Category: Mobile


Five reasons people will want a BlackBerry 10 Phone

The BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, handed out to developers in May, provided little information about what the finished product would look like. But a better picture has since emerged.

Will BlackBerry 10 phones, which are expected to arrive early next year, be worth the wait? For months, that question had no good answer.

While Apple’s wildly successful ads calmly wrap themselves around a single have-to-have feature (see SIRI) we haven’t yet had the benefit of a full rundown on BlackBerry 10 specs. So we have been left with what we are normally left with in the space before any anticipated consumer device arrives: speculation, rumour, and the odd grainy photo. It’s right around this time in the launch cycle that an iPhone is “accidentally” found in a Palo Alto tavern and pictures show up on various gadget sites, sending fanboys into a predictable lather.

So far, there has been no Canadian equivalent. To date, not one has misplaced a BlackBerry 10 device at a Tim Hortons in Moose Jaw, or a canteen in a Kitchener rink. But a picture has begun to emerge. New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins has been equal parts helpful and feckless, revealing key details of BlackBerry 10 to select media, then reverting to more vague, big picture proclamations that have sometimes provoked ridicule, such as when he said that with BB10 “We’re here to win, we’re not here to fight for third or fourth place,” after the company had fallen to less than 5% of total smartphone sales in Q2.

If RIM is to regain some, if not all, of its lost market share, BlackBerry 10 devices will need to be great, not just good. The good news for RIM supporters is that early indications suggest devices loaded with the new operating system will give RIM every chance. We break down five reasons people will want a Blackberry 10 device.

1. Its contact manager will be great

Early last year, RIM acquired Seattle-based Gist, a company that focused on integrating social media elements into contact management. The startup was founded in 2008 by T.A. McCann, who formerly worked in Microsoft’s Exchange Server Group. Gist actually received its initial funding from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital.

Now McCann’s team is taking on a key role at RIM.

“BlackBerry has always had this heritage of productivity. We are just going to make it better yet again, when we launch BB10,” McCann told Reuters recently. He says that in addition to the BlackBerry contacts app, Gist has been tasked with the responsibility of everything social at RIM including BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), the Facebook and Twitter apps, instant messaging as well as much of the identity platform, BlackBerry ID.

A Gist user review hints at the possibilities:

“The main idea behind Gist is pretty similar to other social media aggregators like MyBlogLog, FriendFeed, Seesmic and Google Buzz” says Gist user Dustin Luther. “However, there’s one HUGE improvement they’ve made. Rather than forcing you to view updates based on a timeline (i.e. most recent updates first), they allow you to view updates in a “people” mode where you can view all the updates from that person (whether they are on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, foursquare, etc.) based on the importance that you’ve selected. (Facebook has tried to do this with their “top news” feature, but it’s crude at best and doesn’t do a great job finding updates that are important to me)”.

2. It will have a cool camera

When new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins offered a sneak peak at some of the features of its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, the things that got the biggest oohs and aahs from the crowd at BlackBerry World were the new camera features. A tidy demo that followed showed the new camera will allow the user to “go back in time” using a circular timeline slider to pick the perfect moment. While the phone looks to be a marked improvement over what is on the market today, it is unlikely that it will present a distinct business advantage, as the technology behind it is licensed from a Swedish company called Scalado that was acquired by Nokia in June.

3. It will have better battery life

The new BB10 devices will feature an OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screen that, unlike its LED counterparts, doesn’t require a backlight. While some budget devices, such as the Toshiba T-02D and the Samsung Exhilarate, have employed OLED, RIM has the opportunity to bring it to the mainstream. Other details reveal that RIM is extremely battery focused with BB10. The new BBM, for instance, will feature a darker screen that will save battery life by as much as 25%. And for real road warriors, Thorsten Heins told the Wall Street Journal recently that BlackBerry 10 phones will include a removable battery, so heavy users can swap a fresh one in, rather than traipse around an airport for a power source.

4. It will be fast

RIM acquired QNX, which became BlackBerry 10 after a legal spat, in April 2010. The Ottawa-based company was founded in 1980 and acquired by Harman International in 2004. QNX developed an operating system called the QNX Neutrino, which is more familiar to those familiar with OS’s used in mission critical environments, such as high speed trains in Europe and Japan, nuclear power plants, even the Canadarm. Neutrino employs a micro-kernal structure in which each application runs in its own memory space on this operating system, allowing the device to multi-task like nothing that is currently on the market.

5. Lack of apps won’t be an issue

One could argue that many apps built for the iPhone were necessary because the device’s browser did not support Adobe Flash. But that’s a story for another day, especially now that that fence has been mended in the post Steve Jobs world. A persistent critique of BlackBerrys has been BlackBerry App World, which is dwarfed by Apple App Store. But Alec Saunders RIM’s VP of developer relations, says the image that BlackBerry is bleeding app developers is simply false. BlackBerry App World, he points out has grown its vendor base by 157% in the past year, and just passed the three billion download mark. The QNX Neutrino operating system, which provides support for Adobe Flash and Air, Java, HTML 5.0 and C++. makes it inherently developer friendly, insists Saunders.

“I have been receiving a lot of feedback from developers personally and I can tell you that I am hearing again and again that developers are amazed by how easy it is to work with the BlackBerry 10 tools, ” he said recently, adding: “They appreciate the open nature of our platform, which allows developers to bring their work and their skills and find a toolset that will work for them.”

Among BlackBerry App World’s more than 90,000 apps, you’ll now find all the regular battery monitoring and texting ones, plus brands such as Pandora, Angry Birds, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.

Source: Cantech Letter

Is Aliyun OS really Linux? Android? A rip-off of both?

When Acer was ready to announce a new smartphone running Alibaba’s Aliyun operating system, Google responded with force. If it were to be released, Google would end its parternship with Acer, which uses Android for 90 percent of its smartphones.

Acer swiftly cancelled the release, but clearly Acer wasn’t happy about the state of affairs. Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, was even less happy.

Alibaba says it wants Aliyun OS to be the “Android of China,” claimign that they’ve spent years working on their Linux-based mobile operating system.

Google didn’t see it that way. Google thinks Alibaba is an Android rip-off.

In Google’s Android Official Blog, Andy Rubin, Google’s senior vice president of mobile and digital content said:

“We built Android to be an open source mobile platform freely available to anyone wishing to use it. In 2008, Android was released under the Apache open source license and we continue to develop and innovate the platform under the same open source license — it is available to everyone at: http://source.android.com. This openness allows device manufacturers to customize Android and enable new user experiences, driving innovation and consumer choice.”

But: “While Android remains free for anyone to use as they would like, only Android compatible devices benefit from the full Android ecosystem. By joining the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), each member contributes to and builds one Android platform — not a bunch of incompatible versions.”

Android is a mobile operating system branch of Linux. While there have been disagreements between developers, Android and mainstream Linux buried the hatchet in March 2012.

So, from where Google sits, Aliyun OS is an incompatible Android fork.  John Spelich, Alibaba vice president of international corporate affairs replied oddly: “[Google] have no idea and are just speculating. Aliyun is different.”

How can Google have no idea about what Aliyun is if it is indeed, as Alibaba claims, a Linux fork? Linux is licensed under the GNU General Public License, version 2 (GPLv2). Part of that license insists that if a GPLv2 program is released to general users, the source code must be made publicly available. Thus, perhaps Google doesn’t have any idea because, as Spelich indidicted and far as I’ve been able to find, Aliyun’s source code is not available anywhere. If indeed the source code isn’t open and freely available, even if Aliyun has no Android connection, this would still make it an illegal Linux fork.

Spelich went on to claim that Aliyun is “not a fork,” adding: “Ours is built on open-source Linux.” In addition, Aliyon runs “our own applications. It’s designed to run cloud apps designed in our own ecosystem. It can run some but not all Android apps.”

Rubin, in a Google+ post, replied, “We agree that the Aliyun OS is not part of the Android ecosystem and you’re under no requirement to be compatible.”

“However, ” he continued, “[t]he fact is, Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework and tools. And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps). So there’s really no disputing that Aliyun is based on the Android platform and takes advantage of all the hard work that’s gone into that platform by the OHA.”

Hands on research by Android Police, a publication dedicated to Android reporting and analysis, shows that Aliyun app store includes pirated Google apps.

Android Police found that, “Aliyun’s app store appeared to be distributing Android apps scraped from the Play Store and other websites, not only downloadable to Aliyun devices as .apk files, but also provided by third parties not involved with the apps’ or games’ development. What’s more, we’ve received independent confirmation from the original developers of some of these apps that they did not in fact give consent for their products to be distributed in Aliyun’s app store.”

Not the least of the evidence is that the Aliyun includes Google’s own Android applications such as Google Translate, Google Sky Map, Google Drive, and Google Play Books. The odds of Google giving Aliyun permission to use its own applications are somewhere zero and none.

What we seem to have in Aliyun is an illegal Android and Linux fork, which supports a pirated software ecosystem. I only wonder that Google didn’t come down even harder on Acer and I really wonder how much due diligence, if any, Acer did before signing a deal with Alibaba.

Source: ZDNet

Apple poised for iPhone 5 launch

Technology giant Apple has fuelled rumours it will launch a new version of its best-selling iPhone by announcing a “special event” only hours before two of its competitors unveiled two new devices.

The secretive firm sent out invitations for the event next week ahead of Wednesday’s announcement in New York by Nokia and Microsoft where they revealed details of two new phones which will run on Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

The Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820 are the Finnish company’s attempt to claw back lost ground since it lost its position as the world’s biggest phonemaker to Samsung.

The firm described the 920 as its “flagship” product and it boasts a high powered camera described as the equivalent of “a standalone SLR camera” and can be recharged without being plugged in.

The Apple emails, sent on Tuesday to selected journalists, invite them to an event on Wednesday September 12 and includes the line “it’s almost here”.

It also features a figure 12 with a shadow that appears to be the number 5 – seemingly confirming the company will announce the arrival of the iPhone 5.

The events typically involve Apple executives unveiling new products at their California base – which are carried by videolink live to a central London location.

It is around a year since the firm unveiled the iPhone 4S complete with voice recognition software and an A5 chip allowing it to use much faster graphics for gameplay and to download data twice as fast.

The 4S also has an eight megapixel camera with five lenses, one more than the iPhone4, which results in sharper pictures and allows users to take HD video.

The new phone is expected to sell well. Thousands of gadget fans queued to get their hands on the iPhone 4S when it first went on sale.

Source: The Press Association

Google engineer finds British spyware on PCs and smartphones

Two security researchers have found new evidence that legitimate spyware sold by British firm Gamma International appears to be being used by some of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Google security engineer Morgan Marquis-Boire and Berkeley student Bill Marczak were investigating spyware found in email attachments to several Bahraini activists. In their analysis they identified the spyware infecting not only PCs but a broad range of smartphones, including iOS, Android, RIM, Symbian, and Windows Phone 7 handsets.

The spying software has the capability to monitor and report back on calls and GPS positions from mobile phones, as well as recording Skype sessions on a PC, logging keystrokes, and controlling any cameras and microphones that are installed.

They report the code appears to be FinSpy, a commercial spyware sold to countries for police criminal investigations. FinSpy was developed by the German conglomerate Gamma Group and sold via the UK subsidiary Gamma International. In a statement to Bloomberg, managing director Martin Muench denied the company had any involvement.

“As you know we don’t normally discuss our clients but given this unique situation it’s only fair to say that Gamma has never sold their products to Bahrain,” he said. “It is unlikely that it was an installed system used by one of our clients but rather that a copy of an old FinSpy demo version was made during a presentation and that this copy was modified and then used elsewhere.”

Parallel research by computer investigators at Rapid7 found command and control software servers for the FinSpy code running in Indonesia, Australia, Qatar, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Mongolia, Latvia, and the United Arab Emirates, with another server in the US running on Amazon’s EC2 cloud systems. Less than 24 hours after the research was published, the team noted that several of these servers were shut down.

Gamma and FinSpy gained notoriety last year when documents apparently from the company were found in the Egyptian security service headquarters when it was ransacked by protestors after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. These appear to be a proposal that the Egyptian government buy a five-month license for the software for €287,000. Again Gamma denied involvement.

But Marquis-Boire and Marczak told The New York Times that they appear to have found a link to Gamma in these latest code samples. The malware for Symbian phones uses a code certificate issued to Cyan Engineering, whose website is registered to one Johnny Geds.

The same name is listed as Gamma Group’s sales contact on the FinSpy proposal uncovered in the raid on Egypt’s security headquarters. Muench has confirmed they do employ someone of that name in sales but declined to comment further.

Commercial spyware is an increasingly lucrative racket, as El Reg has pointed out, and there’s growing evidence that Britain is one of the leading players in the market. Privacy International has formally warned the British government that it will be taking legal action on the issue and this latest research only adds weight to the issue.

Source: The Register

Hands On With Clueful, the iOS App That Rats Out Privacy Risks

When you install a new mobile app, you expect it to use your data according to the permissions you’ve allowed. So, when an app suddenly uses your information in an unexpected way — who can forget Path’s address-book-sharing saga? — it can feel like a betrayal.

Clueful, which made its debut at TechCrunch Disrupt today, is an app designed to prevent surprises. Clueful helps you identify “misdemeanant” apps on your iPhone — software that’s transmitting your data in ways you weren’t aware of.

Created by antivirus software developer Bitdefender, the app is simple enough. It gathers information on what apps are running in your iPhone’s memory and submits it anonymously to the “Clueful Cloud” for analysis. Using its own database of app behaviors, it then tells you what your software could be up to: whether an app uses GPS, whether an app is a battery-draining risk, or if an app can use address book information, among other things. The results are neatly listed, albeit in what appears to be random order, and you can tap an app listing to get more details on the possible risk areas of that app.

It’s not all fire and brimstone, though. The app also reveals “Things you might appreciate” for each app, such as information on whether it uses an anonymous identifier or encrypts stored data. (Foodspotting, for instance, does both of these things.)

It can be surprising to learn which apps do and don’t have solid security practices, and which apps are quietly tracking usage information for advertising purposes — something most apps do not openly reveal when you download them.

The app has several major pitfalls, though. For one, it can only provide information on free apps, so that sketchy $1 Angry Birds ripoff you got last week could be having a field day with your personal info, and you’d still never know it. And although it launches with a database of thousands of apps, there are more than 600,000 apps in the App Store, according to Apple’s Q2 earnings report. Clueful lets you search to see which apps are in its database, and we found some relatively big names were left out: Clear, Mint and Evi to name just three.

Also, Clueful doesn’t drill down into exactly what data is being transmitted from an app. Instead, it just generally reports what an app can and could be sending. (“Can” and “could” are differentiated.) Strangely, Clueful also “found” apps on my phone that I’ve never used or downloaded, like FlickFishing HD in the image above, and apps called Scoops and Quizarium. I’m sure they’re fine apps, but I’ve never downloaded them.

At $4 in the App Store, I can’t rightly recommend this app as a must-download. But if you’re completely anal about how your data is being used, or just curious, the download could be justified.

Source: Wired

New iPhone app enables self-destructing sext messages

Sexting, or the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs between mobile phones, continues to grow increasingly popular. Mobile users often have private photos posted to the Internet without their permission, and politicians and celebrities alike have taken explicit photos that using mobile devices that were eventually leaked. Unfortunately for Anthony Weiner, the congressman wasn’t aware of an iPhone app by the name of Snapchat. The program is available for free in Apple’s App Store and allows users to send photos that self-destruct within 1-10 seconds. Images cannot be saved in the app, and Snapchat will even notify users if the recipient takes a screenshot — though there is no way to prevent screenshots from being taken, of course. It should also be noted that images are stored on the developer’s servers, and while the company “attempt(s) to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted,” it cannot guarantee messages will always be deleted. “Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user,” the company’s privacy policy warns.

Source: Forbes / BGR

If You Have a Smart Phone, Anyone Can Now Track Your Every Move

Location services company Navizon has a new system, called Navizon I.T.S., that could allow tracking of visitors in malls, museums, offices, factories, secured areas and just about any other indoor space. It could be used to examine patterns of foot traffic in retail spaces, assure that a museum is empty of visitors at closing time, or even to pinpoint the location of any individual registered with the system. But let’s set all that aside for a minute while we freak out about the privacy implications.

Most of us leave Wi-Fi on by default, in part because our phones chastise us when we don’t. (Triangulation by Wi-Fi hotspots is important for making location services more accurate.) But you probably didn’t realize that, using proprietary new “nodes” from Navizon, any device with an active Wi-Fi radio can be seen by a system like Navizon’s.

Navizon’s technology is also reminiscent of the location data provided to retailers and marketers by Skyhook’s Spotrank system, which has a different set of pros and cons: That data is available for every point on the planet, but it only includes devices running Skyhook software.

The rollout of this technology means there are now at least three ways that users can track their locations indoors, where GPS is generally useless — bluetooth beacon, Spotrank (and proprietary vendor) databases of Wi-Fi hotspots, and Navizon’s I.T.S. nodes. It also marks the second way (that I know of) for you to be tracked via the location of your phone, whether you want to be or not. (The first requires access to your cell phone carrier, and is used for example to locate your position when you make a 911 call.)

It shouldn’t be surprising that carrying around a little RF transmitter in your pocket makes you visible to all sorts of tracking technology. Maybe it’s simply the (inevitable) commercialization of this fact that is somehow unnerving.

 

 

Source: Technology Review

WARNING: Factory Resetting your Android may leave private data on your device

It’s never fun to have to issue a warning, but a new study by the LA Times indicates that the Factory Reset function on Android devices may not work as advertised. The site worked with a security expert to run a test on BlackBerry, Android, and iOS devices as well as PCs. It discovered that important, sensitive data could be retrieved on a large portion of Android devices even after the Factory Reset feature had been properly used.

Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert from McAfee performed the experiment, where he purchased 30 used devices (mostly smartphones and laptops) from random users on Craigslist. His goal was to see how smart people were about removing their personal information from phones, but as it turns out, even though a majority of owners did correctly Factory Reset their Android devices, he was still able to retrieve vital data like “Social Security numbers, child support documents, credit card account log-ins, and a host of other personal data.” This finding is all the more disturbing since he could find no problems with the way iPhones, iPads, or BlackBerry devices delete their data. The only other weak link was Windows XP, which is so old it’s almost expected.

We’ve reached out to Google’s Android team to try and learn more about this potential vulnerability, but have not heard back as of publication. We’ll update this article if and when we get some answers.

Until we learn more, we don’t recommend that you don’t sell your used Android devices to anyone that you don’t know or trust. It’s quite possible that personal information could be leaked from it.

Ryan: I’ve owned a couple Android phones and I also have the Galaxy Tab.. I am back to BlackBerry and using the 9900, I find Android Phones to drop calls and bug out with force close errors more often like I like when using a phone.  And I can’t seem to drop this keyboard.. emails are much quicker on a BlackBerry than other devices. It would be interesting if RIM decided to let other companies use their keyboard design.

Source: DigitalTrends

Apple wins ‘device destroying’ injunction against Motorola

Apple, which continues to disrupt the mobile space with its patent litigation, has successfully won a case against rival Motorola, in which a photo management patent was infringed.

The German court ruling said that the “zoomed in” mode for viewing photos on Motorola’s Android handsets infringed the Apple-held patent, but not the “zoomed out” mode. EU Patent No. EP2059868 originally derived from another patent, which allowed photos to ‘bounce’ when they are over-scrolled; because people will attempt to claim anything nowadays.

FOSS Patents author Florian Mueller understands that Apple could order the destruction of devices if it chooses so.

“If Apple enforces the ruling, it can even require Motorola to destroy any infringing products in its possession in Germany and recall, at MMI’s expense, any infringing products from German retailers in order to have them destroyed as well.”

Having said that, Motorola played down the fears that devices could be subject to such ghastly ends by saying that doesn’t expect the ruling to affect future sales, and that it has “implemented a new way to view photos”, reports Bloomberg with a spelling mistake.

While Motorola can continue selling the devices, it did not comment on Mueller’s comments that would lead to ultimately the mass graves of Motorola phones. Motorola has said that it has already sought a workaround to prevent its smartphones from infringing Apple’s patent, thus rendering the court’s judgement effectively useless.

It appears from this, that not only is Germany a hot bed of patent activity, litigation — and frankly, trolling — but while one company sues another, the defendant in each case is more often than not forced to simply modify the software of the phones.

If you thought the patent wars were all in Apple’s favour, you would be wrong. It was just over a week ago when Apple pulled the plug on its iCloud and MobileMe push email feature within the borders of Germany, after Motorola won a patent claim of its own.

Source: ZDNet

iOS loophole gives developers access to photos, sources say a fix is coming

Another day, another iOS security concern. Today’s confidence-defeating news comes from Nick Bilton at the New York Times. Bilton writes at the paper’s Bits blog that a loophole has been discovered in iOS which allows third-party developers access to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch’s photo and video location data… as well as the actual photos and videos themselves. It appears that if an app asks for photo location data on your device (and you approve the request for permission), that application will also be able to slurp down the photos and videos stored on your phone without any further notification. The Times report mirrors an earlier story from 9to5 Mac which detailed security issues on the platform.

Bilton had an unnamed developer create a dummy application which would replicate the offending functionality, and the developer was able to easily poach location information as well as photos and video from a test device. Other developers — such as Curio co-founder David E. Chen — sounded off on the issue. Chen told the Times that, “The location history, as well as your photos and videos, could be uploaded to a server. Once the data is off of the iOS device, Apple has virtually no ability to monitor or limit its use.” Camera+ developer John Casasanta said that, “It’s very strange, because Apple is asking for location permission, but really what it is doing is accessing your entire photo library.” The article also suggests that this loophole may have been introduced with the release of iOS 4 in 2010.

We reached out to Apple about the issue, but the company declined to comment.

All hope might not be lost, however. We spoke to sources familiar with the situation, and were informed that a fix is most likely coming for the loophole. According to the people we talked to, Apple has been made aware of the issue and is likely planning a fix with an upcoming release of iOS. Those sources also confirmed that the ability to send your photos and videos to a third-party is an error, not an intended feature. If we had to guess, the fix will likely come alongside a patch for Apple’s other recent security issue — the ability for apps to upload your address book information without warning.

This story has clear echoes of that controversy, which came to light when a developer discovered that the app Path was downloading all of your device’s contact information to the company’s servers. In a follow-up report, we discovered that Path wasn’t the only app grabbing your info.

It will be interesting to see how Apple reacts to security breaches of this nature in the future. The company has long made it clear that it’s working to respect user’s privacy; at a glance it looks like these recent slip-ups are exceptions, not the rule.

Source: The Verge

Any GSM phone vulnerable to new scam: researcher

A well-known expert on mobile phone security says a vulnerability in a widely used wireless technology could allow hackers to gain remote control of phones, instructing them to send text messages or make calls.

They could use the vulnerability in the GSM network technology, which is used by billions of people in about 80 percent of the global mobile market, to make calls or send texts to expensive, premium phone and messaging services in scams, said Karsten Nohl, head of Germany’s Security Research Labs.

Similar attacks against a small number of smartphones have been done before, but the new attack could expose any cellphone using GSM technology.

“We can do it to hundreds of thousands of phones in a short timeframe,” Nohl told Reuters in advance of a presentation at a hacking convention in Berlin on Tuesday.

Attacks on corporate landline phone systems are fairly common, often involving bogus premium-service phone lines that hackers set up across Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Fraudsters make calls to the numbers from hacked business phone systems or mobile phones, then collect their cash and move on before the activity is identified.

The phone users typically don’t identify the problem until after they receive their bills and telecommunications carriers often end up footing at least some of the costs.

Even though Nohl will not present details of attack at the conference he said hackers will usually replicate the code needed for attacks within a few weeks.

Source: Reuters