Geekword Technology News Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:07:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Heartbleed bug strikes Canadian tax agency Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:07:03 +0000 The Canadian Revenue Agency has fallen victim to the Heartbleed bug as hackers have stolen the private information of about 900 people, the tax agency announced Monday.

Hackers made away with social insurance numbers – used for employment purposes and accessing government benefits –  and possibly other data.

The agency, which shut down access to its online services last week after learning it was vulnerable to the Heartbleed Bug, reopened to the public on Monday.

Government security authorities told the CRA the attack happened during a brief six-hour period.

Heartbleed works to take advantage of a glitch in the OpenSSL software, used on about two-thirds of websites to keep data secure as it travels across the Internet.

Police are investigating the breach while forensic experts search for other stolen data, a process complicated by the hidden nature of the bug.

“We are currently going through the painstaking process of analyzing other fragments of data, some that may relate to businesses, that were also removed,” CRA commissioner Andrew Treusch wrote in a statement on the CRA website.

News of the Canadian attack comes after authorities in Washington warned banks and other businesses to be on watch for attempts to steal their data.

Andy Ellis, chief technology officer at Akamai Technologies, told Reuters that he wasn’t surprised to hear about the attack, describing several tool kits available online for hackers to use to launch attacks on vulnerable websites.

Because of the shut down of its online services, the CRA will extend the deadline to file taxes from April 30 to May 5.

photo by: snoopsmaus
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Facebook to shut off mobile app messaging, forcing switch to Messenger Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:01:54 +0000 Facebook is turning off the messaging feature in its mobile app, forcing users to download the standalone Facebook Messenger app.

For those in Europe, the shut down will take place in two weeks time, with the rest of the world following in the near future.

According to the Verge, the Messages button will remain in the app, but will simple boot users over to Messenger.

A Facebook spokesperson told the Verge that there will be exceptions to the shut down. Those with low-end Android phones, Windows Phone users, and those on tablets will still be able to message in the Facebook app itself.

In an interview with TechCrunch in November, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the fragmentation as a way towards stronger, cleaner products. “We found that having [messaging]as a second-class thing inside the Facebook app makes it so there’s more friction to replying to messages, so we would rather have people be using a more focused experience for that.”

The move is part of a broader strategy away from one core, fully-featured app. Zuckerberg touched on the company’s new mobile approach during a January earnings call when he said “Our vision for Facebook is to create a set of products that help you share any kind of content you want with any audience you want.”

In February, Facebook launched the standalone Paper, a news app highlighting content from Facebook’s favourite publishers.

photo by: TechCrunch
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U.S. Air Force testing Google Glass Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:54:40 +0000 The U.S. Air Force is testing Google Glass for potential use in the battlefield, Venture Beat reported on Tuesday.

Possible applications for the headset include air controllers on the ground guiding and communicating with aircraft, search and rescue missions, supply operations, and more.

Dr. Gregory Burnett, chief engineer on the project, told Venture Beat he’s pleased with what he’s seen so far.

“Google is pushing the boundaries,” Burnett said. “The question is, during the chaos of war, how will the technology perform?”

The testing is being done by the Air Force’s BATMAN research team based out of the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The team is a part of the 711th Human Performance Wing and is one of the force’s most distinguished research groups.

The benefits of the device “are its low power, its low footprint, it sits totally above the eyes, and doesn’t block images or hinder vision,” said 2nd Lt. Anthony Eastin, a behavioural scientist on the BATMAN team.

The Air Force, with no special arrangement with Google, got their two pairs of Glass just like everyone else, through Google’s Glass Explorer program. The program sees interested people apply first and, after Google’s approval, pay $1,500 per device.

The testing is part of a shift, Venture Beat writes, away from bulky battlefield laptops to smartphones, tablets and wearables.

According to Venture Beat, the U.S. Navy is also testing a set of smart glasses, though not Google’s. They’ve instead partnered with Rochester-based Vuzix.

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Internal Apple slides show why bigger iPhone is coming Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:18:13 +0000 “Customers want what we don’t have,” Apple executives have been telling themselves.

What is it they want exactly? A smartphone bigger than 4-inches and that costs less than $300. All smartphone growth of late has come from phones that fit those criteria, according to slides shared in court on Friday during Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung.

Originally shown during a planning meeting in April 2013, the slides show a grim picture of stalling iPhone sales, a stark admission among Apple executives that its smartphone strategy is struggling.

Rumours have spread in recent weeks that the new iPhone 6 will come in multiple sizes ranging from 4.7-5.5-inches. These slides seem to be the strongest confirmation yet of a bigger device.

Samsung presented other internal Apple documents on Friday, including a 2011 email from the late Steve Jobs, outlining the company’s broader strategy for the following years, and an email from Apple’s marketing head, Steve Schiller, where he lauded Samsung’s 2013 Superbowl ad.

“I watched the Samsung pre-superbowl ad that launched today,” Schiller wrote. “It’s pretty good and I can’t help but think ‘these guys are feeling it’ (like an athlete who can’t miss because they are in a zone) while we struggle to nail a compelling brief on iPhone. That’s sad because we have much better products.”

The patent infringement suit is the latest court battle between the two companies. In 2012, a California court ordered Samsung pay over $1 billion to Apple after a jury decided the Korean company had infringed on Apple’s patents.

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Google working on set-top-box Android TV Sat, 05 Apr 2014 22:21:41 +0000 On the heels of Amazon’s Fire TV announcement, Google is preparing to launch a new set-top-box called Android TV, according to documents obtained by the Verge.

Google has major app providers focused on building “extremely simple TV apps for an extremely simple set-top-box interface,” wrote the Verge’s Sean Hollister.

So far there is no launch date set.

“Android TV is an entertainment interface, not a computing platform,” writes Google. “It’s all about finding and enjoying content with the least amount of friction.” It will be “cinematic, fun, fluid, and fast.”

Navigation will be card-based, according to the Verge, with users navigating through the interface with a remote control directional pad. The system will also support voice input and notifications.

What separates Android TV from the slew of competitors, the Verge says, will be how content is presented to the user.

What makes it a Google product is that Android TV will suggest those pieces of content on the homescreen itself. While you can dive through a collection of apps and games if you want, the goal isn’t to have a user select an app like Hulu and then browse through things to watch. Google wants to proactively recommend things to you — including the ability to resume content you started watching on a phone or tablet — as soon as you turn your TV on.

For now it seems the company is focusing on simplicity. “Google is stripping away unneeded features like telephony, cameras, touchscreen support and near-field communication to keep developers focused.”

With the failure of Google TV to catch on – Chairman Eric Schmidt famously bet the service would ship on the majority of televisions in 2012 – this might be the company’s last opportunity to make waves in consumers’ living rooms.

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Twitter to debut Facebook-style app install advertising Sat, 05 Apr 2014 00:15:26 +0000 Twitter is set to unveil a new mobile app install advertising suite, a part of a new multi-pronged approach to bring the company out of the red, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The new approach is just one of 15 new forms of advertising the company will debut over the coming months.

Twitter posted $219.6 million in advertising revenue in the fourth quarter, more than double from the same period a year earlier. So far this year though, the company’s stock has fallen almost 33% to $43.12 as the company struggles to prove it can be profitable.

With its new app install advertisements, Twitter is taking a page from Facebook’s playbook, who, when faced with a similar situation of flagging stock price and slack mobile revenue, launched its own version of the advertising suite in late 2012.

Facebook users downloaded 245 million mobile apps after seeing ads for those apps in their news feeds last year. It essentially recommends apps for Facebook users to download.

Twitter has been experimenting with other advertising solutions, like a click-to-call button designed to put users on the phone with businesses. According to the Journal, the company is also in talks with payment processor Stripe to allow users to purchase items directly in their feed.

Twitter’s current suite of advertising options has done little to attract the kind of businesses most likely to advertise on social media – mobile game developers and e-commerce businesses. Until now, advertisers have been limited to promoted tweets, trends, and recommended accounts.

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U.S. Government secretly built Cuban Twitter clone Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:20:55 +0000 The US government secretly built a Cuban Twitter designed to stir up unrest in that country, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

The program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International development, and run through a series of  shell corporations and foreign banks, was called ZunZuneo, Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet.

At its peak the project reached 40, 00 Cubans, sharing news and opinions. None, however, were aware the network “was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes.”

The U.S. government planned to build their user base through “non-controversial content,” like news messages on soccer, music or hurricane updates.

Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

The clandestine social network relied on text messaging to evade Cuba’a restricted internet access.

Under U.S. law, cover operations by a federal agency require presidential approval. Officials at USAID refused to say who authorized the program or if the White House was aware of its existence.

“On the face of it there are several aspects about this that are troubling,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told AP.

“There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had no idea this was a U.S. government-funded activity. There is the clandestine nature of the program that was not disclosed to the appropriations subcommittee with oversight responsibility. And there is the disturbing fact that it apparently activated shortly after Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who was sent to Cuba to help provide citizens access to the Internet, was arrested.”

ZunZuneo is no longer running, according to AP, after disappearing suddenly in 2012.


photo by: Boggin
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Turkish ISPs intercepting Google DNS, re-enabling Twitter ban Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:30:06 +0000 Turkish ISPs have been intercepting Google’s public DNS service, the company revealed Saturday, likely as an attempt to block access to Twitter and YouTube.

Many in Turkey turned to Google’s DNS to get around the government’s ban of the two social media sites. Google claims that by intercepting the service, ISPs are able to redirect users back to their own services, thereby re-enabling the ban.

“Imagine if someone had changed out your phone book with another one, which looks pretty much the same as before, except that the listings for a few people showed the wrong phone number. That’s essentially what’s happened: Turkish ISPs have set up servers that masquerade as Google’s DNS service,” software engineer Steven Carstensen wrote on the Google Online Security blog.

The move comes on the eve of Sunday’s local elections.

Last week Prime Minister Erdogan vowed to “wipe out” Twitter in Turkey. In 2013 he called social media “the worst menace to society.”

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has faced a growing opposition on social media. For over a month now, leaked recordings of the Prime Minister and his senior officials have been uploaded and shared across Twitter and YouTube, implicating Erdogan and the AKP in a massive and complicated corruption scandal.

In one recording a man sounding like the Prime Minister instructs his son to hide tens of millions of dollars in cash from police investigators.

On Wednesday, before the government moved to shut down YouTube, a leak was released  of senior officials discussing the possibility of sending troops into neighboring Syria.

Photo by: Kaan Seyzum

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Struggling Blackberry wins ban against sales of Typo keyboard case Sat, 29 Mar 2014 18:42:04 +0000 At the behest of Blackberry, a California judge has put a preliminary ban on the sale of Typo’s $99 iPhone keyboard case.

Blackberry first filed suit against Typo, owned in part by Ryan Seacrest, in January, saying the keyboard case was “an obvious knockoff” of its own designs.

In his ruling on Friday, Judge William Orrick said “BlackBerry has established a likelihood of proving that Typo infringes the patents at issue and Typo has not presented a substantial question of the validity of those patents.”

Typo, who will seek to appeal the decision, expressed their disappointment on Friday, telling Bloomberg Businessweek

that they will “continue to make and sell innovative products that busy people can’t live without.”

Blackberry, of course, was pleased with the ruling. “While we are flattered by the desire to graft our keyboard onto other smartphones, we will not tolerate the deliberate use of our iconic design without proper permission,” the company said in a statement.

The decision is a much needed win for the company. Earlier on Friday, CEO John Chen announced sales would not grow until the fiscal year beginning next March. Chen also unveiled plans to relaunch the three-year-old Blackberry Bold, the demand for which has far outpaced that of their current Blackberry 10 lineup of smartphones.

The company reported income of $976 million in their fourth quarter earnings statement, down 64 per cent from the same time last year.

photo by: liewcf
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Microsoft releases Office software suite for iPad Fri, 28 Mar 2014 12:22:29 +0000 In his first public appearance since starting becoming Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella unveiled the company’s latest product, Office for iPad.

During the press conference held on Thursday in San Francisco, Nadella said that Microsoft is embracing the “magical coming together of the cloud and mobile” by releasing its products on multiple platforms.

The Office suite can be downloaded for free from the App Store on devices running iOS 7. The productivity applications allow users to view and present Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents.

However, users who want to edit documents or create new ones will need have a subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 service. A video displaying the features of the Office for iPad shows that the tablet software can be used alongside Office software on desktop computers. It supports collaborative editing and integration into OneDrive.

“We thought a lot about what people want to do when they’re on their iPad. We reimagined Office on the iPad, while retaining what people love about Office. In the future, we will bring Office apps to the Windows Store and other popular platforms,” said Microsoft’s John Case.

Microsoft is currently giving new users a free one month trial to test Office 365 before committing to paying for a subcription.

Image by OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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