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Privacy

Used Cars Can Still Be Controlled By Their Previous Owners' Apps (wtkr.com) 100

An IBM security researcher recently discovered something interesting about smart cars. An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Charles Henderson sold his car several years ago, but he still knows exactly where it is, and can control it from his phone... "The car is really smart, but it's not smart enough to know who its owner is, so it's not smart enough to know it's been resold," Henderson told CNNTech. "There's nothing on the dashboard that tells you 'the following people have access to the car.'" This isn't an isolated problem. Henderson tested four major auto manufacturers, and found they all have apps that allow previous owners to access them from a mobile device. At the RSA security conference in San Francisco on Friday, Henderson explained how people can still retain control of connected cars even after they resell them.

Manufacturers create apps to control smart cars -- you can use your phone to unlock the car, honk the horn and find out the exact location of your vehicle. Henderson removed his personal information from services in the car before selling it back to the dealership, but he was still able to control the car through a mobile app for years. That's because only the dealership that originally sold the car can see who has access and manually remove someone from the app.

It's also something to consider when buying used IoT devices -- or a smart home equipped with internet-enabled devices.
Cellphones

Fans Choose A New Football Team's Plays With Their Smartphones (slate.com) 46

A new arena-league football team plays on a 50-yard field and uses a mobile app that allows fans to vote on the team's next play. An anonymous reader writes: Slate describes a receiver tackled for a short gain after the audience instructed the quarterback to throw a quick pass -- as "shouts and cheers exploded from the stands, with phones raised triumphantly in the air." The quarterback is informed of the chosen plays through an earphone in his helmet, and after one touchdown, one of the players even thanked a fan in the seats for picking a good play. "Then noses immediately returned to screens...the coach and QB were antsy, peering upward, waiting for the fans' next call as the play clock ticked down again..." The team eventually lost 78-47, but to at least make things more interactive, the players all have their Twitter handles sewn on the backs of their jerseys.
Fans can also be "virtual general managers" for a small fee, dialing in to a weekly phone call to give feedback to the team's president, and fans also selected the team's head coach from online resumes and some YouTube videos of interviews. In fact, the article says the fans even picked the team's name, with the name "Screaming Eagles" finally winning out over "Teamy McTeamface" and "Spaghetti Monsters."
Cellphones

Should International Travelers Leave Their Phones At Home? (freecodecamp.com) 505

Long-time Slashdot reader Toe, The sums up what he learned from freeCodeCamp's Quincy Larson: "Before you travel internationally, wipe your phone or bring/rent/buy a clean one." Larson's article is titled "I'll never bring my phone on an international flight again. Neither should you." All the security in the world can't save you if someone has physical possession of your phone or laptop, and can intimidate you into giving up your password... Companies like Elcomsoft make 'forensic software' that can suck down all your photos, contacts -- even passwords for your email and social media accounts -- in a matter of minutes.... If we do nothing to resist, pretty soon everyone will have to unlock their phone and hand it over to a customs agent while they're getting their passport swiped... And with this single new procedure, all the hard work that Apple and Google have invested in encrypting the data on your phone -- and fighting for your privacy in court -- will be a completely moot point.
The article warns Americans that their constitutional protections don't apply because "the U.S. border isn't technically the U.S.," calling it "a sort of legal no-man's-land. You have very few rights there." Larson points out this also affects Canadians, but argues that "You can't hand over a device that you don't have."
NASA

US-Born NASA Scientist Detained At The Border Until He Unlocked His Phone (theverge.com) 626

Sidd Bikkannavar works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After racing solar-powered cars in Chile, he had trouble returning to America. mspohr quote The Verge: Bikkannavar says he was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the Customs and Border Protection agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn't supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar's phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn't know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device...

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled "Inspection of Electronic Devices" and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. "I was cautiously telling him I wasn't allowed to give it out, because I didn't want to seem like I was not cooperating," says Bikkannavar. "I told him I'm not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it."

While border agents have the right to search devices, The Verge reports that travelers aren't legally required to unlock their phones, "although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not." They also report that Bikkannavar "was not allowed to leave until he gave CBP his PIN," adding that the cybersecurity team at JPL "was not happy about the breach."
Cellphones

Shamed In Super Bowl Ads, Verizon Introduces Unlimited Data Plans (theverge.com) 172

A surprise announcement Sunday revealed that tomorrow Verizon will begin offering introductory plans with unlimited data.*

* Customers "will get full LTE speeds until they reach 22GB of usage," reports The Verge, "after which they'll be subject to reduced data speeds and de-prioritization."

An anonymous reader writes: Other carriers have similar limits. "For Sprint it's 23GB. T-Mobile has a slightly higher threshold of 26GB... AT&T matches Verizon at 22GB," reports The Verge. Verizon says their cap is "to ensure a quality experience for all customers... While we don't expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers." The $80-a-month plan also includes hotspot tethering -- up to 10 gigabytes -- and "includes 'HD' video as opposed to the 480p/DVD-quality video that T-Mobile One customers get by default."

In a Sunday YouTube video, the head of Verizon's wireless effort says customer interviews found "Some of the heavier users of data -- the power users -- had data anxiety." But it's still a surprising move. Engadget reports that in the past Verizon "frequently tried its hardest to discourage unlimited data users," but today is "facing stiff competition from T-Mobile, which engineered a dramatic comeback in recent years and upped the ante by making unlimited data standard through the One plan."

Verizon's pricing was also targeted heavily last week in a barrage of Super Bowl ads by both Sprint and T-Mobile just last Sunday. T-Mobile showed a masochistic woman calling Verizon just to enjoying hearing about the overages, taxes and fees she incurred by exceeding her data limit, while Sprint showed a man who was trying to escape his Verizon contract by faking his own death.
Cellphones

Mission Possible: Self-Destructing Phones Are Now a Reality (yahoo.com) 142

drunkdrone quotes the International Business Times: Self-destructing gadgets favored by the likes of James Bond and Mission: Impossible's Ethan Hunt have taken one step closer to reality. Researchers in Saudi Arabia have developed a mechanism that, when triggered, can destroy a smartphone or other electronic device in as little as 10 seconds. The self-destruct mechanism has been created by electrical engineers at the King Abdulla University of Science and Technology and consists of a polymer layer that rapidly expands when subjected to temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius, effectively bursting the phone open from the inside. The mechanism can be adapted to be triggered in various ways, including remotely through a smartphone app or when it's subjected to pressure.

Once triggered, power from the device's battery is directed to electrodes that rapidly heat, causing the polymer layer to expand to around seven times its original size within 10-15 seconds. This crushes the vital components inside the device, destroying any information stored on board.

One engineer believes the phone will see adoption in the intelligence and financial communities, though it can also be retrofitted to existing phones for just $15. This raises an interesting question -- would you want a self-destructing phone?
Cellphones

Sony's Latest Smartphone Camera Sensor Can Shoot At 1,000fps (theverge.com) 86

Sony has taken the wraps off of its latest smartphone camera sensor which it says can shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 1,000 frames per second. "The new 3-layer CMOS sensor -- an industry first -- can capture slow motion video about eight times faster than its competition with minimal focal pane distortion, according to Sony," reports The Verge. From their report: The sensor can also take 19.3MP images in 1/120th of a second, which Sony says is four times faster than other chips, thanks to high-capacity DRAM, and a 4-tier construction on the circuit section used to convert analog video signals to digital signals. All of that fancy camera talk basically means this sensor blows every camera currently in a smartphone out of the water. Although the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel can shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 120fps, they are still miles behind what Sony has reached with its latest sensor. At 1,000fps it even surpasses the Sony RX 100 V, which can only shoot at 960fps.
Cellphones

FTC Dismantles Two Huge Robocall Organizations (onthewire.io) 121

Billions of robocalls came from two groups selling extended auto warranties, SEO services, and home security systems over the last seven years -- many to numbers on the "Do Not Call" list -- but this week the Federal Trade Commission took action. Trailrunner7 shares this report from OnTheWire: Continuing its campaign against phone fraud operations, the FTC has dismantled two major robocall organizations... They and many of their co-defendants have agreed to court-ordered bans on robocall activities and financial settlements... The FTC and the FCC both have been cracking down on illegal robocall operations recently. The FCC has formed a robocall strike force with the help of carriers and also has signed an agreement to cooperate with Canadian authorities to address the problem.
"The law is clear about robocalls," says one FTC executive. "If a telemarketer doesn't have consumers' written permission, it's illegal to make these calls."
Security

Hamas 'Honey Trap' Dupes Israeli Soldiers (securityweek.com) 109

wiredmikey quotes Security Week: The smartphones of dozens of Israeli soldiers were hacked by Hamas militants pretending to be attractive young women online, an Israeli military official said Wednesday. Using fake profiles on Facebook with alluring photos, Hamas members contacted the soldiers via groups on the social network, luring them into long chats, the official told journalists on condition of anonymity.

Dozens of the predominantly lower-ranked soldiers were convinced enough by the honey trap to download fake applications which enabled Hamas to take control of their phones, according to the official.

Cellphones

Nokia Finally Returns To The Smartphone Market (In China) (mashable.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: To little fanfare, the Finnish technology company HMD Global Sunday unveiled the Nokia 6, a mid-range Android smartphone for the Chinese market. HMD owns the rights to use Nokia's brand on mobile phones. The Nokia 6, which runs the newest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android Nougat, sports a 5.5-inch full HD (1920x1080 pixels) display. With metal on the sides and a rounded rectangular fingerprint scanner housed on the front, the Nokia 6 seems reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S7.

The new Nokia smartphone is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor and will compete with the likes of Samsung's Galaxy A series models and other mid-end smartphones... The smartphone is priced at 1,699 Chinese Yuan (roughly $250).

AI

Huawei Snubs Google, Ships An Android Phone With Alexa (reuters.com) 63

Huawei announced its flagship handset will gives users access to Amazon's Alexa assistant in the U.S., suggesting a new worry for Google, according to Reuters. An anonymous reader writes: "The adoption of Alexa by a prominent Android manufacturer indicates that Amazon may have opened up an early lead over Google as the companies race to present their digital assistants to as many people as possible, analysts said." Analyst Jan Dawson at Jackdaw Research even told Reuters that if Google's personal assistant lags in popularity when voice becomes the most popular interface, "that's a huge loss for Google in terms of data gathering, training its AI, and ultimately the ability to drive advertising revenue."

Tension may have started when Google decided to debut Google Assistant on their own Pixel smartphones. "While Google has expressed an interest in bringing its assistant to other Android smartphones, the decision to debut the feature on its own hardware may have strained relations with manufacturers, Dawson said. 'It highlights just what a strategic mistake it can be for services companies to make their own hardware and give it preferential access to new services.'"

Nvidia announced this week at CES that they'd be using Google Assistant for their Shield TVs, while Whirlpool and Ford both announced Alexa-enabled products. But this article argues Google Assistant has one thing that Alexa doesn't have: a search engine.
Android

LG Is Abandoning the Modular Smartphone Idea (theverge.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: LG's modular phone accessory strategy that served as the primary differentiator for last year's G5 smartphone appears to be no more. The Wall Street Journal reports that the South Korean company is pivoting away from the plug-in "Friends" modules for the upcoming G6 device after lackluster sales for the G5. Per The Wall Street Journal, an LG spokesperson commented that consumers aren't interested in modular phones. The company instead is planning to focus on functionality and design aspects for the upcoming G6, which Chief Technologist Skott Ahn says will be released "in the very near future." According to the WSJ, the LG G6 will arrive "in the very near future," which suggests the phone will launch at Mobile World Congress next month.
Android

Some Pixels Have Problems (techtimes.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes Tech Times: Pixel owners have so far reported on camera issues, audio issues, LTE band 4 connectivity problems and others, but the random freezing remains among the most persistent ones. While most previous issues have already received a fix, users have been complaining about the Google Pixel or Pixel XL randomly freezing since November and it seems Google has yet to get to the bottom of this. The official Pixel User Community forum has a long thread on the matter and the discussion started a good while back [in early November]...

[U]sers reporting on the Pixel Community Forum run different apps and they haven't found a common denominator just yet, and some don't have any third-party apps at all, further suggesting that the issue might not be caused by a third-party app. On the other hand, some Pixel owners got rid of this issue by uninstalling a third-party app called Live360 Family Locator, but others didn't even have the app installed and still experienced the issues.

Despite the problems, "most Pixel owners thus far have been quite pleased with their device," notes BGR -- though Softpedia also reports on some users complaining about "static and distorted sounds when at the three highest volume levels."
Encryption

US Congressional Committee Concludes Encryption Backdoors Won't Work (betanews.com) 98

"Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest," reports a bipartisan committee in the U.S. Congress. Mark Wilson quotes Beta News: The Congressional Encryption Working Group (EWG) was set up in the wake of the Apple vs FBI case in which the FBI wanted to gain access to the encrypted contents of a shooter's iPhone. The group has just published its end-of-year report summarizing months of meetings, analysis and debate. The report makes four key observations, starting off with: "Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest".

This is certainly not a new argument against encryption backdoors for the likes of the FBI, but it is an important one... The group says: "Congress should not weaken this vital technology... Cryptography experts and information security professionals believe that it is exceedingly difficult and impractical, if not impossible, to devise and implement a system that gives law enforcement exceptional access to encrypted data without also compromising security against hackers, industrial spies, and other malicious actors...

The report recommends that instead, Congress "should foster cooperation between the law enforcement community and technology companies," adding "there is already substantial cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement." [PDF] It also suggests that analyzing the metadata from "our digital 'footprints'...could play a role in filling in the gap. The technology community leverages this information every day to improve services and target advertisements. There appears to be an opportunity for law enforcement to better leverage this information in criminal investigations."
AT&T

AT&T Is Adding a Spam Filter For Phone Calls (theverge.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, ATT introduced a new service for automated blocking of fraud or spam calls. Dubbed ATT Call Protect, the system identifies specific numbers believed to be sources of fraud, and will either deliver those calls with a warning or block them outright. Users can whitelist specific numbers, although temporary blocks require downloading a separate Call Protect app. The feature is only available on postpaid iOS and Android devices, and can be activated through the MyATT system. Phone companies have allowed for manual number blocking for years, and third-party apps like Whitepages and Privacystar use larger databases of untrustworthy numbers to preemptively block calls from the outside. But ATT's new system would build in those warnings at the network level, and give operators more comprehensive data when assembling suspected numbers. More broadly, marketing calls are subject to the national Do Not Call registry. Specific instances of fraud can still be reported through carriers or directly to police.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Begins Investigating Surveillance Technology Rumors At Standing Rock (eff.org) 147

Electronic Frontier Foundation has dispatched a team of technologists and lawyers to a protest site in Standing Rock, North Dakota, to investigate "several reports of potentially unlawful surveillance." An anonymous reader writes: The EFF has "collected anecdotal evidence from water protectors about suspicious cell phone behavior, including uncharacteristically fast battery drainage, applications freezing, and phones crashing completely," according to a recent report. "Some water protectors also saw suspicious login attempts to their Google accounts from IP addresses originating from North Dakota's Information & Technology Department. On social media, many reported Facebook posts and messenger threads disappearing, as well as Facebook Live uploads failing to upload or, once uploaded, disappearing completely."

The EFF reports "it's been very difficult to pinpoint the true cause or causes," but they've targeted over 20 law enforcement agencies with public records requests, noting that "Of the 15 local and state agencies that have responded, 13 deny having any record at all of cell site simulator use, and two agencies -- Morton County and the North Dakota State Highway Patrol (the two agencies most visible on the ground) -- claim that they can't release records in the interest of "public safety"...

"Law enforcement agencies should not be allowed to sidestep public inquiry into the surveillance technologies they're using," EFF writes, "especially when citizens' constitutional rights are at stake... It is past time for the Department of Justice to investigate the scope of law enforcement's digital surveillance at Standing Rock and its consequences for civil liberties and freedoms in the digital world."
Transportation

Uber Asks Everyone To Stop Making It The New Tinder (sfgate.com) 150

Ride-sharers have been using Uber and Lyft "carpool" apps to meet dates -- and now Uber's trying to stop it. An anonymous reader quotes SFGate: This week Uber updated their community guidelines to discourage passengers from using the ride-sharing app as a hook-up opportunity. Some Uber and Lyft riders have been using the car-pooling option as a way to meet or hook up with others. But Uber is not pleased and has advised users to not flirt or touch passengers. "It's OK to chat with other people in the car. But please don't comment on someone's appearance or ask whether they are single," Uber's guidelines state.
Their new policy now specifically states that "Uber has a no sex rule. That's no sexual conduct between drivers and riders, no matter what."
Government

Virginia Police Spent $500K For An Ineffective Cellphone Surveillance System (muckrock.com) 36

Cell-site simulators can intercept phone calls and even provide locations (using GPS data). But Virginia's state police force just revealed details about their actual use of the device -- and it's not pretty. Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: In 2014, the Virginia State Police spent $585,265 on a specially modified Suburban outfitted with the latest and greatest in cell phone surveillance: the DRT 1183C, affectionately known as the DRTbox. But according to logs uncovered by public records website MuckRock, the pricey ride was only used 12 times — and only worked seven of those times.
According to Virginia's ACLU director, "each of the 12 uses cost almost $50,000, and only 4 of them resulted in an arrest [raising] a significant question whether the more than half million dollars spent on the device and the vehicle...was a wise investment of public funds."
Businesses

Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases (cmo.com) 66

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.)

The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17.

The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."
Canada

Google Opens Real-World 'Google Shops' in Canada (digitaltrends.com) 43

Streetlight writes: Google is moving towards a physical presence in Best Buy stores...mimicking what Samsung has done. Hopefully the "stores" are staffed with competent professionals that know what they're selling and maybe provide some help to those who have purchased Google's hardware and software.
Google "is launching a store-within-a-store debuting in North America at select Best Buy locations in Canada," reports TechCrunch, adding that recently "Google also revealed that it would be creating a pop-up Experience Store for users to check out its new wares in New York City."

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