Tag Archives | Cell Phones

Why Do Gadget Makers Wield A ‘Kill Switch’?

Photo: Stahlkocher (CC)

Photo: Stahlkocher (CC)

Mark Milian writes on CNN:

When you buy a video game from Best Buy, you don’t give the retailer the right to barge into your house whenever it wants. So why do we give that permission to software companies?

Most popular smartphone operating systems and other electronic gadgets include what security researchers refer to as a kill switch.

This capability enables the company that makes the operating software to send a command over the Web or wireless networks that alters or removes certain applications from devices.

Apple, Google and Microsoft include this function in their platforms, along with a few lines in their usage agreements describing the policy. Google and Apple executives say this feature is important in order to protect against malicious software.

“Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs told The Wall Street Journal in 2008.

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Department of Justice Asks for More Data from Apple and Other Smartphones

Crap Futurism Today the United States Department of Justice took an alarming stance on the subject of data collection during a Senate hearing on mobile privacy.  Rather than chastise Apple, Google, and other smart phone manufacturers over their data collection practices, the DOJ felt it was a better idea to encourage MORE data collection. Kashmir Hill writes on Forbes:

During a Congressional hearing today about how much privacy you deserve when it comes to your smartphone, senators made clear that they were uncomfortable with the sensitive location and personal data that iPhone and Android phones are collecting and to whom that data gets passed along.

During one panel, the senators grilled Google and Apple. During another, they had representatives from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission give the government perspective on data collection via mobile devices. While Jessica Rich of the FTC hinted that her organization would be investigating Apple soon, and urged companies to minimize the data they collect to protect the privacy of their users, Jason Weinstein a deputy assistant attorney general from the DOJ’s criminal division had a very different message: “MOAR DATA!”

More on Forbes

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Michigan Police Device Can Reveal Drivers’ Phone Data, Texts and Pictures

Photo: Cellebrite

Photo: Cellebrite

CNET reports:

The Michigan State Police have a handful of portable machines called “extraction devices” that have the potential to download personal information from motorists they pull over, and the ACLU would like to know more about them.

The devices, sold by a company called Cellebrite, can download text messages, photos, video, and even GPS data from most brands of cell phones. The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with different models and can even bypass security passwords and access some information.

The problem, as the ACLU sees it, is that accessing a citizen’s private phone information when there’s no probable cause could create a violation of the Constitution’s 4th Amendment, which protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures.

To that end, it’s petitioning the MSP to turn over information about its use of the devices under the Freedom of Information Act. The MSP said it’s happy to comply, that is, if the ACLU provides them with a processing fee in excess of $500,000.

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The iPhone Tracks Your Location Without Your Consent

HAL-iPhoneCharles Arthur writes in the Guardian:

Security researchers have discovered that Apple’s iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner’s computer when the two are synchronised.

The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone’s recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner’s movements using a simple program.

For some phones, there could be almost a year’s worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple’s iOS 4 update to the phone’s operating system, released in June 2010.

“Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you’ve been,” said Pete Warden, one of the researchers.

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China Plans to Track Beijing Citizens Through Their Cell Phones

Motorola L7

Photo: Kristoferb (CC)

Tania Branigan writes in the Guardian:

Government claims technology will ease transport congestion, but experts warn it could be used to control dissent…

Human rights campaigners have expressed concerns over plans to track every mobile phone user in Beijing through global positioning technology.

Chinese media reported this week that pilot schemes were being introduced for an “information platform of real-time citizen movement” to help with traffic management.

Li Guoguang, deputy director of the Beijing municipal science and technology commission, said the project would be used to tackle congestion by allowing officials to monitor the flow of people through the transport system.

“To some degree, [it] can effectively increase citizens’ travelling efficiency and ease traffic jams,” he told the Beijing Daily.

He added that citizens would be able to buy the information, although more sensitive information – such as the location of individuals – would not be available.

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Spam Kills: A Text Message Blows Up Russian Suicide Bomber By Accident

SpamWow, can’t believe I didn’t read this story before. From Andrew Osborn in the Telegraph:

The unnamed woman, who is thought to be part of the same group that struck Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Monday, intended to detonate a suicide belt on a busy square near Red Square on New Year’s Eve in an attack that could have killed hundreds.

Security sources believe a spam message from her mobile phone operator wishing her a happy new year received just hours before the planned attack triggered her suicide belt, killing her but nobody else.

She was at her Moscow safe house at the time getting ready with two accomplices, both of whom survived and were seen fleeing the scene.

Islamist terrorists in Russia often use cheap unused mobile phones as detonators. The bomber’s handler, who is usually watching their charge, sends the bomber a text message in order to set off his or her explosive belt at the moment when it is thought they can inflict maximum casualties.

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South African Thieves Steal Traffic Light SIM Cards To Make Free, Untraceable Calls

traffic_1An impressive slice of outlaw ingenuity: criminals have discovered that SIM cards used in high-tech traffic lights can be harvested and used in mobile phones to make free, untraceable, unlimited calls. Via the Guardian:
Hundreds of lights have been damaged by thieves targeting the machines' SIM cards, which are then used to make mobile phone calls worth millions of South African rand. More than two-thirds of 600 hi-tech lights have been affected over the past two months, according to the Johannesburg Roads Agency, causing traffic jams, accidents and frustration for motorists. The traffic lights use sim cards, modem and use GPRS to send and receive information, a system intended to save time and manpower by alerting the road agency's head office when any lights malfunction. According to Thulani Makhubela, a spokesman for the agency, the robberies have been "systematic and co-ordinated", possibly by a syndicate. An internal investigation has now been launched.
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New Mobile Phone App To ‘Spot Pedophiles’

If you’re going to rely on a phone app to keep your children safe, I suppose this is a good one. BBC News reports:

A mobile phone application which claims to identify adults posing as children is to be released.

The team behind Child Defence says the app can analyse language to generate an age profile, identifying potential paedophiles.

Isis Forensics developed the tool after parental concerns over children accessing sites on their mobiles.

But child protection experts warned against such technology lulling people into thinking they are safe.

Child Defence project leader James Walkerdine, based at Lancaster University, said: “This software improves children’s chances of working out that something isn’t right.

[Continues at BBC News]

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Cellphones Gain Population In Prisons,Though Banned

Photo: United States Department of Homeland Security employee confiscating a cellphone during a pat-down inspection

Photo: United States Department of Homeland Security employee confiscating a cellphone during a pat-down inspection

What do prisoners do for fun? Play games on Facebook, text their friends, and organize strikes via their smartphones. Though prisoners are locked up and cut-off from the outside population, they are finding ways to become and remain part of the digital society. The New York Times reports:

A counterfeiter at a Georgia state prison ticks off the remaining days of his three-year sentence on his Facebook page. He has 91 digital “friends.” Like many of his fellow inmates, he plays the online games FarmVille and Street Wars.

He does it all on a Samsung smartphone, which he says he bought from a guard. And he used the same phone to help organize a short strike among inmates at several Georgia prisons last month.

Technology is changing life inside prisons across the country at the same rapid-fire pace it is changing life outside.

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