An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Apple says many of the vulnerabilities to its devices and software that came to light in WikiLeaks' revelations of CIA cyber weapons were already fixed in its latest updates. Late Tuesday, Apple emailed the following statement to USA TODAY: "Apple is deeply committed to safeguarding our customers' privacy and security. The technology built into today's iPhone represents the best data security available to consumers, and we're constantly working to keep it that way. Our products and software are designed to quickly get security updates into the hands of our customers, with nearly 80 percent of users running the latest version of our operating system. While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest OS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities. We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates." For its part, Samsung emailed its own statement Wednesday: "Protecting consumers' privacy and the security of our devices is a top priority at Samsung. We are aware of the report in question and are urgently looking into the matter."
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Veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg believes that Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, or Gang of Five -- as he likes to call them, are casting a big shadow over how today's startups foster, a phenomenon he believes will continue to happen over the years to come. From his column for The Verge: What we have now in consumer tech, in 2017, is an oligopoly, at least superficially similar to the old industrial-era American corporate groups that once dominated key industries. I think that their enduring and growing power casts a shadow over the Silicon Valley legend that there are lots of great new consumer tech innovations being incubated right now in garages or dorm rooms somewhere that will be taken all the way to becoming great companies, the way each of the Gang of Five was. What I fear is more likely to happen to any such startup is that, if they're good, they get acquired by a member of the Gang, or that their idea is turned into a feature for one of the Gang's products. And, even if that never happens and a startup thrives, too often it can only thrive by being successful on a platform controlled by one or more Gang members, with the big guy maybe taking a cut. For instance, Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, which went public last week, famously spurned a $3 billion takeover offer from Gang member Facebook in 2013. But it depends for its very operation on the cloud services of Google and on the mobile app platforms of Apple and Google. And plenty of other companies which either presented threats or opportunities to the Gang have been snapped up by them. Each of the five companies actively scoops up numerous smaller companies every year, in many cases just for their talent and / or patents. In fact, I'd be amazed if there weren't plenty of startups whose main goal is to be purchased by the Gang.
Jason Koebler, writing for Motherboard: Statehouse employees in Minnesota say that lobbying efforts by big tech companies and John Deere are on the verge of killing right to repair legislation in the state that would have made it easier for consumers and small businesses to fix their electronics. According to two of the bill's sponsors, the bill, which would have introduced "fair repair" requirements for manufacturers in the state, will not get a hearing that's necessary to move the legislation forward. Minnesota Senate rules automatically kills any bills that do not have a hearing scheduled by a certain date (this year, it's March 10). Last year, tech industry lobbying killed a similar bill in New York. "Unfortunately, it's not going to make deadline this session," Republican Sen. David Osmek, one of the sponsors, told me in an email. Osmek would not give additional specifics about his colleagues' concerns with the bill, but a legislative assistant for the bill's other sponsor told me that electronic manufacturer lobbying is likely to blame, while another source close to the legislature told me that tractor manufacturer John Deere -- a long time enemy of fair repair -- helped kill the bill as well.
Apple has long permitted "hot code push", a feature that allows developers to continuously deploy changes to their mobile apps and have those changes reflect in their apps instantly. This allowed developers to make quick changes to their apps without having to resubmit the new iteration and get approval from the Apple Store review team. But that's changing now. In response to a developer's query, Apple confirmed that it no longer permits "hot code push." The company told the developer: Your app, extension, and/or linked framework appears to contain code designed explicitly with the capability to change your app's behavior or functionality after App Review approval, which is not in compliance with section 3.3.2 of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement and App Store Review Guideline 2.5.2. This code, combined with a remote resource, can facilitate significant changes to your app's behavior compared to when it was initially reviewed for the App Store. While you may not be using this functionality currently, it has the potential to load private frameworks, private methods, and enable future feature changes.
Ben Lovejoy, writing for 9to5Mac: We reported back in October on an iOS exploit that caused iPhones to repeatedly dial 911 without user intervention. It was said then that the volume of calls meant one 911 center was in 'immediate danger' of losing service, while two other centers had been at risk -- but a full investigation has now concluded that the incident was much more serious than it appeared at the time. It was initially thought that a few hundred calls were generated in a short time, but investigators now believe that one tweeted link that activated the exploit was clicked on 117,502 times, each click triggering a 911 call. The WSJ reports that law-enforcement officials and 911 experts fear that a targeted attack using the same technique could prove devastating. Of the 6,500 911 call centers nationwide, just 420 are believed to have implemented a cybersecurity program designed to protect them from this kind of attack.
Last year, a Washington Post investigation found several instances of miners -- including children -- labored in hazardous, even deadly, conditions at Congo's artisanal cobalt supply chain. Amnesty International and other human rights groups also have alleged problems. Earlier this week, British broadcaster Sky New published an investigation that alleged continued problems in the cobalt supply chain. The Washington Post now reports: Apple said it has temporarily stopped buying cobalt mined by hand in Congo while it continues to deal with problems with child labor and harsh work conditions. The Post connected this troubling trade to Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company, a Chinese firm that is the largest buyer of artisanal cobalt in Congo and whose minerals are used in Apple products. Last year, Apple pledged to clean up its cobalt supply chain, but the tech giant said it wanted to avoid hurting the Congolese miners by cutting them off. Mining provides vital income for hundreds of thousands of people in one of the poorest countries in the world. Now, Apple says it has stopped -- for now -- buying cobalt from artisanal mines (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). "We have been working with Huayou on a program that will verify individual artisanal mines, according to our standards," Apple said in a statement, "and these mines will re-enter our supply chain when we are confident that the appropriate protections are in place."
Apple has opened a new front in its global patent war with Qualcomm. From a report: The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has sued Qualcomm in a U.K. court, accusing the chipmaker of violating patents and design concepts Apple owns. Details on exactly which patents Qualcomm has violated and why Apple believes Qualcomm has violated the patents were not disclosed in the public court records, according to Bloomberg, which earlier reported on the lawsuit. The lawsuit is the latest in a string of disputes Apple and Qualcomm have engaged in around the world. The main dispute resides in the U.S., where Apple has accused Qualcomm of using its position as a prominent chipmaker to hurt competition in the mobile marketplace. Apple, which has used Qualcomm chips for its iPhone's wireless connectivity, claims Qualcomm owes the company $1 billion in rebates the chip maker allegedly held back after Apple spoke to South Korean regulators about Qualcomm's business practices.
After 43 years working in one of Japan's leading banks, 81-year-old Masako Wakamiya has launched an iPhone app called "Hinadan" that shows users how to stage traditional dolls for the Hinamatsuri festival. From a report on CNN Money: She says she felt compelled to do something after noticing a shortage of fun apps aimed at people her age. "We easily lose games when playing against young people, since our finger movements can't match their speed," Wakamiya told CNN. The retired banker asked a bunch of people to create games for seniors, but no one was interested. So she took matters into her own hands and achieved something many people half her age haven't done. "I wanted to create a fun app to get elderly people interested in smartphones," she said. "It took about half a year to develop." Wakamiya started using computers at age 60 when she was caring for her elderly mother and finding it difficult to get out and socialize with friends.
Apple is losing its grip on American classrooms, which technology companies have long used to hook students on their brands for life. From a report on MacRumors: According to research company Futuresource Consulting, in 2016 the number of devices in American classrooms that run iOS and macOS fell to third place behind both Google-powered laptops and Windows devices. Out of 12.6 million mobile devices shipped to primary and secondary schools in the U.S., Chromebooks accounted for 58 percent of the market, up from 50 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, school shipments of iPads and Mac laptops fell to 19 percent, from about 25 percent, over the same period, while Microsoft Windows laptops and tablets stayed relatively stable at about 22 percent.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Rob Pegoraro via Yahoo Finance: Two things unite almost every phone on display here at Mobile World Congress 2017: Android and a headphone jack. Apple doesn't exhibit its wares at this trade show, so the domination of Google's operating system is predictable. But the headphone jack's persistence did not look so inevitable when Apple cut it from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last September. Lenovo's Motorola subsidiary had already shipped a phone without a headphone hack, the Moto Z, and Apple's influence over the rest of the smartphone industry remains formidable -- indeed, within months, the Chinese firm LeEco had debuted a lineup of Android phones devoid of headphone jacks. As my colleague David Pogue predicted in a post approving Apple's move: "Other brands worldwide will be following suit." The hardware on display here at the world's largest mobile tech conference, though, suggests otherwise. Two days of walking around the show floor showed companies expressing a consistent unwillingness to abandon the humble headphone jack, even on models as thin as, or thinner than, the iPhone 7. The MWC floor revealed only one company willing to do away with the headphone jack: HTC. The Taiwan-based firm, which has struggled financially for years despite shipping such well-reviewed models as the HTC 10, used its exhibit to showcase the U Ultra and the U Play, which rely on their USB-C ports for audio output. Unlike, Apple, though, the company didn't make the move to save space, but rather to incorporate its "USonic" feature, which lets the phones' headphones calibrate themselves to your ears and provide noise cancellation.
BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: As more and more consumers buy Mac computers, evildoers will have increased incentive to write malware for macOS. Luckily, users of Apple's operating system that choose to use Google Chrome for web surfing will soon be safer. You see, the search giant is improving its Safe Browsing initiative to better warn macOS users of malicious websites and attempts to alter browser settings. "As part of this next step towards reducing macOS-specific malware and unwanted software, Safe Browsing is focusing on two common abuses of browsing experiences: unwanted ad injection, and manipulation of Chrome user settings, specifically the start page, home page, and default search engine. Users deserve full control of their browsing experience and Unwanted Software Policy violations hurt that experience," says Google. The search giant further explains, "The recently released Chrome Settings API for Mac gives developers the tools to make sure users stay in control of their Chrome settings. From here on, the Settings Overrides API will be the only approved path for making changes to Chrome settings on Mac OSX, like it currently is on Windows. Also, developers should know that only extensions hosted in the Chrome Web Store are allowed to make changes to Chrome settings. Starting March 31 2017, Chrome and Safe Browsing will warn users about software that attempts to modify Chrome settings without using the API."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit made a decision today to throw out the verdict of a two-year old legal case against Apple based on data storage patents. The original verdict reached by a Texas jury stuck Apple with $533 million in damages. Smartflash LLC targeted game developers who largely all settled out of court in 2014, but Apple defended its use of data storage management and payment processing technology in court. Reuters has more on the new developments: "The trial judge vacated the large damages award a few months after a Texas federal jury imposed it in February 2015, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said on Wednesday the judge should have ruled Smartflash's patents invalid and set aside the verdict entirely. A unanimous three-judge appeals panel said Smartflash's patents were too 'abstract' and did not go far enough in describing an actual invention to warrant protection."
Alison Griswold, writing for Quartz: The public is not happy with Uber. Incensed by allegations of sexism and harassment in the company's corporate halls, people are once again #deleting Uber, while one-star ratings and withering critiques of its service are piling up in Apple's iOS App Store. From Jan. 1 through Feb. 22, Uber accumulated 4,479 one-star reviews from US users in the iOS App Store, according to data from analytics firm App Annie (the highest possible rating is five stars). Several of the most recent reviews cite the horrifying and explosive account of sexual harassment published by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler over the weekend. "Was harassed and scammed by an Uber driver for two hours in the car," reviewer "Jorwl" wrote on Feb. 20. But far more reviewers have another gripe: Uber's apparent disregard for user privacy. The monthly volume of one-star ratings for Uber in the App Store first spiked last November, after the company redesigned its app and infringed on user privacy by eliminating an iOS setting that let users grant Uber access to their location only "while using" the app. Users are now forced to choose between letting Uber track their location "always" and "never".
An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: AOL announced today that it is starting to cut off third-party app access to its Instant Messenger service. As first noticed by ArsTechnica, AOL began notifying users of at least one third-party app, Adium, that it would become obsolete starting on March 28th. At this point, it's unclear whether or not all third-party applications will be rendered useless come March 28th, but the message presented to Adium users seemed to strongly imply that: "Hello. Effective 3/28, we will no longer support connections to the AIM network via this method. If you wish to use the free consumer AIM product, we invite you to visit http://www.aim.com/ for more information." What this likely means is that AOL is shutting down the OSCAR chat protocol that is used to handle AIM messages. The service will, however, continue to be available via AOL's own chat app that is supported on macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android.
Apple has decided to adopt a flexible display for at least one model of the new iPhone, reports WSJ. From the report: People with direct knowledge of Apple's production plans said the Cupertino, Calif., company has decided to go ahead with the technology, and it will release a phone model using the OLED screens this year (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). The technology allows manufacturers to bend screens in ways they couldn't previously -- such as by introducing a curve at the edge of the phone as in some Samsung models. However, once the phone is manufactured, the OLED screen can't be bent or folded by the user, at least with current technology. Using OLED displays would allow Apple to introduce a phone with a new look to fuel sales. They said Apple would introduce other updates including a USB-C port for the power cord and other peripheral devices instead of the company's original Lightning connector. The models would also do away with a physical home button, they said. Those updates would give the iPhone features already available on other smartphones.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from AppleInsider: A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday reveals Apple board member Al Gore this week sold 215,437 shares of Apple stock (APPL) worth about $29.5 million. Gore's stock sale, which was accomplished in multiple trades ranging from $136.4 to $137.12 on Wednesday, nearly matches a $29.6 million purchase of Apple shares made in 2013. When Gore bought the stock batch more than four years ago, he exercised Apple's director stock option to acquire 59,000 shares at a price of about $7.48 per share, costing him approximately $441,000. This was pre-split AAPL, so shares were valued at $502.68 each. Following today's sale, Gore owns 230,137 shares of Apple stock worth $31.5 million at the end of trading on Friday.
An anonymous reader shares a Gizmodo report: Peeking inside a book bin at a Seattle Goodwill, Redditor vadermeer caught an interesting, unexpected glimpse into the early days of Apple: a cache of internal memos, progress reports, and legal pad scribbles from 1979 and 1980, just three years into the tech monolith's company history. The documents at one point belonged to Jack MacDonald -- then the manager of systems software for the Apple II and III (in these documents referred to by its code name SARA). The papers pertain to implementation of Software Security from Apple's Friends and Enemies (SSAFE), an early anti-piracy measure. Not much about MacDonald exists online, and the presence of his files in a thrift store suggests he may have passed away, though many of the people included in these documents have gone on to long and lucrative careers. The project manager on SSAFE for example, Randy Wigginton, was Apple's sixth employee and has since worked for eBay, Paypal, and (somewhat tumultuously) Google. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also features heavily in the implementation of these security measures.
Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch: Over the past couple of iPhone versions users have complained of "unexpected" shutdowns of their devices. Some iPhone 6, 6S, 6 Plus and 6S Plus devices could basically go dark unexpectedly, forcing a user to have to plug them into an outlet to get them to power back on. Apple has been working on this very annoying bug and it says it has come up with a fix of sorts that should mitigate the problem on a majority of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices. The fix is actually already on your iPhone if you have installed iOS 10.2.1 -- something that around 50 percent of iOS users have already done. After letting the fix simmer on customer devices, Apple now has statistics to share on how it has improved the issue, citing 80 percent reduction on iPhone 6s and 70 percent reduction on iPhone 6 devices.
Patrick O'Neill writes: A year after the battle between the FBI and Apple over unlocking an iPhone 5c used by a shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attack, smartphone cracking company Cellebrite announced it can now unlock the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus for customers at rates ranging from $1,500 to $250,000. The company's newest products also extract and analyze data from a wide range of popular apps including all of the most popular secure messengers around. From the Cyberscoop report: "Cellebrite's ability to break into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus comes in their latest line of product releases. The newest Cellebrite product, UFED 6.0, boasts dozens of new and improved features including the ability to extract data from 51 Samsung Android devices including the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, the latest flagship models for Android's most popular brand, as well as the new high-end Google Pixel Android devices."
Stephen Nellis, reporting for Reuters: The new iPhone is expected to include new features such as high-resolution displays, wireless charging and 3-D sensors. Rather than representing major breakthroughs, however, most of the innovations have been available in competing phones for several years. Apple's relatively slow adoption of new features both reflects and reinforces the fact smartphone customers are holding onto their phones longer. Timothy Arcuri, an analyst at Cowen & Co, believes upwards of 40 percent of iPhones on the market are more than two years old, a historical high. That is a big reason why investors have driven Apple shares to an all-time high. There is pent-up demand for a new iPhone, even if it does not offer breakthrough technologies. It is not clear whether Apple deliberately held off on packing some of the new features into the current iPhone 7, which has been criticized for a lack of differentiation from its predecessor. Still, the development and roll-out of the anniversary iPhone suggest Apple's product strategy is driven less by technological innovation than by consumer upgrade cycles and Apple's own business and marketing needs.