Surveillance scandal rips through hacker community | Security & Privacy - CNET News - 0 views

  • One security start-up that had an encounter with the FBI was Wickr, a privacy-forward text messaging app for the iPhone with an Android version in private beta. Wickr's co-founder Nico Sell told CNET at Defcon, "Wickr has been approached by the FBI and asked for a backdoor. We said, 'No.'" The mistrust runs deep. "Even if [the NSA] stood up tomorrow and said that [they] have eliminated these programs," said Marlinspike, "How could we believe them? How can we believe that anything they say is true?" Where does security innovation go next? The immediate future of information security innovation most likely lies in software that provides an existing service but with heightened privacy protections, such as webmail that doesn't mine you for personal data.
  • Wickr's Sell thinks that her company has hit upon a privacy innovation that a few others are also doing, but many will soon follow: the company itself doesn't store user data. "[The FBI] would have to force us to build a new app. With the current app there's no way," she said, that they could incorporate backdoor access to Wickr users' texts or metadata. "Even if you trust the NSA 100 percent that they're going to use [your data] correctly," Sell said, "Do you trust that they're going to be able to keep it safe from hackers? What if somebody gets that database and posts it online?" To that end, she said, people will start seeing privacy innovation for services that don't currently provide it. Calling it "social networks 2.0," she said that social network competitors will arise that do a better job of protecting their customer's privacy and predicted that some that succeed will do so because of their emphasis on privacy. Abine's recent MaskMe browser add-on and mobile app for creating disposable e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards is another example of a service that doesn't have access to its own users' data.
  • The issue with balancing privacy and surveillance is that the wireless carriers are not interested in privacy, he said. "They've been providing wiretapping for 100 years. Apple may in the next year protect voice calls," he said, and said that the best hope for ending widespread government surveillance will be the makers of mobile operating systems like Apple and Google. Not all upcoming security innovation will be focused on that kind of privacy protection. Security researcher Brandon Wiley showed off at Defcon a protocol he calls Dust that can obfuscate different kinds of network traffic, with the end goal of preventing censorship. "I only make products about letting you say what you want to say anywhere in the world," such as content critical of governments, he said. Encryption can hide the specifics of the traffic, but some governments have figured out that they can simply block all encrypted traffic, he said. The Dust protocol would change that, he said, making it hard to tell the difference between encrypted and unencrypted traffic. It's hard to build encryption into pre-existing products, Wiley said. "I think people are going to make easy-to-use, encrypted apps, and that's going to be the future."
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  • Stamos predicted changes in services that companies with cloud storage offer, including offering customers the ability to store their data outside of the U.S. "If they want to stay competitive, they're going to have to," he said. But, he cautioned, "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service." Soghoian added, "The only way to keep a service running is to pay them money." This, he said, is going to give rise to a new wave of ad-free, privacy protective subscription services.
  • Companies could face severe consequences from their security experts, said Stamos, if the in-house experts find out that they've been lied to about providing government access to customer data. You could see "lots of resignations and maybe publicly," he said. "It wouldn't hurt their reputations to go out in a blaze of glory." Perhaps not surprisingly, Marlinspike sounded a hopeful call for non-destructive activism on Defcon's 21st anniversary. "As hackers, we don't have a lot of influence on policy. I hope that's something that we can focus our energy on," he said.
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    NSA as the cause of the next major disruption in the social networking service industry?  Grief ahead for Google? Note the point made that: "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service" where the encryption/decryption takes place on the client side. 
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

UK Authorities Launch Facebook Piracy Crackdown | TorrentFreak - 0 views

    • Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.
       
      # ! Oh... now targeting social -better business than # ! yours- networks...
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    [ Andy on June 25, 2015 C: 0 Breaking Trading standards officers and police are carrying out a crackdown across England, Wales and Northern Ireland against those who offer pirate and counterfeit products via Facebook. Interestingly, 'pirate' Android boxes have been targeted again, not only for streaming content illegally, but also for having "dangerous" chargers. ...]
Gary Edwards

Can C.E.O. Satya Nadella Save Microsoft? | Vanity Fair - 0 views

  • he new world of computing is a radical break from the past. That’s because of the growth of mobile devices and cloud computing. In the old world, corporations owned and ran Windows P.C.’s and Window servers in their own facilities, with the necessary software installed on them. Everyone used Windows, so everything was developed for Windows. It was a virtuous circle for Microsoft.
  • Now the processing power is in the cloud, and very sophisticated applications, from e-mail to tools you need to run a business, can be run by logging onto a Web site, not from pre-installed software. In addition, the way we work (and play) has shifted from P.C.’s to mobile devices—where Android and Apple’s iOS each outsell Windows by more than 10 to 1. Why develop software to run on Windows if no one is using Windows? Why use Windows if nothing you want can run on it? The virtuous circle has turned vicious.
  • Part of why Microsoft failed with devices is that competitors upended its business model. Google doesn’t charge for the operating system. That’s because Google makes its money on search. Apple can charge high prices because of the beauty and elegance of its devices, where the software and hardware are integrated in one gorgeous package. Meanwhile, Microsoft continued to force outside manufacturers, whose products simply weren’t as compelling as Apple’s, to pay for a license for Windows. And it didn’t allow Office to be used on non-Windows phones and tablets. “The whole philosophy of the company was Windows first,” says Heather Bellini, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. Of course it was: that’s how Microsoft had always made its money.
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  • Nadella lived this dilemma because his job at Microsoft included figuring out the cloud-based future while maintaining the highly profitable Windows server business. And so he did a bunch of things that were totally un-Microsoft-like. He went to talk to start-ups to find out why they weren’t using Microsoft. He put massive research-and-development dollars behind Azure, a cloud-based platform that Microsoft had developed in Skunk Works fashion, which by definition took resources away from the highly profitable existing business.
  • At its core, Azure uses Windows server technology. That helps existing Windows applications run seamlessly on Azure. Technologists sometimes call what Microsoft has done a “hybrid cloud” because companies can use Azure alongside their pre-existing on-site Windows servers. At the same time, Nadella also to some extent has embraced open-source software—free code that doesn’t require a license from Microsoft—so that someone could develop something using non-Microsoft technology, and it would run on Azure. That broadens Azure’s appeal.
  • “In some ways the way people think about Bill and Steve is almost a Rorschach test.” For those who romanticize the Gates era, Microsoft’s current predicament will always be Ballmer’s fault. For others, it’s not so clear. “He left Steve holding a big bag of shit,” the former executive says of Gates. In the year Ballmer officially took over, Microsoft was found to be a predatory monopolist by the U.S. government and was ordered to split into two; the cost of that to Gates and his company can never be calculated. In addition, the dotcom bubble had burst, causing Microsoft stock to collapse, which resulted in a simmering tension between longtime employees, whom the company had made rich, and newer ones, who had missed the gravy train.
  • Right now, Windows itself is fragmented: applications developed for one Windows device, say a P.C., don’t even necessarily work on another Windows device. And if Microsoft develops a new killer application, it almost has to be released for Android and Apple phones, given their market dominance, thereby strengthening those eco-systems, too.
  • They even have a catchphrase: “Re-inventing productivity.”
  • Microsoft’s historical reluctance to open Windows and Office is why it was such a big deal when in late March, less than two months after becoming C.E.O., Nadella announced that Microsoft would offer Office for Apple’s iPad. A team at the company had been working on it for about a year. Ballmer says he would have released it eventually, but Nadella did it immediately. Nadella also announced that Windows would be free for devices smaller than nine inches, meaning phones and small tablets. “Now that we have 30 million users on the iPad using it, that is 30 million people who never used Office before [on an iPad,]” he says. “And to me that’s what really drives us.” These are small moves in some ways, and yet they are also big. “It’s the first time I have listened to a senior Microsoft executive admit that they are behind,” says one institutional investor. “The fact that they are giving away Windows, their bread and butter for 25 years—it is quite a fundamental change.”
  • And whoever does the best job of building the right software experiences to give both organizations and individuals time back so that they can get more out of their time, that’s the core of this company—that’s the soul. That’s what Bill started this company with. That’s the Office franchise. That’s the Windows franchise. We have to re-invent them. . . . That’s where this notion of re-inventing productivity comes from.”
  • what is scarce in all of this abundance is human attention
  • At the Microsoft board meeting in late June 2013, Ballmer announced he had a handshake deal with Nokia’s management to buy the company, pending the Microsoft board’s approval, according to a source close to the events. Ballmer thought he had it and left before the post-board-meeting dinner to attend his son’s middle-school graduation. When he came back the next day, he found that the board had pulled a coup: they informed him they weren’t doing the deal, and it wasn’t up for discussion. For Ballmer, it seems, the unforgivable thing was that Gates had been part of the coup, which Ballmer saw as the ultimate betrayal.
  • Ballmer might be a complicated character, but he has nothing on Gates, whose contradictions have long fascinated Microsoft-watchers. He is someone who has no problem humiliating individuals—he might not even notice—but who genuinely cares deeply about entire populations and is deeply loyal. He is generous in the biggest ways imaginable, and yet in small things, like picking up a lunch tab, he can be shockingly cheap. He can’t make small talk and can come across as totally lacking in E.Q. “The rules of human life that allow you to get along are not complicated,” says one person who knows Gates. “He could write a book on it, but he can’t do it!”
  • And the original idea of having great software people and broad software products and Office being the primary tool that people look to across all these devices, that’ s as true today and as strong as ever.”
  • Meeting Room Plus
  • But he combines that with flashes of insight and humor that leave some wondering whether he can’t do it or simply chooses not to, or both. His most pronounced characteristic shouldn’t be simply labeled a competitive streak, because it is really a fierce, deep need to win. The dislike it bred among his peers in the industry is well known—“Silicon Bully” was the title of an infamous magazine story about him. And yet he left Microsoft for the philanthropic world, where there was no one to bully, only intractable problems to solve.
  • “The Irrelevance of Microsoft” is actually the title of a blog post by an analyst named Benedict Evans, who works at the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. On his blog, Evans pointed out that Microsoft’s share of all computing devices that we use to connect to the Internet, including P.C.’s, phones, and tablets, has plunged from 90 percent in 2009 to just around 20 percent today. This staggering drop occurred not because Microsoft lost ground in personal computers, on which its software still dominates, but rather because it has failed to adapt its products to smartphones, where all the growth is, and tablets.
  • The board told Ballmer they wanted him to stay, he says, and they did eventually agree to a slightly different version of the deal. In September, Microsoft announced it was buying Nokia’s devices-and-services business for $7.2 billion. Why? The board finally realized the downside: without Nokia, Microsoft was effectively done in the smartphone business. But, for Ballmer, the damage was done, in more ways than one. He now says it became clear to him that despite the lack of a new C.E.O. he couldn’t stay. Cultural change, he decided, required a change at the top, and, he says,“there was too much water under the bridge with this board.” The feeling was mutual. As a source close to Microsoft says, no one, including Gates, tried to stop him from quitting.
  • in Wall Street’s eyes, Nadella can do no wrong. Microsoft’s stock has risen 30 percent since he became C.E.O., increasing its market value by $87 billion. “It’s interesting with Satya,” says one person who observes him with investors. “He is not a business guy or a financial analyst, but he finds a common language with investors, and in his short tenure, they leave going, Wow.” But the honeymoon is the easy part.
  • “He was so publicly and so early in life defined as the brilliant guy,” says a person who has observed him. “Anything that threatens that, he becomes narcissistic and defensive.” Or as another person puts it, “He throws hissy fits when he doesn’t get his way.”
  • round three-quarters of Microsoft’s profits come from the two fabulously successful products on which the company was built: the Windows operating system, which essentially makes personal computers run, and Office, the suite of applications that includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Financially speaking, Microsoft is still extraordinarily powerful. In the last 12 months the company reported sales of $86.83 billion and earnings of $22.07 billion; it has $85.7 billion of cash on its balance sheet. But the company is facing a confluence of threats that is all the more staggering given Microsoft’s sheer size. Competitors such as Google and Apple have upended Microsoft’s business model, making it unclear where Windows will fit in the world, and even challenging Office. In the Valley, there are two sayings that everyone regards as truth. One is that profits follow relevance. The other is that there’s a difference between strategic position and financial position. “It’s easy to be in denial and think the financials reflect the current reality,” says a close observer of technology firms. “They do not.”
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    Awesome article describing the history of Microsoft as seen through the lives of it's three CEO's: Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Satya Nadella
Paul Merrell

Hackers Prove Fingerprints Are Not Secure, Now What? | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently revealed that an estimated 5.6 million government employees were affected by the hack; and not 1.1 million as previously assumed.
  • Samuel Schumach, spokesman for the OPM, said: “As part of the government’s ongoing work to notify individuals affected by the theft of background investigation records, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense have been analyzing impacted data to verify its quality and completeness. Of the 21.5 million individuals whose Social Security Numbers and other sensitive information were impacted by the breach, the subset of individuals whose fingerprints have been stolen has increased from a total of approximately 1.1 million to approximately 5.6 million.” This endeavor expended the use of the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Pentagon. Schumer added that “if, in the future, new means are developed to misuse the fingerprint data, the government will provide additional information to individuals whose fingerprints may have been stolen in this breach.” However, we do not need to wait for the future for fingerprint data to be misused and coveted by hackers.
  • Look no further than the security flaws in Samsung’s new Galaxy 5 smartphone as was demonstrated by researchers at Security Research Labs (SRL) showing how fingerprints, iris scans and other biometric identifiers could be fabricated and yet authenticated by the Apple Touch ID fingerprints scanner. The shocking part of this demonstration is that this hack was achieved less than 2 days after the technology was released to the public by Apple. Ben Schlabs, researcher for SRL explained: “We expected we’d be able to spoof the S5’s Finger Scanner, but I hoped it would at least be a challenge. The S5 Finger Scanner feature offers nothing new except—because of the way it is implemented in this Android device—slightly higher risk than that already posed by previous devices.” Schlabs and other researchers discovered that “the S5 has no mechanism requiring a password when encountering a large number of incorrect finger swipes.” By rebotting the smartphone, Schlabs could force “the handset to accept an unlimited number of incorrect swipes without requiring users to enter a password [and] the S5 fingerprint authenticator [could] be associated with sensitive banking or payment apps such as PayPal.”
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  • Schlab said: “Perhaps most concerning is that Samsung does not seem to have learned from what others have done less poorly. Not only is it possible to spoof the fingerprint authentication even after the device has been turned off, but the implementation also allows for seemingly unlimited authentication attempts without ever requiring a password. Incorporation of fingerprint authentication into highly sensitive apps such as PayPal gives a would-be attacker an even greater incentive to learn the simple skill of fingerprint spoofing.” Last year Hackers from the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) proved Apple wrong when the corporation insisted that their new iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor is “a convenient and highly secure way to access your phone.” CCC stated that it is as easy as stealing a fingerprint from a drinking glass – and anyone can do it.
Paul Merrell

Edward Snowden Explains How To Reclaim Your Privacy - 0 views

  • Micah Lee: What are some operational security practices you think everyone should adopt? Just useful stuff for average people. Edward Snowden: [Opsec] is important even if you’re not worried about the NSA. Because when you think about who the victims of surveillance are, on a day-to-day basis, you’re thinking about people who are in abusive spousal relationships, you’re thinking about people who are concerned about stalkers, you’re thinking about children who are concerned about their parents overhearing things. It’s to reclaim a level of privacy. The first step that anyone could take is to encrypt their phone calls and their text messages. You can do that through the smartphone app Signal, by Open Whisper Systems. It’s free, and you can just download it immediately. And anybody you’re talking to now, their communications, if it’s intercepted, can’t be read by adversaries. [Signal is available for iOS and Android, and, unlike a lot of security tools, is very easy to use.] You should encrypt your hard disk, so that if your computer is stolen the information isn’t obtainable to an adversary — pictures, where you live, where you work, where your kids are, where you go to school. [I’ve written a guide to encrypting your disk on Windows, Mac, and Linux.] Use a password manager. One of the main things that gets people’s private information exposed, not necessarily to the most powerful adversaries, but to the most common ones, are data dumps. Your credentials may be revealed because some service you stopped using in 2007 gets hacked, and your password that you were using for that one site also works for your Gmail account. A password manager allows you to create unique passwords for every site that are unbreakable, but you don’t have the burden of memorizing them. [The password manager KeePassX is free, open source, cross-platform, and never stores anything in the cloud.]
  • The other thing there is two-factor authentication. The value of this is if someone does steal your password, or it’s left or exposed somewhere … [two-factor authentication] allows the provider to send you a secondary means of authentication — a text message or something like that. [If you enable two-factor authentication, an attacker needs both your password as the first factor and a physical device, like your phone, as your second factor, to login to your account. Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, GitHub, Battle.net, and tons of other services all support two-factor authentication.]
  • We should armor ourselves using systems we can rely on every day. This doesn’t need to be an extraordinary lifestyle change. It doesn’t have to be something that is disruptive. It should be invisible, it should be atmospheric, it should be something that happens painlessly, effortlessly. This is why I like apps like Signal, because they’re low friction. It doesn’t require you to re-order your life. It doesn’t require you to change your method of communications. You can use it right now to talk to your friends.
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  • Lee: What do you think about Tor? Do you think that everyone should be familiar with it, or do you think that it’s only a use-it-if-you-need-it thing? Snowden: I think Tor is the most important privacy-enhancing technology project being used today. I use Tor personally all the time. We know it works from at least one anecdotal case that’s fairly familiar to most people at this point. That’s not to say that Tor is bulletproof. What Tor does is it provides a measure of security and allows you to disassociate your physical location. … But the basic idea, the concept of Tor that is so valuable, is that it’s run by volunteers. Anyone can create a new node on the network, whether it’s an entry node, a middle router, or an exit point, on the basis of their willingness to accept some risk. The voluntary nature of this network means that it is survivable, it’s resistant, it’s flexible. [Tor Browser is a great way to selectively use Tor to look something up and not leave a trace that you did it. It can also help bypass censorship when you’re on a network where certain sites are blocked. If you want to get more involved, you can volunteer to run your own Tor node, as I do, and support the diversity of the Tor network.]
  • Lee: So that is all stuff that everybody should be doing. What about people who have exceptional threat models, like future intelligence-community whistleblowers, and other people who have nation-state adversaries? Maybe journalists, in some cases, or activists, or people like that? Snowden: So the first answer is that you can’t learn this from a single article. The needs of every individual in a high-risk environment are different. And the capabilities of the adversary are constantly improving. The tooling changes as well. What really matters is to be conscious of the principles of compromise. How can the adversary, in general, gain access to information that is sensitive to you? What kinds of things do you need to protect? Because of course you don’t need to hide everything from the adversary. You don’t need to live a paranoid life, off the grid, in hiding, in the woods in Montana. What we do need to protect are the facts of our activities, our beliefs, and our lives that could be used against us in manners that are contrary to our interests. So when we think about this for whistleblowers, for example, if you witnessed some kind of wrongdoing and you need to reveal this information, and you believe there are people that want to interfere with that, you need to think about how to compartmentalize that.
  • Tell no one who doesn’t need to know. [Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend of several years, didn’t know that he had been collecting documents to leak to journalists until she heard about it on the news, like everyone else.] When we talk about whistleblowers and what to do, you want to think about tools for protecting your identity, protecting the existence of the relationship from any type of conventional communication system. You want to use something like SecureDrop, over the Tor network, so there is no connection between the computer that you are using at the time — preferably with a non-persistent operating system like Tails, so you’ve left no forensic trace on the machine you’re using, which hopefully is a disposable machine that you can get rid of afterward, that can’t be found in a raid, that can’t be analyzed or anything like that — so that the only outcome of your operational activities are the stories reported by the journalists. [SecureDrop is a whistleblower submission system. Here is a guide to using The Intercept’s SecureDrop server as safely as possible.]
  • And this is to be sure that whoever has been engaging in this wrongdoing cannot distract from the controversy by pointing to your physical identity. Instead they have to deal with the facts of the controversy rather than the actors that are involved in it. Lee: What about for people who are, like, in a repressive regime and are trying to … Snowden: Use Tor. Lee: Use Tor? Snowden: If you’re not using Tor you’re doing it wrong. Now, there is a counterpoint here where the use of privacy-enhancing technologies in certain areas can actually single you out for additional surveillance through the exercise of repressive measures. This is why it’s so critical for developers who are working on security-enhancing tools to not make their protocols stand out.
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    Lots more in the interview that I didn't highlight. This is a must-read.
Gary Edwards

Spritz reader: Getting words into your brain faster - 1 views

  • Static blocks of text like the one you’re looking at now are an antiquated and inefficient way to get words into your head. That’s the contention of Boston-based startup Spritz, which has developed a speed-reading text box that shows no more than 13 characters at a time. The Spritz box flashes words at you in quick succession so you don’t have to move your eyes around a page, and in my very quick testing it allowed me to read at more than double my usual reading pace. Spritz has teamed up with Samsung to integrate its speed reading functionality with the upcoming Galaxy S5 smartphone. The written word, after 8,000 or so years, is still an extremely effective way to get a message from one mind into the minds of others. But even with the advent of the digital age and decades of usability work, font and layout development, we’re still nowhere near optimal efficiency with it yet.
  • Take this article – I’ve written it in easily digestible chunks, and we’ve presented it in nice, thin, 10 to 14 word columns that should make it easy to scan. But pay attention to what your eyes are doing while you try to read it. Chances are, even if you’re a quick reader, your eyes are jumping around all over the place. In fact, according to Boston-based startup Spritz, you spend as little as 20 percent of your reading time actually taking in the words you’re looking at, and as much as 80 percent physically moving your eyes around to find the right spot to read each word from. So, the Spritz team decided, why not eliminate that time altogether? The Spritz reader is a simple, small box that streams text at the reader, one word at a time. The words are presented in a large, very reader-friendly font, and centered around the "optimal recognition point" of each word. In fact, the box will only display a maximum of 13 characters, so larger words are broken up.
  • What’s really interesting is just how quickly this system can pipe information into your brain. I did a couple of online reading speed tests and found my average reading speed for regular blocks of text is around 330-350 words per minute. But I can comfortably follow a Spritz box at up to 500 words per minute without missing much, losing concentration or feeling any kind of eye strain. In short stints I can follow 800 words per minute, and the team says it’s easy to train yourself to go faster and retain more. Try it yourself. Here’s 250 words per minute:
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  • Spritz claims that information retention rates on "spritzed" content are equal to or higher than that of traditional text block reading, and that some of its testers are now comfortably ingesting content at 1000 words per minute with no loss of information retention. That’s Tolstoy’s 1,440 page behemoth War and Peace dispatched in a single 10 hour sitting, if you had the concentration for it, or Stieg Larsson's Girl with a Dragon Tattoo in two and a bit hours. Spritz is also clearly developed to excel on mobile and handheld reading devices, and as such, the company has announced that Spritz will make its mobile debut on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5 release. Smartwatch and Google glass-type implementations are also on the radar. The mobile angle will have to be strong as there are numerous free tools for desktop browsers that can replicate a similar reading experience for free. If you’re using a Chrome browser, check out Spreed as an example. Perhaps the most significant move for Spritz will be bringing this speed reading technology to bear on your Android e-book library. Anything that can help me get through my reading backlog quicker will be most welcome!
Paul Merrell

Google Open Source Blog: Bidding farewell to Google Code - 1 views

  • Beginning today, we have disabled new project creation on Google Code. We will be shutting down the service about 10 months from now on January 25th, 2016. Below, we provide links to migration tools designed to help you move your projects off of Google Code. We will also make ourselves available over the next three months to those projects that need help migrating from Google Code to other hosts. March 12, 2015 - New project creation disabled. August 24, 2015 - The site goes read-only. You can still checkout/view project source, issues, and wikis. January 25, 2016 - The project hosting service is closed. You will be able to download a tarball of project source, issues, and wikis. These tarballs will be available throughout the rest of 2016. Google will continue to provide Git and Gerrit hosting for certain projects like Android and Chrome. We will also continue maintaining our mirrors of projects like Eclipse, kernel.org and others. How To Migrate Your Data Off Google Code
Paul Merrell

Secret 'BADASS' Intelligence Program Spied on Smartphones - The Intercept - 0 views

  • British and Canadian spy agencies accumulated sensitive data on smartphone users, including location, app preferences, and unique device identifiers, by piggybacking on ubiquitous software from advertising and analytics companies, according to a document obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The document, included in a trove of Snowden material released by Der Spiegel on January 17, outlines a secret program run by the intelligence agencies called BADASS. The German newsweekly did not write about the BADASS document, attaching it to a broader article on cyberwarfare. According to The Intercept‘s analysis of the document, intelligence agents applied BADASS software filters to streams of intercepted internet traffic, plucking from that traffic unencrypted uploads from smartphones to servers run by advertising and analytics companies.
  • Programmers frequently embed code from a handful of such companies into their smartphone apps because it helps them answer a variety of questions: How often does a particular user open the app, and at what time of day? Where does the user live? Where does the user work? Where is the user right now? What’s the phone’s unique identifier? What version of Android or iOS is the device running? What’s the user’s IP address? Answers to those questions guide app upgrades and help target advertisements, benefits that help explain why tracking users is not only routine in the tech industry but also considered a best practice. For users, however, the smartphone data routinely provided to ad and analytics companies represents a major privacy threat. When combined together, the information fragments can be used to identify specific users, and when concentrated in the hands of a small number of companies, they have proven to be irresistibly convenient targets for those engaged in mass surveillance. Although the BADASS presentation appears to be roughly four years old, at least one player in the mobile advertising and analytics space, Google, acknowledges that its servers still routinely receive unencrypted uploads from Google code embedded in apps.
Paul Merrell

Verizon Injecting Perma-Cookies to Track Mobile Customers, Bypassing Privacy Controls | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • Verizon users might want to start looking for another provider. In an effort to better serve advertisers, Verizon Wireless has been silently modifying its users' web traffic on its network to inject a cookie-like tracker. This tracker, included in an HTTP header called X-UIDH, is sent to every unencrypted website a Verizon customer visits from a mobile device. It allows third-party advertisers and websites to assemble a deep, permanent profile of visitors' web browsing habits without their consent.Verizon apparently created this mechanism to expand their advertising programs, but it has privacy implications far beyond those programs. Indeed, while we're concerned about Verizon's own use of the header, we're even more worried about what it allows others to find out about Verizon users. The X-UIDH header effectively reinvents the cookie, but does so in a way that is shockingly insecure and dangerous to your privacy. Worse still, Verizon doesn't let users turn off this "feature." In fact, it functions even if you use a private browsing mode or clear your cookies. You can test whether the header is injected in your traffic by visiting lessonslearned.org/sniff or amibeingtracked.com over a cell data connection.How X-UIDH Works, and Why It's a Problem
  • To compound the problem, the header also affects more than just web browsers. Mobile apps that send HTTP requests will also have the header inserted. This means that users' behavior in apps can be correlated with their behavior on the web, which would be difficult or impossible without the header. Verizon describes this as a key benefit of using their system. But Verizon bypasses the 'Limit Ad Tracking' settings in iOS and Android that are specifically intended to limit abuse of unique identifiers by mobile apps.
  • Because the header is injected at the network level, Verizon can add it to anyone using their towers, even those who aren't Verizon customers.
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  • We're also concerned that Verizon's failure to permit its users to opt out of X-UIDH may be a violation of the federal law that requires phone companies to maintain the confidentiality of their customers' data. Only two months ago, the wireline sector of Verizon's business was hit with a $7.4 million fine by the Federal Communications Commission after it was caught using its "customers' personal information for thousands of marketing campaigns without even giving them the choice to opt out." With this header, it looks like Verizon lets its customers opt out of the marketing side of the program, but not from the disclosure of their browsing habits.
Paul Merrell

Forget Apple vs. the FBI: WhatsApp Just Switched on Encryption for a Billion People | WIRED - 0 views

  • For most of the past six weeks, the biggest story out of Silicon Valley was Apple’s battle with the FBI over a federal order to unlock the iPhone of a mass shooter. The company’s refusal touched off a searing debate over privacy and security in the digital age. But this morning, at a small office in Mountain View, California, three guys made the scope of that enormous debate look kinda small. Mountain View is home to WhatsApp, an online messaging service now owned by tech giant Facebook, that has grown into one of the world’s most important applications. More than a billion people trade messages, make phone calls, send photos, and swap videos using the service. This means that only Facebook itself runs a larger self-contained communications network. And today, the enigmatic founders of WhatsApp, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, together with a high-minded coder and cryptographer who goes by the pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike, revealed that the company has added end-to-end encryption to every form of communication on its service.
  • This means that if any group of people uses the latest version of WhatsApp—whether that group spans two people or ten—the service will encrypt all messages, phone calls, photos, and videos moving among them. And that’s true on any phone that runs the app, from iPhones to Android phones to Windows phones to old school Nokia flip phones. With end-to-end encryption in place, not even WhatsApp’s employees can read the data that’s sent across its network. In other words, WhatsApp has no way of complying with a court order demanding access to the content of any message, phone call, photo, or video traveling through its service. Like Apple, WhatsApp is, in practice, stonewalling the federal government, but it’s doing so on a larger front—one that spans roughly a billion devices.
  • The FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment for this story. But many inside the government and out are sure to take issue with the company’s move. In late 2014, WhatsApp encrypted a portion of its network. In the months since, its service has apparently been used to facilitate criminal acts, including the terrorist attacks on Paris last year. According to The New York Times, as recently as this month, the Justice Department was considering a court case against the company after a wiretap order (still under seal) ran into WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption. “The government doesn’t want to stop encryption,” says Joseph DeMarco, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in cybercrime and has represented various law enforcement agencies backing the Justice Department and the FBI in their battle with Apple. “But the question is: what do you do when a company creates an encryption system that makes it impossible for court-authorized search warrants to be executed? What is the reasonable level of assistance you should ask from that company?”
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