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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Oct 2016

Streaming box advertisement

Image captionSome traders advertise set-top boxes that can access subscription content for free

Tackling the use of Kodi and other set-top box software to stream pirated videos is now the top priority for rights-holders, a report says.

Some boxes or "TV sticks" support software add-ons that can stream subscription movies, sport and TV channels over the internet for free.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) said about half of its current investigations concerned the devices.

It said boxes configured to receive premium content for free were illegal.

The statements were made in the annual crime report of the government's intellectual property office (IPO).

What are Kodi boxes?

Kodi is free software, built by volunteers, that is designed to bring videos, music, games and photographs together in one easy-to-use application.

Some shops sell set-top boxes and TV sticks known as Kodi boxes, preloaded with the software.

The developers behind Kodi say their software does not contain any content of its own and is designed to play legally owned media or content "freely available" on the internet.

KodiImage copyrightKODI

Image captionKodi turns compatible devices into a "media centre"

However, the software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to pirated copies of films and TV series, or provide free access to subscription television channels.

"Streaming boxes have steadily increased in popularity in recent years," said Ernesto van der Sar, from the news site Torrent Freak.

"Most use the entirely legal Kodi software, but some are augmented with illegal third-party add-ons.

"They are seen as convenient, as the set-top box format is ideal for the living room.

"Nowadays people often prefer to stream pirated content instead of using traditional torrent sites.

"They see streaming as more convenient and less cumbersome than downloading."

Fact said set-top boxes configured to receive premium content for free were "an emerging threat to the audiovisual industry".

"This is becoming an epidemic," Kieron Sharp, director general of Fact, told the BBC.

"If you are not paying for Sky, BT or one of the pay-TV providers for your subscription channels, you are clearly in possession of an illegal box."

The IPO said the increased availability of such devices presented a "significant challenge".

"We are aware that set-top boxes, while perfectly legal in their own right, are frequently adapted by criminals to illegally receive TV channels protected by intellectual property rights," a spokesman told the BBC.

"The government is working with its partners in industry and with police forces across the country to target criminals looking to profit from this activity.

"We are also working closely with our international partners to target the cross-border infrastructure that underpins illegal streaming."

In August, an investigation by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) led to the arrest of three men who are accused of retransmitting subscription television channels online.

What do the makers of Kodi say?

Some traders sell so-called "fully-loaded Kodi boxes", which are preloaded with third-party add-ons that can access pirated content. These are currently the subject of a legal case.

The developers behind Kodi have said they do not support "piracy add-ons" and have criticised those who advertise "fully-loaded" set-top boxes for sale.

The group said it would maintain a "neutral stance on what users do with their own software", but would battle those using the Kodi trademark to sell a "fully-loaded Kodi box".

Discussions about "pirated content" and add-ons that provide access are removed from its message board.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Oct 2016

Panicking businesswomanImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionThat moment when you realise you've just sent a million pounds to a fraudster by mistake...

What would you do if you received an email from your boss like this?

"Hi, are you busy? I need you to process a wire transfer for me urgently. Let me know when you are free so I can send the beneficiary's details. Thanks."

Many of us would jump to it, eager to please.

But this message has all the hallmarks of CEO fraud, one of the most common forms of business email fraud targeting thousands of companies around the world every day.

Last year, Barbie manufacturer Mattel sent more than $3m (£2.3m) to a fraudulent account in China, after a finance executive was fooled by a message supposedly sent by new chief executive Christopher Sinclair.

Mattel eventually got its money back from China - where the company has significant business interests - but most companies usually have to take the hit after falling victim.

Earlier this year, for example, Austrian aerospace parts maker FACC fired its president and chief financial officer after losing a thumping €42m (£36m) in a business email fraud.

Models posing with Barbie dollsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionBarbie doll maker Mattel nearly lost $3m to invoice fraud last year

Some smaller companies targeted have gone bust as a result.

"Criminals have realised that hitting businesses rather than individuals can mean much bigger wins," says Orla Cox, director of security response at cyber security specialist Symantec.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says CEO fraud has shot up by 270% since January 2015 and has cost businesses around the world at least $3bn (£2.3bn) over the past three years.

Out of control

Simply tricking companies into sending invoice payments to the wrong people costs UK companies about £9bn a year, according to research from invoicing company Tungsten Network.

And procurement fraud - charging for stuff that was never delivered; taking a bribe for awarding a contract to a particular supplier; or encouraging suppliers to charge over the odds then creaming off the difference - accounts for 88% of total UK fraud losses.

Philip Letts, Blur Group CEOImage copyrightBLUR GROUP

Image caption'Procurement fraud is becoming a big problem' says Blur Group's Philip Letts

"Procurement fraud is becoming a big problem, with at least 20% of corporate spend categorised as 'unmanaged'," says Philip Letts, chief executive of enterprise services platform, Blur Group.

'Unmanaged' means there is insufficient monitoring of the tendering process and whether the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, for example. Quite often smaller jobs are given to suppliers without any written contract at all and paid for cash-in-hand.

"This puts businesses at high risk of procurement fraud," says Mr Letts.

Someone holding over hundreds of dollarsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionCash-in-hand payments for undocumented services are ripe for fraud

Lots of such payments add up to a big amount of cash potentially lost down the back of the corporate sofa.

Blur's platform helps companies find vetted service providers and manage the entire contract from pitch to payment, theoretically making invoice fraud easier to spot and harder to perpetrate.


Most business email fraud is relatively lo-tech, relying on psychological manipulation and people's willingness to get the job done.

But Jim Wadsworth, managing director at Accura, the data analysis arm of payments giant VocaLink, believes his company's hi-tech solution could prove the best way to combat it.

Called Accura Invoice Payment Profiling, it is an anti-fraud analytics system that uses VocaLink's massive store of payments data to identify and flag fraudulent payments before the money is even transferred.

"We are working with one of the country's largest banks to prevent these frauds by scanning transactions and contacting the bank directly when we see something suspicious," Mr Wadsworth says.

Jim Wadsworth, Accura MDImage copyrightACCURA

Image captionAccura's Jim Wadsworth believes invoice scanning software could reduce fraud

In effect, the system looks for unusual characteristics in the invoice, such as a destination bank account number that has never been used before, atypical payment amounts, or false purchase order numbers.

"Every time a business pays an invoice a trail of information is left behind," he says. "By using this data, and overlaying it with cutting-edge data science techniques, Accura is now able to identify and flag suspected incidents of these types of fraud before the money leaves the account."

The system, which went live a few months ago, has already prevented a number of invoice redirection frauds, says Mr Wadsworth. And he hopes that many more crimes will be prevented as the system evolves.

"We recently saved a public sector organisation £100,000 by foiling an attempt at invoice redirection fraud," he says.

"As CEO fraud has very similar characteristics to invoice redirection fraud, we should be able to use the system to help companies avoid being taken in by this scam, too."

Spotting the fakes

But are there ways of intercepting bogus emails in the first place?

"The emails used in this kind of fraud can slip through spam filtering systems because they are not sent to multiple users, and are written to appear innocuous," says Orla Cox.

"However, Symantec's cloud-based email security technology looks for key words such as 'transfer' or 'payment' and also flags up messages from sender domains that are very similar to the target company's.

orla Cox, SymantecImage copyrightBERNARD WALSH

Image captionSymantec's Orla Cox thinks email keyword scanning could help spot fraudulent emails

"If an email seems suspicious, the system will then block it and inform the company to check whether it is genuine or not."

She believes that a combination of email security software and transaction analytics could be the best way for businesses to fight this kind of fraud.

But staff also need to be trained to look out for tell-tale signs in emails, such as domain names that differ very slightly from their company's, she believes.

"A fraudster might, for example, switch the 'm' and the 'n' in Symantec when setting up a fake domain," she says.

Businesses can also protect against email fraud by ensuring staff question any messages requesting actions that seem unusual or aren't following normal procedures.

"Employees should be encouraged to doublecheck everything they do," says Steve Proffitt, deputy head of Action Fraud, the UK's reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Oct 2016

Windows 10 Hero

This week, Microsoft pushed out another cumulative update and reports of installation problems are widespread. While I don’t know how many users are impacted, based on comments sent to me, it’s certainly widespread enough that this is well beyond an isolated issue.

The update that is causing the problem, KB3194496, is not installing correctly for users. The update, when it does fail, is causing some machines to restart, often multiple times, as Windows 10 attempts to remove the failed update. Worse, after a restart, the file will attempt to install again resulting in the loop of failed install, reboot, re-install and failure again.

Some users have reported that the cumulative update did install correctly on the second or third attempt while others have said that it fails every time.

As you can imagine, having this happen to your machine is not a fun experience but what is perplexing about this is that the issue was reported by those who are in the ‘release preview’ ring ahead of the wider-scale release; we know this as it was reported in the Microsoft’s support forums.  If the bug was reported, why did Microsoft go ahead and release the patch if the feedback indicated there was an issue?

I would bet that Microsoft will say that the telemetry suggested that for most users, the update installs correctly. But, seeing how many reports are being mentioned on Twitter and other places, it’s clear that a significant number of users are impacted.

If you do have this problem, there isn’t a workaround at this time but if you do find a solution to update problem, make sure to let us know so we can pass it on to those who are impacted by this bug.

Microsoft is pushing the idea that you should always patch your machine on the day the update is released as they often release security patches that fix vulnerabilities. But, until the company can get a handle on their quality control issues, such as the Anniversary update breaking millions of webcams, it feels like every time you run Windows update you are rolling the dice.

Source: thurrott.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Oct 2016

Using this exoskeleton in a virtual environment, a baseball feels firm, and an egg light and fragile.

The Dexmo glove, with its gleaming white carapace and jet-black connecting joints, looks much like a prop stolen from a Stanley Kubrick film set. On your hand, it gives you a cartoonish silhouette, as if some kind of humorous cheat code had been applied to reality to grant humans oversized, clod-like paws.

In fact, Dexmo’s world-altering properties are focused in the virtual realm. Used alongside compatible virtual-reality software, the Dexmo exoskeleton allows its wearer to touch, grasp, and feel virtual objects as if they were real. A virtual baseball feels firm in the hand, an egg fragile. Pick up a digital rubber duck while wearing the Dexmo, and it can be squished pleasingly between the fingers.

The exoskeleton, designed by a team of seven young roboticists and engineers, uses five custom-built force-feedback units to apply torque to your fingers. These motors dynamically alter the direction and magnitude of the force in order to simulate a specific virtual object’s stiffness. In this way they provide light resistance when handling a soft object like a sponge or a piece of cake, and heavy resistance for a denser object, like a pipe or a brick. Tiny motors also provide haptic vibrations to your fingertips that simulate the impact of tapping a keyboard, or running your finger along a piece of rough concrete. The glove’s resistance is so powerful that it will physically prevent your fingers from penetrating through objects in VR.

The Dexmo glove lets users feel objects as though they're actually in their hand.

Aler Gu, the young roboticist who invented the glove and cofounded the company behind it, Dextarobotics, says VR’s sensory expansion into the realm of touch has the power to revolutionize the medium. “The maximum level of feedback current VR controllers give is a gentle rumble using vibration motors,” he says. “But vibration alone isn’t enough to fool the brain. The moment you detect anomalies in how objects feel, your sense of immersion is broken.”

Dexmo’s applications reach far beyond video games, according to Gu. The glove can work in any simulated 3-D environment and is compatible with all of the major VR headsets currently on the market. He also believes that the device will be useful in CAD design, allowing engineers to disassemble rockets and feel the size of each component, or in medical training, where trainee surgeons can perform more realistic operations. It could prove invaluable in training bomb disposal experts and help drastically reduce costs in mechanical maintenance training by providing students with access to otherwise prohibitively expensive parts that they can feel in their hands.

Sam Watts, head of operations at Make Real, a software company that has worked on a variety of VR applications for military clients as well as consumer game publishers, agrees that the current crop of motion-tracked controllers that are sold alongside the major virtual reality headsets “only give the first stage of sensations of touching and interacting with virtual objects.”

The Dexmo glove has potential applications well beyond gaming.

The HTC Vive Wands, for example, are held snugly in the hands, like handgun grips. A digital representation of the controller is seen at all times within the virtual world, twisting and moving in perfect sync with your hand motions. “This is fine for games and many forms of training simulation, but for real industrial and engineering adoption of VR, much more realistic and precise feedback is required to accurately convey the sense of touching, using, and manipulating objects together.”

However, Watts says, he needs to see more testing and evidence of consumer adoption of the device before including support for the Dexmo in Make Real’s products.

While the price of a consumer version of the Dexmo is yet to be set, Gu is optimistic that the glove will be something that “eventually everybody should be able to afford.” For now, however, the Dexmo is a tool restricted to the hands of early adopting software developers like Watts, those who will ultimately decide what impact such devices will have on both sides of the screen.

Source: technologyreview.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Oct 2016

It’s notable that Apple chose not to ship its Bluetooth AirPods in the box with new iPhones, even though its vision for the future is a wireless one.

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.

Tech reviews and broad tech industry media coverage are often about the cutting edge of technology, and as a result can be very critical of anything seen as less than stellar. But the reality is that many ordinary people regularly use technology that could be much more accurately described as “good enough” rather than bleeding-edge. The vast majority of us aren’t using the latest and greatest technology, not least because that often costs more than we’re willing (or able) to spend, and yet we do just fine. This creates an odd disconnect between how real people use technology and how the experts talk about that same technology.

EarPods and defaults

Every iPhone ever shipped has come with a pair of Apple-provided earbuds in the box, just as iPods did before them. These earbuds have never been at the forefront of headphone technology — they’re small, relatively cheap to manufacture and make no claim to be anything more than they are. But Apple nevertheless made them part of its early ad campaigns for the iPod, and they became a fashion statement of sorts. In a recent survey conducted by Tech.pinions editor Ben Bajarin, more than half of those surveyed said they used the headphones that came in the box.

For many people, the basic option is just fine, and they’ll never look beyond it.

The fact is, defaults are powerful. Many people use those defaults, especially when they’re good enough. That’s not to say there aren’t better options out there for audiophiles, or those who want noise-canceling or over-ear options, but it is to say that, for many people, the basic option is just fine, and they’ll never look beyond it. This is obviously important in the context of the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack on the new iPhone 7. Apple is banking on the fact the majority of people who buy one of these new phones will use the new Lightning-based EarPods, just as they have always used their 3.5mm predecessors. Those who don’t will use the free adapter with their existing headphones, or start or continue using wireless options.

Deciding where good enough is enough

It’s notable, however, that Apple chose not to ship Bluetooth earbuds in the box, even though its vision for the future is a wireless one. Why is this? I think there are two reasons. First, as a practical financial matter, “good enough” in a Bluetooth headset costs significantly more than in wired earbuds, and Apple didn’t want to either raise the price or lower the margins on new iPhones to accommodate that increased cost.

But I think the other reason is that there is a dividing line between products that can afford to be simply good enough and those that can’t. Apple wants to evangelize wireless technology, and you don’t sell a vision based on “good enough” products. You make the very best to sell the story and then, over time, you supply options which are good enough to meet needs further down market. When the perception of a product affects the perception of your brand, you can’t just do “good enough” (unless that’s the brand identity you’re going for, as with Amazon’s Basics line of electronics).

Hence, Apple’s very different focus with its AirPods, which are on par with Apple’s hero products in terms of the positioning, marketing and, yes, pricing. This marks a departure for the Apple brand in the headphone space, although, of course, the acquisition of Beats brought higher-end headphones into the company under a separate brand. That, in turn, signifies something about the broader significance Apple expects the AirPods to take on over time, something others have written about here and elsewhere, and which I’ll likely tackle separately soon.

The challenge of premium

One of the biggest challenges for consumer electronics brands is targeting the premium segment while also serving lower segments of the market. One of Apple’s strengths is it has never really strayed from its premium positioning, even as it has brought several of its major product lines down in price over time. Conversely, other smartphone vendors looking to target the high end have also served the mid-market, and have struggled to associate their brands with premium positioning. This becomes particularly challenging when the same brands put out “good enough” and premium products in the same product category, like smartphones.

Part of Apple’s genius has been carefully separating the categories where it provides premium products from those where it participates at a good-enough level, and not allowing the two to mix or converge. The fact that Motorola and Samsung produce both high-end flagships and very cheap low-end smartphones doesn’t help their attempts to compete with Apple for the premium customer, and Motorola has arguably largely abandoned the very high end in the last year or two. In the car market, this problem is solved with sub-brands (think Lexus versus Toyota, or Cadillac versus Chevy), but we haven’t yet seen that approach play out in the consumer technology market in the same way.

Disruption theory and jobs to be done

Clayton Christensen’s Disruption Theory comes into play here, too — when companies insist on providing only a premium version of certain products, they risk low-end disruption from competitors catering to the needs of those who feel over-served by the current options. However, despite repeated predictions that the premium smartphone market would eventually be disrupted in this way, it hasn’t happened. Yes, low-end Android smartphones have become increasingly capable and cheap, but that’s disrupted almost entirely other Android smartphone vendors rather than Apple.

Products that have strong personal associations — smartphones, cars, clothing and other luxury goods — are stubbornly resistant to low-end disruption.

I believe there’s something about products that have strong personal associations — such as smartphones, cars, clothing and other luxury goods — which make them stubbornly resistant to low-end disruption. Our use of these products says something about us, and using cheaper imitators may not convey the message we want. The job to be done of smartphones and other similar products, then, goes beyond their obvious functions, and is another reason why “good enough” isn’t good enough for at least some buyers who can afford to be more discriminating. This continues to be one of many fascinating aspects of the smartphone market that separate it from the rest of the consumer electronics industry and continue to make it such an interesting one to follow.

Source: recode.net
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 11th Oct 2016

Galaxy Note 7 explodes while charging

Samsung stops Note 7 sales


Samsung has halted production of the Galaxy Note 7 following reports that more replacement handsets have caught fire.

Korean news agency Yonhap said on Sunday that the company has ceased production of the Galaxy Note 7, and Samsung has since confirmed in a statement given to V3that it will "temporarily" stop making the explosion-prone smartphones.

"We are temporarily adjusting the Galaxy Note 7 production schedule in order to take further steps to ensure quality and safety matters," the firm said.

This drastic step follows reports that several replacement Galaxy Note 7 handsets exploded over the weekend.

One of the incidents involved Michael Lering of Kentucky, who woke up to find his bedroom filled with smoke and his replacement Galaxy Note 7 on fire. He was taken to hospital with acute bronchitis and smoke inhalation. 

"The phone is supposed to be the replacement, so you would have thought it would be safe," Klering told WKYT. "It wasn’t plugged in. It wasn’t anything. It was just sitting there."

Another incident, reported at The Verge, involved a new Note 7 fire catching fire in Houston, Texas. Daniel Franks was having lunch with his wife and daughter when a replacement handset caught fire on the table. It had been replaced at a Best Buy store in late September.

Related: Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 fiasco could make smartphone market interesting again

This comes just days after Southwest Airlines was forced to evacuate a plane after a Galaxy Note 7 caught fire and burned a hole through the aircraft's carpet. 

Samsung said on its website on Friday in response to the recent reports that the company "understands the concern of our carriers and consumers".

"We continue to move quickly to investigate the reported case to determine the cause and will share findings as soon as possible. If we conclude a safety issue exists, we will work with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to take immediate steps to address the situation," the firm said.

As if Samsung wasn't having enough of a PR meltdown, US carriers AT&T and T-Mobile have revealed that they will no longer replace Galaxy Note 7 devices, while the latter said that it will halt all sales of the phone.

"While Samsung investigates multiple reports of issues, T-Mobile is temporarily suspending all sales of the new Note 7 and exchanges for replacement Note 7 devices," T-Mobile said on its website.

It's unclear whether UK carriers plan to suspend sales of the Galaxy Note 7, but we've been in touch with the big four operators and will update this article if we hear back.


Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 11th Oct 2016

Workplace by FacebookImage copyrightFACEBOOK

Image captionWorkplace looks similar to Facebook

Facebook has opened up its Workplace platform, which lets companies set up their own internal version of the social network, to all businesses.

The app looks similar to Facebook, with features such as live video streaming and messaging, but is kept completely separate from users' personal profiles.

It is designed to replace other business tools such as email.

One analyst said the platform would pose a challenge to a broad range of rival services.

It will enter the same market as services such as Yammer - Microsoft's self-contained social network that businesses can use internally - and Slack - a collaborative messaging tool.

"It's not just about building a self-contained social network for businesses," said Chris Green of the Lewis consultancy.

"It lets them compete with a variety of different services - such as Google Cloud's file sharing and Microsoft's collaborative document editing.

"It's going to hit a number of environments with one integrated product."

Subscription fee

The social network has been testing Workplace, previously known as Facebook at Work, for two years and said that more than 1,000 businesses were already using it.

In a statement, the company said: "We've seen that just as Facebook keeps you connected to friends and family, it can do the same with co-workers. We've brought the best of Facebook to the workplace."

Food giant Danone, India's Yes Bank, the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, and Starbucks are among those that have already deployed the app.

Workplace is Facebook's first service to charge a subscription fee, a deviation from the company's usual advertising-funded model.

An employee's Workplace account is kept entirely separate from any personal Facebook profile they may use to share content outside work.

"We've seen a growth in interest in the idea of bringing a social network into the corporate environment," said Mr Green.

"The millennial workforce is important to employers, so having systems that are familiar and replicate what they use in their personal life makes sense."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 10th Oct 2016


Motion Code credit cardImage copyrightOBERTHUR TECHNOLOGIES

Image captionThe Motion Code card has a display which changes the three-digit security code every hour

A credit card with a digital display that randomly generates a security code is being launched as a way of combating fraud.

Oberthur Technologies is currently in discussions with UK banks about rolling out the technology and will have cards "in the hands" of consumers in France by the end of the year.

Credit card fraud costs banks millions of pounds each year.

One expert said a different design for credit cards was overdue.

"In some ways, it's surprising it has taken so long for this to appear," Prof Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert from Surrey University, told the BBC.

The card provides an extra layer of security by replacing the static printed three-digit security code on the back of the card with a mini screen which displays a random code that changes automatically every hour.

It is powered by a thin lithium battery designed to last for three years.

"The technology has existed for some time so now it will be a case of persuading card processors that it is worth doing," said Prof Woodward.

"It may be costly for card operators as some extra infrastructure will be required to ensure our cards stay synchronised with the operator, but it happens already for many banks with the dongles they issue for login."

One drawback of the card is that customers will no longer be able to memorise their security code and will need to check the card every time they want to make an online purchase.

French banks Societe Generale and Groupe BPCE are preparing to roll the cards out to customers, following a pilot scheme last year and there are also pilot schemes in Mexico and Poland.

According to the UK's Financial Fraud Action, credit card fraud in the UK totalled £755m in 2015 and the Office for National Statistics said that there were 20,255 victims.

There are several ways that fraudsters get hold of credit card details - from the online theft of data to skimmers that are attached to cash machines.

Skimmers - often homemade devices - that are attached to a cash machine, can steal information from the card's magnetic strip and pin code with the help of a fake ATM pin pad or web camera.

Over time, the design has become more sophisticated with the advent of so-called shimmers - that are able to gather information from the card's chip. Scammers are also now able to inject malware directly into cash machines

In response, banks are working on new authentication solutions, based on biometrics - regarded as a more secure way to identify customers.

But a recent study from security firm Kaspersky Labs suggests that cybercriminals are already planning to exploit these new technologies.

It found at least 12 sellers offering skimmers capable of stealing victims' fingerprints. Other underground sellers are already researching devices that could obtain data from palm, vein and iris recognition systems.

David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, said the Motion Code card would "reduce the window of opportunity" for a thief with a stolen card but added it would be a stronger proposition if the security code was generated on "another device".

"Banks should consider applying a multitude of cybersecurity solutions to minimise unauthorised access to such information," he said.

"Consumers must also be aware of their digital footprint, installing security updates promptly, using strong and unique passwords, applying caution when using public wi-fi networks and not revealing too much information about ourselves online."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 10th Oct 2016

Big Brother Awards Belgium 2016 – The Devil is in the Default

On 6 October, the Belgian Big Brother Awards 2016 took place in Brussels. The negative prize for the worst privacy abuser was unanimously granted to Facebook by the professional jury. The public confirmed Facebook’s title as the ultimate privacy villain of the year – a big majority of the votes went to the social network that is successfully harvesting and generating personal data from people all around the world.

Facebook is a multi-billion dollar company that has one commodity – you!

said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights.

Facebook has access to a wide range of personal data, and it tracks your movements across the web, whether you are logged in or not. And the devil is in the default: To opt out, you are expected to navigate Facebook’s complex web of settings.

We nominated Facebook for the award because their default settings are noxious for privacy. To understand what privacy you are giving away when you use Facebook… well, that is impossible. Data algorithms that can make new assumptions about users are being constantly developed – even Facebook today would have difficulty knowing how they will use your data tomorrow.

said McNamee.

The Big Brother Awards are based on a concept created by EDRi member Privacy International. The goal is to draw attention to violations of privacy.


Big Brother Awards Belgium 2016: “The Devil is in the Default”

Source: edri.org
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 28th Sep 2016

Nexus 6P

The tech world has finally coalesced around a charging standard, after years of proprietary adapters and ugly wall-wart power supplies. Well, sort of: We’re already seeing some fragmentation in terms of the new USB-C connector, which could eventually replace USB, as well as what is thankfully turning out to be a short-lived obsession Samsung had with larger USB micro-B connectors for its Galaxy line. But aside from that, and with the obvious exception of Apple’s Lightning connector, micro USB has destroyed the industry’s penchant for custom ports.

Ten years ago, you always had to make sure you had the correct power supply for each of your gadgets. Usually, that power supply wasn’t even labeled. Today, you can charge your phone at your friend’s house, plug your ebook reader into any computer, and download photos from a digital camera directly to your TV, all thanks to a standardized connector. In its place, though, there’s a new problem: USB power. Not all USB chargers, connectors, and cables are born equal. You’ve probably noticed that some wall chargers are stronger than others. Sometimes, one USB socket on a laptop is seemingly more powerful than the other. On some desktop PCs, even when they’re turned off, you can charge your smartphone via a USB socket. It turns out there’s a method to all this madness — but first we have to explain how USB power actually works.

New specifications

Many different smartphone chargers... BEGONE!There are now four USB specifications — USB 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 — in addition to the new USB-C connector. We’ll point out where they significantly differ, but for the most part, we’ll focus on USB 3.0, as it’s the most common. In a USB network, there is one host and one device.  In almost every case, your PC is the host, and your smartphone, tablet, or camera is the device. Power always flows from the host to the device, although data can flow in both directions, such as when you copy files back and forth between your computer and your phone.

Okay, now the numbers. A regular USB 1.0 or 2.0 socket has four pins, and a USB cable has four wires. The inside pins carry data (D+ and D-), and the outside pins provide a 5-volt power supply. USB 3.0 ports add an additional row of five pins, so USB 3.0-compatible cables have nine wires. In terms of actual current (milliamps or mA), there are three kinds of USB port dictated by the current specs: a standard downstream port, a charging downstream port, and a dedicated charging port. The first two can be found on your computer (and should be labeled as such), and the third kind applies to “dumb” wall chargers.

In the USB 1.0 and 2.0 specs, a standard downstream port is capable of delivering up to 500mA (0.5A); with USB 3.0, it moves up to 900mA (0.9A). The charging downstream and dedicated charging ports provide up to 1,500mA (1.5A). USB 3.1 bumps throughput to 10Gbps in what’s called SuperSpeed+ mode, bringing it roughly equivalent with first-generation Thunderbolt. It also supports power draw of 1.5A and 3A over the 5V bus.

Anker's 60W-12A 6-Port USB Charger. A unit like this will deliver fast charging to all the ports.




USB-C is a different connector entirely. It’s universal; you can put it in either way and it will work, unlike with USB, and like Apple’s Lightning connector. USB-C is also capable of twice the theoretical throughput of USB 3.0, and can output more power. Apple joined USB-C with USB 3.1 on its 12-inch MacBook, and Google included it on the now-discontinued Chromebook Pixel. We’re also starting to see it on phones, with the first being the OnePlus 2; current popular models include the Google Nexus 6P, the OnePlus 3, and the Samsung Galaxy Note7. But there can also be older-style USB ports that support the 3.1 standard.

The USB spec also allows for a “sleep-and-charge” port, which is where the USB ports on a powered-down computer remain active. You may have noticed this on your desktop PC, where there’s always some power flowing through the motherboard, but some laptops are also capable of sleep-and-charge.

Now, this is what the spec dictates. But there are plenty of USB chargers that don’t conform to these specs — mostly of the wall-wart variety. Apple’s iPad charger, for example, provides 2.1A at 5V; Amazon’s Kindle Fire charger outputs 1.8A; and many car chargers can output anything from 1A to 2.1A.

Can I blow up my USB device?

iPad USB chargerThere is a huge variance, then, between normal USB ports rated at 500mA, and dedicated charging ports, which range all the way up to 3,000mA. This leads to an important question: If you take a phone which came with a 900mA wall charger, and plug it into a 2,100mA iPad charger, as an example, will it blow up?

In short, no: You can plug any USB device into any USB cable and into any USB port, and nothing will explode — and in fact, using a more powerful charger should speed up battery charging. We now do this all the time with our mobile devices here at ExtremeTech, and we’ve never had a problem.

The longer answer is that the age of your device plays an important role, dictating both how fast it can be charged, and whether it can be charged using a wall charger at all. Way back in 2007, the USB Implementers Forum released the Battery Charging Specification, which standardized faster ways of charging USB devices, either by pumping more amps through your PC’s USB ports, or by using a wall charger. Shortly thereafter, USB devices that implemented this spec started to arrive.

If you have a modern USB device — really, almost any smartphone, tablet, or camera — you should be able to plug into a high-amperage USB port and enjoy faster charging. If you have an older product, however, it probably won’t work with USB ports that employ the Battery Charging Specification. It might only work with old school, original (500mA) USB 1.0 and 2.0 PC ports. In some (much older) cases, USB devices can only be charged by computers with specific drivers installed, but this is now going back more than a decade.

There are a few other things to be aware of. While PCs can have two kinds of USB port — standard downstream or charging downstream — OEMs haven’t always labeled them as such. As a result, you might have a device that charges from one port on your laptop, but not from the other. This is a trait of older computers, as there doesn’t seem to be a reason why standard downstream ports would be used, when high-amperage charging ports are available. Most vendors now put a small lightning icon above the proper charging port on laptops, and in some cases, those ports can even stay on when the lid is closed.

In a similar vein, some external devices — 3.5-inch hard drives, most notably — require more power than a typical USB port can provide. That’s why they include a two-USB-port Y-cable, or an external AC power adapter.

Otherwise, USB has certainly made charging our gadgets and peripherals much easier than it ever has been. And if the new USB-C connector continues to catch on, things will get even simpler, because you’ll never again have to curse out loud after plugging it in the wrong way.

Source: extremetech.com
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