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IRS: We Used Stingray Devices To Track 37 Phones (

An anonymous reader writes: In October, we discussed the troubling revelation that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service had its own stingray devices, which are commonly used by law enforcement to intercept phone signals and track criminal suspects. The IRS has now addressed these allegations (PDF), confirming that they do indeed have one of the devices, and are trying to get a second. The agency said it tracked 37 phones across 11 different grand jury investigations, and the devices were also used in four non-IRS investigations. They say, "IRS use of cell-site simulation technology is limited to the federal law enforcement arm of the IRS, our Criminal Investigation division. Only trained law enforcement agents have used cell-site simulation technology, carrying out criminal investigations in accordance with all appropriate federal and state judicial procedures."

BlackBerry Exits Pakistan Amid User Privacy Concerns ( 69

An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry has announced that it will pull its operations in Pakistan from today, quoting a recent government notice which read that the company would not be permitted to continue its services in the country after December for 'security reasons.' In a blog post released by BlackBerry today, chief operating officer Marty Beard confirmed the decision: 'The truth is that the Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic in the country, including every BES e-mail and BES BBM message.' He added: 'BlackBerry will not comply with that sort of directive.'

Pursuit of Slenderness May Mean No More Headphone Jack In iPhone 7 ( 403

An intriguing rumor reported by PC Mag (and initially reported in this Japanese blog) holds that Apple may drop the standard headphone jack from the next revision of the iPhone, in favor of Bluetooth and Lightning connectors. From PC Mag's article: The big question is just how such a move might affect all the other headphones one can buy, as well as the other devices Apple makes. While we can envision some manufacturers making iPhone-exclusive variants of their headphones, we doubt that Apple's potential decision to chop out the headphone jack is going to suddenly make for a market full of Lightning-only headphones and earbuds. There are, after all, plenty of non-iPhone devices that still use the 3.5mm connection. And, of course, you could just pair any ol' pair of Bluetooth headphones or earbuds with the iPhone 7.

On iFixit and the Right To Repair ( 246

Jason Koebler writes: Motherboard sent a reporter to the Electronics Reuse Convention in New Orleans to investigate the important but threatened world of smartphone and electronics repair. As manufacturers start using proprietary screws, offer phone lease programs and use copyright law to threaten repair professionals, the right-to-repair is under more threat than ever. "That Apple and other electronics manufacturers don't sell repair parts to consumers or write service manuals for them isn't just annoying, it's an environmental disaster, [iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens] says. Recent shifts to proprietary screws, the ever-present threat of legal action under a trainwreck of a copyright law, and an antagonistic relationship with third-party repair shops shows that the anti-repair culture at major manufacturers isn't based on negligence or naiveté, it's malicious."

UK Mobile Operator Could Block Ads At Network Level ( 105

Mickeycaskill writes: UK network operator EE says it is investigating the possibility of blocking adverts at a network level, allowing customers to limit the types and frequency of adverts they see in browsers and applications. The move is likely to concern digital publishers, many of whom rely on advertising revenue to fund their content. Ad blockers have become more popular in recent times, with many users employing them to save battery life, consume less data and protect against malvertising attacks. EE CEO Olaf Swantee said, "We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile. For EE, this is not about ad blocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive. This is an important debate that needs to happen soon."

Blackberry Offers 'Lawful Device Interception Capabilities' ( 137

An anonymous reader writes: Apple and Google have been vocal in their opposition to any kind of government regulation of cell phone encryption. BlackBerry, however, is taking a different stance, saying it specifically supports "lawful interception capabilities" for government surveillance. BlackBerry COO Marty Beard as much at a recent IT summit. He declined to explain how the interception works, but he denied the phones would contain "backdoors" and said governments would have no direct access to BlackBerry servers. The company may see this as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Input Devices

Scan a Book In Five Minutes With a $199 Scanner? ( 221

New submitter David Rothman writes: Scan a 300-page book in just five minutes or so? For a mere $199 and shipping — the current price on Indiegogo — a Chinese company says you can buy a device to do just that. And a related video is most convincing. The Czur scanner from CzurTek uses a speedy 32-bit MIPS CPU and fast software for scanning and correction. It comes with a foot pedal and even offers WiFi support. Create a book cloud for your DIY digital library? Imagine the possibilities for Project Gutenberg-style efforts, schools, libraries and the print-challenged as well as for booklovers eager to digitize their paper libraries for convenient reading on cellphones, e-readers and tablets. Even at the $400 expected retail price, this could be quite a bargain if the claims are true. I myself have ordered one at the $199 price.

When Slide Rules Were Like Cellphones ( 220

szczys writes: Slide Rules and Pocket Protectors are the go-to items when making fun of old-time geeks. Forget the pocket protectors. Slide Rules were the first personal computers and a status symbol akin to what cellphones are today. Of course the general public wasn't attached to them, but engineers were. Before electronic calculators came around, everyone who needed to do some serious math owned Slide Rules. Stunningly easy to use and extremely effective, they have tick-marks placed on a logarithmic scale which makes complex multiplication, division, powers, etc. into visual calculations instead of mental ones.

Sprint Faces Backlash For Adding MDM Software To Devices ( 123

itwbennett writes: On Wednesday, Sprint customer Johnny Kim discovered an in-store technician adding MDM software to his personal iPhone 6 without prior notice or permission. Kim took to Twitter with his complaint, sparking a heated conversation about privacy and protection. One expert who commented on the issue told CSO's Steve Ragan that 'it's possible Sprint sees the installation of MDM software as an additional security offering, or perhaps as a means to enable phone location services to the consumer.' But, as Ragan points out, 'even if that were true, it's against [Sprint's] written policy and such offerings are offered at the cost of privacy and control over the user's own devices.' (MDM here means "Mobile Device Management.")

Google Hackers Expose 11 Major Security Flaws In Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge ( 61

MojoKid writes: Going on a bug hunt might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but for Project Zero, the name for a team of security analysts tasked by Google with finding zero-day exploits, a good old fashioned bug hunt is both exhilarating and productive. As a result of Project Zero's efforts to root out security flaws in Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge device (and by association, likely the entire Galaxy S6 line), owners are now more secure. The team gave themselves a week to root out vulnerabilities. To keep everyone sharp, the researchers made a contest out of it, pitting the North American and European participants against each other. Their efforts resulted in the discovery of 11 vulnerabilities, the "most interesting" of which was CVE-2015-7888. It's a directory traversal bug that allows a file to be written as a system. Project Zero said it was trivially exploitable, though it's also one of several that Samsung has since fixed.

Sprint Signs First Direct Roaming Agreement With Cuba ( 17

An anonymous reader writes: Sprint is now the first U.S. wireless carrier to sign a direct roaming agreement with Cuba. Sprint already has a direct long-distance interconnection agreement with the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA). "As the commercial relationship between the U.S. and Cuba continues to progress, it is expected that the number of travelers to Cuba will increase exponentially," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. "We want to make sure any Sprint customer traveling to Cuba can use their phone the same way as they do in the United States."

Motorola Unveils Droid Turbo 2, Claims Shatterproof Display, 48 Hour Battery ( 111

MojoKid writes: We've seen leaks and teasers for Motorola's new Droid Turbo 2 Android flagship for weeks. However, the Lenovo-owned company officially announced the smartphone, and it offers two highly sought after features: a long-running battery and a shatterproof display. Its battery has a 3760mAh capacity, allowing the Droid Turbo 2 to operate for up to 48 hours per charge. And if that wasn't enough, Motorola has incorporated Quick Charging support which allows the device to achieve 13 hours of battery life from a mere 15-minute charge. The most talked about feature, however, is its shatterproof display, which Motorola calls Moto ShatterShield. Motorola says that it's "the world's first phone screen guaranteed not to crack or shatter. The display sports a flexible AMOLED panel to absorb shocks, dual touch layers, a rigid aluminum backing, as well as interior and exterior lenses. At the launch event, Motorola was dropping the phone from about 6 feet up, direct to concrete and it was holding up to the abuse just fine.

The IRS Has Stingray Devices ( 83

An anonymous reader writes: The Guardian reports that the use of stingray technology — devices that simulate cell towers in order to gather phone data — is not limited to intelligence agencies and law enforcement. It turns out the Internal Revenue Service owns some of the devices as well. It's unknown how or why the tax agency uses the stingray devices. The only reason The Guardian figured it out was that they happened to see an IRS invoice from when they paid a company to upgrade one of their devices and provide training on its use. It's thought they're being used when the IRS collaborates with other agencies to knock down money laundering operations. "... there are currently between 2,000 and 3,000 "special agents" in the IRS who form the criminal investigation division (CID). They have the ability to get PEN register orders – the only authority needed to use Stingray devices."

Secret Service Allowed To Use Warrantless Cellphone Tracking ( 104

mi writes: A mere belief in there being a threat against the President or any other protected person is now sufficient for the U.S. Secret Service to use cell-site simulators (commonly known as "stingrays"). In certain "exceptional circumstances," the stingrays can be used without a judge-signed warrant and even without probable cause. When asked whether this essentially granted a blanket exception for the Secret Service, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Seth Stodder said the exemption would not be used in routine criminal probes, such as a counterfeiting investigation. I suppose, the personal verbal assurance of an executive-branch government employee should put all fears of the citizenry to rest.

Google Makes Full-Disk Encryption Mandatory For Some Android 6.0 Devices ( 150

itwbennett writes: Google's plan to encrypt user data on Android devices by default will get a new push with Android 6.0, also known as Marshmallow. Devices with enough memory and decent cryptographic performance will need to have full-disk encryption enabled in order to be declared compatible with the latest version of the mobile OS. From the ITWorld article: "The move is likely to draw criticism from law enforcement officials in the U.S. who have argued over the past year that the increasing use of encryption on devices and online communications affects their ability to investigate crimes. In addition to encryption, Google also mandates verified boot for devices with AES performance over 50MB/s. This is a feature that verifies the integrity and authenticity of the software loaded at different stages during the device boot sequence and protects against boot-level attacks that could undermine the encryption."

Apple Tells US Judge It's 'Impossible' To Break Through Locks On New iPhones ( 225

An anonymous reader writes: Apple told a U.S. judge that accessing data stored on a locked iPhone would be "impossible" with devices using its latest operating system, but the company has the "technical ability" to help law enforcement unlock older phones. Apple's position was laid out in a brief filed late Monday, after a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, New York, sought its input as he weighed a U.S. Justice Department request to force the company to help authorities access a seized iPhone during an investigation. In court papers, Apple said that for the 90 percent of its devices running iOS 8 or higher, granting the Justice Department's request "would be impossible to perform" after it strengthened encryption methods.

Nearly One-third of Consumers Would Give Up Their Car Before Their Smartphone ( 242

Lucas123 writes: A survey of 1,200 general consumers in four major countries by global tech design firm Frog found that 30% of respondents would give up their car before their smartphone. The online survey, which included the U.S., China, Denmark, and Germany, found that 37% of car owners would like to give up their car outright or felt they could get by without it by using an alternative form of transportation. "I think the people of my generation saw driving a vehicle as a rite of passage to adulthood. That was your freedom. I think the generation now views going from point A to point B as just occupying time that they could be doing something else," said Andrew Poliak of QNX Software Systems. At the same time, another survey revealed that even engineers continue to be wary of fully autonomous vehicles, including their vulnerability to hacks and exploits. The survey of IEEE members found they are not comfortable having autonomous vehicles pick up/drop off their children.

Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P Reviews Arrive ( 190

An anonymous reader writes: A few weeks ago, Google announced its new Nexus phones — the 5X built by LG, and the 6P built by Huawei. The phones are starting to ship, and reviews for both devices have landed. So far, they're largely positive. Ars Technica calls them the Android phones to beat, though criticizes them for having fairly large bezels and no wireless charging. Android Police says the 6P's form factor is an improvement over the Nexus 6, being slightly narrower and taller. Meanwhile, most publications report that the 5X does a good job at carrying on the legacy of the excellent Nexus 5. It's their lower end phone, and most reviews mention that it feels that way in the hand — but battery life is reportedly excellent. The Nexus 6P's battery is capable, but doesn't last as long. Fortunately, the worries about overheating with its Snapdragon 810 chip seem overblown.

The Pepsi P1 Smartphone Takes Consumer Lock-In Beyond the App ( 166

An anonymous reader writes: On the 20th of October Pepsi will launch its own smartphone in China. The P1 is not just a cowling brand, but a custom-made device running Android 5.1 and costing approximately $205. At that price it's almost a burner, but even so it represents new possibilities for a brand to truly control the digital space for its eager consumers in a period where mobile content-blocking is becoming a marketing obstruction, and where there is increasing resistance on Google's part to allow publishers to push web-users from the internet to 'the app'.

Over 10,000 Problems Fixed In Detroit Thanks To Cellphone App ( 159

An anonymous reader writes: Six months ago, Detroit's city officials launched a smartphone app called "Improve Detroit." The idea was to give residents a way to easily inform city hall of problems that needed to be fixed. For example: potholes, abandoned vehicles, broken hydrants and traffic lights, water leaks, and more. Since that time, over 10,000 issues have been fixed thanks to reports from that app. "Residents have long complained about city hall ignoring litter and broken utilities. But the app has provided a more transparent and direct approach to fixing problems." Perhaps most significant is its effect on the water supply: running water has been shut off to almost a thousand abandoned structures, and over 500 water main breaks have been located with the app's help. Crowd-sourced city improvement — imagine if apps like this become ubiquitous.