Apr 16, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

Technology

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11Facebook App Asks to Read Users' Cell Phone Texts

When people with smartphones try to update their Facebook app, they are asked by the app if they want it to "read your text messages (SMS or MMS)."

This question has brought some alarm to Facebook users, but the social media site says not to worry (as usual), notes Fast Company.

Facebook states on its website, "If you add a phone number to your account, this allows us to confirm your phone number automatically by finding the confirmation code that we send via text message."

Apparently, this feature is for smartphone users who may not be smart enough to find a confirmation number sent via text by Facebook.

The Angry Birds app asked the same invasive question in 2011, reports Fast Company.

Recently disclosed NSA documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden state that the NSA has been spying on people via the Angry Birds app.

In more government hacking news, Wired reports that the FBI has seized the entire e-mail database of TorMail.

That news recently came to light in court papers when prosecutors indicted a man for allegedly selling counterfeit credit cards on the web. Apparently, orders for forged credit cards were being sent to his TorMail address.

Unlike the NSA, the FBI did have a search warrant for TorMail, but they copied the entire TorMail database.

Sources: Wired, Facebook, Fast Company


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11NSA Using Angry Birds to Mine Data

The NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ are able to use some of the most popular smartphone apps in the world to obtain personal user information, suggests recently leaked documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Of particular note is the mention of the popular smartphone game Angry Birds. The game, which has been downloaded 1.7 billion times worldwide, is dubbed a “leaky app” by the agencies. Such apps, especially if running on the popular Android operating system, are able to provide US and British officials with information including the phone’s settings, which websites the phone had visited and which documents it had downloaded.

The documents also included a 14 page slideshow developed by NSA officials. The slideshow mentioned popular apps that link to social networking site Facebook and the photo upload site Flickr. Photos uploaded to these sites could allow the two agencies to mine mobile devices for information including sexual orientation and political alignment as well as location data of where the photo was taken.  

Such information is often scrubbed from uploads before final publication. Depending on where the information is removed during the upload process it may still be acquired by the NSA or GCHQ.

Angry Birds publisher Rovio has denied any cooperation with the government agencies. 

"Rovio doesn't have any previous knowledge of this matter, and have not been aware of such activity in 3rd party advertising networks," said Saara Bergstrom, Rovio's VP of marketing and communications.

Aother revelation of the leak is the vast amount of information available concerning users who use the ubiquitous Google Maps. Monitoring of information from that app "effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system," one 2008 document from the British eavesdropping agency is quoted as saying.

The Obama administration is seeking to alleviate concerns of US citizens amidst the new revelations.

"As the president said in his Jan. 17 speech, to the extent data is collected by the NSA, through whatever means, we are not interested in the communications of people who are not valid foreign intelligence targets and we are not after the information of ordinary Americans,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney at a Monday press conference.

Sources: CBS, Fox, The Guardian


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11New ‘True Love Tester Bra’ Is Practically A Modern Day Chastity Belt (Video)

A Japanese lingerie company claims their new bra will unlock only when it detects “true love.”

Ravijour’s “True Love Tester Bra” is a high-tech chastity belt for women’s chests that supposedly senses when a woman’s emotional state becomes “truly amorous.”

“Until now, the bra was a piece of clothing to remove, but now it is an instrument to test for true love,” a woman says in a video promo.

The bra contains a hidden sensor that syncs up via Bluetooth to an app on the owner’s phone. The app analyzes the wearer’s heart rate, and when the wearer’s heart rate hits a certain point, the bra unhooks on its own.

The bra is designed to “save women” from certain types of guys, such as the touchy-feely “animal,” “the flashy guy” who uses money to pick up women, and “the technician,” who tries to pick up on multiple women at once.

The “True Love Tester” may be here to “save women,” but it’s not the first piece of clothing to make this claim. A New York company announced it was developing “AR Wear,” Anti-Rape Wear, in November, underwear that is difficult to remove forcefully from a woman’s body.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about this seeming chastity bra is the fact that it was designed by men.

While people can’t buy the bra directly, they can win a chance to try it out by spending more than $50 on the company’s website, according to the New York Daily News.

No word yet on how, or if at all, women can unclasp the bra if they don’t find “true love.”

Sources: Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, New York Daily News


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11NSA Uses Social Apps on Cell Phones to Spy, Hacks 'Angry Birds'

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK government's spy agency GCHQ are hacking into various smartphone apps, including the game "Angry Birds" and Google Maps, to get users' private information.

The Guardian reports that top secret documents, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that some apps may share such private information as sexual orientation.

However, most smartphone owners are unaware that this private info is being shared across web by the NSA and GCHQ.

Rovio, the company that created Angry Birds, denied knowing that the NSA or GCHQ were hacking its apps.

"Rovio doesn't have any previous knowledge of this matter, and have not been aware of such activity in 3rd party advertising networks," Saara Bergstrom, Rovio's VP of marketing and communications, told The Guardian. "Nor do we have any involvement with the organizations you mentioned [NSA and GCHQ]."

Pro-Publica.org notes that one NSA document from May 2010 is titled "Golden Nugget!" and states "Target uploading photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device. What can we get?"

The NSA answers its own question by listing: image, email, phone, buddy lists, home country, age, gender, zip code, martial status, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and number of children.

An user's global location can be found by the NSA and GCHQ by intercepting Google Maps queries made on cell phones.

In response to the story, the NSA released a statement to The New York Times:

NSA does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission. Because some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in NSA's lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for U.S. persons exist across the entire process.

Sources: The New York Times, Pro-Publica.org, The Guardian


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11China’s Lunar Rover Stalls After One Month

China’s lunar rover has stalled on its second lunar night of exploration due to the moon’s "complicated lunar surface environment."

China’s Yutu rover, translated as “Jade Rabbit,” is experiencing a “mechanical control abnormality” just one month after making the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976, Xinhua news agency said.

The six-wheeled rover was expected to gather data for about three months. Until now, it had successfully explored the lunar surface with its mechanical arm.

Yutu was being shut down Saturday when it stalled, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND). The agency said scientists are planning to make repairs, but gave no further details.

Unofficial accounts claim that Yutu’s solar panels did not fold back properly on its mast as it was positioned over a warming box that protects it from the frigid lunar night – which lasts 14 Earth days.

If this is true, instruments and electronic systems on the mast may be defunct.

Sources: BBC News, Universe Today


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11Tiny Robots To Prowl U.S.-Mexico Border’s Dark Drug Tunnels

A wireless, compact, camera-equipped robot will soon be joining the war against drug smuggling along the United States’ southern border.

The new round of state-of-the-art technology will work alongside camera towers, unmanned aerial drones and wireless technologies to watch the 168 discovered tunnels in Arizona and California used mostly to smuggle drugs.

Because of tight land, air and water surveillance among the U.S.-Mexico border, traffickers have gone underground, where this new round of technology will be used.

“We’ve found all types of contraband in Nogales [Arizona],” border patrol Agent Kevin Hecht said. “We’ve had marijuana, we’ve had cocaine, we’ve had heroine, we’ve had some meth.”

The robot will be able to transform into a drone with a 12-gauge shotgun, a feature that won’t be activated according to Hecht.

“That is not an option we needed right now,” he said.

The robots will be sent ahead of agents in order to detect potential threats.

“Once you determine there’s no threats and it’s safe for the agent to make entry, then the agent can clear the tunnel and investigate further beyond what the robot was able to do.”

Tunnel robots have been used by the Border Patrol for years. They can navigate safely throughout pipes, tunnels, and drainage systems while agents control them from the surface, watching the robot’s every move from a handheld screen.

The new batch of robots, only 19 inches wide and weight 12 pounds, can flip, maneuver through rough terrain, climb stairs, and navigate through narrow passageways. They will be deployed this year across southern Arizona and California.

Sources: Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Associated Press


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11Developer Finds Bug In Chrome That Lets Websites Secretly Activate Your Microphone

Talented web developer Tal Ater has found a bug in Google’s widely-used Chrome browser. Ater, who works in speech recognition programming, stumbled upon the bug during his own work. According to Ater, the bug could let websites with malicious intentions activate your microphone without you ever noticing. Here’s how it works.

When you visit a site that wants to use your microphone, the site has to ask for your permission. Assuming you accept, this site will be able hear what you say for the duration of your visit at the site. This is relatively harmless in and of itself - web developers are actively working to allow users to execute commands on the internet using their voice.

When a site is accessing your microphone, a red light will appear in the browsing window letting you know that you’re microphone is activated. But, Ater says, a website does not have to ask you for permission to access your microphone every time you visit. Consenting to microphone use even once on a site is all the site needs to access your microphone in future visits without asking.

Here’s the kick: the way Chrome currently works, it’s not at all difficult for a website to open a discreet pop-up window without you noticing. This window could open, activate your microphone, and record your conversations for hours or days before you ever notice.

"Even while not using your computer - conversations, meetings and phone calls next to your computer may be recorded and compromised," Ater said in his blog post on the bug.

“The malicious site you visited can continue listening in on you long after you have left it," Ater continued. "As long as Chrome is still running nothing said next to your computer is private.”

Ater reported the bug to Google on September 24th. Google’s engineers responded swiftly with a patch for the exploit. But Google is yet to implement the patch in the mainstream code of Chrome. The internet giant says the issue is still being debated amongst their browser Standards group.

“As of today, almost four months after learning about this issue, Google is still waiting for the Standards group to agree on the best course of action," Ater said, "and your browser is still vulnerable."

Sources: BBC, Talater.com


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11Foldable Pocket Drones That Takes Photos Coming Soon

Aerial drones soaring through the sky have been a hot topic lately in the political world, and pretty soon much smaller drones might be making their way into people’s pockets – literally.

The “Pocket Drone,” funded by Kickstarter.com, is a foldable, flying “multicopter” that its creators have described it as the “GoPro of drones.”

Equipped with an action camera for capturing aerial photos and videos and a rechargeable battery, the drone folds up to a size of a small tablet.

“Until now, most people could not participate in this awesome new technology revolution – the cost was too great, the drones too bulky, and the software too difficult to operate,” creators Timothy Reuter, TJ Johnson and Chance Roth wrote on their Kickstarter page.

The creators, also founders of the Drones User Group Network, said they want to empower civilians, not spy on them.

The Drones User Group Network says it is “dedicated to teaching people to build and operate the flying robots… and there wasn’t anything out there that was both powerful and convenient to carry. So we decided to create something that combined the best of everything we had seen, but was more elegant and accessible."

This drone is easy to operate, they said. It can be unpacked and launched within 20 seconds and can be managed by a remote, a third party RC controller or from any Android phone or tablet with a USB port.

The Pocket Drone can be purchased for $445 without a controller or $495 for the entire package.

The Kickstarter campaign will close its fundraising on March 9 and has already surpassed its goal of $35,000 by reaching $300,000.

Sources: RT.com, Mashable


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11Judge Rules NOLA.com Must Reveal Identities Of Anonymous Internet Commenters

Much of the allure of the Internet is its relative anonymity, as users can interact with each other without revealing their personal information. The NSA spying scandal as well as other big data collection reports have demonstrated, of course, that the net is not as anonymous as many users would like to believe. Still, internet commenters can find comfort in the fact that their online speech cannot be linked with their true identity. 

A new ruling by a federal judge in Louisiana claims that anonymity on the web might not be an inherent right. US Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson decided on Tuesday that attorney Edward Castaing could legally subpoena NOLA.com to provide him with the names, addresses and phone numbers of two otherwise anonymous commenters on the site. 

The case in which Castaing is involved regards the Danziger Bridge shootings that took place in New Orleans during the days following Hurricane Katrina. Five police officers were convicted with shooting civilians during the incident. 

Castaing’s client, former New Orleans Affordable Homeownership executive director Stacey Jackson, was accused of misusing federal funds for personal benefit, theft and bribery amidst the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Castaing believes his client may have been charged due to comments on the site posted anonymously by law enforcement officials, an act which would constitute prosecutorial misconduct. Castaing claims that two commenters on NOLA.com, the online equivalent of print publication the New Orleans Times-Picayune, made statements that “pressured suspects to cooperate with prosecutors,” according to RT. 

Former US Attorney Jim Letten’s office had already admitted to posting slanderous comments on the site, which led both Letten to resign and a judge to reopen a trial for the convicted police officers. Several federal officials, including former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone and former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jann Mann, were found to have been using the site to post anonymous comments. 

One commenter, using the name “jammer1954,” wrote the following on the article which Castaing hopes to subpoena: “Mark my words. The canaries are going to start singing, and Car 54 is going up in smoke. Stacey Jackson is going to rat out every one, every body, and every thing to make the best deal for herself – after all she did this as chief of NOAH so her behavior isn’t going to change.” 

NOLA.com has claimed that it takes the privacy of its users seriously and that it would consider how to respond once it receives the subpoena from Castaing. Although the judges presiding over the case recognized how the subpoena would violate individual privacy, they claimed that it also “might lead to the conclusion that there was a pattern, policy or practice of pre-indictment prosecutorial misconduct in the accusatory process material to Jackson’s defenses alleging violations of her due process rights.”


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