Boing Boing 

Elegant, cheap, simple folded cardboard mount turns your phone into an Oculus Rift


Revealed at the Google IO conference, Cardboard is a scored, flat-pack box that you fold into set of cardboard goggles that hold your phone; an accompanying software package uses your phone's screen and accelerometer to create stereo-optical VR images in the manner of the Oculus Rift. It's a delightfully simple and elegant concept, and Google has published plans for making your own. You need cardboard, a set of cheap lenses, a magnet, velcro and a rubber band.

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SF city attorney demands shutdown of parking-space-auctioning app

Monkeyparking, the app that lets assholes auction off their parking spots, has been sent a cease-and-desist letter by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who says the practice of selling your public parking spot is illegal. Monkeyparking's competition are expected to receive the same treatment soon.

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Researchers publish secret details of cops' phone-surveillance malware


Kaspersky Labs (Russia) and Citizen Lab (University of Toronto) have independently published details of phone-hacking tools sold to police departments worldwide by the Italian firm Hacking Team (here's Kaspersky's report and Citizen Lab's). The tools can be used to attack Android, Ios, Windows Mobile and Blackberry devices, with the most sophisticated attacks reserved for Android and Ios.

The spyware can covertly record sound, images and keystrokes, capture screenshots, and access the phones' storage and GPS. The tools are designed to detect attempts to search for them and to delete themselves without a trace if they sense that they are under attack.

Hacking Team insists that its tools are only sold to "democratic" police forces, but Citizen Lab's report suggests that the tool was used by the Saudi government to target dissidents.

The means of infection is device-specific. If police have physical access, it's simple. Android devices can be attacked by infecting a PC with a virus that installs the police malware when the device is connected to it. This attack also works on jailbroken Iphones.

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California's cell-phone kill switch is a solution that's worse than the problem


As the California legislature moves to mandate "kill switches" that will allow owners of stolen phones to shut them down, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sounds an important alarm: if it's possible for someone to remotely switch off your phone such that you can't switch it back on again, even if you're physically in possession of it, that facility could be abused in lots of ways. This is a classic War on General Purpose Computation moment: the only way to make a kill-switch work is to design phones that treat their possessors as less trustworthy than a remote party sending instructions over the Internet, and as soon as the device that knows all your secrets and watches and listens to your most private moments is designed to do things that the person holding it can't override, the results won't be pretty.

There are other models for mitigating the harm from stolen phones. For example, the Cyanogen remote wipe asks the first user of the phone to initialize a password. When it is online, the device checks in with a service to see whether anyone using that password has signed a "erase yourself" command. When that happens, the phone deletes all the user-data. A thief can still wipe and sell the phone, but the user's data is safe.

Obviously, this isn't the same thing as stolen phones going dead and never working again, and won't have the same impact on theft. But the alternative is a system that allows any bad guy who can impersonate, bribe or order a cop to activate the kill-switch to do all kinds of terrible things to you, from deactivating the phones of people recording police misconduct to stalking or stealing the identities of mobile phone owners, with near-undetectable and unstoppable stealth.

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FabLab: a free game that creates 3D printable toys

Makies, the 3D printed toy and game company, has launched FabLab, its inaugural game! FabLab is a free game for people eight and up, through which you create and customize a character and its accessories, which you can also get as real-world, one-off, custom-fabbed objects. MakieLab, the company that created FabLab, was founded by my wife Alice Taylor, and so I've had an inside view into the process by which the game and its back-end -- which includes a remarkable toolchain for turning 3D game-objects into printable items -- came into being. The Makies here in London are fantastic, and they've done brilliantly with the game, if I do say so myself. Please give the game a try -- and tell your friends!

Makies FabLab! Out Now! | Makie.me

After federal document-snatch, ACLU case over Florida cops' phone surveillance collapses

After US marshalls raided a Florida police department to seize documents about to be revealed in an ACLU case over "stingray" mobile phone surveillance, we knew that the case was endangered. Now the worst has happened: state circuit court judge Charles Williams has thrown out the case because he says his court has no jurisdiction over federal agents, so he can't order the critical documents to be returned, so there's no case.

The feds have offered a limited, sealed disclosure to the Florida court, and the ACLU has vowed to fight to unseal them and carry on with the case.

At issue is the widespread police use of "stingray" devices that spoof mobile phones, tricking them into revealing information about their owners' movements, communications, associations, and identity.

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Anti-forensic mobile OS gets your phone to lie for you

In Android Anti-forensics: Modifying CyanogenMod Karl-Johan Karlsson and William Bradley Glisson present a version of the Cyanogenmod alternate operating system for Android devices, modified so that it generates plausible false data to foil forensic analysis by law enforcement. The idea is to create a mobile phone that "lies" for you so that adversaries who coerce you into letting them take a copy of its data can't find out where you've been, who you've been talking to, or what you've been talking about.

I'm interested in this project but wonder about how to make it practical for daily use. Presently, it maintains a hidden set of true data, and a trick set of false data intended to be fetched by forensic tools. Presumably, this only works until the forensic tools are modified to spot the real data. But you can conceptually imagine a phone that maintains a normal address book and SMS history, etc -- all the things that are useful to have in daily use -- but that, on a certain signal (say, when an alternate unlock code is entered, or after a certain number of failed unlock attempts) scrubs all that and replaces it with plausible deniability data.

Obviously, this kind of thing doesn't work against state-level actors who can subpoena (or coerce) your location data and call history from your carrier, but those people don't need to seize your phone in the first place.

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Apple adds privacy-protecting MAC spoofing (when Aaron Swartz did it, it was evidence of criminality)

Apple has announced that it will spoof the MAC addresses emitted by its wireless devices as an anti-tracking measure, a change that, while welcome, is "an umbrella in a hurricane" according to a good technical explainer by the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jeremy Gillula and Seth Schoen.

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Crowdfunding mass FOIA requests on police use of "Stingray" warrantless spying devices

Michael from Muckrock sez, "After scouring American police departments (via public records requests) for drone usage, MuckRock is setting its sights a little lower with a crowdfunding campaign hoping to fund thousands of public records request on how local agencies are using fake cell phone towers, warrantless wiretaps, and other techniques to get your cell phone to phone home."

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Turn on your data for one minute, AT&T sticks you with a $750 international roaming charge


Jeff writes, "I learned this week that it's possible to run up a $750 international data roaming bill in one minute on AT&T. I managed to convince AT&T to forgive the charges after two days and 40 minutes of phone calls but the best guess at how this happened is kind of alarming. It seems that AT&T's billing system sometimes bundles US traffic with international traffic." Jeff was driving in the Pacific northwest, near the Canadian border.

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US Marshals raid Florida cops to prevent release of records of "stingray" surveillance


US Marshals swept into the offices of police in Sarasota, Florida to whisk away records related to operation of "stingray" surveillance tools that the ACLU had requested. The records detailed the farcically low standard for judicial permission to use a stingray (which captures information about the movements, communications and identities of all the people using mobile phones in range of them), and is part of a wider inquiry to their use without a warrant at all -- at least 200 Florida stingray deployments were undertaken without judicial oversight because the police had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the device's manufacturer and they decided that this meant they didn't have to get warrants anymore.

The ACLU has seen a lot of shenanigans in respect of its campaign to document the use and abuse of stingrays, but this is a cake-taker: "We’ve seen our fair share of federal government attempts to keep records about stingrays secret, but we’ve never seen an actual physical raid on state records in order to conceal them from public view."

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Nokia 100 phones: £5

The workhorse Nokia 100 phone is now a mere £5 without contract from Carphone Warehouse. Now, that's a cheap burner -- either manufacturing robots have come way down in price or there's some very unhappy people chained to machines in a factory somewhere. Either way, it's a pretty sad end for a giant whack of conflict minerals like coltan mud. (via Red Ferret)

App lets you auction your San Francisco parking spot

A new mobile app called Monkeyparking allows people in San Francisco with good parking spots to auction them off when they're ready to leave, permitting circling rich people to engage in excitingly dangerous class warfare by bidding on spaces with their phones while they drive. The app's creators defend it as providing an "incentive" to leave your space for others to use.

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NYT to SCOTUS: Cops should get warrant before searching your cellphone after arrest

From an editorial by the New York Times editorial board:

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider whether law enforcement officers during an arrest may search the contents of a person’s mobile phone without a warrant. The court should recognize that new technologies do not alter basic Fourth Amendment principles, and should require a judicial warrant in such circumstances.

Read: "Smartphones and the 4th Amendment." NYTimes.com

USB recharger battery that can also jumpstart your car

Junopower is advertising presales of a portable device-charging USB battery called the "Jumpr" that can discharge its stored power at 300 amps, which is sufficient to jumpstart many automobile engines. They're billing it as a pocket-sized, 7 oz alternative to the trunk-sized emergency jumpstart kits that also recharges your phones and tablets. Pre-orders are $70 and they're promising shipments some time in May.

JUMPR - Car's best Friend (Presale) (via Red Ferret)

Google's Project Ara: a click-in/click-out modular concept phone


Modular mobile phone design feels important; I've been excited about the idea since Xeni posted about Phonebloks last September. Now, Google and New Deal Design have floated a concept for a modular Android phone ecosystem called Project Ara that's got me even more worked up. Project Ara lets you swap modules (batteries, radios, cameras, screens, etc) around between "exoskeletons." They call it an "ecosystem" because third parties are meant to be able to supply their own modules for an open spec.

A good overview in Wired discusses the possibilities this opens up (night vision, 3D imaging, biometrics) but I'm more interested in the possibilities for surveillance-resistant open source hardware, and hot-swapping modules that lock phones into carriers. Plus, as a serial phone-shatterer, I love the idea of being able to click out a busted screen and click in a fresh one.

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Mobile phone orchestra TV advertisement

I've seen several artists create "mobile phone orchestras" but I appreciate the multigenerational representation in this example made for SK Telecom, the South Korean wireless operator.

Samsung Galaxy back-door allows for over-the-air filesystem access


Developers from the Replicant project (a free Android offshoot) have documented a serious software back-door in Samsung's Android phones, which "provides remote access to the data stored on the device." They believe it is "likely" that the backdoor could provide "over-the-air remote control" to "access the phone's file system."

At issue is Samsung's proprietary IPC protocol, used in its modems. This protocol implements a set of commands called "RFS commands." The Replicant team says that it can't find "any particular legitimacy nor relevant use-case" for adding these commands, but adds that "it is possible that these were added for legitimate purposes, without the intent of doing harm by providing a back-door. Nevertheless, the result is the same and it allows the modem to access the phone's storage."

The Replicant site includes proof-of-concept sourcecode for a program that will access the file-system over the modem. Replicant has created a replacement for the relevant Samsung software that does not allow for back-door access.

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Firefox OS and the unserved billions of the developing world

Last month, I wrote about the announcement of the $25 Firefox OS smartphone, aimed at developing world users who have never owned a smartphone and can't afford a high-end mobile device. An editorial by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry describes how such a device could find an audience of billions, and spur a new ecosystem of developing world developers who make software that's geared not just to the Firefox OS platform, but also to the unique needs of people in the developing world.

The vision of Firefox OS is a contrast to the Zuckerberg plan to supply "Internet" to poor people in the form of an ad-subsidized, all-surveilling walled garden. As Susan Crawford says, "That's not the Internet -- that’s being fodder for someone else's ad-targeting business. That's entrenching and amplifying existing inequalities and contributing to poverty of imagination -- a crucial limitation on human life."

Asking whether the Internet is good or bad for freedom misses the point. It's clear that network technologies have the power to track and control their users, and the power to free and enrich them. The right question to ask is: "How do we get an Internet that does more for freedom?"

Firefox OS sounds like part of the answer.

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King no longer claims to own "candy," still claims it owns "saga"

King Games, makers of Candy Crush, have backed down from their insane campaign to trademark the use of "Candy" in connection with games, a gambit that brought them ridicule and opprobrium (for example, a game jam where all the games made use of "candy"), not least because the company bullied competitors who had created candy-themed games years before Candy Crush came to market. However, the company still asserts a trademark over the use of the word "saga" in connection with games, and is trying to shut down The Banner Saga.

Boeing's self-destructing, tamper-resistant spookphone: the Black


Boeing has sought regulatory approval from the FCC for a tamper-resistant phone intended to self-destruct if its case is opened. The phone, called "Black," runs Android, and is intended for use under the DoD Mobile Classified Capabilities guidelines. It will be sold with a nondisclosure agreement prohibiting tampering or service, and opening the case will trigger a system intended to wipe the phone's data.

Interestingly, it has a removable battery (something that's become increasingly scarce in smartphones). Best operational security practice holds that you should remove your phone's battery when you want to be sure that it's off, because any malware that turned your phone into a bug could also cause it to simulate being switched off while it remained running.

It's an intriguing technical problem. I'm intuitively skeptical of the security model. I can believe that this phone will be tamper-evident, but I don't know if it will be all that tamper-resistant. That is, it may be capable of preventing an attacker from surreptitiously opening the case to access the components, but how about an adversary willing to simply smash the screen to get at the components beneath?

The manufacturer could make a phone whose accelerometer tried to detect these events and wipe the device as a precaution, but I suspect there'd be a lot of spooks who'd end up cursing their self-destructing phones every time they butterfingered them while getting them out of a pocket while walking down the street. I'm pretty sure that I can use tools to remove my phone's screen in a way that generates less detectable stress than it receives during everyday knockabout and drops.

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Mozilla's $25 Firefox smartphone: a free/open device for billions of new netizens


Mozilla's sub-$50 Firefox OS smartphones are aimed at countries like India and Indonesia, where devices costing hundreds of dollars are out of reach of hundreds of millions of people. The idea is to bring a smartphone running a free/open operating system that is optimized for Internet access to people who have no net connection at all today.

The phones are slow and only have a few apps, but they're infinitely more useful than a candybar-shaped "feature phone," and with their low pricetag, many people will be able to buy them outright, rather than being beholden to phone companies who subsidize handset purchases through long-term, abusive contracts; and they'll get online using devices that don't lock them into a single company's ecosystem for email, messaging, and apps.

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Two Ubuntu phones with top apps in 2014

Canonical, the company that publishers Ubuntu (a free/open operating system based on GNU/Linux) has announced that it will ship two Ubuntu OS phones this year, in partnership with two manufacturers, one in Europe and one in China. The OS runs HTML5 apps, and the company is seeking to have the top 50 apps for Android and Ios ported to its phones before they go live. A 2013 crowdfunding drive raised over $12M in pledged pre-orders, but the company fell short of its $32M goal and refunded everyone's money. However, the $12M was apparently a sufficient demonstration of interest for at least some manufacturers.

Ukraine government sends text to protesters: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance"


Ukraine's dictatorship is revelling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

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Teach your rooted Android phones to lie to apps about whether it's rooted

There's a funny paradox in rooting your Android phone. Once you take total control over your phone, some apps refuse to run, because they're trying to do something that treats you as untrusted. Now there's a utility called Rootcloak that lets you tell your rooted phone to lie to apps about whether it is rooted. It's both long overdue and a neat demonstration of what it means to be root on a computer.

Supreme Court to rule on warrantless smartphone searches

The Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases that will set precedents on the expectation of privacy in your mobile devices. American police forces have treated smartphones are equivalent to a notebook -- something that can be thumbed through during a search without a special warrant. But your smartphone potentially holds thousands of photos, access to a lifetime of email, intimate conversations with family, friends (and attorneys!), passwords for dozens of services, and more. Warrantless smartphone searches might give police access to all the most intimate parts of your life -- if that isn't the sort of thing that courts should be overseeing, then what is?

Incidentally, this is a good argument for encrypted mobile device storage and strong mobile passwords.

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Blackphone: a privacy-oriented, high-end, unlocked phone

http://vimeo.com/84167384

Blackphone is a secure, privacy-oriented mobile phone company co-founded by PGP inventor Phil Zimmerman. It integrates a lot of the privacy functionality of Zimmerman's Silent Circle, which makes Android-based privacy tools (secure calls, messaging, storage and proxies). Blackphone also runs Android, with a skin that switches on all the security stuff by default. The company is based in Switzerland, whose government privacy rules are better than most. The phone itself is a high-end, unlocked GSM handset. No info on pricing yet, but pre-orders open in late February. I'm interested in whether the sourcecode for the Blackphone stack will be free, open, auditable and transparent. If it is, I will certainly order one of these for myself and report here on its performance.

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When the FBI asks you to weaken your security so it can spy on your users


Nico Sell is the CEO of Wickr, a privacy-oriented mobile messaging system that's been deliberately designed so that the company can't spy on its users, even if they're ordered to do so. As we know from the Snowden leaks, spooks hate this kind of thing, and spend $250M/year sabotaging security so that they can spy on everyone, all the time.

After a recent presentation, she was approached by an FBI agent who asked her if she'd put a back-door into Wickr.

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Facial recognition mobile app


A new mobile app called "Nametag" adds facial recognition to phone photos; take a pic of someone and feed it to the app and the app will search Facebook, Twitter, sex offender registries and (if you'd like) dating sites to try and put a name to the face. Kevin Alan Tussy, speaking for Facialnetwork (who make Nametag) promises that this won't be a privacy problem, because "it's about connecting people that want to be connected."

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HOWTO delete your smartphone's fine-grained log of everywhere you've been

If you have an Android or Ios smartphone, it defaults to storing the history of all the places you go, at a very fine resolution, for a very long time, and mirrors that data on remote servers from which it might be leaked or subpoenaed. Lifehacker has a great tutorial on deleting your Location History and turning off future logging of your location. They cover both Ios and Android. I just did my devices, and it was very easy.

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