Reform Government Surveillance, an organization that represents technology giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft, is pushing the U.S. Senate not to delay reform of National Security Agency surveillance by extending expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.
The House of Representatives voted 338-88 last week to approve the USA Freedom Act that would, among other things, stop the controversial bulk collection of phone records of Americans by the NSA, including by placing restrictions on the search terms used to retrieve the records.
The bill has run into opposition in the Senate from some Republican members who are backing renewal of the current Section 215 of the Patriot Act that provides the legal framework for the phone data collection.
The urgency for Congress to pass legislation comes from the upcoming expiration on June 1 of certain parts of the Patriot Act, including Section 215. Under a so-called “sunset” clause, the provisions will lapse unless reauthorized in the same or modified form by legislation.
A bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month would extend the surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act until 2020. To apparently buy time as pressure builds for reform, another bill has been placed on the Senate calendar to extend Section 215 and other expiring provisions in the current form up to July 31.
The technology companies said that the USA Freedom Act prevents the bulk collection of Internet metadata under various authorities, and provides for transparency about government demands for user information from technology companies, besides assuring that the appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.
Dropbox previously released its cloud storage service on Windows phones and tablets, and on Tuesday the company followed up with a universal app that expands the feature sets for both types of devices.
The update automatically adapts to the user’s screen size and delivers a number of new features, including the ability for Windows Phone users to upload videos directly from their devices.
In the interests of multitasking, Windows Phone users can also now upload multiple files at once. And they can download files straight to their device or SD card, making the information available for offline access; there’s a way to mark files as favorites for offline use as well.
The new update also brings the ability to save and open files to and from Dropbox while working within other apps.
On Windows tablets, Dropbox users can now invite new members to a shared folder from their contacts list and manage folder settings from their device. New keyboard shortcuts for selecting and searching enable a faster workflow.
Now available free for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.0 or 8.1, the software promises better performance as well, according to Dropbox.
Separately Tuesday, Dropbox rolled out new features for its main service that target designers and others who work frequently with images. Specifically, it debuted a new image viewer for better online previews as well as better support for Photoshop, Illustrator and scalable vector graphic files. Users can now also preview PostScript images in their browser rather than having to download them first.
China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, known for its telecom equipment, became the latest tech giant to present its own take on the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), centered on an operating system designed to allow household and business appliances to communicate with each other online.
At an event in Beijing, Huawei executives showcased its “Agile IoT” architecture, including an operating system called LiteOS to control basic devices. This marks the firm’s most significant push into a sector that has lured heavyweights from Google Inc to Intel Corp and IBM into pushing their own standards and communication protocols.
Huawei executives touted Agile architecture as a free and open standard that would allow hardware designers to easily make connectable devices. Aside from its operating system, Huawei also showed off fully customizable wireless equipment that could be installed in business settings.
“Standardizing infrastructure will foster the development of Internet applications, including ‘IoT’ applications,” said Huawei’s chief strategy and marketing officer William Xu.
Huawei’s latest expansion comes at a time when consumer-oriented firms such as Xiaomi Inc and Apple Inc, anticipating an explosion of Internet-connected home appliances and consumer devices, have sought to build ecosystems around their popular handsets.
Last month, Tencent Holdings Ltd unveiled its own operating system for Internet-connected devices such as TVs and watches that is open to all developers, taking on domestic rivals Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, JD.com Inc and Xiaomi Inc in the smart hardware space.
Scammers are running wild through British oil company networks without needing to use malware, according to Panda Security.
Hacking is not new, stealing information and data from firms is not new, but doing so without using malware is unusual.
Panda has dubbed the scam Operation Oil Tanker (PDF), which it said has made its way into systems through a socially engineered email and a lone staffer. The security firm said that antivirus systems failed to stop the attacks, but that its own demo software did.
Panda explained that a worker called Susan at a company called Black Gold Ltd was presented with an email on a Monday morning.
The email contained a 4MB attachment apparently related to the oil market which the employee clicked on and opened. While this could have been big trouble, it was not. Why? Because of Panda.
“Neither the mail server antivirus nor the antivirus on her workstation had
found anything anomalous in it. Susan double-clicked the attachment. A blank PDF opened,” the firm explained.
“1,700km away from Susan’s computer, an alarm was triggered. An unknown threat had just been detected and blocked when it tried to steal credentials from Susan’s computer and send them out.”
Panda, which was the blocker, said that there are some 250,000 malware threats a day, but that this one was special.
“There was something really unique about this threat: it didn’t use any kind of malware. That’s why we decided to call it the ‘Phantom Menace’,” it added.
Panda studied the incident, picking apart the email and its PDF and finding that it included an executable. That executable showed no suspicious behaviour, so was not picked up in regular scans. However, it ran a file called dcp.exe, which allows for file encryption.
Files are picked up at the target and sent to a remote location. Panda found files dating back to 2013, and reported that it had gone undetected for some six months. The scammer was able to use the information to fraudulently broker oil sales.
“In short, the scam works like this: the scammer contacts a broker/middleman and offers them a large amount of BLCO [Bonny Light Crude Oil], one to two million barrels, at a very competitive price,” said Panda.
“To close the deal, the buyer must pay a significant amount of money – from $50,000 to $100,000 – in advance. However, once they pay the money they
are met with the nasty surprise that there is no oil.”
Panda has contacted the Spanish National Guard with its evidence and discoveries.
The security firm said that the force has a good history in dealing with cybercrime, and has worked with Panda before. However, it added that no victims are prepared to come forward. Which does not help anyone.
The Openstack Foundation has announced new interoperability testing requirements for OpenStack-branded products and is claiming rapid adoption of the federated identity service introduced in the latest OpenStack release that makes it easier to combine private and public cloud resources.
Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce said at the first OpenStack Summit event of 2015 that the vision for the OpenStack project was to create a “global footprint of interoperable clouds” that would enable users to seamlessly mix and match resources from their own data centre with those of public cloud providers, delivering a so-called hybrid cloud model.
To this end, Bryce announced new interoperability testing requirements for products that are branded as ‘OpenStack Powered’, including public cloud and hosted private cloud services as well as OpenStack distributions.
“This is a big milestone and introduces common code in every distribution that brands itself as OpenStack, and common APIs that have been tested and validated,” he said.
In practice, this means that, along with an OpenStack Powered logo, products will carry a badge to show certification.
This currently applies only to some of the platform’s core modules, such as Nova (compute), Swift (object storage), Keystone (identity service) and the Glance image service.
But it is intended as a guarantee to users that a certified product contains a set of core services consistent with all other OpenStack products that are similarly certified.
Vendors already offering certified products include HP, IBM, Rackspace, Red Hat, Suse and Canonical, but the list is set to expand this year.
“During 2015, this will go across all products that are OpenStack. You will be able to know what you are getting in an OpenStack Powered product, and you will be able to count on those as your solid foundation for cloud,” Bryce said.
Meanwhile, the Kilo release of OpenStack, available since last month, added the Keystone service as a fully integrated module for the first time.
Despite this, OpenStack said that over 30 products and services in the OpenStack application catalogue support federated identify as of today, and that many OpenStack cloud providers have committed to supporting it by the end of this year.
Together, these two announcements are significant for OpenStack’s hybrid cloud proposition, as they will make it much easier to link a customer’s private cloud resources with those of a public cloud provider.
OpenStack Powered certification means that users can count on a consistent environment across the two, while Keystone provides a common authentication system that can integrate with directory services such as LDAP.
One company already taking advantage of this is high-tech post-production firm DigitalFilm Tree which has been working with HP and hosted private cloud firm Bluebox to build a totally cloud-based production system for film and TV content.
The firm demonstrated at the summit how the system enables footage to be captured and uploaded to one cloud, then transferred to another cloud for processing.
Bryce explained that this is just one example of how OpenStack is driving new use cases and expanding what people can do across a variety of industries.
“Interoperability means you can share your cloud footprint. It shows the power of the ‘OpenStack planet’ we are trying to build,” he said.
The Zenfone 2, which has a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, starts at $199. It will began shipping on Tuesday with Google’s Android 5.0 mobile operating system.
A model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage goes for $299, while the $199 model has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The smartphone is shipping as an unlocked device, meaning it will work with multiple carriers.
It has an Intel 64-bit Atom Z3580 processor code-named Moorefield and a PowerVR G6430 graphics processor, which is capable of handling 1080p video rendering.
The Zenfone 2 has a 5-megapixel front camera and a 13-megapixel rear camera, as well as two SIM slots.
Asus wants to make a mark in the U.S, and with this smartphone it hopes to find an audience, said Jonney Shih, chairman of Asus, during a press event in New York.
The ZenFone 2 is already shipping in 15 countries worldwide. For the U.S. market, Asus has tweaked the smartphone with some new features including a better LTE modem.
Other features include 802.11ac wireless and LTE-Advanced capabilities. The device supports carrier aggregation, and LTE data transfers can touch up to 250M bps (bits per second).
This is also a big product release for Intel. The Zenfone is the second smartphone in the U.S. that uses one of its chips. It’s also Intel’s first smartphone in the U.S. with the XMM 7260 LTE modem. An Intel chip is already being used on Asus’s Padfone X Mini, which is primarily a 4.5-inch smartphone that turns into a 7-inch tablet with an accessory.
Apple, which has been focusing efforts on beefing up its mapping technology since ditching Google Maps in 2012, has acquired Coherent Navigation, a startup offering a high-accuracy GPS navigation service.
Coherent’s navigation system is used in the Iridium satellite network, according to the LinkedIn profile of Paul Lego, who was CEO of the company before going to work for Apple. Coherent, which was founded in 2008 and is based in the San Francisco area, counts the U.S. government as a customer and had been aiming its technology at the mining, construction, energy and agriculture industries. Coherent had fewer than 10 employees, according to its LinkedIn page, which states that the company “has ceased operations.”
Coherent joins a string of businesses Apple has purchased in recent years to beef up its mapping service. Until 2012, Apple’s mapping technology was based on Google Maps. Other mapping and location companies Apple has acquired include PlaceBase, Locationary and BroadMap.
In a statement released to the media, Apple said it occasionally purchases small companies and doesn’t discuss its acquisition plans. The timing, price and terms of the deal, which was first reportedby MacRumors, weren’t disclosed.
However, several former Coherent executives became Apple employees in recent months. Coherent CEO Paul Lego began working at Apple in January while co-founders William Bencze and Brent Ledvina joined the company in April, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Lego is on the Maps Team and Bencze and Ledvina work on location technologies.
The war of words between Imagination and ARM is starting to become more colourful with the head of Imagination Technologies dubbing his rival a “big gorilla .”
Hossein Yassaie has accused ARM Holdings of exploiting its monopoly for chip designs that power the world’s electronic devices.
What is interesting is that both companies are British and both seem to be headed on a collision course.
Imagination moved into ARM’s heartland of producing central processing units (CPUs) for devices such as smartphones when it bought MIPS, of the United States, two years ago. It is better known for its PowerVR mobile graphics processors which are under the bonnet of the iPhones and MIPSembedded microprocessors.
But Hossein playing the monopoly card appears to be setting his company up as the little guy trying to take on a bigger rival.
Imagination Technologies announced the Warrior architecture in 2013 and was expected to push MIPS’ reach from embedded devices like routers and into smartphones and tablets. Nothing happened and Yassaie thinks it will take a big MIPS design win to get his outfit’s foot in the door.
He said that he had to keep such releases to himself because everytime Imagination makes an announcement ARM tends to focus on it.
Hossein has stated before that that ARM has managed to get where it is because it ran a monopoly but with MIPS it has that.
MIPS is getting traction, particularly from the likes of Google supporting 64-bit MIPS chips in Android L but it still has a long way to go.
ARM dominates the mobile SOC market, and Intel is fast becoming the second player in that market with its x86 designs like its Core M and Cherry Trail Atom. If anything Intel has more monopoly experience than ARM meaning that Imagination has to tackle an actual monopoly and someone who is used to establishing one.
What it will have to do is come up with a decent pricing strategy to kill off the rivals once and for all.
The dumping of Apple shares by top hedge funds is continuing to gather speed and now even the Tame Apple Press is noticing.
Reuters took time out from its busy schedule of promoting Apple producst to report the surprise news that Top US hedge fund management firms, including Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors and Philippe Laffont’s Coatue Management, continued to reduce or slash stakes altogether in Apple during the first quarter.
We say surprise news, but we had noticed it when it actually happened.
Coatue cut its holding of Apple by selling 1.2 million shares during the first three months of this year, but it remains the fund’s single biggest U.S. stock investment, with 7.7 million shares. Omega Advisors sold all of its 383,790 shares in Apple during the first quarter, while Rothschild Asset Management cut its stake by 107,953 to 938,693 shares, filings showed on Friday.
David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital also cut its exposure in Apple during the first quarter, slashing its stake by 1.2 million shares to 7.4 million shares.
Reuters cannot understand why the hedge funds are dumping their shares. Apple shares rose 12.7 percent in the first quarter and have continued to increase, it moaned.
But the reality is that if hedge funds listened to what fanboys wanted they would not be making the huge amounts of dosh they do. Objectively Apple’s markets have peaked, sales of Tablets have slumped, its iPhone market is stable but has no real momentum and above all it has yet to come up with a new idea.
The changes, announced Thursday, come less than a month after Google started prioritizing mobile-optimized sites in its search results. Both companies are looking to attract more users by providing a better search experience on smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft said it expects to roll out the changes in the coming months. Sites that display well on smaller screens will also be flagged with a new “mobile friendly” tag.
In the U.S. last year, Bing had roughly 6 percent of the mobile search market, compared with Google’s 83 percent, according to figures from StatCounter.
The changes don’t mean mobile-optimized sites will necessarily appear at the top of results. “You can always expect to see the most relevant results for a search query ranked higher, even if some of them are not mobile friendly,” Microsoft said.
It considers a variety of elements to decide which sites display best on smartphones and tablets. For example, sites with large navigational elements that are spaced well apart will be prioritized, as well as sites that don’t require a lot of zooming and lateral scrolling. Bing will also favor sites with mobile-compatible content. That means pages with Flash content, which doesn’t work well on iOS devices, might get demoted.
Microsoft highlighted Fandango’s mobile site as one that will be prioritized under the changes, more so than Movies.com.
The company has also developed a tool to help webmasters assess the mobile friendliness of their sites. It will be made available in a few weeks.
Qualcomm is wedging its foot more firmly in the Internet of Things (IoT) door by announcing a range of moves to secure its position in the market.
The first announcement sees the firm expanding its Internet of Everything (IoE) platform with the addition of six new ecosystem providers: Ayla Networks, Exosite, Kii, Proximetry, Temboo and Xively by LogMeIn.
“This will further simplify the development of devices that use WiFi to connect to the IoE by increasing cloud service flexibility and making these solutions available in a broader global reach,” Qualcomm said.
Qualcomm has also introduced two connectivity solutions, the QCA401x and QCA4531, which bring WiFi capabilities to connect products across development platforms and “give customers an expedited and cost-effective path to deployment”.
The QCA401x is designed to ease manufacturer demand for increased computing and memory while lowering size, cost and power consumption, Qualcomm said.
It features a fully integrated micro controller unit with up to 800KB of on-chip memory and an expanded set of interfaces to directly interconnect with sensors, display and actuators, further reducing system cost, size and complexity.
The QCA401x also includes a suite of communication protocols including Wi-Fi, IPv6, and HTTP, as well as an advanced security feature designed to maximise security in IoT devices.
The QCA4531 is a low-cost turnkey solution that brings high-performance connectivity with a user-programmable Linux/OpenWRT environment.
It is designed to serve as an IoT node taking advantage of the Linux framework and as a hub to enable an IoT Ecosystem.
“As the [IoT] ecosystem expands, the QCA4531 is ideal for multi-protocol bridging and communication, bringing together multiple wireless medium and bridging between different ecosystems,” said Qualcomm.
The QCA4531 can function as an Access Point supporting up to 16 simultaneous devices, and is also power-optimised to enable appliances to meet international standards for energy efficiency.
The firm also banged on about the development of its subsidiaries Qualcomm Technologies, Qualcomm Atheros, Qualcomm Life, and Qualcomm Connected Experiences, and their progress across its range of IoT technologies.
Broadly, this includes an increased focus on providing better connectivity in the smart home with the AllSeen Alliance, as well as the development of more wearables in more countries, deploying more connected cars, more active engagements in smart city developments and partnering with more customers for connected healthcare.
“Driven by the significant growth and diversity of interconnected devices, Qualcomm companies are delivering the solutions and collaborating with technology leaders to empower manufacturers to create the best connected experiences in homes, businesses, cars and cities,” the firm said.
Qualcomm also announced additional features in its AllPlay smart media platform, including Bluetooth to WiFi re-streaming, custom audio settings and optimised synchronisation. The new AllPlay feature combines Bluetooth and WiFi for “whole home streaming”.
This means that all local or cloud-based music on a consumer’s smartphone can be streamed to any Bluetooth-compatible AllPlay speaker and then re-streamed over WiFi to multiple AllPlay speakers, all in sync.
This allows simple wireless connectivity to individual speakers or an entire home audio system over the user’s existing home WiFi network, providing an advantage over Bluetooth-only speakers which are limited to one-to-one streaming.
“The range and capacity of WiFi, coupled with the ubiquity of Bluetooth, is a game-changing combination for manufacturers and consumers alike,” said Sy Choudhury, senior director of product management at Qualcomm.
“AllPlay device manufacturers like Hitachi and Monster can now offer their customers more connectivity options and access to myriad streaming services throughout their home with this new capability.”
Qualcomm announced last month that it has teamed up with Dutch semiconductor maker NXP to bolster its near field communication offering, expanding the technology outside the smartphone and into IoT devices.
NXP’s embedded secure element will be integrated across Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800, 600, 400 and 200 processor-based platforms.
The new offering features a module variant derived from the recently launched NXP PN66T NQ220 module, now named the NQ220.
Struggling display manufacturer Sharp, reeling from cutthroat competition in mobile phones, will push car makers to incorporate vehicle dashboards that have gestural commands, thin bezels and other next-generation features.
It’s hoping cars will be controlled, in part, through high-resolution displays that can fit any two-dimensional surface area, such as dashboard panels with rounded contours.
The company has shown off the wavy screens for cars and consoles in recent months, and has tried to woo automakers to use them. Under the firm’s new medium-term strategy, the push has taken on greater urgency.
Thin-bezel dashboard LCDs, as well as screens that can provide multiple views to different passengers in a car depending on their perspective, could prove to be a lifeline for Sharp, which hasn’t been able to command a dominant market position despite cutting-edge technology.
Sharp is an Apple supplier and is said to be a maker of iPhone 6 screens, along with Japan Display, and LG Display of South Korea.
Apple sources some of its screens from Sharp’s Kameyama plants in central Japan, which produce the maker’s flagship IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) transparent crystalline semiconductor displays. IGZO displays, which Sharp began producing for smartphones in 2013, have smaller pixels than conventional LCD screens and feature low power consumption.
Last month, Sharp showed off a 5.5-inch display with 3860 x 2160 or 4K pixel resolution, which was part of a 12.5-inch IGZO panel. But there were no immediate plans for mass production.
Sharp’s ability to generate dazzling phone graphics hasn’t saved its bottom line. The firm announced a US$1.7 billion bailout from banks this week, its second lifeline in three years, and posted a dismal earnings performance for the year to March 31 with a net loss of ¥222.3 billion ($1.8 billion). It blamed declining prices in small and medium-sized LCDs.
In contrast, Sharp sees prices for automotive and industrial automation displays as more stable because the barriers to market entry are higher due to the technological know-how that’s required. Now it needs to play for time.
Mac and Linux fans you are out of luck. Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, the headset that perhaps more than any other device has ignited public interest in virtual reality, will run almost exclusively on well-appointed Windows PCs, at least in the near future.
The process that most laptops use to output video doesn’t work with the Rift, and Oculus has temporarily halted development for hardware running Apple and Linux. That’s the takeaway from the spec informationOculus published Friday detailing what type of computer would be compatible with its headset.
Graphics cards need to be equivalent to or more powerful than the AMD Radeon R9 290 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, while the processor needs to match or exceed an Intel i5-4590 chip, the virtual-reality headset maker said in a blog post. Systems need at least 8GB of RAM, two USB 3.0 ports and must be able to handle HDMI 1.3 video output. They also need to be running at least Windows 7 with Service Pack 1.
Having common specs will simplify the development process and allow programmers to create apps and games that offer a consistent experience, said Oculus chief architect Atman Binstock in a blog post. This is important, since hardware that isn’t up to par will deliver a negative experience, he said.
The specs will stay consistent, but in theory, the cost of components that support the technology will decrease over time, allowing a broader range of PCs to work with the Rift, Binstock said.
Laptop owners who hoped to use the Rift are out of luck, at least for now. Many laptops have external video outputs connected to an integrated GPU (graphic processing units), said Binstock said. However, in those scenarios the video output is handled by “hardware and software mechanisms that can’t support the Rift,” he added.
Reviewing a laptop’s spec would not reveal this information, and Oculus is working on a method “to identify the right systems,” Binstock said.
Qualcomm had an IoT event in San Francisco yesterday and the company wanted to talk a bit more about IoT, also known as Internet of Things. They started off with a catchy phrase – Internet of Hype to Internet of Everything.
Dave Aberle said that up to a billion dollars in revenue is coming from the non-mobile market. More than 10 pecent of Qualcomm revenue will come from the non-headset market. They call this market Internet of Everything, but we believe that not all of that market should be called IoT.
IoT is not just the wearable market; it is car modems, connected speakers, action cameras, some smart SanDisk storage solutions, home automation kit and more. Aberle mentioned that Qualcomm has 40 car design wins in the market with 15 different OEMs. We saw some names including Audi on the slide, but the list of obviously much longer.
Qualcomm is the leader in connected car and 4G LTE market, while Nvidia is the leader in Infotainment car systems, having some huge customers behind it, including the Volkswagen Group.
Qualcomm wants to expand its presence in IoT, including automotive solutions, and we expect more IoT designs from them in the near future.
The company launched an investigation in early May after receiving reports of unusual activity involving payment cards used at some of its stores. While it now has sufficient evidence to confirm an illegal intrusion, the company declined to comment on the breach’s scope until the forensics investigation is complete.
Sally Beauty is one of the largest retailers of beauty products in the U.S. and has over 4,500 stores.
In March last year, the company said hackers stole up to 25,000 customer records containing payment card data. According to the company’s annual report for 2014, attackers managed to install malware on some of its point-of-sale systems and captured “track 2″ card data.
Track 2 refers to one of the data tracks encoded on a card’s magnetic stripe. It contains the card’s number and expiration date and can be used by criminals to clone it.
“There can be no assurances that we will not suffer another cyber-attack or data security breach in the future and, if we do, whether our physical, technical and procedural safeguards will adequately protect us against such attacks and breaches,” the company said in its report.
The compromise of point-of-sale systems with memory-scraping malware has resulted in some of the largest card breaches over the past two years. The technique was used to steal 56 million payment card records from Home Depot last year and 40 million from Target in late 2013.