Cellphones

Fake 'Inbound Missile' Alert Sent To Every Cellphone in Hawaii (chicagotribune.com) 227

"Somebody sent out a false emergency alert to all cell phones in Hawaii saying, 'BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL'," writes Slashdot reader flopwich, adding "Somebody's had better days at work." The Associated Press reports: In a conciliatory news conference later in the day, Hawaii officials apologized for the mistake and vowed to ensure it will never happen again. Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi said the error happened when someone hit the wrong button. "We made a mistake," said Miyagi. For nearly 40 minutes, it seemed like the world was about to end in Hawaii, an island paradise already jittery over the threat of nuclear-tipped missiles from North Korea...

On the H-3, a major highway north of Honolulu, vehicles sat empty after drivers left them to run to a nearby tunnel after the alert showed up, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Workers at a golf club huddled in a kitchen fearing the worst... The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted there was no threat about 10 minutes after the initial alert, but that didn't reach people who aren't on the social media platform. A revised alert informing of the "false alarm" didn't reach cellphones until 38 minutes later, according to the time stamp on images people shared on social media.

China

12 Days In Xinjiang - China's Surveillance State (business-standard.com) 132

Long-time Slashdot reader b0s0z0ku writes: China has turned Xinjiang, the Northwestern part of the country surrounding Urumqi, into one of the most advanced surveillance states in the world. Officially, the purpose is to prevent terrorism and control resistance to the government in one of the few parts of China where ethnic Chinese are a minority.

From routine use of facial recognition cameras, to police checkpoints where people's cell phones randomly are checked for unauthorized software, to needing to swipe an ID card and be photographed to buy gasoline and other necessities, the level of technology — and control — is frightening and awe-inspiring.

Cellphones

Don't Keep Cellphones Next To Your Body, California Health Department Warns (techcrunch.com) 344

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a warning against the hazards of cellphone radiation this week. They are asking people to decrease their use of these devices and suggest keeping your distance when possible. TechCrunch reports: The warning comes after findings were offered up this week from a 2009 department document, which was published after an order from the Sacramento Superior Court. A year ago, UC Berkeley professor Joel Moskowitz initiated a lawsuit to get the department to release the findings after he started looking into whether mobile phone use increased the risk of tumors. A draft of the document was released in March, but the final release is more extensive.

According to the Federal Communication Commission's website, there is no national standard developed for safety limits. However, the agency requires cell phone manufacturers to ensure all phones comply with "objective limits for safe exposure." The CDPH recommends not keeping your phone in your pocket, not putting it up to your ear for a prolonged amount of time, keeping use low if there are two bars or less, not sleeping near it at night and to be aware that if you are in a fast-moving car, bus or train, your phone will emit more RF energy to maintain the connection.

Privacy

A Supreme Court Case This Week Could Change US Digital Privacy Standards 74

On November 29th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Carpenter v. US, a case essentially asking whether or not authorities need a warrant based on probable cause and signed by a judge to see your cellphone location data. For now, they do not. Given the fact that about 95% of Americans have cellphones, this case has major implications. Quartz reports: Mobile-service providers collect "cell site location information" (CSLI) for all phones, ostensibly to use for things like improving their networks. The U.S. government considers these data "routinely collected business records" rather than private information. That means it can demand the records without proving probable cause. That's what happened in the criminal case of Timothy Carpenter, accused of a series of Detroit, Michigan robberies. At Carpenter's trial, prosecutors presented evidence collected by private companies, obtained by the law without probable cause. They used 127 days-worth of cellphone-location data, amounting to almost 13,000 data points, to tell a circumstantial story of Carpenter comings and goings.

In its brief to the high court, filed in September, the justice department argued that when Carpenter signed onto his cell-phone provider's service, he agreed that his call records weren't private information belonging to him, but rather business records belonging to the company. Therefore, he should have "no reasonable expectation of privacy" when it comes to these records, government attorneys wrote. Carpenter argues that the location evidence was obtained illegally. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied that claim last year, basing their decision on Supreme Court cases from the 1970s: Smith v. Maryland and US v. Miller . The appeals court concluded that, under what's called the "third-party doctrine," Americans don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in things like check deposit slips, similar banking records, and dialed telephone numbers.
Privacy

Google Collects Android Users' Locations Even When Location Services Are Disabled (qz.com) 196

Google has been collecting Android phones' locations even when location services are turned off, and even when there is no carrier SIM card installed on the device, an investigation has found. Keith Collins, reporting for Quartz: Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers -- even when location services are disabled -- and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals' locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy. Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice. The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. They were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.
Encryption

iPhone Encryption Hampers Investigation of Texas Shooter, Says FBI (chron.com) 240

"FBI officials said Tuesday they have been stymied in their efforts to unlock the cellphone of the man who shot and killed at least 26 people at a church here on Sunday," reports the Houston Chronicle. Slashdot reader Anon E. Muss writes: The police obtained a search warrant for the phone, but so far they've been unable to unlock it. The phone has been sent to the FBI, in the hope that they can break in... If it is secure, and the FBI can't open it, expect all hell to break loose. The usual idiots (e.g. politicians) will soon be ranting hysterically about the evil tech industry, and how they're refusing to help law enforcement.
FBI special agent Christopher Combs complained to the Chronicle that "law enforcement increasingly cannot get in to these phones."

A law professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology argues there's other sources of information besides a phone, and police officers might recognize this with better training. As just one example, Apple says the FBI could've simply just used the dead shooter's fingerprint to open his iPhone. But after 48 hours, the iPhone's fingerprint ID stops working.
Canada

Calgary Police Cellphone Surveillance Device Must Remain Top Secret, Judge Rules (www.cbc.ca) 89

Freshly Exhumed writes from a report via CBC.ca: To protect police investigative techniques that may or may not have been used in a Calgary Police Service investigation, their controversial cellphone surveillance device will remain so secretive not even the make and model can be released to the public, according to a court ruling released Monday. The MDI (Mobile Device Identifier) technology -- colloquially called a StingRay after Harris Corporation's IMSI device, which mimics cell towers and intercepts data from nearby phones -- is controversial in part because in at least one Canadian case, prosecutors have taken watered down plea deals rather than disclose information related to the device.
Power

SLAC Uses Nobel Prize-Winning Technique To Investigate Battery Fires (stanford.edu) 17

An anonymous reader quotes an announcement from SLAC: Scientists from Stanford University and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have captured the first atomic-level images of finger-like growths called dendrites that can pierce the barrier between battery compartments and trigger short circuits or fires... This is the first study to examine the inner lives of batteries with cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, a technique whose ability to image delicate, flash-frozen proteins and other "biological machines" in atomic detail was honored with the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry... The ability to see this level of detail for the first time with cryo-EM will give scientists a powerful tool for understanding how batteries and their components work at the most fundamental level and for investigating why high-energy batteries used in laptops, cell phones, airplanes and electric cars sometimes fail, the researchers said...

In cryo-EM, samples are flash-frozen by dipping them into liquid nitrogen, then sliced for examination under the microscope. You can freeze a whole coin-cell battery at a particular point in its charge-discharge cycle, remove the component you're interested in and see what is happening inside that component at an atom-by-atom scale. You could even create a stop-action movie of battery activity by stringing together images made at different points in the cycle... Zooming in, they used a different technique to look at the way electrons bounced off the atoms in the dendrite, revealing the locations of individual atoms in both the crystal and its solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) coating. When they added a chemical commonly used to improve battery performance, the atomic structure of the SEI coating became more orderly, and they think this may help explain why the additive works.

Privacy

DC Court Rules Tracking Phones Without a Warrant Is Unconstitutional (cbsnews.com) 84

An anonymous reader writes: Law enforcement use of one tracking tool, the cell-site simulator, to track a suspect's phone without a warrant violates the Constitution, the D.C. Court of Appeals said Thursday in a landmark ruling for privacy and Fourth Amendment rights as they pertain to policing tactics. The ruling could have broad implications for law enforcement's use of cell-site simulators, which local police and federal agencies can use to mimic a cell phone tower to the phone connect to the device instead of its regular network. In a decision that reversed the decision of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and overturned the conviction of a robbery and sexual assault suspect, the D.C. Court of Appeals determined the use of the cell-site simulator "to locate a person through his or her cellphone invades the person's actual, legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her location information and is a search."
Transportation

East Africa Leads The World In Drone Delivery (cnn.com) 59

"While plenty of countries have dabbled in drone delivery, no program has matched the scale and impact of what's unfolding in Rwanda and now, Tanzania." An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The drones will fly themselves, far from the view of humans -- a move that's not yet legal in the U.S... In early 2018, Tanzania's government will begin using drones to deliver medical supplies such as blood and vaccines to remote areas. The government expects to save lives thanks to faster delivery of medical supplies. Rwanda has already completed 1,400 similar deliveries. "Everyone has this paradigm that robotics and artificial intelligence starts in the U.S., made by rich people for rich people. It couldn't be farther from the truth," said Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline, which is supplying the drones. "There's a major shift [occurring] where it's not about the country with the most resources; it's more about the countries with modern regulatory reform and a willingness to try new things."

Tanzania will open four drone distribution centers with Silicon Valley startup Zipline, providing more than 100 drones and 2,000 flights a day. It's also discussing a partnership with another drone company... Previously, the government delivered medical supplies only four times a year due to costs. Bwanakunu envisions several deliveries per week including for emergencies... This isn't the first time East Africa has been a step in front of the "developed world." "We were ahead with mobile money too," said Bwanakunu, referring to M-PESA, which allows for money to be sent through cell phones. "If today trying this technology will save a human life, why not?"

Each drone is equipped with "a parachute that deploys if that anything goes wrong."
Verizon

Verizon To Start Throttling All Smartphone Videos To 480p or 720p (arstechnica.com) 188

Verizon Wireless will start throttling video streams to resolutions as low as 480p on smartphones this week. Most data plans will get 720p video on smartphones, but customers won't have any option to completely un-throttle video. From a report: 1080p will be the highest resolution provided on tablets, effectively ruling out 4K video on Verizon's mobile network. Anything identified as a video will not be given more than 10Mbps worth of bandwidth. This limit will affect mobile hotspot usage as well. Verizon started selling unlimited smartphone data plans in February of this year, and the carrier said at the time that it would deliver video to customers at the same resolution used by streaming video companies. "We deliver whatever the content provider gives us. We don't manipulate the data," Verizon told Ars in February. That changes beginning on Wednesday, both for existing customers and new ones. The changes were detailed today in an announcement of new unlimited data plans. Starting August 23, Verizon's cheapest single-line unlimited smartphone data plan will cost $75 a month, which is $5 less than it cost before. The plan will include only "DVD-quality streaming" of 480p on phones and 720p on tablets.The new Verizon cell phone plans can be compare side by side here, along with all of Verizon's existing plans.
Crime

Feds Crack Trump Protesters' Phones To Charge Them With Felony Rioting (thedailybeast.com) 465

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: Officials seized Trump protesters' cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration. Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20 that broke windows and damaged vehicles. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison, despite little evidence against them. But a new court filing reveals that investigators have been able to crack into at least eight defendants' locked cell phones. Now prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against the defendants in court. [A] July 21 court document shows that investigators were successful in opening the locked phones. The July 21 filing moved to enter evidence from eight seized phones, six of which were "encrypted" and two of which were not encrypted. A Department of Justice representative confirmed that "encrypted" meant additional privacy settings beyond a lock screen. For the six encrypted phones, investigators were able to compile "a short data report which identifies the phone number associated with the cell phone and limited other information about the phone itself," the filing says. But investigators appear to have bypassed the lock on the two remaining phones to access the entirety of their contents.
Privacy

Russians Now Need a Passport To Watch Pornhub (vice.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VICE News: Pornhub, the world's biggest porn site, now requires users in Russia to log in using social media accounts linked to their passports and cell phones. Monday's change is the latest chapter of an ongoing feud between Pornhub and the Russian government. The site was blocked in Russia last September for allegedly spreading information detrimental to the development of children, then reinstated in April after instituting a requirement that users specify their age. At the time, Pornhub asked the Russian state media regulation agency whether officials there would lift the ban if they were given free Pornhub Premium accounts. Pornhub announced the change on its own Vkontakte page page by saying "now you can simply log in through your favorite social network" instead of filling in your date of birth. But the government policy that Pornhub says prompted the change presumably wasn't aimed at making it easier for Russians to watch porn. Instead, it may be a means of surveillance; to open a Vkontakte account, users need to enter their cell phone numbers. And to legally purchase a SIM card in Russia, you need to disclose your passport information. "While this exact method is not a condition [from the Russian government], we found this is the best solution for our users to comply with Russian access laws," Pornhub Vice President Corey Price said. "Also to be clear, Pornhub does not log or store any of your personal information, this is just a check to see if users are over 18. On [Vkontakte's] end, all they will see is see the request from that user, they will not know what that user browsed on Pornhub."
Security

New Attack Can Now Decrypt Satellite Phone Calls in 'Real Time' (zdnet.com) 50

Chinese researchers have discovered a way to rapidly decrypt satellite phone communications -- within a fraction of a second in some cases. From a report on ZDNet: The paper, published this week, expands on previous research by German academics in 2012 by rapidly speeding up the attack and showing that the encryption used in popular Inmarsat satellite phones can be cracked in "real time." Satellite phones are used by those in desolate environments, including high altitudes and at sea, where traditional cell service isn't available. Modern satellite phones encrypt voice traffic to prevent eavesdropping. It's that modern GMR-2 algorithm that was the focus of the research, given that it's used in most satellite phones today. The researchers tried "to reverse the encryption procedure to deduce the encryption-key from the output keystream directly," rather than using the German researchers' method of recovering an encryption key using a known-plaintext attack. Using their proposed inversion attack thousands of time on a 3.3GHz satellite stream, the researchers were able to reduce the search space for the 64-bit encryption key, effectively making the decryption key easier to find. The end result was that encrypted data could be cracked in a fraction of a second.
The Military

Pentagon Cyberweapons 'Disappointing' Against ISIS (nytimes.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Times: It has been more than a year since the Pentagon announced that it was opening a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing Cyber Command, then six years old, to mount computer-network attacks... "In general, there was some sense of disappointment in the overall ability for cyberoperations to land a major blow against ISIS," or the Islamic State, said Joshua Geltzer, who was the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council until March. "This is just much harder in practice than people think..."

Even one of the rare successes against the Islamic State belongs at least in part to Israel, which was America's partner in the attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities. Top Israeli cyberoperators penetrated a small cell of extremist bombmakers in Syria months ago, the officials said. That was how the United States learned that the terrorist group was working to make explosives that fooled airport X-ray machines and other screening by looking exactly like batteries for laptop computers... The information helped prompt a ban in March on large electronic devices in carry-on luggage on flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries to the United States and Britain.

Citing military officials, the Times also reports that "locking Islamic State propaganda specialists out of their accounts -- or using the coordinates of their phones and computers to target them for a drone attack -- is now standard operating procedure."
Government

Delays In Unlocking Cellphones Seized In Inauguration Day Protests? (buzzfeed.com) 163

Cellphone data may play a key role in prosecuting people arrested at inauguration day protests, according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Mosquito Bites. A U.S. attorney acknowledged that "the government recovered cell phones from more than 100 indicted defendants and other un-indicted arrested" in a filing last March, adding "The government is in the process of extracting data from the Rioter Cell Phones pursuant to lawfully issued search warrants, and expects to be in a position to produce all of the data from the searchers Rioter Cell Phones in the next several weeks."

But 11 weeks later, it's a different story. Prosecutors "have provided defense lawyers with access to hundreds of hours of video footage from January 20, but have yet to turn over data extracted from more than 100 cell phones seized during the arrests, according to lawyers who spoke with BuzzFeed News." In addition, they report that now more than half the 200-plus defendants "are vowing not to cooperate with prosecutors, even in the face of a new set of felony charges that carry stiff maximum prison sentences."
Cellphones

Police In Oklahoma Have Cracked Hundreds of People's Cell Phones (vice.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Motherboard: Mobile phone forensic extraction devices have been a law enforcement tool for years now, and the number of agencies using them is only rising. As part of an ongoing investigation, we have finally been able to turn up some usage logs of this equipment, from Tulsa Police Department, and Tucson Police Department. While the logs do not list the cause of the crime or any other notes about why the phone was being searched, it does list the make of the phone, the date, and the type of extraction. First, let's go over what extraction devices are being used here. Tucson PD opted for the brand that is arguably the worldwide leader in mobile device forensics, the Israeli company Cellebrite. Tulsa Police Department however opted for a few different models -- they purchased two different password breakers from Teel Technologies in 2015, and in March 2016 gave about $1,500 to Susteen for their SecureView extraction device (SecureView was the product Susteen created when the FBI requested they create a more advanced extraction device for them). It does its work instantly, and has an incredible reach into a phone's data. They renewed this contract in 2017. In August 2016 they also purchased the Detective extraction device from Oxygen Forensics. Oxygen is much less common than Cellebrite, from what we have found. The kicker really is how often these are being used -- it is simply really hard to believe that out of the 783 times Tulsa Police used their extraction devices, all were for crimes in which it was necessary to look at all of the phone's data. Even for the 316 times Tucson PD used theirs in the last year, it is still a real stretch to think that some low-level non-violent offenders weren't on the receiving end. There are some days where the devices were used multiple times -- Tulsa used theirs eight times on February 28th of this year, eight again on April 3rd, and a whopping 14 times on May 10th 2016. That is a whole lot of data that Tulsa was able to tap into, and we aren't even able to understand the why.
Android

T-Mobile's 'Digits' Program Revamps the Phone Number (arstechnica.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: T-Mobile has announced the launch of its "Digits" program, coming May 31. Digits is a revamp of how T-Mobile phone numbers work, virtualizing customer numbers so they can work across multiple devices. It sounds a lot like Google Voice -- rather than having a phone number tied to a single SIM card or a device, numbers are now account-based, and you can "log in" to your phone number on several devices. T-Mobile says the new phone number system will work "across virtually all connected devices," allowing multiple phones, tablets, and PCs to get texts and calls. This means T-Mobile needs apps across all those platforms, with the press release citing "native seamless integration" in Samsung Android phones, Android and iOS apps, and a browser interface for PCs. The new phone number system is free to all T-Mobile customers. Customers can also buy an extra phone number for $10 or by signing up to the $5-per-month "T-Mobile One Plus" package, which is a bundle of extra features like a mobile hotspot and in-flight Wi-Fi.
Cellphones

Majority of US Households Now Cellphone-Only, Government Says (networkworld.com) 133

The National Center for Health Statistics has released a report that says, for the first time in history, U.S. households with landlines are now in the minority. Network World reports: The second 6 months of 2016 was the first time that a majority of American homes had only wireless telephones. Preliminary results from the July-December 2016 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that 50.8% of American homes did not have a landline telephone but did have at least one wireless telephone (also known as cellular telephones, cell phones, or mobile phones) -- an increase of 2.5 percentage points since the second 6 months of 2015. Young adults (25-34) and those who rent are most likely to live wireless-only, as 70 percent of that demographic lives with a landline.
Cellphones

Feds: We're Pulling Data From 100 Phones Seized During Trump Inauguration (arstechnica.com) 233

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In new filings, prosecutors told a court in Washington, DC that within the coming weeks, they expect to extract all data from the seized cellphones of more than 100 allegedly violent protesters arrested during the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Prosecutors also said that this search is validated by recently issued warrants. The court filing, which was first reported Wednesday by BuzzFeed News, states that approximately half of the protestors prosecuted with rioting or inciting a riot had their phones taken by authorities. Prosecutors hope to uncover any evidence relevant to the case. Under normal judicial procedures, the feds have vowed to share such data with defense attorneys and to delete all irrelevant data. "All of the Rioter Cell Phones were locked, which requires more time-sensitive efforts to try to obtain the data," Jennifer Kerkhoff, an assistant United States attorney, wrote. Such phone extraction is common by law enforcement nationwide using hardware and software created by Cellebrite and other similar firms. Pulling data off phones is likely more difficult under fully updated iPhones and Android devices.

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