Weekly tech bulletin 2015-04-26. Top 15 news in Tech from previous week.

Published: Sun, 26 Apr 2015 by Rad

1. Homeland Security Secretary Begs Silicon Valley to Stop the Encryption

Published: Apr 21, 2015 government

At massive security tech conference RSA in San Francisco, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told a packed audience that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be forging alliances with Silicon Valley. He described plans to build an office here, in order to work directly with tech companies on key issues for the DHS.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) be seen as innovator.

This move appears to be a response to a growing rift between the government and Silicon Valley. DHS seems to want to position itself as a tech innovator, attracting engineers away from the private sector.

At the same time, DHS wants to work with Silicon Valley companies, to "promote information sharing and cybersecurity best practices" as part of the Department of Homeland Security's C3 voluntary program.

We need your help to find the solution.

"The current course we are on, toward deeper and deeper encryption in response to the demands of the marketplace, is one that presents real challenges for those in law enforcement and national security."

"Let me be clear: I understand the importance of what encryption brings to privacy. But, imagine the problems if, well after the advent of the telephone, the warrant authority of the government to investigate crime had extended only to the U.S. mail."

"Our inability to access encrypted information poses public safety challenges."

"In fact, encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity, and potential terrorist activity."

"We in government know that a solution to this dilemma must take full account of the privacy rights and expectations of the American public, the state of the technology, and the cybersecurity of American businesses."

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

Follow   gizmodo.com to read more.

2. NASA May Have Accidentally Created a Warp Field

Published: Apr 24, 2015 science

"Star Trek" introduced the world outside of rocket science circles to the concept of warp drive – the propulsion system that allowed the starship Enterprise to travel faster than the speed of light. Warp speed is the holy grail that would let us explore the universe safely surrounded and protected by a space-distorting warp field.

Yet the buzz on space websites is that NASA may have accidentally discovered a way to create a warp field.

To get around the theory of relativity, physicist Miguel Alcubierre came up with the concept of a bubble of spacetime which travels faster than the speed of light while the ship inside of it is stationary. The bubble contracts spacetime in front of the ship and expands it behind it. The warp drive would look like a football inside a flat ring. The tremendous amount of energy it would need made this idea prohibitive until Harold "Sonny" White of NASA's Johnson Space Center calculated that making the ring into a donut shape would significant reduce the energy needs.

Follow   mysteriousuniverse.org to read more.

3. AdBlocks - advert blocking browser plugin beats Microsoft, Google and advertisers

Published: Apr 23, 2015 legal

AdBlocks - advert blocking browser plugin beats Microsoft, Google and advertisers. The creator of software that stops adverts from appearing on websites has won in German court and defended itself against 2 news publishers that wanted to prevent its tech being used on their pages. A court in Hamburg ruled that users do have the right to use the plug-in.

"We are extremely happy with the decision reached today by the Hamburg regional court. This is a victory for every single Internet user because it confirms each individual's right to block annoying ads, protect their privacy, and, by extension, determine his or her own Internet experience. It is living proof of the unalienable right of every user to enjoy online self-determination."

Eyeo, the company that owns Adblock Plus in Germany

It may surprise readers of this blog to know that some advertiser groups believe blocking ads is illegal. They are upset that adblockers impede their multi-billion dollar business (or in this case, euros) of shoveling ads at you whether or not you like it or asked for it. In fact, a group of publishers in Hamburg, Germany was so upset that they actually took Adblock Plus to court.

AdBlock however, wants to be seen as more than just an ad-blocking tool; it has an Acceptable Ads initiative with which it hopes to move the Internet toward better ads. Adblock Plus is designed to only block annoying ads but to allow decent ads through, a compromise between users and advertisers.

Follow   www.lucasoft.info to read more.

4. Wi-Fi hack creates 'no iOS zone' that cripples iPhones and iPads

Published: Apr 22, 2015 tech

A newly revealed bug in iOS lets attackers force iPhones and iPads into restart loops, repeatedly crashing and rebooting, using nothing but a Wi-Fi network.

Once the user has entered what its discoverer, security researchers Skycure, dubs the "no iOS Zone", there''s no way to fix their phone other than escaping the range of the malicious network; every time it reboots, it crashes almost immediately.

The basis of the attack uses a "specially crafted SSL certificate", typically used to ensure a secure connection, to trigger a bug in the operating system that crashes out any app using SSL.

When combined with an earlier vulnerability, named "Wi-Figate", which lets attackers force a device to automatically connect to a given WiFi network, Skycure warns that an attack could be crafted which would deny service to any iOS attack in a given area. Victims in range cannot do anything about it. Think about the impact of launching such an attack on Wall Street, or maybe at the world's busiest airports, or at large utility plants. The results would be catastrophic.

Follow   www.theguardian.com to read more.

5. Microsoft beats Q3 estimates, but profits decline on strong dollar, weak PCs

Published: Apr 24, 2015 money

In its third quarter of the 2015 financial year, Microsoft announced revenue up 6 percent to $21.73 billion, with a gross margin up 1 percent to $14.57 billion. Operating income declined 5 percent, however, to $6.60 billion, with earnings per share down 10 percent to $0.61. This beats estimates of around $21.06 billion revenue, and $0.51 earnings per share.

Windows Phone licensing revenue dropped 16 percent, due to increasing sales of low price, and hence low royalty, devices.

The increased revenue was attributed primarily to cloud and server software growth, with Office 365 continuing to expand, and Windows Server, System Center Server, and SQL Server in particular showing strong performance. Offsetting this was a sharp decline of Windows revenue to consumers, and smaller declines in corporate Windows and Office sales.

Microsoft said that a $190 million cost due to the continued restructuring and integration of Nokia's Devices and Services business reduced operating income, as did the continued strength of the US dollar.

The Computing and Gaming Hardware segment saw a 4 percent drop in revenue, to $1.80 billion, and a 60 percent increase in gross margin, to $0.41 billion. Surface sales were a highlight; driven by Surface Pro 3's relative success, Surface revenue was up 44 percent year on year to $713 million. Xbox revenue was down 24 percent, however. The company didn't offer any sales numbers, but did say that fewer units were sold than the same period a year ago, and that there was also impact from the shift to cheaper SKUs.

Follow   arstechnica.com to read more.

6. Nokia denies reports it will manufacture or sell consumer phones

Published: Apr 26, 2015 tech, mobile

At the beginning of the week, reports suggested Nokia was planning a return to the smartphone business. Today, the Finnish company has issued a statement denying it has plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets:

Nokia reaffirms it currently has no plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets

"Nokia notes recent news reports claiming the company communicated an intention to manufacture consumer handsets out of a R&D facility in China. These reports are false, and include comments incorrectly attributed to a Nokia Networks executive. Nokia reiterates it currently has no plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets."

Nokia statement

We didn’t cover the initial rumors, though we did discuss why they were difficult to believe. Nokia has lost many engineers and designers to Microsoft and other firms, it has no smartphone operating system of its own to work with, and as goes for any new entrant into the smartphone market, it’s worth remembering the competition is particularly fierce in the space.

Furthermore, while the Nokia brand name is valuable, the company is barred from licensing it to third parties until the second half of 2016. Those limitations are part of the terms Nokia agreed to when it sold its mobile division to Microsoft.

Follow   venturebeat.com to read more.

7. Critical HTTPS bug may open 25,000 iOS apps to eavesdropping attacks

Published: Apr 24, 2015 security

The company announced it had achieved a stunning $1.57 billion in revenue for its Amazon Web Services (AWS) sector in just the first quarter, a 50 percent increase from the same period last year, according to a Washington Post report.

It's been nearly a decade since Amazon.com launched its cloud services unit, and now the company is really starting to see the fruits of its patience. AWS provides servers that help start-ups get the computing power they need, and they also service big companies like Netflix and Airbnb, as well as The Washington Post - the latter of which Amazon owner Bezos owns.

At the same time, its operating income rose from $245 million last year to $265 million this year, the first time the online retail giant has released such details to investors.

Follow   arstechnica.com to read more.

8. Amazon.com just pulled in an astonishing $1.57 billion from cloud services — and it’s only going higher

Published: Apr 26, 2015 tech

The company announced it had achieved a stunning $1.57 billion in revenue for its Amazon Web Services (AWS) sector in just the first quarter, a 50 percent increase from the same period last year, according to a Washington Post report.

It's been nearly a decade since Amazon.com launched its cloud services unit, and now the company is really starting to see the fruits of its patience. AWS provides servers that help start-ups get the computing power they need, and they also service big companies like Netflix and Airbnb, as well as The Washington Post - the latter of which Amazon owner Bezos owns.

At the same time, its operating income rose from $245 million last year to $265 million this year, the first time the online retail giant has released such details to investors.

Follow   natmonitor.com to read more.

9. Facebook and Google help in finding Earthquake survivors in Nepal and India

Published: Apr 26, 2015 tech

An earthquake of 7.9 magnitude devastated Nepal and the northern part of India yesterday. In order to assist the rescue operations going on in the affected areas, Facebook and Google have launched online tools that could help in locating the people who are still trapped and require help.

Google instantly launched a "person finder" application so that people could find their relatives or friends that have been affected by this natural disaster. Since the communication lines to the region are almost dead, the "person finder" tool plays the role of a messenger. "Person Finder" allows a person to post the details and location of the missing individuals, thus informing the rescue workers about the trapped people in a more effective way.

On the other hand, Facebook also launched a "Safety App" tool on Saturday that could help in locating people in the affected region. The app simply asks a person regarding his safety status. Your reply in return generates a notification that is sent to every person in your friend list notifying them about your safety. You can also provide the information regarding the location of any trapped person using the app too.

Follow   www.dailytimesgazette.com to read more.

10. Defense Secretary Outlines New Cybersecurity Strategy

Published: Apr 24, 2015 government

While the security industry gathered in San Francisco for the massive RSA Conference, just down the road at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Defense Secretary Ash Carter described in a speech there the Department of Defense's updated cybersecurity strategy that includes more transparency about its mission and operations and a "renewed partnership" with the technology industry.

"As Secretary of Defense, I believe that we in the Pentagon - to stay ahead - need to change and to change we need to be open, as I say, we have to think outside of our five-sided box,".

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, United States

At the heart of the DoD's cyber defense strategy is deterrence, stopping malicious behavior before it occurs, and identifying from where the attack came. "We like to deter malicious action before it happens, and we like to be able to defend against incoming attacks - as well as pinpoint where an attack came from. We've gotten better at that because of strong partnerships across the government, and because of private-sector security researchers like FireEye, Crowdstrike, HP - when they out a group of malicious cyber attackers, we take notice and share that information."

Follow   www.darkreading.com to read more.

11. Report reveals 1 in every 5 Android Apps is Malware

Published: Apr 25, 2015 security

Symantec reveals that nearly 1 million or around one-third of all Android apps are actually malware. Symantec also disclosed the first example of mobile-crypto ransomware for Android devices. It is a kind of software that hijacks your data, encrypts it and holds it hostage until the victim pays required ransom amount.

The firm that exposed around 700,000 virus-laden apps in 2013, is now claiming that "17 percent of all Android apps (nearly one million total)" are actually malware in disguise.

According to its latest Internet Security Threat Report, more than one third of all Android apps were found to be what Symantec dubs as "grayware" or "madware." Grayware or Madware means mobile software the primary purpose of which is to bombard your device with ads.

Follow   www.hackread.com to read more.

12. Google launches its own mobile network for Nexus 6 owners

Published: Apr 22, 2015 tech

Pay only for the data you actually use! Google is now a mobile carrier. Today the company has made official its plan to offer wireless service to owners of its Nexus 6 smartphone. It's called Project Fi, and Google is launching an early invite program beginning today

Similar to Nexus hardware program, Project Fi enables Google to work in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and all of you to push the boundaries of what's possible - the company wrote in a blog post.

The service is only available for the Nexus 6 and requires a special SIM card for Project FI - it will work with both existing Nexus 6 devices and new ones. Google says that right now the service is only available as an "early access program," and during that program it won't work on other phones.

Follow   www.theverge.com to read more.

13. PayPal Has Officially Overtaken eBay’s Marketplace in Sales for the First Time

Published: Apr 22, 2015 money

Dan Schulman, PayPal’s CEO-to-be, thinks online payments are having a bit of a moment. "We are currently in one of the most exciting periods for financial services," he told investors on Wednesday afternoon. "The online and offline payments worlds are digitizing and converging through mobile experiences."

Wall Street might agree, judging from the 5-plus percent that shares of eBay, PayPal's parent company for a few more months, are up in after-hours trading. In the first quarter of 2015, PayPal's total net payment volume jumped 18 percent to $61 billion. During that same period, PayPal added 3.6 million new accounts and processed some 1 billion transactions.

PayPal, which encompasses payments system Braintree and popular mobile payments app Venmo, is scheduled to spin off from eBay in the third quarter of this year. After the split, PayPal and eBay will be separate public companies but will continue to share many business relationships.

Early last month, PayPal spent a reported $280 million to acquire Paydiant, a payments startup that helps big retailers create mobile wallets and mobile payment programs for their customers.

Follow   www.slate.com to read more.

14. Battle of the best browsers: IE vs. Chrome vs. Firefox vs. Safari vs. Opera vs. Project Spartan

Published: Apr 19, 2015 web

The era when Google Chrome was head and shoulders above the competition has ended. Today’s popular browsers compete on a level playing field. Internet Explorer 11 — the oft overlooked Microsoft standby — is being replaced by Project Spartan, a lean browser for Windows 10. Mozilla Firefox and Opera continue to ramp up their version numbers, and Safari tenaciously scuttles along as the under-appreciated byproduct of Apple’s quest for global domination

Most browsers are compatible with Web standards and handle speed with relative ease. A casual user probably won’t notice a difference in the Web page rendering speed between browsers. All five browsers are much faster and leaner than the browsers of a few years ago and become even more so with each new build. Below are our benchmark results for the five browsers, bold text indicates the winner for each category.

Follow   www.digitaltrends.com to read more.

15. Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'

Published: Apr 25, 2015 tech

Tech website iFixit found that Apple had ensured that the technology would eventually fall out of use, forcing customers to buy new products

Tech repair and upgrade website iFixit has claimed that the Apple Watch won't be a long term option for those hoping to continually upgrade their device. Upon the release of the Apple Watch, iFixit immediately got down to the business of tearing the brand new product open and evaluating it from the inside.

The S1 SiP [internal system in package] is encased in resin, and is further held in place by a mess of glue and soldered ribbon connectors. In short, basic component replacements look nearly impossible. The s1SiP is custom-designed Apple technology that integrates a number of subsystems like the chip into one package. It is encased in resin to increase its durability.

Therefore, according to iFixit, the Apple Watch has intentional obsolescence built into it as it will become technologically redundant as processors become faster and apps are supported only by the newest models. The exploratory work by iFixit revealed that the device includes a 2-5mAh battery, compared to a 300mAh battery found in competing devices, like the Motorola Moto 360 and Samsung Gear Live. The device also includes an ARM Cortex mj3-based touchscreen controller.

Follow   www.independent.co.uk to read more.

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