Google said on its official blog that its Android for Work program will provide improved security and management features for corporations that want to give their employees Android smartphones. Smartphones supported by the new initiative will be able to keep an employee’s work and personal apps separate, and a special Android for Work app will allow businesses to oversee key tools such as email, calendar and contacts.
Google said it is partnering with more than two dozen companies including Blackberry Ltd, Citrix Systems Inc, Box Inc.
Google’s Android software is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, but many corporations, which have significant security and device management requirements, give their employees smartphones made by Blackberry or Apple Inc.
Chinese PC and mobile phone maker Lenovo Group Ltd acknowledged that its website was hacked, its second security blemish days after the U.S. government advised consumers to remove software called “Superfish” pre-installed on its laptops.
Hacking group Lizard Squad claimed credit for the attacks on microblogging service Twitter. Lenovo said attackers breached the domain name system associated with Lenovo and redirected visitors to lenovo.com to another address, while also intercepting internal company emails.
Lizard Squad posted an email exchange between Lenovo employees discussing Superfish. The software was at the center of public uproar in the United States last week when security researchers said they found it allowed hackers to impersonate banking websites and steal users’ credit card information.
In a statement issued in the United States on Wednesday night, Lenovo, the world’s biggest maker of personal computers, said it had restored its site to normal operations after several hours.
“We regret any inconvenience that our users may have if they are not able to access parts of our site at this time,” the company said. “We are actively reviewing our network security and will take appropriate steps to bolster our site and to protect the integrity of our users’ information.”
Lizard Squad has taken credit for several high-profile outages, including attacks that took down Sony Corp’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft Corp’s Xbox Live network last month. Members of the group have not been identified.
Starting 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, visitors to the Lenovo website saw a slideshow of young people looking into webcams and the song “Breaking Free” from the movie “High School Musical” playing in the background, according to technology publication The Verge, which first reported the breach.
Although consumer data was not likely compromised by the Lizard Squad attack, the breach was the second security-related black eye for Lenovo in a matter of days.
The Anthem data breach may have exposed 78.8 million records, according to deeper analysis provided in an estimate by the health insurance company, but Anthem is still investigating exactly how many records hackers captured from a database.
Hackers accessed a database at Anthem that contained customer and employee records with names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and member IDs, the health insurance company said on Feb. 4. Some records included employment information and income levels, but no financial information was compromised, it said.
It marked one of the largest data breaches to affect the health care industry, adding to a string of recent attacks that have shaken large companies, including retailers Home Depot, Target and Michaels.
Anthem, formerly known as Wellpoint, runs health-care plans under the Blue Cross Blue Shield, Empire Blue Cross, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, DeCare, HealthKeepers and Golden West brands.
Between 60 million and 70 million of the 78.8 million records belong to current or former Anthem members, the company said in a statement.
The remainder — between 8.8 million and 18.8 million — belong to non-Anthem members who used their insurance in a state where Anthem has operated over the last decade.
Anthem is still trying to identify those people who may have been affected. Part of the problem is that Anthem has found 14 million incomplete records that can’t be linked to a product or line of business. Those records lack data fields that could be used to identify members, though they probably are not active Anthem members.
No information has been formally released on who may have compromised the database. Security firm CrowdStrike, which is not involved in the investigation, said the attackers used infrastructure linked to a suspected China-based state-sponsored group known as Deep Panda.
Lenovo and adware maker Superfish were subjected to more legal action as two new lawsuits were filed in California federal courts taking the firms to task for putting consumers at risk of hacker spying and information theft.
The two complaints — the second and third since the China-based computer OEM (original equipment manufacturer) admitted it had pre-loaded adware on its consumer PCs in the second half of 2014 — named both Lenovo and Superfish, and each lawsuit requested class-action status so that others could join the case.
Last week’s first lawsuit covered much of the same ground as the two lodged Monday.
David Hunter of North Carolina, the plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, alleged that Lenovo and Superfish violated the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other laws, and asked that the court force the firms to surrender any revenue generated by the sale of consumers’ browsing data and monies earned from the advertising produced by the adware.
Hunter said he bought a Lenovo Y50 laptop — one of dozens of models Lenovo said it had pre-installed Superfish on from September through December 2014 — via the OEM’s website in October.
In the second complaint, filed by Sterling International Consulting Group (SICG) of Statesville, NC, Lenovo and Superfish were charged with breaking the U.S. Wiretapping Act, state and federal anti-fraud regulations and other laws.
Of the two new complaints, Hunter’s was the more interesting as it relied not only on press reports about Superfish’s vulnerability and Lenovo’s actions both before and after last week’s explosion of information, but also dug a bit deeper and offered insights into the adware’s operation.
Lenovo today declined to respond to the new lawsuits, with its head of corporate communications, Brion Tingler, saying, “We do not comment on pending legal matters,” in an email.
Superfish also declined comment on the lawsuits’ specifics, like Lenovo citing the pending litigation. But in a statement, company CEO Adi Pinhas said, “Superfish takes these matters seriously and is reviewing the allegations in the complaints.”
The ARM mbed IoT Starter Kit — Ethernet Edition will allow users to make cloud-ready Internet of Things products that could receive or transmit data for analysis or alerts. The development kit will come with ARM’s mbed OS and connect into IBM’s BlueMix cloud, which will help in the development of applications and services.
The kit is for those with little to no experience in embedded or Web development. Prototype designs will guide enthusiasts through the process of making a device and connecting to IBM’s BlueMix cloud service.
The starter kit will get data from “the on board sensors into the IBM cloud within minutes of opening the box,” said the product page on ARM’s website.
ARM and IBM hope to cash in on the mass adoption of IOT, which has led to a mesh of interconnected devices used in smart homes, smart city implementations and enterprises. The devices, which could range from weather sensors to health devices, already number 1.2 billion, and could touch 5.4 billion by 2020, according to a recent study by Verizon.
The IOT market is currently fragmented with a wide variety of hardware, operating systems and communication standards in use. Through the developer kit, ARM and IBM want to bring a level of consistency in hardware and software across IOT devices. Beyond making it easier for devices to talk one another, the developer kit could make it easier to push or pull data out of a larger number of cloud services.
ARM didn’t provide details on the pricing or availability of the starter kit. The first devices resulting from the development kit are expected to be released later this year.
The new alert pops up in Chrome when a user aims the browser at a suspect site but before the domain is displayed. “The site ahead contains harmful programs,” the warning states.
Google emphasized tricksters that “harm your browsing experience,” and cited those that silently change the home page or drop unwanted ads onto pages in the warning’s text.
The company has long focused on those categories, and for obvious, if unstated, reasons. It would prefer that people — much less, shifty software — not alter the Chrome home page, which features the Google search engine, the Mountain View, Calif. firm’s primary revenue generator. Likewise, the last thing Google wants is to have adware, especially the most irritating, turn off everyone to all online advertising.
The new alert is only the latest in a line of warnings and more draconian moves Google has made since mid-2011, when the browser began blocking malware downloads. Google has gradually enhanced Chrome’s alert feature by expanding the download warnings to detect a wider range of malicious or deceitful programs, and using more assertive language in the alerts.
In January 2014, for example, Chrome 32 added threats that posed as legitimate software and tweaked with the browser’s settings to the unwanted list.
The browser’s malware blocking and suspect site warnings come from Google’s Safe Browsing API (application programming interface) and service; Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox also access parts of the API to warn their users of potentially dangerous websites.
Chrome 40, the browser’s current most-polished version, can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux from Google’s website.
Google announced it has reached a deal with three of the country’s major cellular carriers to acquire “technology and capabilities” from Softcard, a competing mobile wallet app created jointly by the telecom operators. But the deal appears to be less about technology and more about branding.
The biggest immediate change is that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will begin pre-installing Google Wallet on new Android smartphones later this year — something that had been blocked before in preference for the Softcard app.
At their heart, both apps are based on the same contactless payment technology as Apple Pay and a new generation of payment cards from banks and credit unions. They use NFC (near-field communication) to complete a transaction once a payment card or phone is brought within a few centimeters of a terminal.
Apple Pay brought the technology widespread recognition when it launched late last year, but Google Wallet has been around since 2011. However a lack of support from carriers, retailers, card issuers and Google itself had relegated the technology to the sidelines.
While Google Wallet and Apple Pay share a technology base, there are key differences in how they work. Perhaps the biggest is that in Google Wallet, all transactions are routed through Google before being charged to the customer’s credit card.
That gives Google even greater insight into the lives of its users. In contrast, Apple doesn’t see any details of purchases made on its system.
Getting the Google Wallet app in front of more consumers could help reduce confusion over the different brands — an important consideration when the biggest Android phone maker is making moves of its own in mobile payments.
ARM has joined forces with IBM to launch its Internet of Things (IoT) mbed Device Platform as a starter kit with cloud support, offering developer tools with cloud-based analytics.
ARM’s mbed tool was announced last year and is primarily an operating system built around open standards to “bring internet protocols, security and standards-based manageability into one integrated tool” and make IoT deployment faster and easier and thus speed up the creation of IoT-powered devices.
ARM has launched the mbed IoT Starter Kit – Ethernet Edition today to coincide with the opening of Embedded World in Nuremberg. Partnering with IBM means that ARM’s mbed tool can channel data from internet-connected devices directly into IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform.
The IoT Starter Kit consists of an ARM mbed-enabled development board from Freescale, powered by an ARM Cortex-M4 based processor, together with a sensor IO application shield.
It also support standards such as Bluetooth Smart, 2G, 3G, LTE and CDMA cellular technologies, Thread, WiFi, and 802.15.4/6LoWPAN along with TLS/DTLS, CoAP, HTTP, MQTT and Lightweight M2M.
The mbed OS also features the mbed Device Server, a licensed software product that provides the server-side technologies to connect and manage devices in a more secure way. It also provides a bridge between the protocols designed for use on IoT devices and the APIs used by web developers.
“The combination of a secure sensor environment by ARM with cloud-based analytics, mobile and application resources from IBM will allow fast prototyping of new smart products and unique value-added services,” explained ARM.
Krisztian Flautner, general manager for IoT business at ARM, said that securely embedding connectivity into devices from the start will allow for cloud-connected products that are far more capable than we see today.
“Smart cities, businesses and homes capable of sharing rich information about their surroundings will be critical in unlocking the potential of IoT,” he said.
“The ARM IoT Starter Kit will accelerate the availability of connected devices by making product and service prototyping faster and easier.”
The first products developed using the kit are expected to enter the market later this year.
Future versions of the kit will run the new ARM mbed OS and use ARM mbed Device Server software to deliver a wider range of efficient security, communication and device management features.
Prototypes have been given to a few early adopters, including the Science and Technology Facilities Council which said that the kit and its connection to the IBM IoT Foundation will help businesses realise the value during the development and production phases of any venture.
The mbed software also comes with its own community, Mbed.org, a focus point for a more than 70,000 developers around the platform.
The website provides a database of hardware development kits, a repository for reusable software components, reference applications, documentation and web-based development tools. It is already up and running, ARM said.
Visa Europe has announced a new, more secure way for consumers to pay retailers usinng their mobile phones,a move that could set the stage for Apple’s Apple Pay and rival mobile payment services to be introduced into Europe in the coming months.
Visa Europe said on Tuesday it would introduce to member banks by mid-April a “tokenization” service which substitutes random numbers for a user’s credit card details when a merchant transmits transaction data, reducing the risk of online theft.
Similar security from Visa Inc ,the former parent of Visa Europe, and rival card issuers MasterCard and American Express has been key to the success of Apple Pay since it was introduced in the United States last year, according to industry experts.
Apple Pay allows iPhone users to store their credit card details on their phones, then pay at the tap of a button. In its first three months, more than $2 out of every $3 which U.S. consumers spent using speedy new “contactless” systems at the three major credit card networks was done via Apple Pay, the company said last month.
Visa Europe’s move is one of several new services the London-based credit card giant is unveiling as it battles to retain its role as a middleman connecting banks and consumers in a fast-moving payments landscape being shaken up by major technology firms including Apple, Google and eBay’s PayPal, as well as scores of ambitious start-ups.
These include a way for card customers to send money overseas to other Visa users via their social media profiles on sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Steve Perry, Visa Europe’s chief digital officer, said in an interview his association’s plan for secure credit card data transmission parallels what Visa Inc offers in the United States. But he declined to comment on whether Apple Pay had agreed to use his organization’s version in European markets.
A federal judge has dismissed an antitrust lawsuit that alleged Google harmed consumers by forcing Android mobile phone makers to use its apps by default. The plaintiffs were given three weeks to amend their complaint.
The two consumers who filed the suit failed to show that Google’s allegedly illegal restrictive contracts on manufacturers of Android devices resulted in higher prices on phones, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman said in a Feb. 20 ruling.
The complainants, who were seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, said that Google required manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics, to set the search giant’s own apps as default options on Android-based phones, restricting access to competing software such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The complaint alleged that this practice limited competition in the search engine market, stifled innovation and resulted in higher prices for phones.
But Freeman ruled that the complainants failed to establish a link between software requirements and phone pricing, also noting that “there are no facts alleged to indicate that defendant’s conduct has prevented consumers from freely choosing among search products or prevented competitors from innovating.”
She gave the plaintiffs three weeks to amend the antitrust complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.
Gemalto said its initial investigations into a reports that U.S. and British spies had gained unauthorized access to it systems showed its products were secure and it thus did not expect a significant financial impact.
Gemalto’s shares fell sharply late last week after news website Intercept reported a hack by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
The hack into the world’s biggest maker of phone SIM cards allowed the spies to potentially monitor the calls, texts and emails of billions of mobile users around the world, the investigative news website reported.
Gemalto said it would communicate on the results of its investigations on Wednesday, Feb. 25 through a press release and a press conference that will be held in Paris at 0930 GMT.
Gemalto makes smart chips for mobile phones, bank cards and biometric passports and counts Verizon, AT&T Inc and Vodafone among its 450 wireless network provider customers around the world.
Security vendor AVG has spotted a malicious program that fakes the sequence a user sees when they shut off their phone, giving it freedom to move around on the device and steal data.
When someone presses the power button on a device, a fake dialog box is shown. The malware then mimics the shutdown animation and appears to be off, AVG’s mobile malware research team said in a blog post.
“Although the screen is black, it is still on,” they said. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”
The malware requires an Android device to be “rooted,” or modified to allow deep access to its software. That may eliminate a lot of Android owners who don’t modify their phones.
But some vendors of Android phones ship their devices with that level of access, potentially making it easier for the malware to get onto a device.
This malware is unlikely to show up in Google’s Play Store, since Google tries to block applications that have malicious functions. But it could be a candidate for one of the many third-party app stores with looser restrictions.
A year and a half ago, Apple Inc applied for eight patents related to car batteries. Recently, it has added a slew of engineers, just one of whom had already filed for 17 in his former career, according to a Thomson Reuters.
The recent spate of hires and patent filings shows that Apple is fast building its industrial lithium-ion battery capabilities, adding to evidence the iPhone maker may be developing a car.
Quiet, clean electric cars are viewed in Silicon Valley and elsewhere as a promising technology for the future, but high costs and “range anxiety”, the concern that batteries will run out of power and cannot be recharged quickly, remain obstacles. Those challenges could also be seen as opportunities to find solutions to take the technology mainstream.
The number of auto-related patents filed by Apple, Google Inc, Korea’s Samsung, electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc and ride-sharing startup Uber tripled from 2011 to 2014, according to an analysis by Thomson Reuters IP & Science of public patent filings.
Apple has filed far fewer of these patents than rivals, perhaps adding impetus to its recent hiring binge as it seeks to get up to speed in battery technologies and other car-building related expertise.
As of 18 months ago, Apple had filed for 290 such patents. By contrast, Samsung, which has been providing electric vehicle batteries for some years, had close to 900 filings involving auto battery technology alone.
The U.S. government makes patent applications public only after 18 months, so the figures do not reflect any patents filed in 2014.
Earlier this month, battery maker A123 Systems sued Apple for poaching five top engineers. A search of LinkedIn profiles indicates Apple has hired at least another seven A123 employees and at least 18 employees from Tesla since 2012.
The former A123 employees have expertise primarily in battery cell design, materials development and manufacturing engineering, according to the LinkedIn profiles and an analysis of patent applications.
A123, which filed for bankruptcy in 2012 but has since reorganized, supplied batteries for Fisker Automotive’s now-discontinued hybrid electric car.
“Looking at the people Apple is hiring from A123 and their backgrounds, it is hard not to assume they’re working on an electric car,” said Tom Gage, Chief Executive of EV Grid and a longtime expert in batteries and battery technology.
Apple is building its own battery division, according to the A123 lawsuit. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Microsoft will double the per-PC price of support for enterprises still holding onto Windows XP systems when the anniversary of the aged OS’s retirement rolls around in April, according to a licensing expert familiar with the situation.
The per-PC price for what Microsoft calls “custom support agreements” (CSAs) will increase to $400, the expert said after requesting anonymity.
CSAs provide critical security updates for an operating system that’s been officially retired, as Windows XP was on April 8, 2014. CSAs are negotiated on a company-by-company basis and also require that an organization has adopted a top-tier support plan, dubbed Premier Support, offered by Microsoft.
The CSA failsafe lets companies pay for security patches beyond the normal support lifespan while they finish their migrations to newer editions of Windows. Most enterprises have shifted — and are continuing to do so — to Windows 7 rather than adopt Windows 8.1.
Last year, just days before Microsoft retired Windows XP, the company slashed the price of CSAs to $200-per-device with a cap of $250,000.
Because a CSA is an annual-only program — and Microsoft limits each organization to just three years of post-retirement support — agreements must be renewed each year. The first renewals come due in less than two months.
Ideally, companies that signed up for a CSA last year will have retired large numbers of Windows XP machines in the interim. If a firm reduced the number of Windows XP PCs by half, it will pay the same as last year if it renews the agreement at the higher per-device price.
It’s difficult to gauge the persistence of Windows XP in commercial settings, but the operating system, which debuted in 2001, continues to appear in analytics firms’ tracking.
According to U.S.-based Net Applications, for example, the global user share of XP stood at 20.7% of all Windows-powered PCs in January, representing more than 300 million machines. Meanwhile, Irish metrics company StatCounter pegged XP’s usage share at 12% for January.
Mobile payments have been slow to catch on in the United States and elsewhere, despite strong backing. Apple, Google, and eBay Inc’s PayPal have all launched services to allow users to pay in stores via smartphones.
The weak uptake is partly because many retailers have been reluctant to adopt the hardware and software infrastructure required for these new mobile payment options to work. These services also fail to offer much more convenience than simply swiping a credit card, Samsung executives said on Wednesday.
LoopPay’s technology differs because it works off existing magnetic-stripe card readers at checkout, changing them into contactless receivers, they said. About 90 percent of checkout counters already support magnetic swiping.
“If you can’t solve the problem of merchant acceptance…, of being able to use the vast majority of your cards, then it can’t really be your wallet,” said David Eun, head of Samsung’s Global Innovation Center.
Injong Rhee, who is leading Samsung’s as-yet-unannounced payments project, said the Asian giant will soon reveal more details of its envisioned service. He would not be drawn on speculation the company may do so during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
He said new phones such as the upcoming, latest Galaxy would support the service.
Apple Pay, launched in September, allows iPhone users to pay at the tap of a button. Executives have lauded its rapid rollout so far, including the fact that more than 2,000 banks now support it and the U.S. government will accept Apple Pay later this year.
But Apple Pay requires retailers to install near-field communication and some have been reluctant. In addition, many retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and CVS Health Corp, back their own system, CurrentC.
Samsung had invested in LoopPay, along with Visa Inc and Synchrony Financial, before its acquisition. Terms of the deal, which Samsung negotiated over several months, were not disclosed.
It’s unclear how else Samsung could differentiate its service versus Apple’s or other rivals.