Google's aborted Ara phone was supposed to launch with an aquarium module full of wriggling tardigrades

Back in 2014, Google announced Project Ara, a click-in/click-out modular concept-phone that you could customize by adding or removing modules as you saw fit. Read the rest

What it's like to be spied on by Android stalkerware marketed to suspicious spouses

For $170, Motherboard's Joseph Cox bought SpyPhone Android Rec Pro, an Android app that you have to sideload on your target's phone (the software's manufacturer sells passcode-defeating apps that help you do this); once it's loaded, you activate it with an SMS and then you can covertly operate the phone's mic, steal its photos, and track its location. Read the rest

It's very hard to maintain an anonymous Twitter account that can withstand government-level attempts to de-anonymize it

It's one thing to set up an "anonymous" Twitter Hulk account whose anonymity your friends and colleagues can't pierce, because the combination of your care not to tweet identifying details, the stilted Hulk syntax, and your friends' inability to surveil the global internet and compel phone companies to give up their caller records suffice for that purpose. Read the rest

Russia's slot-machine bans let criminals buy machines on the cheap and reverse-engineer them

In 2009, then-PM Vladimir Putin engineered a Russian ban on slot machines in a bid to starve Georgian mafiyeh of funds, the resulting glut of used slots gave Russia's own criminal gangs cheap testbeds to use in a project to reverse-engineer the machines and discover their weaknesses -- now, Russian gangs roam the world's casinos, racking up careful, enormous scores. Read the rest

Mobile recharging station operators in India sell tens of thousands of women's phone numbers to stalkers

Tens of thousands of women in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have complained to police about harassing phone calls from creepy men who bought their phone numbers from the operators of mobile phone recharging stations; they say the operators sneakily captured their phone numbers and sold them off to the stalkers. Read the rest

You can install ransomware on a Samsung Galaxy by sending it an SMS

Researchers from Context Security have identified a vulnerability in Samsung Galaxy phones: by embedding commands in the obsolete, 17-year-old WAP proptocol in an SMS message, attackers can put them into endless reboot loops, or encrypt their storage and charge the phone's owners for a decryption key. Read the rest

Why connecting to wifi is such a pain in the phone

A group of computer scientists from Tsinghua University, Tencent and Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology have posted a first-of-its-kind paper to Arxiv, analyzing the problems that make connecting to wifi networks so achingly slow. Read the rest

Meitu's anime makeover app is a permission-grabbing privacy disaster

Meitu is one of Google Play's "Sand Hill" apps, part of the company's accelerator for apps with "viral potential" -- take a pic of yourself and Meitu will make you over to look like an anime character, and all they ask in return is every salient fact about you that can be gleaned from your mobile device. Read the rest

Company announces phone based on crowdsourced feature requests: eye-tracking and a sticky case

Last August, ZTE used Kickstarter to poll internet users for their wish-lists for an Android handset, and now they're taking pre-orders for Hawkeye, a $200 phone whose interface is controlled by gaze-tracking using the front-facing camera, and whose case will allow users to stick the phone to various surfaces for easy use. Read the rest

Chinese social media went a-flutter at this photo of an apparent App Store clickfarmer

This year-old photo of a woman seated at a wall of Iphones went viral on Chinese social media, where it was identified as a clickfarmer whose job is to repeatedly install apps on multiple phones in order to inflate their App Store ranks. Read the rest

Canada's telcoms regulator declares internet an "essential service"

After decades of allowing anti-competitive mergers in the TV, radio, phone and internet sectors, Canada's telcoms regulator, the CRTC, has taken an important step to address the underperformance of Canada's monopolistic, bumbling phone companies and cable operators, declaring internet access to be an "essential service" and thus something that operators must offer in all territories in which they operate. Read the rest

Florida appeals says you can be compelled to utter your phone's passphrase

A state appeals-court judge in Florida has broken with the precedent that the courts may not compel suspects to reveal the unlock codes for their devices as this would violate the Fifth Amendment's prohibition against forced self-incrimination. Read the rest

Lazyweb: build me the Augmented Reality social proof to make charitable giving more effective?

I just got through dropping off several bags of groceries and wrapped presents for my daughter's school's annual, very successful charitable drive that benefits local families living in poverty as well as our local, excellent food bank. Read the rest

Virginia State cops have blown a fortune on useless cellphone spying gear

Muckrock has been sending Freedom of Information requests to state police forces to find out how they're using "cell-site simulators" (AKA IMSI catchers/Stingrays), and they hit the motherlode with the Virginia State Police. Read the rest

UK cops beat phone encryption by "mugging" suspect after he unlocked his phone

Detectives from Scotland Yard's cybercrime unit decided the easiest way to get around their suspect's careful use of full-disk encryption and strong passphrases on his Iphone was to trail him until he made a call, then "mug" him by snatching his phone and then tasking an officer to continuously swipe at the screen to keep it from going to sleep, which would reactivate the disk encryption. Read the rest

Barnes & Noble's releasing a $50 Android tablet that does all the things Amazon won't let Kindles do

Chris Meadows writes, "Barnes & Noble is coming out with a $50 Nook Android tablet, with hardware specs similar to Amazon's $50 Fire. The kicker is, this new Nook tablet will run plain-vanilla Android 6.0 Marshmallow and include the full suite of Google Play apps--unlike the Fire, which only permits installation of those apps Amazon deems suitable. Will this be enough to rescue the ailing Nook brand?" Read the rest

Walmart smears worker-based chat app with lies and scare tactics

Workit is an Android app from OUR Walmart, a pro-labor/pro-union organization: it allows Walmart workers to ask questions about Walmart policy and employee rights, which are answered by a database compiled by using IBM's Watson to come up with answers to hundreds of frequently posed questions; questions can also be answered by other users. Read the rest

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