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Canada

Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures (www.cbc.ca) 111

Reader Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has levelled a blistering memo obtained by the CBC on how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo. A list of specific incidents includes an 11-hour network computer outage on Jan. 18 that downed every Mountie's BlackBerry, affected dispatching, and prevented the RCMP and 240 other police forces from accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre database.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Sued By Over 300 Former Employees (mobilesyrup.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a report: BlackBerry is facing a class-action lawsuit from more than 300 former employees across Canada, according to a news release from law firm Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP. The Waterloo, Ontario-based tech company is accused of denying employees their termination entitlements by transferring them to a partner company and, once they had accepted employment there, handed them resignation letters. The former employees were then allegedly given their final date of work. "BlackBerry's actions amount to a termination of the employees' employment," the law firm said. "This entitles these employees to statutory, common law, and/or contractual entitlements on termination."
Android

99.6 Percent of New Smartphones Run Android or iOS (theverge.com) 91

The latest smartphone figures from Gartner show how much iOS and Android are dominating the smartphone market. According to the report, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. For comparison, this figure was 96.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share. It's worth noting that although, in retrospect, this state of affairs seems inescapable, for years analysts were predicting otherwise. Three years ago, Gartner said that Microsoft's mobile OS would overtake iOS for market share in 2017, while BlackBerry would still be hanging around as sizable (if small) player.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Files Patent-Infringement Suit Against Nokia (bloombergquint.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Nokia, demanding royalties on the Finnish company's mobile network products that use an industrywide technology standard. Nokia's products including its Flexi Multiradio base stations, radio network controllers and Liquid Radio software are using technology covered by as many as 11 patents, BlackBerry said in a complaint filed in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware. The mobile network products and services are provided to companies including T-Mobile and AT&T for their LTE networks, BlackBerry said in the complaint. "Nokia has persisted in encouraging the use" of the standard- compliant products without a license from BlackBerry, it said.
Blackberry

The Brief, Bumbling Tech Careers of Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, and Will.i.am (backchannel.com) 97

"Four years ago this week, Blackberry named Alicia Keys its global creative officer... Keys was really going to work for Blackberry -- to participate in weekly calls addressing product development; develop ideas and content for the Keep Moving Projects, which targeted artists and athletes; and of course, promote the brand during her upcoming tour... It didn't work." Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: For a minute in history, it was oh-so-cool for legacy tech companies to hire pop stars... In 2005, HP brought Gwen Stefani on as a creative director. In 2010, Lady Gaga landed the job of creative director at Polaroid. In 2011, Will.i.am was the director of creative innovation at Intel. In 2012, Microsoft brought on Jessica Alba as creative director to promote its Windows Phone 8.

These roles were all touted as far more involved than the mere celebrity pitchman: The artists promised, to varying degrees, to dive into the business. But in all of these cases, the strategy failed. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel dives into why that is, and how big names in entertainment are now finding other ways to harness the momentum of tech.

Lady Gaga left Polaroid in less than a year after "collaborating" on video camera sunglasses that offered playback through LCD lenses. While they weren't popular, this article argues most of these tech companies "faced structural business issues too significant to be addressed through celebrity branding and artistic energy." One digital ad agency even tells the site that "It's always been a flawed strategy," and calls the hiring of a celebrity "a press cycle hack."
Security

Hacker Dumps iOS Cracking Tools Allegedly Stolen From Cellebrite (vice.com) 86

Last year, when Apple refused to unlock the security on an iPhone 5c belonging to the San Bernardino shooter, the FBI turned to an Israeli mobile forensics firm called Cellebrite to find another way into the encrypted iPhone. Now Motherboard reports that a hacker has released files allegedly from Cellebrite that demonstrate how cracking tools couldn't be kept private. From a report: Now the hacker responsible has publicly released a cache of files allegedly stolen from Cellebrite relating to Android and BlackBerry devices, and older iPhones, some of which may have been copied from publicly available phone cracking tools." The ripped, decrypted and fully functioning Python script set to utilize the exploits is also included within," the hacker wrote in a README file accompanying the data dump. The hacker posted links to the data on Pastebin. It's not clear when any of this code was used in the UFED. Many of the directory names start with "ufed" followed by a different type of phone, such as BlackBerry or Samsung. In their README, the hacker notes much of the iOS-related code is very similar to that used in the jailbreaking scene -- a community of iPhone hackers that typically breaks into iOS devices and release its code publicly for free.
Android

Trump Trades in Android Phone For Secret Service-Approved Device (cnet.com) 206

Who's got two thumbs and a Secret Service-approved phone to tweet from? On arriving in Washington on Thursday ahead of his inauguration, Donald Trump has handed in his Android device in exchange for an unidentified locked-down phone, according to Associated Press. From a report: The phone comes with a new number that is known only to a limited number of people. This marks a big change for Trump, who's frequently on the line with friends, business contacts, reporters, foreign leaders and politicians. Barack Obama was the first president to use a mobile device approved by security agencies because of hacking concerns. Initially he had a heavily modified BlackBerry and later switched to another phone that had most features totally disabled. He was not known to use it for making or receiving calls, but it was one of few devices that had access to the @POTUS Twitter account.
Businesses

Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."
Blackberry

BlackBerry Unveils Autonomous Vehicle Hub In Canada (venturebeat.com) 37

BlackBerry's Unix-like OS, QNX, is already in millions of cars. But today they're expanding their facility in Ottawa "to focus on developing advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology," according to Reuters. And one analyst says "If they can prove that they have the whole package and the security, they could absolutely dominate the market." After a detour where QNX's industrial-focused software was used to reinvent the now-discarded BlackBerry phone operating system, BlackBerry is focused on how its embedded software interacts with the explosion of sensors, cameras and other components required for a car to drive itself... "What QNX is doing is providing the infrastructure that allows you to build higher-level algorithms and to also acquire data from the sensors in a reliable manner," said Sebastian Fischmeister, a University of Waterloo associate professor who has worked with QNX since 2009.
Instead of focussing on AI, BlackBerry wants "a niche role as a trusty sidekick," Reuters reports, adding that besides a recent deal with Ford, BlackBerry is also holding advanced discussions with "more than one or two" major automakers, according to the head of the company.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Stops Making Phones, Licenses the BlackBerry Name To TCL For Android Phones (pcworld.com) 48

The BlackBerry smartphone is dead: Long live the BlackBerry smartphone. From a report on PCWorld: A week after it officially pulled out of the smartphone market, BlackBerry has agreed to license its brand to handset manufacturer TCL. The Chinese company will make and market future BlackBerry handsets worldwide except for India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, where BlackBerry has already struck local licensing deals. This is hardly new territory for TCL, which manufactured BlackBerry's last two handsets, the Android-based DTEK50 and DTEK60. BlackBerry has taken a more direct route out of the handset manufacturing business than Nokia, another of the marquee phone brands of the early years of this century. When Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft, it also gave that company the right to use the Nokia brand for a transitional period. When Nokia got its name back earlier this year, it promptly granted a 10-year license to HMD Global, a Finnish company, to use its name on new phones.
Blackberry

BlackBerry's Keyboard is Coming Back for One Last Dance (bloomberg.com) 37

BlackBerry has officially stopped making its own phones, but the company has one last treat for die-hard fans: a new phone sporting its trademark physical keyboard. According to Bloomberg: Chief Executive Officer John Chen had hinted at the phone in September, but hadn't confirmed it until Thursday, when he spoke to Emily Chang in an interview on Bloomberg TV. "We have one keyboard phone I promised people," Chen said. "It's coming." Under Chen, BlackBerry has gradually shifted from smartphones to software and said in September it would completely stop producing, stocking and distributing its own phones. Instead, it will license the BlackBerry brand to outside companies to put on phones they build themselves. The physical keyboard is BlackBerry's best-known smartphone feature, with many former users still lamenting its absence as they clumsily tap out e-mails on their iPhones and sign off with words like "pardon the typos."
Android

Nearly 9 Out of 10 Smartphones Shipped Run On Android (cnet.com) 220

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Google's Android operating system was the big winner in a big time for worldwide phone shipments, market researcher Strategy Analytics reported Wednesday. Android captured 88 percent of all smartphone shipped in the third quarter of 2016, a period that also marks the fastest growth rate in a year. "Android's gain came at the expense of every major rival platform," Strategy Analytics' Linda Sui said in a press release. "Apple iOS lost ground to Android and dipped to 12 percent [market]share," primarily because of "lackluster" sales in China and Africa, she said. And don't bother looking for BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows phones in the mix. They "all but disappeared" in the period between July 1 and the end of September. While Android's leading position looks "unassailable," it does face challenges in a market filled with phones made by hundreds manufacturers, few of which turn a profit. That's not helped by Google's new Pixel phone, which competes against the companies that made it popular in the first place, Strategy Analytics said. About 375 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2016, up 6 percent from 354.2 million units in the same period last year. Shipments of Android-based phones rose 10.3 percent, while Apple's iPhones fell 5.2 percent.
Microsoft

Snapchat, Skype Put Users' 'Human Rights at Risk', Amnesty Int'l Reports (cbsnews.com) 47

Shanika Gunaratna, writing for CBS News: Snapchat and Skype are falling short in protecting users' privacy -- a failure that puts users' "human rights at risk," according to a report by the organization Amnesty International. Snapchat and Skype received dismal grades in a new set of rankings released by Amnesty that specifically evaluate how popular messaging apps use encryption to protect users' private communications. In the report, Amnesty is trying to elevate encryption as a human rights necessity, due to concerns that activists, opposition politicians and journalists in some countries could be put in grave danger if their communications on popular messaging apps were compromised. "Activists around the world rely on encryption to protect themselves from spying by authorities, and it is unacceptable for technology companies to expose them to danger by failing to adequately respond to the human rights risks," Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of Amnesty's technology and human rights team, said in a statement. "The future of privacy and free speech online depends to a very large extent on whether tech companies provide services that protect our communications, or serve them up on a plate for prying eyes."Microsoft's Skype received 40 out of 100. WhatsApp fared at 73, and Apple scored 67 out of 100 for its iMessage and FaceTime apps. BlackBerry, Snapchat, and China's Tencent did 30 out of 100.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Says It's Done Designing and Building Its Own Phones (theverge.com) 90

BlackBerry today reported its fiscal second-quarter sales and said that it will stop making its iconic smartphones and focus on its software business. The Verge adds: BlackBerry has announced that it plans to stop making its own phones as the struggling company continues to focus on its software and security products. This is far from the end of BlackBerry devices, the production of which will be outsourced to third-party manufacturers -- as was the case with the company's recent DTEK 50, a clone of Alcatel's Idol 4 with BlackBerry branding. "The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners," said CEO John Chen in a statement. Elsewhere he stated: "We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy. Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold." This isn't surprising news considering BlackBerry's ongoing struggle in the mobile market. According to estimates from Gartner, the company claimed just 0.1 percent of the market in the second quarter, equating to sales of some 400,400 units. The last BlackBerry phone manufactured by the company was the Priv, the company's first Android-powered device, released November last year.
Government

NSO Has Been Selling a Smartphone-Surveilling Malware For Six Years (nytimes.com) 98

The New York Times continues their coverage of the commercial spytech industry, noting its services "are in higher demand now that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are using stronger encryption to protect data in their systems, in the process making it harder for government agencies to track suspects... For the last six years, the NSO Group's main product, a tracking system called Pegasus, has been used by a growing number of government agencies to target a range of smartphones -- including iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry and Symbian systems -- without leaving a trace...to extract text messages, contact lists, calendar records, emails, instant messages and GPS locations." Slashdot reader turkeydance quotes their article: That will cost you $650,000, plus a $500,000 setup fee with an Israeli outfit called the NSO Group. You can spy on more people if you would like -- just check out the company's price list. The NSO Group is one of a number of companies that sell surveillance tools that can capture all the activity on a smartphone, like a user's location and personal contacts. These tools can even turn the phone into a secret recording device...

The company is one of dozens of digital spying outfits that track everything a target does on a smartphone. They aggressively market their services to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. The industry argues that this spying is necessary to track terrorists, kidnappers and drug lords. The NSO Group's corporate mission statement is "Make the world a safe place"... An ethics committee made up of employees and external counsel vets potential customers based on human rights rankings set by the World Bank and other global bodies....

One of the services offered by the NSO group is "over the air stealth installation," though they can also install their spying software through Wi-Fi hot spots. One critic argues "They can say they're trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making the world a more surveilled place."
Democrats

Clinton's First Email Server Was a Power Mac Tower (arstechnica.com) 223

An anonymous reader shares with us an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: As she was being confirmed as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton contacted Colin Powell to ask him about his use of a Blackberry while in the same role. According to a Federal Bureau of Investigations memorandum published today (PDF), Powell warned Clinton that if it became public that she was using a Blackberry to "do business," her e-mails would be treated as "official" record and be subject to the law. "Be very careful," Powell said according to the FBI. "I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data." Perhaps Clinton's troubles began when she switched from a Blackberry-hosted e-mail account to an account on her Clintonemail.com domain -- a domain hosted on an Apple Power Mac "G4 or G5" tower running in the Clintons' Chappaqua, New York residence. The switch to the Power Mac as a server occurred the same month she exchanged messages with Powell. The Power Mac, originally purchased in 2007 by former President Clinton's aide Justin Cooper, had acted as the server for presidentclinton.com and wjcoffice.com. Cooper managed most of the technology support for Bill Clinton and took charge of setting up Hillary Clinton's new personal mail system on the Power Mac, which sat alongside a firewall and network switching hardware in the basement of the Clintons' home. But the Power Mac was having difficulty handling the additional load created by Blackberry usage from Secretary Clinton and her staff, so a decision was made quickly to upgrade the server hardware. Secretary Clinton's deputy chief of staff at the State Department, Huma Abedin, connected Cooper with Brian Pagliano, who had worked in IT for the secretary's 2008 presidential campaign. Cooper inquired with Pagliano about getting some of the campaign's computer hardware as a replacement for the Power Mac, and Pagliano was in the process of selling the equipment off.
Android

iOS and Android Combined For Record 99% of Smartphone Sales Last Quarter (macrumors.com) 191

An anonymous reader writes: The research firm Gartner has crunched some numbers and found that Android and iOS accounted for a record 99.1% worldwide market share in the second calendar quarter of 2016, which is compared to 96.8% in the year-ago period. What some may view as even more shocking is that Android accounted for 86.2% of the market share in the second quarter, up from 82.2% a year ago. Meanwhile, iOS lost some ground as it dropped to 12.9% market share from 14.6% in the year-ago period. It's no surprise that Windows and BlackBerry have been losing market share. They dropped to 0.6% and 0.1% market share worldwide respectively. Just six years ago, BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems were industry leaders. Now, they're industry losers. Which third-party operating system has what it takes to take on the establishment?
Blackberry

Canadian Fined For Not Providing Border Agents Smartphone Password (www.cbc.ca) 276

Reader da_foz writes: A Canadian was reentering Canada when he was arrested and charged with hindering or obstructing border officials. At the time traces of cocaine were found on his bags and he was carrying $5,000 in cash. He provided his smartphone to border agents as requested, however refused to provide the password. Canada Border Services Agency officials asked for Philippon's smartphone and its password. From a report: "He handed over his BlackBerry but refused to disclose the code to access the phone. Philippon was arrested and charged under the federal Customs Act, accused of hindering or obstructing border officials." It is unclear if he provided the password while agreeing to the fine.
Android

900M Android Devices Vulnerable To New 'Quadrooter' Security Flaw (cnet.com) 129

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from CNET: Four newly-discovered vulnerabilities found in Android phones and tablets that ship with a Qualcomm chip could allow an attacker to take complete control of an affected device. The set of vulnerabilities, dubbed "Quadrooter," affects over 900 million phone and tablets, according to Check Point researchers who discovered the flaws. An attacker would have to trick a user into installing a malicious app, which wouldn't require any special permissions. If successfully exploited, an attacker can gain root access, which gives the attacker full access to an affected Android device, its data, and its hardware -- including its camera and microphone.
The flaw even affects several of Google's own Nexus devices, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, according to the article, as well as the Blackberry DTEK50, which the company describes as the "most secure Android smartphone." CNET adds that "A patch that will fix one of the flaws will not be widely released until September, a Google spokesperson confirmed."
Blackberry

BlackBerry Enters New Phase Of Patent Monetization, Sues Internet Telephony Firm Avaya (arstechnica.com) 59

In what can be seen as a turning point for BlackBerry, the Canadian iconic company has filed a patent lawsuit against internet telephony firm Avaya. BlackBerry claims Avaya has infringed eight of its U.S. patents, and that BlackBerry should be paid for its history of innovation going back nearly 20 years. "BlackBerry revolutionized the mobile industry," the company's lawyers said. "BlackBerry... has invented a broad array of new technologies that cover everything from enhanced security and cryptographic techniques, to mobile device user interfaces, to communication servers, and many other areas." From an article on Iam Media: The move comes just over a year since Blackberry announced itself as a major player in the monetisation space with an agreement signed with Cisco, in which the Canadian company not only secured a cross-licensing deal but also "a license fee from Cisco." Another royalty-bearing deal was done with an unnamed company around the same time. Since then, the company has also signed two more deals with Canon and International Game Technology, both of which look to contain a royalties element to them; while in January it emerged that late last year Blackberry had sold a portfolio of patents to investment firm Centerbridge Partners for as much as $50 million. Blackberry CEO John Chen has made clear that he sees the company's patent assets as a key element in his plans. "We have today about 44,000 patents. The good thing about this is that we also have one of the youngest patent portfolios in the entire industry, so monetization of our patents is an important aspect of our turnaround," he told delegates at a summit in Waterloo, Ontario, last September. He was at it again in May during an earnings call with analysts when he stated: "Many people have wanted to buy the patents... But I'm not really in a patent-selling mode, I'm in a patent licensing mode."

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