Apple’s iPhone 11 gets the thumbs down

The new iPhone isn’t even available yet, but leaks have revealed that Apple fans aren’t happy with the “new, ugly iPhone,” but they are trying to talk it up by claiming that once you use the phone, you’ll forget the aesthetics.

Who would ever have thoguth that Apple could produce a product that anyone would describe as ‘ugly’. The company has built its reputation on being ‘beautiful’.

Gordon Kelly writing for Forbes gets to the crux of the story. He revealed that Ben Gaskin, a popular tech designer, was able to build physical models of Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Max based on leaked details of the schematics and the renders.

When Gaskin revealed what they looked like, he asked, “Did you get used to this design already?” The response was quite remarkable, with almost 900 comments and the vast majority of them were overwhelmingly negative with the highest ranked responses including: “Horrible design… it looks soo awkward” and “Steve Jobs would’ve fired everyone.”

What is the problem?

It’s the camera! It is like a carbuncle on the back of the phone, yet as Kelley says, “the irony is this most hated feature is likely to be the iPhone 11’s headline upgrade.” Basically, Apple is sidelining style for substance with both new iPhones, which have the potential to shoot both models back to the top of the smartphone camera charts. This is a position that Apple lost a while back.

The new phones will also have better batteries, which is a plus for many users. But, it is abandoning its leading 3D Touch technology, which means the iPhone 11 and 11 Max will deliver an inferior experience to that of every iPhone since the iPhone 6S. That is a strange state of affairs for the trailblazers in smartphone tech. Furthermore, the front of Apple’s new iPhones will remain unchanged for the third generation in a row.

Kelly suggests you wait until 2020 for the more exciting iPhone and forget this year’s iPhone and XR2 — it sounds like sensible advice.

What’s up with Whatsapp?

Image result for whats app

You may have seen the numerous press articles this week advising you to update your Whatsapp. The advice came from Whatsapp, which has 1.5 billion users and is owned by Facebook.

The reason for asking people to update the app on their smartphones was the discovery that hackers had been able to remotely install surveillance software on phones via a “major vulnerability” in the app. According to the BBC, WhatsApp said the attack targeted a “select number” of users and was orchestrated by “an advanced cyber-actor”.

Facebook discovered the flaw in the technology earlier this month. It threatened to break Whatsapp’s promise to its users of being a secure” communications app with messages that are end-to-end encrypted. This means they should only be displayed in a legible form on the sender or recipient’s device. However, the surveillance software would have let an attacker read the messages on the target’s device.

The Whatsapp team found a fix for the problem last Friday, after which people could download the new app without the ‘bug’, although some users appeared to be disgruntled that Facebook hadn’t published any notes about the fix itself.

It is likely that those whose phones may have been targeted by the hackers are “Journalists, lawyers, activists and human rights defenders,” Ahmed Zidan of the Committee to Protect Journalists told the BBC.

How did hackers use the security flaw?

One thing they did was use Whatsapp’s voice call function to ring a target’s phone. Even if the target didn’t answer the call, the surveillance software was installed on their phone. Furthermore, the call was removed from the call log, so the person who didn’t answer it, wouldn’t even see that they had missed a call from an unknown number.

Facebook and Whatsapp told the press on Monday: “The attack has all the hallmarks of a private company reportedly that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems.”

It also issued a briefing to security specialists stating, “”A buffer overflow vulnerability in WhatsApp VOIP [voice over internet protocol] stack allowed remote code execution via specially crafted series of SRTCP [secure real-time transport protocol] packets sent to a target phone number.”

The attack was old-fashioned

As Professor Alan Woodward pointed out, this is a “pretty old-fashioned” method of attack. He explained what happened: “A buffer overflow is where a program runs into memory it should not have access to. It overflows the memory it should have and hence has access to memory in which malicious code can potentially be run. If you are able to pass some code through the app, you can run your own code in that area. In VOIP there is an initial process that dials up and establishes the call, and the flaw was in that bit. Consequently you did not need to answer the call for the attack to work.”

We don’t know how many people were targeted in this attack, and there are some questions that remain to be answered about whether updating the app on your phone effectively removes the spyware in its entirety. Furthermore, WhatsApp has not said whether the attack could extend beyond WhatsApp and reach other personal data on the phone.

But, even if you are not a journalist, a lawyer or a human rights activist, download the new version of the app, because as always it is better to be safe than sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tech innovation needs to find a balance in 2019

2018 put the spotlight on technological innovation, much of it venturing into uncharted territory where regulations will be needed before long. Amidst all the newcomers and startups, one old friend stands out as becoming more and more integral to our way of life, and that is the Internet.

Its reach into every industry is unstoppable, and as we move on from an app-centred era, there is going to be more engagement between policymakers and the technology innovators.

Steve Case, in his excellent thought piece at Medium, sums up the scenario:

“Investors will need to understand policy as well. In the Internet’s First Wave, the focus was on technology risk — can they build it. In the Second Wave, the key risk factor became market risk — there was little doubt it could be built, but considerable concern over which of the many app competitors would break through. In the Third Wave, policy risk will be front and center — can the entrepreneurs navigate the complex regulatory waters to successfully bring their product or service to market.”

Indeed, investors, entrepreneurs and governments will all be trying to find the right balance between regulation and innovation, as Case points out. This is necessary for the protection of society whilst also being open-minded about the potential of technology to improve life.

But what happened in the tech world during 2018 that has brought the issue of regulation versus innovation into focus? First there were the revelations about Facebook’s use of user data, which brought down on it the wrath of governments, as well as users. This is likely to mean the emergence of regulations to rein Facebook in.

There were also some serious data breaches affecting consumers. Privacy and security are no longer a given, which means consumers are no longer as confident when using online service providers.

Self-driving cars were a great story until a pedestrian got killed. They are still on the agenda for development, but now “innovators and policymakers need to work together to establish practices for safety and security (including cybersecurity),” Case suggests.

Space exploration got more interesting as it suddenly broke out of being controlled by NASA and other government-related agencies. This sector went commercial with SpaceX, and it is an exciting opportunity for innovation, but again we will need regulations for commercial ventures that protect the sector without stifling innovation.

2019 will be a year of finding the balance in these and other tech sectors.

U.S. government takes the Internet backwards!

U.S. government takes the Internet backwards

On Monday 23rd April, net neutrality in the USA ceased to exist. The net neutrality rules introduced during the Obama era prevented Internet service providers from blocking, slowing down or prioritising Internet traffic.

According to a report from Business Insider, this could lead to a whole new era of ‘build your own Internet.’ One company, is already piloting a programme in Venice, California, and guess who it is? Yes, it’s WeTransfer!

WeTransfer, as many of you will be aware is the file transfer company that businesses use on a regular basis when files, especially those with high resolution images, are just to big to be sent via email. The company, which started in Venice, CA, is partnering with another Los Angeles outfit called Community Broadband Project “to create a “mesh network” — a decentralized series of wireless routers that allow customers to get online without going through an ISP.”

What is a mesh network?

The short answer is that a mesh network is usually local. It can be created when households in an area install routers, called ‘nodes’ that are then connected to local antennas. And, that creates a local network.

The FCC is taking the country back in time

WeTransfer’s President, Damian Bradfield believes that what the U.S. government is doing via the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is taking the country backwards in time to an era when a provider could tell you whether you could access Skype or BitTorrent. He said: “Fundamentally we believe the power shouldn’t be with the ISPs to make those sorts of decisions.”

Grassroots resistance

What WeTransfer is doing is a form of grassroots resistance to the end of net neutrality. Mesh networks can sidestep the influence of powerful ISPs like AT&T. Until now, the use of this type of network has been confined to rural areas with little or no broadband coverage, but it may now become more widespread.

WeTransfer alongside the Community Broadband Project is offering an independent connection to households in the Venice area. “We were looking for a way that not only we could benefit from an internet that is net neutral, but also some degree educate people around us that there is an alternative,” Bradfield said.

WeTransfer is funding the project and it is still in the beta testing stage in the Venice area. Eventually they hope to offer a service that is cheaper than those of the large ISPs.

Ultimately, WeTransfer wants the FCC to reinstate net neutrality rules. States such as California, Oregon, and Washington are in the process of passing their own state-level net neutrality laws. However, he is not hopeful about a return to net neutrality, because the FCC commissioner Ajit Pai is against the Obama-era rules. But, as several states and companies are suing the FCC over this, perhaps there is some hope it might change.