Arts&Crafts: bypass a fingerprint scanner with glue and tinfoil

I recently wrote about how much I enjoyed testing the OnePlus 7 Pro. One of the nicer things about it was the fact that its in-display fingerprint reader, unlike the one in the last-gen OnePlus handset, works in a timely manner. Too bad that, no matter how quickly it can read a fingerprint, it still isn't smart enough to stand up to a bit of arts and crafts from a determined security hacker.

Now, before anyone goes and loses their minds over this hack, it's important to note that in order for it to work, a digital interloper would need to get hold of the fingerprint belonging to the handset's owner in order to copy it. The best way to secure your phone against a hack like this, or being forced to unlock your smartphone for the authorities is to lock it down with an alphanumeric code.

While using biometrics to unlock your hardware might be convenient, when push comes to shove, it won't keep your digital life secure from professional snoops for long. Read the rest

Turkish Intelligence developed a smartphone apps that lets its citizens rat each other out

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (also known as the PKK,) has been taking pot shots at the Turkish government, in the name of Kurdish independence, since 1984. In 2013, Turkey's ruling high rollers, the Justice and Development (light on the former and regularly delivering on the latter) Party, managed to agree upon a delicate ceasefire, which lasted for around two years. Since the ceasefire's collapse in 2015, the Turkish government has been hot and horny over the thought of putting the PKK into the ground, permanently. Easier said than done, my son: PKK have proven resilient both in open combat and in less dynamic environments. It's hard to find their people, especially since much of the PKK's membership consists of supporters who provide financial and political support far from Turkey's borders. As a result, Turkey sent their intelligence operatives out across Europe, looking for ways to reign the PKK in. They started off in countries like Iran, Russia and China. But, it was soon found that the German state of Baden-Württemberg was where the out-of-nation action was hottest and heaviest. There's close to three million Turks living in Germany. 15% of that total can be found in Baden-Württemberg. There's no way that the Turkish intelligence community could possibly deploy enough assets to keep abreast of what all those former Turkish citizens were getting up to.

So, they did what the rest of the industrialized world has been doing: they developed a smartphone app that would allow the ex-pats to police themselves.

From IntelNews:

Turkey’s spy agency has developed a smart phone application to enable pro-government Turks living in Germany inform on their compatriots who speak out against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Read the rest

Mexico City residents carry fake iPhones to turn over to muggers

An increase in armed muggings have caused a spike in sales of dummy smartphones that on first glance look real. (You can buy one from Amazon for around $20.) Apparently they were first sold as display items to electronic stores wanting to protect their real inventory from smash-and-grabs. From the Associated Press:

Axel says he sells three or four dummy phones a week out of his stall in a downtown electronics marketplace, next door to a colonial college building that dates to 1767.

Axel, who asked his full name not be used for fear police would accuse him of selling fake merchandise, said all of his customers know they are buying fakes.

“It’s useful for robberies, the large number of muggings happening in Mexico City,” said Axel. “They say ‘hand over your cellphone, give me everything’, and people know now they have to hand over the phone quick, in a matter of seconds, so they hand over these phones and often the thieves don’t realize it.”

But Axel admits the victim would be in trouble if a thief caught them handing over a “dummy” phone.

“Obviously there are problems, because if the criminals search it or find out ... there is going to be a problem.”

Because of that, some try a different strategy, spending a little more to buy a cheap but real second phone.

Read the rest

Apple bothering people with unwanted "Carpool Karaoke" push notifications

Apple's Carpool Karaoke... isn't great. But despite scathing critical reviews of the show, Apple keeps trying to make it happen. In fact, they're so horny for the show to succeed that they've been forcing advertisements for it out to iOS users. According to The Verge, many iPhone, iPad and Apple TV users have been receiving unwanted Carpool Karaoke push notifications from Apple, via the iOS TV app for the past few weeks.

From The Verge:

We’re not sure how many iPhone users received the notifications, but it looks like Apple has tried plugging its show at least twice in recent weeks: once on December 7th for an episode where Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin grill each other using a lie detector test, and once on December 14 for an episode featuring joint singalongs with comedian Jason Sudeikis and the Muppets.

Developed in house by Apple, the TV app doesn't ask for user permission to send along push notifications the first time that it's launched, like third-party developed iOS apps do. The shit and giggle part of this is that Apple App Store policy makes it very clear to developers that unsolicited notifications pushing advertising, features or promotions are not OK. If you know your way around iOS, turning off notifications spewed out by any app is as easy as flipping on a light -- but not all of Apple's users are software-savvy. So, without help, they could be stuck putting up with the company's unwanted solicitations.

It's a case of "do as we say and not as we do," I suppose. Read the rest

Use this guide to buy the right memory card for your Cyber Monday purchases

If you want to get the most out of dedicated digital audio players, smartphones, cameras, drones, tablets or game systems, you'll need to pair it with the right memory card. No problem: head down to Best Buy or log into Amazon and you ca--shit there's a ton of the frigging things. You can buy the first, least expensive one that you see. That'll work for some things... but not all of the things. Some devices can benefit from speedier, more expensive memory cards. Knowing which card to jam into which thing can be daunting. Thankfully, Gizmodo's David Neild has put together a quick, easy-to-understand guide to figuring it all out.

From Gizmodo:

To start with you’ve got a choice of sizes: The standard SD ones (mostly for digital cameras and bigger gear) and the smaller microSD ones (originally developed for, and still used in, smartphones). Extra letters after the SD mean a newer, improved standard, with room for greater capacities and faster speeds—these include HC (High Capacity) and the latest XC (Extended Capacity), and both are used across the SD and microSD form factors today.

Yeah, it's pretty dry stuff. But it's well presented and deeply useful.

So, before you buy a new memory card to go along with your new digital whatever this Monday, you'd do well to stop by Gizmodo first.

Image by CompactFlash.jpg: André Karwath aka AkaSecure_Digital_Kingston_512MB.png: Andrew pmkMS-PRO-DUO.JPG: KB AlphaXD_card_typeH_512M_Olympus.png: og-emmetMicroSD_card.jpg: KowejaMemory_Stick_Micro.JPG: The original uploader was J Di at English Wikipedia..Later version(s) were uploaded by Toehead2001 at en.wikipedia.derivative work: Moxfyre (talk) - CompactFlash.jpgSecure_Digital_Kingston_512MB.pngMS-PRO-DUO.JPGXD_card_typeH_512M_Olympus.pngMicroSD_card.jpgMemory_Stick_Micro.JPG, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Read the rest

Review: The Oneplus 6T is almost as nice as a flagship handset for a fraction of the price

When I need to futz with an Android device, OnePlus is the company that I typically turn to. For the money, you won't find a more capable handset in North America. The OnePlus 6, thanks largely to its zippy performance and Android Oreo's being a joy to use, was the first Android device I was able to live with as my daily driver. The OnePlus 6T is, with the exception of a few minor tweaks, very much the same handset as its predecessor. I'm very OK with this.

Under the hood, there's not much to see: OnePlus has used the same Snapdragon 845 processor. The version of the 6T that I took for a spin comes packing 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It's a speedy-feeling set of specs that served me well with the OnePlus 6 and now, the 6T. Apps, fly open, I've yet to see any interface lag and I've no complaints about how quickly either smartphone does anything.

With the OnePlus 6T, users get a 3,700mAh battery. Given that I've grown accustomed to the low level of battery that my aging iPhone 7 Plus leaves me with at the end of the day, I was pretty pleased with how much juice was still left in the 6T when I set it down for the night. While it might not come with wireless charging baked into it, the OnePlus 6T's Dash quick charging technology more than made up for its absence. I'll take a rapid charge over the simplicity of not having to plug a cord into my hardware any day. Read the rest

Some iPhone Xs and Xs Max owners are having problems charging their new handsets

When you pay 1,000 bucks for a thing, it'd be nice if it, you know, does what it's supposed to. In the case of a smartphone, that means taking calls, accessing the Internet, taking great photos, downloading apps--the usual. Arguably, none of these abilities baked into our pocket computers is as important as its being able to recharge its internal battery. If the battery don't work, all else don't work. Guess what? There are a number of reports that Apple's new iPhone XS and XS Max have batteries which, in many cases, don't work.

Tech vlogger Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy has the goods on the issue, which he illustrates by using a multitude of new iPhones:

These sorts of issues aren't unique to Apple's iOS devices (remember AntennaGate?) or Android hardware (the display falling off of my Blackberry a few years back was powerful fun). However, when folks are forking over a good chunk of their monthly income to pick up what they believe to be a premium device--and according to the reviews of the iPhone XS and XS Max they are very luxe in the functionality and feels department--it's a reasonable expectation that hardware works right out of the box. Sure, minor glitches are to be expected with a complicated piece of hardware like a smartphone. There's a lot going on inside of them. But something as basic and as important as it not being able to charge under certain circumstances is too huge a quirk to easily forgive. Read the rest

Smartphones enlisted in the war against tuberculosis

Tuberculosis was a disease that Doc Holliday died from; in old-timey novels, it’s often called consumption: a disease that sees those afflicted with it coughing delicately into hankies and later dying peacefully in bed. The truth is, the disease doesn’t afford a peaceful death, nor is it a relic of centuries past.

In 2016, 1.6 million people died after contracting tuberculosis – a disease that causes the cells of an infected individual to burst. It can take hold of multiple sites in your body, but most often it affects the lungs. As the cells in an infected individual's lungs burst, the walls of the lungs destabilize, replacing the space where air’s supposed to go. As the victim’s lungs slowly collapse, the body believes itself to be drowning, because it is. As a result, the infected individual hacks and coughs, trying to clear the obstruction and, in the process, coughing up wee bits of flesh, blood and particles small enough to go airborne in a sneeze or cough. When someone else breathes those airborne particles in? They get infected.

It’s scary shit, but it’s also treatable shit.

To handle the symptoms that come with a case of tuberculosis, it’s necessary to take medication on a daily basis. Doing so isn’t just necessary for someone infected with tuberculosis to live a relatively normal life: given how infectious the disease is, it’s also vital for keeping everyone around them safe from contracting the illness themselves. Because of this, those undergoing treatment for TB are closely monitored by healthcare professionals, to ensure that they’re taking their pills as required. Read the rest

Activists teaching Australian Aboriginals to protect themselves by recording their interactions with law enforcement

Smartphone video footage of police brutality being exercised against black Americans and other ethnic minorities living their lives within the nation’s borders have become depressingly commonplace. While difficult to watch and, most likely for the videographer, difficult to stand by and film, such footage can be an important tool in bringing cops who abuse the power of their office to justice. The news, social media and water cooler talk here in North America often overflows with reports of abuses of power by law enforcement officials. It’s easy to forget that the very same brand of injustice and violence are served up in other parts of the world – a lot.

According to The New York Times, in Australia, a country that’s been marred by institutional racism since its inception, “...aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are incarcerated at 13 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. They make up 27 percent of Australia’s prisoners, compared with 3 percent of the overall population.” Given the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Australians in the clink, it’s safe to say that there’s some greasy shit going on Down Under, of a similar sort to the greasy shit we see going on up here in places like New York City and Ferguson, Missouri.

To help Australia aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander peoples to mitigate this prejudicial treatment at the hands of those meant to serve and protect them, human rights activists are teaching them how to respond to the threat of police violence and to record their interactions with law enforcement, just like we do up here:

From The New York Times:

The Copwatch workshops, activists said, are intended to teach people their legal rights and how to safely record interactions with police officers.

Read the rest

Tweaks made to Android OS are causing massive security holes

Last month, I used up a good chunk of text talking about how much I’ve come to enjoy using Android-powered smartphones. Unfortunately, a story I ran across over at Wired has convinced me that, at least for the time being, spending significantly more time with my iPhone 6 Plus might be a good idea.

According to the report, for many Android users, it’s not necessary to download an altered .APK file from a shady torrenting website or click an email link that’ll fill your handset up with malware in order to compromise your smartphone’s security. Twenty-five different Android smartphone models, made by well-known manufacturers and available across North America, have been found to be full of security flaws and other exploitable nightmares baked into them. The most frustrating part of it all: none of the exploits detailed in the story would be there if the manufacturers had their shit together

From Wired:

The potential outcomes of the vulnerabilities range in severity, from being able to lock someone out of their device to gaining surreptitious access to its microphone and other functions. They all share one common trait, though: They didn’t have to be there.

Instead, they’re a byproduct of an open Android operating system that lets third-party companies modify code to their own liking. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; it allows for differentiation, which gives people more choice. Google will release a vanilla version of Android Pie this fall, but it’ll eventually come in all kinds of flavors.

Those modifications lead to headaches, though, including the well-established problem of delays in shipping security updates.

Read the rest

I'm an Android loving iPhone user

Hardware reviews are a big part of how I put bread on the table. In order to do my job properly, I’ve got to be something of a platform agnostic.

While I do most of my writing using Apple devices, I also have to consider other platforms in my coverage: software that works well on a laptop running Windows 10 may be a dog’s breakfast on a MacBook once it’s been ported.

A bluetooth speaker that sound great when paired with my iPhone 7 Plus, for example, might sound like hot garbage when linked to another audio source. So I invest in other hardware that may not be used as part of my day-to-day life, but which I still need to think about when doing my job.

About six months ago, I came to the conclusion that maybe hauling the hardware out when it came time to test something and then throwing it back in a box when I’m done with it wasn’t enough: to really understand whether, say a pair of headphones that comes with an app to control their EQ or noise cancellation, without seeing how it fits into my day-to-day life using a given platform. So, I upped the amount of time that I spend working in Windows 10, I now read books on both Kobo and Amazon e-readers and, in a real shift in how I live my lift, I’ve spent more than half a year using Android-powered smartphones as my daily drivers. In the time since I last used an Android device as my go-to, things have improved so much, I was taken aback. Read the rest

Your Samsung smartphone is sharing photos without your permission

Do you own a Samsung smartphone? Do you take photos with said phone? Congratulations, there’s an excellent chance that your handset is randomly firing off those pictures you’ve snapped to folks on your contact list without your permission.

According to The Verge, the images are being pushed out by Samsung’s cleverly named default messaging app, Samsung Messages. If the fact that your phone might be sending out all of the images its got in storage for the world to see isn’t enough of a shit and giggle for you, try this one on for size: Samsung Messages reportedly doesn’t even bother to tell you that the operation has been completed. Unless the person who received the photos lets you know that it happened, you’ll be completely in the dark about the fact that the photos were uploaded.

From The Verge:

Some users are speculating that this issue has to do with the push of RCS messaging updates, including T-Mobile, which is the carrier for at least one of the affected phones. T-Mobile just issued its RCS update this week, starting with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The messaging standard is supposed to make texting look more like chatting in a modern messaging app, complete with read receipts and typing indicators. When reached for comment, a T-Mobile spokesperson told The Verge to “check in with Samsung on this, it’s not a T-Mobile issue.”

Until carriers and Samsung get this nightmare sorted out, the best way to keep your handset from sharing your photos with the world is to revoke Samsun Messenger’s access rights to your smartphone’s photos folder. Read the rest

New smartphone app lets museum visitors point at art, then see artists discuss the work

The Hirshhorn Eye (nicknamed "hi") is a new smartphone application that lets visitors to Smithsonian's Hishhorn Museum of Art point their phones at art and hear messages from the artists themselves. Read the rest

Gentleman sends a million volts through his phone with impressive results

When Nokia re-released the classic 3310 mobile phone, they probably didn't think someone would send a million volts through it. The shocking part is that it still worked. Read the rest

Thanks to Doc Pop, there's going to be a yo-yo emoji

About a year ago, professional yo-yoist (and hand-knit Pac-Man Icelandic peysa wearer) Doc Pop submitted a proposal for a yo-yo emoji. He's just learned that it was approved!

He explains how he made it happen (fascinating!) in his most recent PopCast:

Last year I started working on a proposal for a yo-yo emoji, with the helps of my friends at Emojination. It’s been an interesting experience and I’m really excited to say that it’s been officially accepted by the Unicode Consortium. Expect to see it in Unicode version 12, early next year.

Here's what the yo-yo emoji will look like:

You can submit an emoji proposal too. Check it out. Read the rest

Drinking glasses made from old smartphone screens

Pentatonic is a high-end furniture company that turns consumer trash into well-designed treasures. For example, they take fashion industry waste and cover their chairs' seats with it. Now they're branching out and repurposing old smartphone screens by turning them into drinking glasses.

They call them the Handy Glass and a set of four costs between $49-$59, depending on the size of the glass itself.

(The World's Best Ever) Read the rest

Today's scares over smartphones are largely indistinguishable from yesterday's technology-driven moral panics

The "addictiveness of smartphones" is the latest technology moral panic, sending parents off with furrowed brows over whether theire kids' "brains are being rewired" by their phones. Read the rest

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