NSA planned to infect Samsung with spyware

 

NSA planned to infect Samsung with spyware

NSA planned to infect Samsung with spyware

If you’re in the business of writing spyware or malware, smartphones are a tempting target. For many people, their phone or tablet is now the primary compute device they use to surf the web, access content, and explore new software. Google has had problems keeping the Google Play store free from malware and spyware, but new information suggests that both Google and Samsung almost faced a much more potent opponent — the NSA itself.

A report from The Intercept highlights how the NSA explored options for hacking the App Store and Google Play over several workshops held in Australia and Canada between November 2011 and February 2012. The projects used the Internet-monitoring Xkeyscore system to identify smartphone traffic, then trace that traffic back to app stores. This led to a project dubbed Irritant Horn, the point of which was to develop the ability to distribute “implants” that could be installed when the smartphones in question attempted to connect to Google or Samsung app stores.

The NSA has targeted mobile devices ever since the post-Patriot Act era made such warrantless comprehensive spying legal, but it’s never been clear how the organization managed to tap certain hardware in the first place. The goal was twofold: First, use app stores to launch spyware campaigns and second, gather information about the phone users themselves by infiltrating the app stores in question.

The reference to “Another Arab spring,” refers to the fact that the events of 2010-2011 apparently caught western intelligence agencies off-guard, with few resources that could quickly be brought to bear. The NSA wanted to be aware of future events before they happened. Note, however, that this has precious little to do with the direct goal of protecting the United States from terrorism.

Few would argue that the US should not monitor the activities of known threats, but where was the threat from internal strife and the possible toppling of autocratic governments? It’s true that in the longer run, some new governments might pursue policies that the United States found less desirable than those of the previous regime, but there’s an enormous leap between “We don’t like Country X’s new trade policy,” and “Country X is actively assisting terrorist groups to carry out an attack on the United States.”

 The NSA was primarily interested in the activities of African countries. But in the course of investigating these possibilities, it discovered significant security flaws in a program called UC Browser, used by nearly half a billion people in East Asia. Instead of disclosing the security vulnerability, the NSA and other foreign intelligence groups chose to exploit it — thereby increasing the chances that other criminal elements would have time to find and exploit it as well.

These issues are at the heart of the debate over what the NSA’s role should be in the future. There’s always been tension over whether the NSA should weaken or strengthen the cryptographic standards that allow for secure communication. That discussion may be even more nuanced when it involves software produced by foreign companies. There are few signs, however, that such nuanced discussions of capability have ever occurred. Instead, we continue to see intelligence resources deployed with the goal of vacuuming up all information from any source, regardless of legal precedent or cooperation.

The future of the Patriot Act and the scope of NSA’s future powers remains in some doubt. Senator Rand Paul gave a 10-hour speech yesterday aimed at derailing support for the Patriot Act (his actions were not properly a filibuster, because a vote on the renewal of Section 215 wasn’t actually before the chamber at the time). Others in the House of Representatives have called for a full appeal of the Patriot Act’s provisions, and the Federal Appeals Court for the Second Circuit recently ruled that the current spying program is illegal under the Patriot Act as it stands.

 

Source:  extremetech.com

 

Babies using Smart Phones

baby using smart phones

baby using smart phones

More than one-third of babies are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, and by 1 year of age, one in seven toddlers is using devices for at least an hour a day, according to a study to be presented Saturday, April 25 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of entertainment media such as televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets by children under age 2. Little is known, however, when youngsters actually start using mobile devices.

Researchers developed a 20-item survey to find out when young children are first exposed to mobile media and how they use devices. The questionnaire was adapted from the “Zero to Eight” Common Sense Media national survey on media use in children.

Parents of children ages 6 months to 4 years old who were at a hospital-based pediatric clinic that serves a low-income, minority community were recruited to fill out the survey. Participants were asked about what types of media devices they have in their household, children’s age at initial exposure to mobile media, frequency of use, types of activities and if their pediatrician had discussed media use with them.

Results from 370 parents showed that 74 percent were African-American, 14 percent were Hispanic and 13 percent had less than a high school education. Media devices were ubiquitous, with 97 percent having TVs, 83 percent having tablets, 77 percent having smartphones and 59 percent having Internet access.

Children younger than 1 year of age were exposed to media devices in surprisingly large numbers: 52 percent had watched TV shows, 36 percent had touched or scrolled a screen, 24 percent had called someone, 15 percent used apps and 12 percent played video games.

By 2 years of age, most children were using mobile devices.

Lead author Hilda Kabali, MD, a third-year resident in the Pediatrics Department at Einstein Healthcare Network, said the results surprised her.

“We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of 6 months,” she said. “Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes.”

Results also showed 73 percent of parents let their children play with mobile devices while doing household chores, 60 percent while running errands, 65 percent to calm a child and 29 percent to put a child to sleep.

Time spent on devices increased with age, with 26 percent of 2-year-olds and 38 percent of 4-year-olds using devices for at least an hour a day.

Finally, only 30 percent of parents said their child’s pediatrician had discussed media use with them.

Source:  disinformation.com

Apple’s new iPhone 5 really sucks

Apple’s iOS 6 Maps app is awful, and now the world knows it:

Apple’s iOS 6 Maps app is awful

Apple’s iOS 6 Maps app is awful

People who have been using beta versions of iOS 6 for the past few months have known how awful Apple’s (AAPL) new Maps app is, but for the most part they held out hope that the company would make some serious refinements by the time its new iOS 6 software was released to the public. But iOS 6 officially took flight on Wednesday and sadly, Apple’s new Maps app is still awful. An unsightly blemish on what is otherwise a beautiful OS, Apple’s new Maps application is enraging users. Google Maps wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but Google (GOOG) has spent many years and boatloads of money creating its mapping experience. The result is a fantastic product that iOS users had taken for granted. Until now. Apple is often criticized for valuing form over function by enthusiasts who avidly support rival companies. Those who use Apple products argue that they function quite well, but this is an instance where the naysayers are correct. Apple’s new Maps application is absolutely gorgeous but in terms of performance, it takes multiple giant leaps backwards compared to Google Maps. In my own testing over the past few months, I have found the new Maps app to be remarkably frustrating and after a while I avoided it at all costs. I would check back in from time to time to see if any notable improvements had been made, but each time I checked I was met with disappointment. Put plainly, Apple’s Maps app just isn’t smart. A search performed just a few days ago for a restaurant I was standing no more than 100 feet away from yielded a result in Kansas. I was in New Jersey at the time. While I’m sure Kansas has terrific Chinese food, Google Maps would have known that serving a result 1,100 miles away probably isn’t as smart as serving a result 100 feet away. I have had a great deal of trouble when searching for most business names in Apple’s Maps app. This is especially problematic when I’m rushing to a meeting that I am already late for. Sadly, this happens often. Searching the name of a hotel or event center in Google Maps always took me right where I needed to go. The same cannot be said of Apple’s Maps app. Even if I’m within a mile of the place I’m looking for, Maps in iOS 6 often serves results that are across town or even in a different city. To make matters worse, searching exact addresses isn’t always better. A recent search for an address on Broadway in Manhattan would only return a result on West Broadway — an entirely different street. Sometimes, even after I tap the locate button and the app has pinpointed my location, searches for business names or addresses yield results in different towns or even different states when there are closer, far more logical results to be found. It’s just not smart. And so we have our first big gripe with iOS 6, and by extension, the new iPhone 5: Apple’s new mapping solution is awful. Apple knows how bad its Maps application is, and I’m sure the company is working hard to improve it. Many assume Apple launched the new service in this state because it was in such a rush to oust Google from its devices, and this may or may not be the explanation. Regardless, users are being punished. Thermonuclear war or not, there’s no excuse for punishing users.

UPDATE:

Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service. We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover, turn by turn navigation, and Siri integration. We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.