Monthly Archives: October 2015

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Turns Out Police Stingray Spy Tools Can Indeed Record Calls The federal government has been fighting hard for years hide details about its use of so-called stingray surveillance technology from the public. The surveillance devices simulate cell phone towers in order to trick nearby mobile phones into connecting to them and revealing the phones’ locations. Now newly released documents confirm long-held suspicions that the controversial devices are also capable of recording numbers for a mobile phone’s incoming and outgoing calls, as well as intercepting the content of voice and text communications. The documents also discuss the possibility of flashing a phone’s firmware “so that you can intercept conversations using a suspect’s cell phone as a bug.” The information appears in a 2008 guideline prepared by the Justice Department to advise law enforcement agents on when and how the equipment can be legally used. The Department of Justice ironically acknowledges in […]

Yelp Is Teaching Its Computers to See Places at Their Best Frances Haugen was part of the first wave of people to use Google back in 1996. At that point, Google was still a research project at Stanford University, where Haugen’s mother worked, but she was blown away at what Larry Page and Sergey Brin had built. “The idea that you could actually peer into a giant mountain of data was amazing,” she says.Haugen has been obsessed with search technology ever since. She landed a job at Google after college and spent several years working there, first as an engineer and later as a product manager. Now she works for Yelp. You might not think of the sprawling review site as a search company, but search really is at the core of what Yelp does. You don’t just want a list of the top ranked restaurants nearby; you want restaurants […]

Hackers Can Silently Control Siri From 16 Feet Away   Siri may be your personal assistant. But your voice is not the only one she listens to. As a group of French researchers have discovered, Siri also helpfully obeys the orders of any hacker who talks to her—even, in some cases, one who’s silently transmitting those commands via radio from as far as 16 feet away. A pair of researchers at ANSSI, a French government agency devoted to information security, have shown that they can use radio waves to silently trigger voice commands on any Android phone or iPhone that has Google Now or Siri enabled, if it also has a pair of headphones with a microphone plugged into its jack. Their clever hack uses those headphones’ cord as an antenna, exploiting its wire to convert surreptitious electromagnetic waves into electrical signals that appear to the phone’s operating system to […]

Cops Don’t Need a Crypto Backdoor to Get Into Your iPhone Click to Open Overlay Gallery Then One/WIRED Late last week, the privacy community scored a victory in a year-long battle over the future of encryption: In internal discussions, the White House quietly overruled law enforcement and intelligence officials, deciding that it won’t pursue a policy of pushing tech companies to put “backdoors” in their encryption that would allow government agencies to access decrypted private data. That’s going to make it harder for the FBI to access private data, but they’ve still got plenty of other ways in. To judge by FBI director James Comey’s warnings to Congress and the public, last week’s decision pushes us one step closer to a world where police surveillance “goes dark,” encryption reigns supreme, and pedophiles and drug dealers enjoy perfect immunity from the cops. But before surveillance hawks prophesy doomsday or privacy doves celebrate, let’s […]

It Doesn’t Matter Which A9 Chip Your iPhone Has. Get Over It Apple There’s a new iPhone, which means there’s a new iPhone hubbub. The latest one, though, is even more overblown than usual, so let’s get this out of the way: Your iPhone’s processor is fine, no matter who made it. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, congratulations. You’ve managed to avoid this year’s kerfuffle altogether. It’s worth catching up on, though, if only as an object lesson in how quickly hysterics can mount when you’re talking about the iPhone. So what’s the brouhaha all about, you ask? Well, Apple tapped two different partners to manufacture the A9 processor that is the brain of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. The horror! What’s more, those vendors used different manufacturing processes, resulting in an A9 from TSMC that is ever so slightly bigger than the A9 from Samsung. As […]

Why America Still Doesn’t Have Any Good Data on Guns Revolvers sit on display in the Smith & Wesson booth on the exhibition floor of the 144th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, April 11, 2015. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images When a car kills a person in the US, the details all go into a massive government database. It’s called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and it records the number of deaths, the type of car, weather conditions, speed, seatbelt use, age, sex, seating position, and drug use of every single occupant—over 100 variables in total. Those numbers are the backbone of car safety standards. Since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started capturing that data in 1975, car deaths have fallen by 27 percent.Still, car crashes remain a leading cause of death by injury in the America. In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, cars killed 33,804 people. In comparison, […]

One Too Many? These Breathalyzers Will Tell You   All good things must come to an end, and when it comes to consuming alcohol, that end typically comes before with the ride home. But are you really in shape to drive? A personal breathalyzer can give you some much needed guidance that less quantitative tests (close your eyes and put your finger on your nose!) just can’t provide.Before we get started, let’s acknowledge that there is significant controversy around the use of breathalyzers. Detractors hold that if you’ve been drinking enough to need to blow into a breathalyzer, you’ve been drinking enough to call a cab. That might be an overly simplistic viewpoint, but I’m not going to try to solve the debate in this roundup. Ultimately, it’s my position that the more information someone has about any alcohol-related impairment they might be experiencing, the better. In general, law enforcement […]

This Ferocious Arachnid Is Death Wrapped in Mystery “Oh God what is that thing!?” You may have come across a 2004 image of an American soldier in Iraq holding two huge “camel spiders,” one of which had clamped its jaws on the other. Huge. As in, they alone were reason enough to get out of Iraq. Now, they aren’t really spiders, and through a trick of perspective (they’re just close to the camera) they look way bigger than they really are. Don’t get me wrong, the strange, hairy camel spiders do grow to six inches long—not too shabby. But size is far from the most fascinating thing about these beasts.Camel spiders are arachnids like true spiders, but they belong to a different order, solifugae. (Depending on who you ask, camel spiders are so-called because some species have humps on their backs or because of the myth that they eat camel […]

Hack Brief: Hackers Steal 15M T-Mobile Customers’ Data From Experian   For hackers looking for fraud victims, few targets are as tempting as the data brokers that make a business out of assembling millions of people’s private information. That’s a lesson T-Mobile is learning now that its partnership with one such data collector, Experian, has resulted in the theft of 15 million T-Mobile customers’ private details. The Hack On Thursday T-Mobile revealed that hackers had breached Experian’s network and stolen a trove of T-Mobile’s data, which the carrier had sent to Experian to perform credit checks on potential customers seeking financing for phones or cellular plans. The data stolen from those 15 million victims includes their names, addresses, and birthdates, as well as encrypted social security numbers, drivers’ license ID numbers, and passport ID numbers. Both companies note that encryption may have been cracked by the intruders—Experian didn’t respond to […]

Github Moves Past the Password to Make the Internet Secure GitHub   At places like Google and Facebook, engineers log into critical computing systems with more than just a username and password. They log in with the tap of the finger.No, they don’t provide a fingerprint. They tap on a tiny USB device called a Yubikey. These keys—which plug into laptops and desktops—provide a level of security above and beyond a password, and some believe they can one day help replace passwords, which are annoying and not nearly as secure as people assume. Basically, the Yubikey generates a login code, specific to the user and the service at hand, each time it’s pressed. ‘This is about pushing the standard forward and getting widespread adoption.’ Shawn Davenport, Github Google also lets other companies use Yubikeys when logging into various Google business services, like Gmail and Google Docs. Dropbox does much the […]