A Pakistani man has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for allegedly conspiring to advertise and sell StealthGenie, a spyware application (app) that could monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection. This marks the first-ever criminal case concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.
“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life – all without the victim’s knowledge. The Criminal Division is committed to cracking down on those who seek to profit from technology designed and used to commit brazen invasions of individual privacy.”
And when I say “creepy stuff,” I don’t just mean StealthGenie — although it’s certainly enough to make your skin crawl. I’m going to have to do some reading and thinking on this one, but my gut reaction is to ask if authoring or advertising software should really be a criminal offense?
Pebble smartwatches on sale (temporally?) for just $100. I wouldn’t be surprised if that became the permanent “sale” price, if Android Wear begins taking over the bottom end of the nascent market and Apple takes over the top. But at that price, I might just pick up one to replace the el cheapos I keep in a drawer for beach vacation.
Of course what I’m really waiting for Apple to introduce a line of dive watches…
A Japanese firm wants to build a space elevator by 2050:
The elevator is being designed to take researchers 96,000 kilogram (km), or 59,652 miles, into space. Robotic cars would be used to carry humans and cargo to a new space station, and they would be powered by magnetic linear motors, which are used in Europe and Asia’s high-speed rail lines.
“The tensile strength is almost a hundred times stronger than steel cable so it’s possible,” Yoji Ishikawa, research and development manager at Obayashi, said in reference to the use of carbon nanotechnology. “Right now we can’t make the cable long enough. We can only make 3-centimeter-long nanotubes but we need much more.”
Last I’d read, nanotube lengths were measured in microns, so three centimeters is a big deal. And is there any cheaper way to get into space, even just on a drawing board somewhere?
As promised, I installed iOS 8 on an older iOS device to see if it bogged down, lost functionality, or just became a pain to use. Actually, I installed it on two devices — an iPhone 4s and a first-gen iPad with Retina Display. Both devices use an Apple A5 processor, except that the iPad’s is up-armored with a better graphic coprocessor.
I didn’t do any sort of extensive testing, deciding instead it would be more useful just to mess around with them like I would in normal day-to-day use for most of a week.
The short version? Go ahead and upgrade your iPhone 4S. Mine (my four-year-old’s, really) runs just fine. If load times take longer, they didn’t take noticeably longer. Nate still plays Angry Birds just fine.
Results were less clear on that old iPad, however.
iOS 8 feels like it’s ramped up multitouch sensitivity, which in and of itself is no bad thing. And the touchscreen doesn’t have any problems handling the increased sensitivity. But the display itself does sometimes have trouble keeping up — on occasion I get very un-iOS-like hesitations, instead of the instantaneous reactions I’m used to getting. As a result, I sometimes try the same action twice, only to have initiated a second action instead.
It’s not a huge deal, and I don’t know for sure if iOS 8 really does increase touch sensitivity. But that’s how it feels, and the A5X CPU is just a little too old and slow to pump 2 million pixels as quickly as iOS 8 demands.
If that’s a concern to you, don’t upgrade — and I’ll post on this again when the inevitable 8.1 release comes out.
Will radar technology advances render stealth jets obsolete, as one Russian military expert claims? Probably not, but it does add another element to a constantly-changing equation. Joe Trevithick has the story:
It’s not for no reason that the U.S. Navy is taking its time acquiring stealth fighters, and is instead focusing on building more and better EA-18G electronic-warfare jets that can jam enemy radars instead of avoiding them.
Likewise, consider Washington’s renewed interest in extremely long-range, fast-flying hypersonic weapons. These super-fast weapons could help make up for the decreasing effectiveness of stealth. An attacking warplane wouldn’t need to fly so close to enemy radars if it could simply attack from long range with a weapon that’s really, really hard to intercept.
Even aging and portly B-52 bombers—which are anything but stealthy—could lob hypersonic projectiles at targets from hundreds or thousands of miles away. The speedy missiles could zip right through enemy defenses.
In theory. In reality, the Americans—as well as everyone else—have struggled to get hypersonics to work. Just like it’s hard getting stealth to work. And just like better sensors also require intensive development and investment over many decades.
Perhaps most importantly, Moore’s Law—the idea that computing power doubles every two years or so—has never been repealed, so to speak. The fact is, stealth like any advanced technology was always bound to face challenges from any number of other technologies, particularly those that hinge on improvements in computer processing.
But future plane designs will still incorporate stealth features, even if those features don’t represent a major advantage. Stealth might not be a panacea, but having no stealth at all just might be aerial suicide. New sensors work even better again non-stealthy jets than they do against stealthy ones. [Emphasis in original]
I’m reminded of what almost killed Volvo as a make of automobile. While most carmakers sold models based on horsepower and performance, or luxury and status, and later gas mileage and economy. Volvo took a different tack, selling cars to consumers concerned about safety. “Boring but safe” was for years Volvo’s brand.
But then seatbelts were mandated, followed by airbags. And a host of other safety features like crumple zones and anti-lock brakes became standard features on just about every car made. “Safe” became the lowest common denominator of every new car sold, leaving Volvo with nothing but “boring.” The brand nearly died as a result.
Stealth is now the “safety” of modern jet fighters, and increasingly of bombers, too — you’ve got to have it just to have a chance at all. What’s telling is how difficult it’s proving for anyone but American aerospace companies to develop fully-stealthy fighters. China is trying with the Chengdu J-20, but development is slow going. Further hindering the effort might be that China still doesn’t even have a fully homegrown fourth-generation fighter, much less a stealthy fifth-gen. Russia has upgraded their aging fourth-gen designs with much-improved avionics and some stealth-type features, but also has floundered trying to develop a true fifth-gen fighter. The Europeans and the Brits are kinda-sorta trying, but their tiny defense budgets probably can’t handle the strain.
But stealth-defeating radars and missiles are a helluva lot easier to develop than fleets of fighter aircraft. And even if they don’t totally obsolete our F-22s and F-35s, advanced detection certainly complicates things for us.
So we’d best find the money to stay a step ahead of the game, or risk going where not even Volvo has gone before.
I’m sorry, Dave, Apple can’t do that:
Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.
It will be difficult for Google and Microsoft not to follow suit, which is good news for consumers everywhere.
That is the question for iPhone 4S owners, and opinions differ on whether it can properly handle the load of iOS 8:
So yes, it’s entirely possible for you to download the brand new iOS on your brand-old iPhone. And by doing so you’ll get a lot of goodies like more keyboard options (finally) and fun widgets. Ars ultimately concludes that it’s a trade-off you should go ahead and make.
But to us, cramming that shiny new software into the 4S’s cozy yet slightly musty house is a tight fit that will leave phone and user alike groaning. New features like widgets and alternate keyboards are nice, but not at the cost of so much screen space and speed.
Another report shows however that the increased load times aren’t exactly intolerable, with the worst offender (Safari) jumping from 1.25 seconds to 2.16 seconds. The other apps tested measured increases of just small fractions of a second — and the inevitable 8.01 or 8.1 update might tweak those times down a bit.
My boys, ages 4 and 8, are plenty happy running iOS 7 on Melissa and my old 4S phones, but I’m curious to see how well the new iOS really does work. It’s a risk though, since you can’t roll back to the previous version.
So I’m going to be a naughty dad and install iOS 8 on the younger boy’s phone and hope he doesn’t notice if it sucks. He doesn’t use it much, anyway, preferring the big screen on my ancient iPad 1. I’ll report the results back to you in the next few days.
“Demand for the new iPhones exceeds the initial pre-order supply and while a significant amount will be delivered to customers beginning on Friday and throughout September, many iPhone pre-orders are scheduled to be delivered in October,” the company added.
On Monday, Apple said it had received a record 4-million pre-orders of the iPhone 6 in the first 24 hours, exceeding expectations in what the company described as an “incredible” response.
One report estimates Apple is on track to sell a record 60 million iPhone 6 models in the December quarter for yet another sales record for any phonemaker.
I won’t be joining the party, however. There’s still a year left on my perfectly fine iPhone 5S, and the bigger phones just aren’t my thing. Judging by sales though, people love big phones.
A lot of robots in development are able to perform amazing feats in a laboratory setting when they’ve got plenty of tethers and cables keeping them perpetually powered and safe. The real test of their capabilities is when they’re forced to explore and interact in a real-world environment, like the robot cheetah that researchers at MIT are developing, which recently took its first untethered steps outside.
The developers admit the current version is limited to 10MPH, but that they aren’t far off from developing a high-speed robot cheetah.
I smell a Hollywood blockbuster.
Apple’s HealthKit — coming this week to iOS 8 for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and next year to Apple Watch — is becoming much more than a simple fitness tracker:
Stanford University Hospital doctors said they are working with Apple to let physicians track blood sugar levels for children with diabetes. Duke University is developing a pilot to track blood pressure, weight and other measurements for patients with cancer or heart disease.
The goal is to improve the accuracy and speed of reporting data, which often is done by phone and fax now. Potentially doctors would be able to warn patients of an impending problem. The pilot programs will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
Apple last week mentioned the trials in a news release announcing the latest version of its operating system for phones and tablets, iOS 8, but this is the first time any details have been made public. Apple declined to comment for this article.
Apple almost never comments. The company’s former PR chief, Katie Cotton, elevated not saying anything to an art form. But that’s another story.
Mu question after reading this story is, just how many sensors are they packing into Apple Watch, and what do they plan to pack into future iterations?
My second TiVo was the first model they produced capable of recording and capturing full 1080p video. It could store up to 30 or 40 hours worth, if memory serves, with a large-for-the-time 250gb hard drive. They’ve gone and topped that, if only very slightly:
The TiVo Mega, slated to ship early next year, will pack 24TB of hard disk space—eight times the storage on the TiVo Roamio Pro, the current top-of-the-line model. Put another way, that’s enough to stash more than three year’s worth of standard-definition television on one DVR.
That’s a little too late for recording that just-completed Simpsons marathon of every episode ever, but what can you do?
The cost of all this storage? The Mega’s exact price hasn’t been announced, but TiVo officials put the price tag around $5000. The super-sized DVR is expected to ship in the first half of 2015.
TiVo says it will store about 4,000 hours of HD video.
I put together a 6TB Drobo with an EyeTV unit plugged into a spare Mac to act as my DVR for significantly less. Still, it’s more work to maintain than TiVo, and I miss those green and red Thumbs-Up/Thumbs-Down buttons on that iconic and lovely TiVo remote control.
There’s a market for this product. It’s niche, but that niche will crave the Mega.
The e-commerce giant said Monday it’s now offering the 32-gigabyte version of its first smartphone, which went on sale just two months ago, for 99 cents with a two-year contract, down from $200. One year of Amazon’s Prime service is still included as a short-term promotion. A year of Prime, which offers free two-day shipping and streaming music and video libraries, usually costs $99.
Amazon also slashed the price of its 64GB Fire Phone to $100 with a two-year contract, down from $300.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that sticking a confusing UI on top of somebody else’s OS inside last year’s hardware at this year’s prices wasn’t exactly the smartest thing Jeff Bezos ever did.
We always seem to be doing something interesting with X-planes, but this one raises the bar — then hovers over it:
Pentagon wants a plane that can attain incredibly fast speeds while also possessing the ability to hover. The experimental Phantom Swift X-Plane will fulfill that role, and now Boeing has secured a $9 million to continue work it started roughly one year ago.
The idea for the aircraft, which resulted from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) VTOL X-Plane competition in 2013, will eventually be powered by an all-electric drive and measure 13 meters nose to tail and 15 meters from wingtip to wingtip, the military blog Defense Tech reported Aug. 28. The finished product is also expected to weight between 10,000 to 12,000 pounds.
You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?
But there’s video at the link if you feel you must.
QUERY: Is Denver Woman the new Florida Man?
By now you’ve surely heard about the huge hack of several A-listers’ iCloud accounts. The hacker or hackers released a trove of highly private material from Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and others.
Being A-listers, they are targets and will always be targets for blackmail, invasions of privacy, even terrorism. Surely they know this by now.
Apple has confirmed that the leaked material came from its iCloud service.
Update 9/2: Apple has released a statement confirming that the company’s investigation found no evidence that any of its services were compromised; the accounts affected were attacked using conventional (security question/username) password reset methods.
Update 2:35 pm ET: Over at The Guardian, tech reporter Charles Arthur summarizes the current thinking about the image release from security researchers. Some are surmising that these images were gathered over months or years (the earliest timestamps are from 2011, the most recent from last month) and then the repository itself was hacked or stolen. iCloud is still under scrutiny as a vector for gaining access to private images.
So it’s not a system-wide security breach. The hackers attacked at the most obvious point of failure, the users themselves. “Password” is not a viable password, folks. iCloud is probably the single largest hack magnet on earth. iPhones are more status symbols than technological necessities these days. Every celebrity and millions of non-celebrities have iPhones, or Android competitors, and they all can interact with the cloud.
A few months ago, I noticed that my phone was uploading my photos to the cloud automatically. They were just pics of family trips and mundane stuff, but I still didn’t want it outside my immediate control. It took a few clicks to get to the right place and turn that off. Turning the cloud services off on phones should be made so simple that anyone can figure out it. That doesn’t mean that people will take the steps to turn it off, of course.
iCloud and similar cloud storage is great, but it’s also creepy and fraught with problems. I wrote that post three years ago, when iCloud first came out, only to get poo-pooed by some because “I don’t have anything to hide!” Or, “Apple has to keep up with technological trends!” True, but not the point.
Director Neal Edelstein has finished filming my script for the sequel of the bestselling and Appy-award-winning storytelling app Haunting Melissa. It’s called Haunting Melissa 2: Dark Hearts, and I have to say, it is looking unbelievably good. I had a chance to see some of the dailies as they were coming in, and then dropped in on Neal in the editing room the other day to watch some rough cut scenes. As spooky as the first story was, he is definitely taking the thing to a new level.
For those of you who didn’t get a chance to download the first Haunting Melissa app, it’s very innovative, very cool. It delivers filmed portions of a ghost story to your iPhone or iPad on its own schedule. You never know when your phone is suddenly going to whisper, “Melissssssa,” scaring the bejabbers out of you and announcing that a new chapter of the creepy tale has arrived.
The first film, also directed by Neal and written by me, told the story of Melissa Strogue, who begins hearing voices while staying alone in the farmhouse where her mother died. If you want to watch the story before the sequel comes out, it’s still available, though it’s exclusive to iOS devices and as far as I know, there are no plans to do an Android version any time soon.
Anyway, when you write for film but don’t direct, you never know how things are going to turn out, and I’m very excited to see the way this is going. Every scene I’ve watched so far has been well shot, well acted, emotional and scary. The beautiful Kassia Warshawski returns to play the title role, and the somewhat less beautiful but still talented Greg Lawson — who just recently had a part in the Fargo TV series — is back as her father.
It’s nice when you’re able to plug something you’ve worked on and do it with complete honesty. I think I can honestly recommend: if you like ghost stories, download Haunting Melissa and watch it now, because you’re definitely going to want to see the sequel.
3D printing is incredibly disruptive technology. It has already impacted the debate over guns. Researchers are using it to recreate antique musical instruments.
At 3DPrint.com, they have the story of a Chinese man who lost half of his skull in a fall. 3D printing will give him that half of his skull back.
The 46-year-old was working at his construction job one day when he fall three stories to the ground. The fall left him disfigured, as if he had a large dent in the side of his head.
Surgion [sic] MaoGuo Shu, of Xijing Hospital, who has seen a vast array of head and skull injuries, says that cases like Hu’s are very rare, and finding a solution to fix the damaged skull is very complex and difficult. To try and come up with a solution, the hospital brought in dozens of experts in the field. What they came up with was an idea for a 3D printed titanium mesh which would cover Hu’s brain and help make his skull look normal again. Thankfully for Hu, he won’t have to pay a dime for the surgery, as the hospital is covering the cost, and an American company, Stryker has agreed to pay for the 3D printing and materials used in the printing process.
The titanium printed mesh should return his skull to his normal shape over time. His brain, which was badly damaged in the fall leaving Hu unable to talk and write, might regenerate itself, according to the doctors.
You could argue that if the Amazon Fire Phone under-indexes, it probably isn’t by much; you could multiply the number by 25%, based on the average of the Samsung and HTC figures. That takes you up to about 33,000 devices.
Therefore even allowing for margins of error, it seems unlikely – based on Chitika’s data and the ComScore data – that there were more than about 35,000 Fire Phones in use after those 20 days.
Amazon had not responded to a request for comment on the calculation by the time of publication.
Although I can’t say I’m surprised. The phone is phugly, and by nearly every account, the user interface is an unusable and clumsy mess. And it’s priced the same as an iPhone or a top-tier Android device, when clearly it’s neither.
Still, it’s comforting to know that not even Amazon’s marketing muscle — and I say this as a happy and devoted customer of theirs — isn’t enough to push people into buying overpriced craptaculence.
That is, there’s another app for hijacking your phone:
You are guilty of child porn, child abuse, zoophilia or sending out bulk spam. You are a criminal. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has locked you out of your phone and the only way to regain access to all your data is to pay a few hundred dollars.
That message — or variations of it — has popped up on hundreds of thousands of people’s Android devices in just the last month. The message claims to be from the F.B.I., or cybersecurity firms, but is in fact the work of Eastern European hackers who are hijacking Android devices with a particularly pernicious form of malware, dubbed “ransomware” because it holds its victims’ devices hostage until they pay a ransom.
Ransomware is not new. Five years ago, criminals in Eastern Europe began holding PC users’ devices hostage with similar tools. The scheme was so successful that security experts say many cybercriminals have abandoned spam and fake antivirus frauds to take up ransomware full time. By 2012, security experts had identified more than 16 gangs extorting millions from ransomware victims around the world.
Now those same criminals are taking their scheme mobile, successfully infecting Android devices at disturbing rates. In just the last 30 days, roughly 900,000 people were targeted with a form of ransomware called “ScarePackage,” according to Lookout, a San Francisco-based mobile security firm.
900,000 isn’t a whole lot of mobile phone users in a global market of billions — but it’s enough to generate the profits necessary to keep these illicit activities growing.
Want to know the resolution of the new iPhones due to be announced next month? John Gruber did the math — all of the math — to come up with the best educated guess I’ve seen:
But after giving it much thought, and a lot of tinkering in a spreadsheet, here is what I think Apple is going to do:
4.7-inch display: 1334 × 750, 326 PPI @2x
5.5-inch display: 2208 × 1242, 461 PPI @3x
@2x means the same “double” retina resolution that we’ve seen on all iOS devices with retina displays to date, where each virtual point in the user interface is represented by two physical pixels on the display in each dimension, horizontal and vertical. @3x means a new “triple” retina resolution, where each user interface point is represented by three display pixels. A single @2x point is a 2 × 2 square of 4 pixels; an @3x point is a 3 × 3 square of 9 pixels.
I could be wrong on either or both of these conjectured new iPhones. I derived these figures on my own, and I’ll explain my thought process below.
It’s a fascinating and extremely detailed (Ha! Get it?) report, explaining the difference between pixels and points on an iOS screen, and how simply increasing the pixels wouldn’t necessarily lead to fitting more stuff onto a larger screen — at least not in a sensible way, and not at resolutions other than the ones he determined.
My only hope is that the rumors are wrong, and that Apple continues to produce at least one model with the same size screen as the iPhone 5 and 5S. For me it’s the perfect size for easily sliding in or out of a pants pocket, without making too much of a bulge. This trend towards bigger phones goes against everything that was once cool about electronics, where small & light should rule the day.
image illustration via shutterstock / alphaspirit
It’s common for brain surgery patients to stay awake. That’s how surgeons know everything is going smoothly, after all. When concert violinist Roger Frisch started suffering from tremors that are only a problem when he’s playing, however, Mayo Clinic doctors had to resort to some rather unusual technology to find out if they were installing the necessary brain pacemaker correctly. The surgical crew gave Frisch a bow equipped with a motion-tracking sensor and asked him to fiddle during the operation; the team knew it had electrodes in the right spot when the musician’s performance was steady.
Similar to Amazon’s strategy in many of its businesses, the company aims to compete on price in the mobile payment arena. For customers who sign up for the service by Oct. 31, Amazon will take as its fee 1.75 percent of each payment processed, or each “swipe” of the card, a special rate that will last until Jan. 1, 2016. For people who sign up after Oct. 31, Amazon will take a service fee of 2.5 percent of each payment processed.
The first $10 in transaction fees will be credited back to the customer, essentially paying for the card reader.
That’s below most of its competitors’ rates. Square takes a fee of 2.75 percent of each transaction. PayPal Here takes 2.7 percent of each transaction and Intuit’s GoPayment rates start at 1.75 percent per transaction if businesses pay a $19.95 monthly rate or 2.4 percent of each transaction without a monthly payment.
That’s a helluva good deal from Amazon for small retailers, made possible by the company’s huge cash flow.
image via Wired.com
A leaked Gamma Group study indicates which smartphones are the easiest to hack with FinSpy spyware:
Among the major mobile platforms cited in a chart in the document, all of them were susceptible to FinSpy. The spyware was able to bully its way into Android (all versions from 2.x.x to 4.4.x), BlackBerry (versions 5.x, 6.x., and 7.x), Symbian, and Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 (Windows Phone 8 is not yet supported by the software). And what of iOS? Apple’s mobile OS did make the list but only in jailbroken mode.
And what can FinSpy do? Read:
FinSpy is “designed to help Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies to remotely monitor mobile phones and tablet devices.” FinSpy can gain full access to phone calls, text messages, the address book, and even the microphone via silent phone calls. It can also trace a device to determine its location. Used by law enforcement and government agencies, FinSpy has earned a reputation for itself as a powerful but controversial tool for sneaking into mobile devices.
Scary stuff. If you need Android’s openness, there’s probably no better alternative. But the vast majority of Android buyers don’t need open — they aren’t even really smartphone users. They buy Android because it’s inexpensive and it’s good enough and it works on their carrier. But what those buyers really are is feature phone users. They’d probably be better off, and they’d certainly be more secure, sticking with simpler Symbian devices.
See the previous installment in Susan’s Dudeism series: How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps
Warning: Given that the f-bomb is dropped in The Big Lebowski over 200 times, some of these clips will most likely be NSFW.
10. Abiding is a science as well as an art.
Patience is an inherent aspect of abiding. Other definitions include “to endure without yielding,” “to accept without objection,” and “to remain stable.” In the world of the Internet and social media technology, abiding is an anachronistic action. We have been shaped by our media to function at rapid speeds. One of the biggest goals of Common Core is to increase the speed at which students mentally process information. Not study, analyze and comprehend, but process and regurgitate the way they would like and share a Twitter or Facebook post. Abiding flies in the face of today’s high-speed reactionary culture.