MediaFile

Tech wrap: Google bypassed Safari privacy settings

Google landed in hot water over revelations that the search giant and ad companies had bypassed the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple’s Safari Web browser, using special computer code that tracked their movements online. Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer discovered the code. Subsequently, a technical adviser to the Wall Street Journal found that ads on 22 of the top 100 websites installed the Google tracking code on a test computer, and ads on 23 sites installed it on an iPhone browser. Google disabled the code after being contacted by the Journal, the newspaper said, and Google issued a statement, saying: “The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”

Apple’s share of China’s booming smartphone market slipped for a second straight quarter in October-December, as it lost ground to cheaper local brands and as some shoppers held off until after the iPhone 4S launch last month. While Apple regained its top spot as the world’s largest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter and for last year as a whole, it slipped to 5th place in China. In the last quarter, Samsung knocked Nokia off the top slot, taking 24.3 percent of the market, more than three times Apple’s share, data from research firm Gartner showed.

A British student, who hacked into Facebook’s internal network risking “disastrous” consequences for the website, was jailed for eight months in what prosecutors described as the most serious case of its kind they had seen. Glenn Mangham, 26, a software development student, admitted infiltrating Facebook from his bedroom at his parents’ house in York in northern England last year, sparking fears at the company that it was dealing with major industrial espionage.

Foxconn, the top maker of Apple’s iPhones and iPads whose factories are under scrutiny over labor practices, has raised wages of its Chinese workers by 16-25 percent from this month, the third rise since 2010. In a statement, Taiwan-based Foxconn said the pay of a junior level worker in Shenzhen, southern China, had risen to 1,800 yuan ($290) per month and could be further raised above 2,200 yuan if the worker passed a technical examination.

Tech wrap: Wikipedia, Google protest anti-piracy bill

The English homepage of Wikipedia went dark and Google’s search page ran the logo “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” in protest of legislation designed to stop copyright piracy but the free online encyclopedia says “could fatally damage the free and open Internet.” Big tech names including Facebook and Twitter declined to participate in protests of the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s PROTECT Intellectual Property Act, despite their opposition to the legislation, unwilling to sacrifice a day’s worth of revenue and risk the ire of users.

European regulators will decide around the end of March whether to file a formal complaint against Google for misuse of its market position, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters. Until this point officials had been playing down expectations of an early conclusion to the informal investigation stage, although there still could be a long way to go. Antitrust investigations typically take several years.

EBay’s fourth-quarter profit jumped as the e-commerce company saw solid growth in its online marketplaces and an increase in transactions processed through its PayPal electronic payments business. The operator of the world’s largest online marketplace reported fourth-quarter net income of $2 billion, or $1.51 a share, compared with $559 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 35 percent to $3.38 billion.

Tech wrap: “DingleBerry” rings RIM’s security bell

Three hackers said they had exploited a vulnerability in Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet to gain root access to the device, a claim that could damage the BlackBerry maker’s hard-won reputation for security. The hackers plan to release their data within a week as a tool called DingleBerry. In a response to queries, RIM said it is investigating the claim, and if a jailbreak is confirmed will release a patch to plug the hole. The PlayBook runs on a different operating system than RIM’s current BlackBerry smartphones. However, the QNX system will be incorporated into its smartphones starting next year. The PlayBook in July became the first tablet device to win a security certification approving it for U.S. government use.

Samsung is set to resume selling its Galaxy tablet computer in Australia as early as Friday, after it won a rare legal victory in a long-running global patent war with Apple. An Australian federal court unanimously decided to lift a preliminary injunction, imposed by a lower court, on sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 — but granted Apple a stay on lifting the sales ban until Friday afternoon.

Groupon’s shares rose after CEO Andrew Mason emerged from the company’s post-IPO quiet period to share holiday sales numbers. Groupon sold more than 650,000 holiday deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, an increase of 500 percent compared with last year, Mason said in a blog post. Groupon closed the trading day up 9.3 percent $17.50.

Care and feeding of your computer hacker

By Misha Glenny
The opinions expressed are his own.

Under a proposed new law, the Obama Administration is planning to throw the book at hackers convicted of organized criminal activity or endangering national security.

The maximum sentence for these crimes will be raised to 20 years to reflect how hackers have become “a key tool of organized crime,” with many hackers “tied to traditional Asian and Eastern European organized crime organizations.”

But while law enforcement and the criminal justice system seek to impose ever longer sentences on hackers, they are missing a trick – we need hackers. They are an invaluable asset in the fight against cyber crime and cyber espionage at a time when there is a dearth of IT Security professionals able to deal with this threat.

Tech wrap: Bad smartphone bets burn investors

Smartphones are constantly reaching new heights in sleekness and cutting-edge technology, but investors in the U.S. wireless sector seem unconvinced. Weak results and poor growth in both major and minor telecoms firms nationwide helped spark an investor exodus from the sector, and analysts say small operators like MetroPCS and Leap Wireless have indicated they’ve simply lost faith in the promise that smartphones can boost growth. Popular with consumers and heavily subsidized to encourage uptake, investors now look to be assessing whether a future of ever-increasing costs for carriers is one they’d like to take part in.

In tech company earnings, professional networking site LinkedIn reported that its quarterly revenue more than doubled as the company endeavored to prove it can fulfill the promise of its splashy IPO. Used by professionals seeking jobs or contacts and companies seeking qualified applicants, LinkedIn was the first prominent U.S. social networking site to make its public trading debut.

The massive hack attack recently revealed by security company McAfee does much to underscore the fact that governments and companies are losing the war against cyber thieves. Security experts uncovered an unprecedented five-year series of cyber attacks on 72 organizations worldwide, including the United Nations, governments and major corporations. In this analysis, Reuters’ security correspondent William Maclean argues that it’s unclear if the unsettling disclosure will actually prompt rapid global action against cyber attacks – partly due to the reluctance of stigma-conscious companies and states to report the attacks.

Tech wrap: Hackers target PayPal, again

PayPal is once again caught in the crosshairs of prominent hacker collectives Anonymous and LulzSec. The two groups released a joint statement on document-sharing website Pastebin on Wednesday urging their supporters who use the eBay-owned online payment service to close down their accounts in protest at the site’s continued refusal to process donations to whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

The message also criticized PayPal for helping police track down hackers suspected of taking part in an earlier attack on the company’s website in December that was allegedly coordinated by Anonymous. A spokesman for PayPal told Reuters that the company had observed no changes in “normal operations,” including the number of accounts that had been closed overnight.

Separately, a British teenager was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of being a leader of the LulzSec collective, which has boasted of breaking into the networks of the CIA, Sony and many other private and public bodies. The teenager is thought to be a spokesman for both LulzSec and Anonymous and uses the hacker nickname “Topiary,” London’s Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement.

from UK News:

Constitution in crisis as tyrannical journalists devour cowed politicians

A sordid tale of excess and brutality, of a world dominated by journalists with their ears to the keyhole, of tyrannical newspapers wielding remarkable power and of a political class not only cowed, but consumed, by that power.

Sound familiar? With two of Britain's most senior policemen out of a job, the prime minister under pressure for his serenading of News Corp and one of the world's most powerful press barons, in the form of Rupert Murdoch, summoned to testify to parliament, it would be one way of describing the current state of affairs.

In fact, it is how Irish writer and wit Oscar Wilde saw the state of Britain 120 years ago.

News of the World hacking scandal: UK’s Miliband speaks out

UK opposition leader Ed Miliband called on the British media to clean up its image and emphasized the need for a speedy public inquiry into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Watch clips of Miliband’s comments at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event below:

Miliband to British media: “Clean up your image”

Miliband calls for judge-led inquiry into phone-hacking scandal

Miliband wants media watchdog scrapped

Miliband calls for BSkyB referral

Miliband urges UK Prime Minister David Cameron to apologize

Follow our live coverage of the phone-hacking scandal below:

Tech wrap: Apple, Fox News hacked

How do hackers spend the Independence Day holiday weekend?  Why, hacking, of course. Well, some of them do anyway. Anonymous, the group behind several high-profile hacking incidents this year, posted a document online Sunday allegedly containing a small number of usernames and passwords for access to one of Apple’s servers. The hacker collective announced the breach via its Twitter feed as part of its Anti Security, or “AntiSec”, campaign, warning that the gadget maker could be targeted in further attacks. ZDNet wonders whether Apple is a sort of “Holy Grail” for malicious hackers given the massive amounts of customer data stored on the company’s iTunes and iCloud servers.

In a separate incident, hackers temporarily hijacked a Twitter feed operated by Fox News and posted several false messages early on Monday morning claiming that President Barack Obama had been shot and killed in Iowa. The ScriptKiddies, a group that may be loosely connected to Anonymous, claimed responsibility for the prank. FoxNews.com later regained control of the feed and removed the tweets.  The president is actually at the White House enjoying the July 4 Independence Day festivities with his family. A Secret Service investigation is underway.

Coming soon: English-language search on Baidu. Thanks to a new pact Microsoft has signed with China’s most popular search engine, Baidu will no longer be just for Chinese users. Under the alliance, English searches on Baidu will be powered using Microsoft’s Bing search, which will then deliver results back to Baidu’s Web pages. The new alliance should prove to be a win-win for both companies by helping Microsoft increase its puny presence in China and Baidu extend further beyond China’s borders.

Tech wrap: Sony’s new security setback

Mere days after Sony began restoring access to its PlayStation Network, the company said it had discovered a security flaw on one of the websites set up to help the millions of users affected by April’s massive data breach reset their passwords.

The “security hole“, as Sony spokesman Dan Race termed it, could allow the hackers who perpetrated the April breach to access the accounts using the data they had stolen. Sony shut the webpage down in response. No hacking had taken place prior to taking down the page, Race noted.

Hacking occupied the minds of executives at the Reuters Global Technology Summit as well. Mobile hacking in particular was a hot topic of discussion, with executives at software giants and startups alike expressing their desire to cash in on ways to help smartphone users protect themselves as hackers increasingly target mobile devices.