Category: Telecom

Firefox maker Mozilla aims at Google with new mobile OS

Mozilla, maker of the popular Firefox browser, is developing a mobile operating system that will take the web-based functionality of Google’s Chrome operating system and combine it with the smartphone- and tablet-centric functionality of software like Android or iOS. The experimental software project is called Boot to Gecko (B2G), and has a specific focus on expanding the use of HTML 5-based applications.

“Mozilla believes that the web can displace proprietary, single-vendor stacks for application development,” writes Mozilla researcher Andreas Gal in an announcement of the B2G project to developers. “To make open web technologies a better basis for future applications on mobile and desktop alike, we need to keep pushing the envelope of the web to include — and in places exceed — the capabilities of the competing stacks in question.” This, says Gal, is the goal of B2G.

The B2G project is currently “in its infancy,” so very little details even exist. We do know that Mozilla developers will initially build B2G upon low-level Android code, and plans to develop a new custom user interface and application stack around the Firefox HTML rendering engine, Gecko. Once the build of B2G is further along, however, Mozilla says it plans to use “as little of Android as possible.”

Like Android, B2G will be open source, but Mozilla will take the code’s transparency one step further by releasing the code “in real time,” rather than waiting until full builds are available, as is the case with most open source software, including Android, Chrome and Firefox.

“We will do this work in the open, we will release the source in real-time, we will take all successful additions to an appropriate standards group, and we will track changes that come out of that process,” writes Gal. “We aren’t trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we’re trying to have them run on the web.”

Ryan: Someone needs go give Google and Apple a run for their money, it certainly won’t be Research in Motion.

Source: Yahoo! News

Jailbroken iOS 5 devices: No OTA updates for you

The iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad crowd got understandably excited with the word that the next version of iOS, iOS 5, will finally usher in over-the-air (OTA) updates for the platform. Android device owners have been enjoying OTA updates from the beginning, and finally Apple is cutting the cord for device updates. Folks are already using beta versions of iOS 5 even though it won’t officially appear until later this year, and the early adopters discovered that the first iOS 5 beta update just released OTA will not work on jailbroken devices.

Android device owners are already familiar with the lack of OTA updates on rooted devices, the equivalent to the jailbroken iOS device. Rooting or jailbreaking is the process owners go through to allow unofficial software to be installed to serve functions the official OS doesn’t support. It has long been understood that rooting an Android device ends OTA updating, and it is now clear the same will apply on the iOS front for jailbroken devices.

Those using beta iOS 5 report you can still apply Apple updates by connecting to a computer via USB cable, so all is not lost. Getting OS updates OTA is a much better alternative to cabling up a device, so those with jailbroken iPhones may need to rethink that once iOS 5 is officially released.

Ryan:  I say disable Automatic Updates in iTunes (Apple only seems to be updating iOS when new Jailbreaks are released), and stop tethering completely!

Source: ZDNet

Researcher Says That 8% of Android Apps Are Leaking Private Information

Android has had its fair share of malware problems. Whenever malware are detected, Google reacts swiftly and remove them. However, according to security researcher Neil Daswani, around 8% of the apps on the Android market are leaking private user data.

Neil Daswani, who is also the CTO of security firm Dasient, says that they have studied around 10,000 Android apps and have found that 800 of them are leaking private information of the user to an unauthorized server. Neil Daswani is scheduled to present the full findings at the Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas which starts on July 30th.

The Dasient researchers also found out that 11 of the apps they have examined are sending unwanted SMS messages.

Google needs to take charge

This malware problem on Android has become too much. One of the main reason that we see malicious apps in the market is because of the lack of regulation in the apps that get into the Android Market.

Sure, the lack of regulation can be good. It means that developers can make their apps without worrying if Google will accept their apps or not. It fits into the pre-existing application distribution model where anyone can develop and publish their own apps.

However, this comes at a price – the malware problem. Yes, most of the problems with these malicious apps can be avoided if only users read the permission requirements of the apps. But, what percentage of the users actually read the permission requirements of all the apps they download?

I think that it is time that Google make approval of the apps a requirement before it gets into the Market. They do not need to do it like Apple, but a basic security check before an app gets on the market will be nice.

If nothing is done about and this problem is allowed to grow, it will end up killing the platform.

Ryan:  I’ve been using Lookout Mobile Security on Android OS for awhile now and it appears to be working great. You can find it here.

Source: Digitizor


Apple releases iOS 4.3.4 update

Apple has released a security update for iOS that fixes the exploit used for easy jailbreaking of devices.

This update fixes the PDF vulnerability used on the site to easily  jailbreak the device via the Safari mobile browser. This update means that hackers won’t be able to use the same vulnerability to compromise iOS devices.

Apple took nine days to plug this hole.

If you want to be protected, fire up iTunes, connect your iOS device and download this update. If you want to jailbreak your device, do so and then install the third-party patch created by the jailbreak community to plug the hole.

iOS update 4.3.4 is for GSM iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, iPad, and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. If you have a Verizon CDMA iPhone 4 then you need iOS 4.2.9.

Ryan Says:  Those of you still wanting to use the website to download cydia should avoid the latest 4.3.4 Apple iTunes update.

Source: ZDNet

New mobile caller ID feature displays names, locations of anonymous callers

It’s hard to believe that not too long ago, caller ID didn’t exist. To know who was calling, you had to (god forbid) actually speak to the person. If that person happened to be someone you were trying to avoid, there was simply nothing you could do about it. But up until now, only landlines were capable of displaying the name of anonymous callers, with mobile phones requiring an address book entry to determine who was on the other end. A new feature from T-Mobile changes that, and displays the name, number, and city of the caller, even if you’ve never spoken to the person before.

It’s called Name ID, and it brings mobile phones one step closer to rendering their landline counterparts completely obsolete. The feature is the work of Cequint, a mobile technology company which hopes to be able to offer the feature on all major carriers shortly, though T-Mobile was the first to officially embrace it.

Name ID carries a $4 monthly fee. However, if you happen to purchase one of a few select new phones from T-Mobile, you are given a 10-day free trial of the new feature. As the carrier’s vice president enthusiastically put it, “Before Name ID for mobile phones, deciding whether or not to answer an unfamiliar call often left customers guessing. Now, Name ID allows T-Mobile customers to more easily determine which calls to answer.”

Ryan:  I think this feature will catch on in Canada for sure.  Solid move by T-Mobile USA.

Source: Electronista / Yahoo! News

Hackers crack Vodafone’s network, can listen to all calls

The Hacker’s Choice (THC), a group of computer security researchers, released surprising news about cellular carrier Vodafone UK. Using standard consumer hardware, THC was able to access Vodafone’s internal network and customer equipment. This unprecedented hack was made possible by Vodafone’s Sure Signal, a femtocell (think tiny cell tower) customers plug into their home internet connections for better cell reception.

THC began researching femtocells in 2009. The technology has become popular with cellphone companies like AT&T, which offers a 3G MicroCell, because the home access points mean better service for customers in areas with spotty coverage. THC purchased its femtocell from Vodafone UK and examined how the device communicated to Vodafone’s core network. They discovered that because of a flaw in how Vodafone implemented its system, it gave full access to the network to the femtocell, a device the hackers had full control of. Vodafone also used the same ‘newsys’ administrator password across all devices.

Vodafone says only a limited number of registered phones are allowed to access each customer’s femtocell. The hackers were able to uncap this and let any Vodafone customer phone automatically connect to their device. Once a phone connected, THC was able to eavesdrop on phone conversations, place calls as the customer, and even access their voicemail. With phone hacking in the news every day, we wonder what other security flaws are still waiting to be discovered.

Ryan’s Update:  I have been emailed by Vodafone’s Media Relations Team, and they have informed me that they have released a security patch and have fixed any flaws with Vodafone Sure Signal.  I was directed to read the following statement below:

Overnight on July 12, a claim appeared that hackers had found security loopholes in Vodafone Sure Signal which could compromise the security of Vodafone’s network.

This is untrue: The Vodafone network has not been compromised.
The claims regarding Vodafone Sure Signal,  which is a signal booster used indoors, relate to a vulnerability that was detected at the start of 2010.

A security patch was issued a few weeks later automatically to all Sure Signal boxes.

As a result, Vodafone Sure Signal customers do not need to take any action to secure their device.
We monitor the security of all of our products and services on an ongoing basis and will continue to do so.


Source: THC Blog / Yahoo! News

Adobe scraps AIR for Linux, focuses on mobile

Concluding that its priorities should be on iOS and Android, Adobe Systems has stopped releasing its own version of its AIR programming foundation for Linux.

AIR combines Flash and a Web browser to let programmers build standalone software that runs on any system with the underlying AIR “runtime” that executes the software. It’s cross-platform technology, meaning for example that separate versions of TweetDeck–a prominent AIR app–don’t need to be rewritten for Mac OS and Windows.

But starting with AIR 2.7, released this week, Adobe won’t build a Linux version of AIR anymore, making the cross-platform technology a bit less cross-platform. Instead, it’s relying on partners to do so on their own.

“We will no longer be releasing our own versions of Adobe AIR and the AIR SDK for desktop Linux, but expect that one or more of our partners will do so,” Adobe said in a blog post.

The move contrasts sharply with Adobe’s bitter and public fight last year objecting to an Apple move that barred AIR-based apps from iOS devices. Apple eventually relented for AIR-derived apps, though it still won’t let Flash Player itself onto iOS devices.

In an FAQ (a PDF file no good reason that I can imagine), Adobe said Linux just isn’t where the AIR action is taking place now.

“Our customers are focusing on creating applications for smartphones and tablets, and we are aligning our investment towards new features and platform support for the device market,” Adobe said.

One of the main features of AIR 2.7 is better performance on iOS devices–four times faster in some cases, according to Adobe developer evangelist Renaun Erickson. Also in 2.7 are several features from Flash Player 10.3, such as microphone noise cancelation, and the ability to move the AIR runtime to the SD card on Android.

Linux on PCs has failed to take off widely, and only 1 in 200 AIR downloads are for Linux, added Dave McAllister, who spearheads Adobe’s open-source work.

“With desktop Linux, we see a basically flat growth curve hovering around 1 percent,” citing Net Applications’ NetMarketshare statistics. “And since the release of AIR, we’ve seen only a 0.5 percent download share for desktop Linux.”

Adobe is putting a priority on work that will let those partners port AIR to Linux, it said. “Source code for the Adobe runtimes is available to qualified partners under the terms of the Open Screen Project,” the company said.

Source: CNET

WHO says cell phone use “possibly carcinogenic”

Using a mobile phone may increase the risk of developing certain types of brain tumor and consumers should consider ways of reducing their exposure, World Health Organization (WHO) cancer experts said on Tuesday.

A working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries meeting at the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said a review of all the available scientific evidence suggested cell phone use should be classified as “possibly carcinogenic.”

The classification, which puts mobile phone use in the same broad IARC cancer risk category as lead, chloroform and coffee, could spur the United Nations health body to look again at its guidelines on mobile phones, the scientists said.

But more lengthy and detailed research is needed before a more definitive answer on any link can be given.

The WHO had previously said there was no established evidence for a link between cell phone use and cancer.

“After reviewing essentially all the evidence that is relevant… the working group classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans,” Jonathan Samet, chair of the IARC group, said in a telebriefing.

He said some evidence suggested a link between an increased risk for glioma, a type of brain cancer, and mobile phone use.

The WHO’s position has been keenly awaited by mobile phone companies and by campaign groups who have raised concerns about whether cell phones might be harmful to health.

Industry groups immediately sought to play down the decision, stressing that the “possibly carcinogenic” category also includes substances such as pickled vegetables and coffee.

“This IARC classification does not mean that cell phones cause cancer,” said John Walls, vice president of public affairs for the United States-based wireless association CTIA.

He noted that the IARC working group did not conduct any new research, but reviewed published studies, and said other regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have stated that “the weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.”

John Cooke, executive director of the British-based Mobile Operators Association, said IARC had only found the possibility of a hazard. “Whether or not this represents a risk requires further scientific investigation,” he said in a statement.


The IARC remarks follow a study published last year which looked at almost 13,000 cell phone users over 10 years and found no clear answer on whether the mobile devices cause brain tumors.

Many previous studies have also failed to establish any clear cancer link, but a U.S. study in February found that using a mobile phone can change brain cell activity.

Use of mobile phones has increased hugely since their introduction in the early- to mid-1980s. About 5 billion mobile phones are currently in use worldwide.

Christopher Wild, IARC’s director, said it was important that more research should be conducted, particularly into long-term and heavy use of mobile phones.

“Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting,” he said.

Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics and clinical engineering at Britain’s Royal Berkshire Hospital, said he thought the IARC move was appropriate because it reflected the “anecdotal evidence that cancers may be associated with phone usage.” But he added: “It is vitally important to fully understand that there is no definitive correlation.”

Source: Reuters

Is your iPhone obsolete? Meet PaperPhone

How many times have you wanted to smash your phone when talking to annoying people? Thanks to research at Queen’s University in Canada, you’ll soon be able to crush that handset mercilessly. Well, almost.

The e-paper prototype PaperPhone has a 3.75-inch thin-film display and developers call it the world’s first flexible smartphone (remember Nokia’s patent application for one?). It can do everything a smartphone can, such as make calls, display books, and play music.

“This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years,” Queen’s Human Media Lab Director Roel Vertegaal was quoted as saying in a release.

As seen in the vid below, the prototype is based on e-ink technology and is more like a bendable plastic sheet about the thickness of a conference badge. It can be operated by bending the corners to turn a page, squeezing to make a call, and even written on with a pen.

The lab has also been working on video game screens that are bent as a control input.

Larger versions of the displays could eliminate paper and printers from offices, according to Vertegaal. E-ink displays require no power until the screen is refreshed, but for the time being the PaperPhone display is connected to an external power source.

Vertegaal, who collaborated with researchers Byron Lahey and Win Burleson of the Motivational Environments Research Group at Arizona State University, is set to discuss the prototype at the Computer Human Interaction 2011 conference next week in Vancouver.

So how flexible is it, really? Can it be crumpled up?

“We haven’t actually tried that–creasing it,” Vertegaal told PC Mag. “It’s a $7,000 prototype, so we’re pretty careful with it. If you were to put a crease in it, you would break it. But there are engineering solutions for that.”



Source: CNET 

BlackBerry OS 7 won’t support Android apps or Flash

While the past two days have been full of promising news for RIM and its line of gadgets, a recent bit of news from the company is less positive.

In a perplexing announcement, RIM says that BlackBerry 7 phones like the recently-announced BlackBerry Bold won’t support Android Apps. Perplexing is the right word here because RIM is currently working on bringing that very same functionality to its PlayBook tablet.

RIM is also nixing Flash support for BlackBerry OS 7, PC Mag reports. Instead, the company is focused on getting that functionality on QNX web browser. As PC Mag points out, this is in spite of the fact that the Bold 9900’s processor meets the required hardware specifications for Flash. Flash support for BlackBerry phones, then, won’t arrive until RIM rolls out a QNX-based mobile OS.

By dropping both features, RIM may further fears that its BlackBerry OS will be left behind as developers flock to the Android and iOS platforms. At this rate, RIM may lose customers as well.

Source: ZDNet / PC Magazine

Inquiries Grow Over Apple’s Data Collection Practices

The controversy surrounding the security of Apple’s iPhone and iPad escalated Thursday as some European governments said they would investigate whether the company had violated privacy laws by collecting and storing users’ geographic location data.

The introduction of the Apple iPad 2 in London in March drew crowds. Now the security of the device is being widely questioned.

At the same time, some researchers said that contrary to reports published Wednesday, the iPhone’s recording of location information in a hidden file on the device, later stored on iTunes on a PC, has been known for some time, and that the information has, on some occasions, been used by law enforcement agencies in investigations.

“This data that was supposedly discovered yesterday has existed in earlier iPhones,” said Alex Levinson of Katana Forensics, a company that specializes in extracting data from electronic devices for legal cases. Mr. Levinson said that he and colleagues had explained Apple’s practices at conferences and in research papers, and that his firm has helped law enforcement agencies “harvest geolocational evidence from iOS devices,” a reference to the Apple operating system.

Mr. Levinson said that an update to Apple’s operating system changed the location of the file storing the information, but that the file had existed previously.

Security experts say law enforcement agencies can often get more precise location information from cellphone carriers than from the hidden file.

While privacy advocates and many iPhone users were alarmed by the revelations, Mr. Levinson and other security experts said they suspected that Apple had been using the data to be able to pinpoint a phone’s location more quickly, saving bandwidth and battery life, when their owners used location-based services like maps and navigation.

Still, the controversy has been magnified by Apple’s silence. For the second day, the company did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

But in a letter sent by Apple in July to two congressmen — Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Joe L. Barton, Republican of Texas — the company appeared to confirm that it has been storing and collecting location information for some time.

In the letter, Apple said it collects the location data anonymously and only when consumers agree to use its location-based services like maps, or any apps that ask a user’s location, and for its advertising system, iAds. The company said that it has been offering location-based services since 2008, but that only in 2010, when it released iOS 3.2, did it begin relying on its own databases for those services. Explaining its need to collect data from its customers’ phones, Apple wrote, “These databases must be updated continuously.”

Security experts say companies like Apple and Google collect the location of Wi-Fi networks and cell towers to pinpoint the location of phones without using GPS technology. Some suggested Apple was doing so through the users of its iPhones.



Mark Seiden, an information security consultant in Silicon Valley, said that Apple’s letter to the congressmen suggests that it uses the location data from the previously hidden file “so a phone knows where it is quickly.” Mr. Seiden said that Apple did not appear to be using the data to track people, but that the company should probably be more diligent about deleting dated location information. “I don’t know why they would want to keep old data on the device,” he said.

Mr. Markey on Thursday sent a follow-up letter to Apple asking it to explain why it was storing the information in the user’s device, and raising concern that its actions could violate the Communications Act.

“Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn’t become an iTrack,” Mr. Markey said in a statement. On Wednesday, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, also sent a letter asking Apple for an explanation.

The controversy erupted on Wednesday, when two computer programmers issued a report at a conference in San Francisco describing the files with the hidden data. The programmers also released a program that allowed users to see their stored location data on a map.

Some privacy experts were particularly concerned that the files were not encrypted, and that they were backed up on users’ computers.

The concerns quickly spread to Europe, where privacy laws are typically stricter than in the United States.

The Bavarian Agency for the Supervision of Data Protection, in Germany, said it would examine whether — and if so, why — the iPhone and iPad were storing such user data. Thomas Kranig, the director of the agency, said his office had asked Apple whether geographic information was being stored and for what purpose.

“If it’s true that this information is being collected, and it is being done without the approval and knowledge of the users, then it is definitely a violation of German privacy law,” Mr. Kranig said.

The Italian Data Protection Authority also opened an investigation into Apple’s data collection, expanding one it had begun on how mobile applications process personal data, Reuters reported.

France may follow suit. Yann Padova, the secretary general of CNIL, the French data protection authority, said the agency was trying to verify the report by the American programmers.

The French agency plans to send Apple France a letter asking for an explanation next week, Mr. Padova said. A major concern will be whether the information remained on the device or whether it was transferred by Apple to one of its commercial partners.

“In the first case, it is a matter of simply not obtaining the consent of  the consumer for the data to be collected,” Mr. Padova said. “In the second case, if the information is marketed without the knowledge of the consumer, it is much more serious.”

Source: New York Times