Biotech

Researcher Hacks Nine Sleep-Tracking Devices To Test Their Accuracy (brown.edu) 44

A determined researcher at Brown University extracted "the previously irretrievable sleep tracking data from the Hello Sense, from the Microsoft Band, and nine other popular devices," according to an anonymous reader, "by decompiling the apps and using man-in-the-middle attacks." Then they compared each device's data to that from a research-standard actigraph. Their results? The Fitbit Alta seems to be the most accurate among the other nine in terms of sleep versus awake data... Our findings tell that these consumer-level sleep reports should be taken with a grain of salt, but regardless we're happy to see more and more people investing in improving their sleep.
Cellphones

UK Group Fights Arrest Over Refusing To Surrender Passwords At The Border (theguardian.com) 284

An anonymous reader quotes The Guardian: The human rights group Cage is preparing to mount a legal challenge to UK anti-terrorism legislation over a refusal to hand over mobile and laptop passwords to border control officials at air terminals, ports and international rail stations... The move comes after its international director, Muhammad Rabbani, a UK citizen, was arrested at Heathrow airport in November for refusing to hand over passwords. Rabbani, 35, has been detained at least 20 times over the past decade when entering the UK, under schedule 7 of terrorism legislation that provides broad search powers, but this was the first time he had been arrested... On previous occasions, when asked for his passwords, he said he had refused and eventually his devices were returned to him and he was allowed to go. But there was a new twist this time: when he refused to reveal his passwords, he was arrested under schedule 7 provisions of the terrorism act and held overnight at Heathrow Polar Park police station before being released on bail. He expects to be charged on Wednesday.
Rabbani "argues that the real objective...is not stopping terrorists entering the UK, but as a tool to build up a huge data bank on thousands of UK citizens." And his position drew support from Jim Killock, executive director of the UK-based Open Rights Group. "Investigations should take place when there is actual suspicion, and the police should be able to justify their actions on that basis, rather than using wide-ranging powers designed for border searches."
China

China Is On Track To Fully Phase Out Cash (vice.com) 212

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Motherboard: Experts believe it won't be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, becomes the first to go totally cashless. In a poky sex toy shop in Sanlitun shopping district in central Beijing, a placard with a QR code is strategically placed next to a pink, vein-knobbled dildo called the Super Emperor, and a clitoral pump. Just scan your phone, and walk out with your purchase. The cigarette vendor across the street accepts smartphone payments too. A fast-moving queue of customers purchase smokes by scanning their phones over a tatty cardboard QR code. All the bars in Sanlitun, equal parts seedy and swish, still take cash, but have likewise implemented cashless pay, largely through the ubiquitous WeChat and Alipay app, as primary payment platforms. Beijing taxi drivers accept smartphone payments too. No one in the area uses physical money, for sex toys or otherwise. Largely due to China's vibrant fintech landscape, the recent rise of phone payments in the country has shunted cash onto the endangered list, perhaps somewhere alongside the pangolin. Many experts believe it won't be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, also becomes the first to phase it out to become fully cashless. But when will this moment come?
Blackberry

BlackBerry KeyOne Review By The Verge: Part Productivity, Part Nostalgia (theverge.com) 34

Dan Seifert reviews the new BlackBerry KeyOne flagship smartphone via The Verge. Here's an excerpt from the report: It was in about the third hour of using the new BlackBerry KeyOne, available this month for $549 unlocked, that I started to question my longtime preference for touchscreen keyboards. Because as I was pushing on the KeyOne's tiny little buttons with the tips of my thumbs, I remembered why some people still have such an affinity for these things. It wasn't that I was able to type faster with the BlackBerry's keyboard (I wasn't), or that I was more accurate with it (I still used autocorrect). It was that I felt like I was more productive when using it. I wasn't wasting time tweeting nonsense or sending emoji in ephemeral messages. I was sending important emails, working with my colleagues in Slack, creating and completing to-do lists, and adding appointments to my calendar. I was Getting Shit Done. Getting shit done is really the entire ethos of the new KeyOne, and arguably, the many BlackBerry devices that preceded it. The KeyOne is a phone for a very specific person, one that longs for the days when the BlackBerry Bold was the most important device in the office and the majority of business communications happened over email. It's not the best choice for watching hours of YouTube videos, sending thousands of Snaps, or reading novel-length ebooks (though it can technically do all of those things). It is for sending email. Lots of email.
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.
Government

NSA Collected Americans' Phone Records Despite Law Change, Says Report (reuters.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. National Security Agency collected more than 151 million records of Americans' phone calls last year, even after Congress limited its ability to collect bulk phone records, according to an annual report issued on Tuesday by the top U.S. intelligence officer. The report from the office of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was the first measure of the effects of the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which limited the NSA to collecting phone records and contacts of people U.S. and allied intelligence agencies suspect may have ties to terrorism. It found that the NSA collected the 151 million records even though it had warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to spy on only 42 terrorism suspects in 2016, in addition to a handful identified the previous year. The report came as Congress faced a decision on whether to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permits the NSA to collect foreign intelligence information on non-U.S. persons outside the United States, and is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.
Cellphones

Neowin: Microsoft's Windows Phone Business 'Is Dead' (neowin.net) 180

An anonymous reader quote Neowin: If you've been expecting Microsoft to issue a press release formally announcing the end of its Windows phone business, you're probably hoping for a bit too much. But make no mistake: its phone hardware business is dead. RIP-dead. Send-flowers-dead. Worm-food-dead. Some fans, and even some in the media, have consistently refused to acknowledge this, despite the clear signs in recent quarters. Now, Microsoft's own figures, and its statements regarding its phone division, should make it irrefutably clear that there is no life left in its Windows phone business.

During the quarter ending in December, Microsoft's phone revenue dropped to just $200 million, which included some sales of feature phones, before the company completed its sale of that business unit to Foxconn in November. That figure has now dropped to virtually nothing... Today, as Microsoft published its earnings report for Q3 FY2017, it revealed that its "Phone revenue declined $730 million". Based on its earlier financial disclosures, that means the company's phone hardware revenue fell to just $5 million for the entire quarter ending March 31, 2017. During Microsoft's earnings call today, its chief financial officer, Amy Hood, acknowledged this, stating that there was "no material phone revenue this quarter". The outlook for the next few months is similarly bleak, as Hood predicted "negligible revenue from Phone" in the coming quarter.

Network

Slashdot Asks: Which Wireless Carrier Do You Prefer? 208

Earlier this year, telecommunications giants like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint were battling to see who could release the best unlimited data plan(s). T-Mobile started the domino chain reaction with the launch of its "One" unlimited plan in August. But the competition became especially fierce in February when Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own, causing Sprint and AT&T to unveil new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. Each of the four major carriers have since continued to tweak their plans to ultimately undercut their competitors and retain as many customers are possible.

Given how almost everyone has a smartphone these days and the thirst for data has never been higher, we'd like to ask you about your current wireless carrier and plan. Which wireless carrier and plan do you have any why? Is there any one carrier or unlimited data plan that stands out from the others? T-Mobile, for example, recently announced that it added 1.1 million customers in Q1 2017, which means that it has added more than 1 million customers every quarter for the past four years. Have they managed to earn your business? MyRatePlan has a good breakdown of the current unlimited data plans on the market today.
Canada

'Breakthrough' LI-RAM Material Can Store Data With Light (ctvnews.ca) 104

A Vancouver researcher has patented a new material that uses light instead of electricity to store data. An anonymous reader writes: LI-RAM -- that's light induced magnetoresistive random-access memory -- promises supercomputer speeds for your cellphones and laptops, according to Natia Frank, the materials scientist at the University of Victoria who developed the new material as part of an international effort to reduce the heat and power consumption of modern processors. She envisions a world of LI-RAM mobile devices which are faster, thinner, and able to hold much more data -- all while consuming less power and producing less heat.

And best of all, they'd last twice as long on a single charge (while producing almost no heat), according to a report on CTV News, which describes this as "a breakthrough material" that will not only make smartphones faster and more durable, but also more energy-efficient. The University of Victoria calculates that's 10% of the world's electricity is consumed by "information communications technology," so LI-RAM phones could conceivably cut that figure in half.

They also report that the researcher is "working with international electronics manufacturers to optimize and commercialize the technology, and says it could be available on the market in the next 10 years."
Cellphones

Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time (independent.co.uk) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."
Cellphones

Scientists Prove Your Phone's PIN Can Be Stolen Using Its Gyroscope Data (digitaltrends.com) 61

A team of scientists at Newcastle University in the UK managed to reveal a user's phone PIN code using its gyroscope data. "In one test, the team cracked a passcode with 70 percent accuracy," reports Digital Trends. "By the fifth attempt, the accuracy had gone up to 100 percent." From the report: It takes a lot of data, to be sure. The Guardian notes users had to type 50 known PINs five times before the researchers' algorithm learned how they held a phone when typing each particular number. But it highlights the danger of malicious apps that gain access to a device's sensors without requesting permission. The risk extends beyond PIN codes. In total, the team identified 25 different smartphone sensors which could expose compromising user information. Worse still, only a small number -- such as the camera and GPS -- ask the user's permission before granting access to that data. It's precise enough to track behavior. Using an "orientation" and "emotion trace" data, the researchers were able to determine what part of a web page a user was clicking on and what they were typing. The paper has been published in International Journal of Information Security.
Cellphones

FCC Kills Plan To Allow Mobile Phone Conversations On Flights (pcworld.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: On Monday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission killed a plan to allow mobile phone calls during commercial airline flights. Since 2013, the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration have considered allowing airline passengers to talk on the phones during flights, although the FAA also proposed rules requiring airlines to give passengers notice if they planned to allow phone calls. The plan to allow mobile phone calls on flights drew sharp objections from some passengers and flight attendants who had visions of dozens of passengers trying to talk over each other for entire flights. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday killed his agency's 2013 proceeding that sought to relax rules governing the use of mobile phones on airplanes. Under the FCC proposal, airlines would have decided if they allowed mobile phone conversations during flights.
Cellphones

Scientists Invent Smartphone Screen Material That Can Repair Its Own Scratches (ibtimes.co.uk) 55

drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Researchers say they have developed a new material that could pave the way for self-repairing smartphones, robots and other electronic devices. Scientists from the American Chemical Society claim that the material, which can stretch up to 50 times its usual size, is able to heal itself "like nothing has happened" even when cut in two. The material is flexible, transparent and shares similar properties to human skin. When exposed to electrical signals, a current is generated that creates a chemical bonding reaction between molecules. The most obvious applications for electronics devices seems to be self-healing displays, although lead researcher Dr Chao Wang is also exploring the possibility of a self-healing lithium-ion battery. While the technology is similar to the hydrogen-infused rear cover found on the LG G Flex, which allows for small scratches to be healed, the material developed by the American Medical Society is a completely new innovation that can "automatically stitch itself back together" within one day of being sliced into pieces. The team will present its research at a Tuesday meeting of the American Chemical Society, according to Business Insider.
Cellphones

Smartphones May Be To Blame For Unprecedented Spike In Pedestrian Deaths, Says Report (cnn.com) 200

According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, the United States saw its largest annual increase in pedestrian fatalities since such record keeping began 40 years ago. "The [association] estimated there were 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than 20 years," reports CNN. "Since 2010, pedestrian fatalities have grown at four times the rate of overall traffic deaths." From the report: The thing that has changed dramatically in recent years is smartphone use. The volume of wireless data used from 2014 to 2015 more than doubled, according to the Wireless Association. Drivers and pedestrians who are distracted by their smartphones are less likely to be aware of their surroundings, creating the potential for danger. The Governors Highway Safety Association looked at data from the first six months of 2016 that came from 50 state highway safety offices and the District of Columbia. The complete data will be available later this year. The findings come as traffic safety experts have called for totally eliminating deaths on roadways. Near-term solutions include designing roads and vehicles to be safer. Cutting down on speeding and drunk driving are obvious targets.
Cellphones

Is Microsoft Building A Foldable 'Surface' Phone? (hothardware.com) 100

"This past week, Microsoft received a new patent for a foldable handset, and once again there are rumors that it is related to the long awaited, mythical Surface Phone," writes HardOCP, noting Samsung and LG are also rumored to be working on foldable phones. An anonymous reader quotes Hot Hardware: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made it clear that he doesn't want to kick out just another run-of-the-mill smartphone that looks and functions like every other device out there, but one that is unique in some aspect... This is not the first time Microsoft has filed a patent for what could be a folding Surface Phone. Just two months ago it was discovered that Microsoft filed a patent for a "Mobile Computing Device Having a Flexible Hinge Structure"...
Microsoft's patents include curved edges "intended to draw light away from the gaps, which would create an optical illusion of one continuous image," according to the article. "In this way, Microsoft could create a folding phone with multiple active displays appearing as a single, continuous image."
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.
Cellphones

Wells Fargo: All ATMs Will Take Phone Codes, Not Just Cards (go.com) 71

Given the prevalence of smartphones nowadays, Wells Fargo has announced plans to upgrade all 13,000 of its ATMs next week to allow customers to access their money using their cellphones instead of traditional bank cards. Wells Fargo would be the first to upgrade all of its ATMs with the feature across the United States. ABC News reports: To access their money, customers would get unique eight-digit codes from their Wells Fargo smartphone app, and enter the code into the ATM along with their PIN number. The machines will still accept debit cards as well. One limitation of the one-time code, though, is that it won't work on the secure doors that many branches have for non-business hours that require a customer to swipe an ATM or debit card to gain entry. Wells Fargo said those secure doors are found at a small percentage of branches, mostly in major metropolitan areas like New York City or Chicago. Wells said it plans to roll out another upgrade to its ATMs later this year, which will allow customers to access the ATMs by holding their smartphones up to a reader on the machine, instead of entering the eight-digit code. It would be similar to using Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, the bank said.
Crime

Your Hotel Room Photos Could Help Catch Sex Traffickers (cnn.com) 151

100,000 people people have already downloaded an app that helps fight human trafficking. dryriver summarizes a report from CNN: Police find an ad for paid sex online. It's an illegally trafficked underage girl posing provocatively in a hotel room. But police don't know where this hotel room is -- what city, what neighborhood, what hotel or hotel room. This is where the TraffickCam phone app comes in. When you're staying at a hotel, you take pictures of your room... The app logs the GPS data (location of the hotel) and also analyzes what's in the picture -- the furniture, bed sheets, carpet and other visual features. This makes the hotel room identifiable. Now when police come across a sex trafficking picture online, there is a database of images that may reveal which hotel room the picture was taken in.
"Technology drives everything we do nowadays, and this is just one more tool that law enforcement can use to make our job a little safer and a little bit easier," says Sergeant Adam Kavanaugh, supervisor of the St. Louis County Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Task Force. "Right now we're just beta testing the St. Louis area, and we're getting positive hits," he says (meaning ads that match hotel-room photos in the database). But the app's creators hope to make it available to all U.S. law enforcement within the next few months, and eventually globally, so their app is already collecting photographs from hotel rooms around the world to be stored for future use.
Government

CBS Reports 'Suspicious' Cell Phone Tower Activity In Washington DC (cbsnews.com) 188

"An unusually high amount of suspicious cell phone activity in the nation's capital has caught the attention of the Department of Homeland Security, raising concerns that U.S. officials are being monitored by a foreign entity," reports CBS News: The issue was first reported in the Washington Free Beacon, but a source at telecom security firm ESD America confirmed the spike in suspicious activity to CBS News. ESD America, hired preemptively for a DHS pilot program this January called ESD Overwatch, first noticed suspicious activity around cell phone towers in certain parts of the capital, including near the White House. This kind of activity can indicate that someone is monitoring specific individuals or their devices... According to the ESD America source, the first such spike of activity was in D.C. but there have been others in other parts of the country. Based on the type of technology used, the source continued, it is likely that the suspicious activity was being conducted by a foreign nation.
The news coincides with a letter sent to the DHS by two congressmen "deeply concerned" about vulnerabilities in the SS7 protocol underlying U.S. cellular networks, according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Trailrunner7. Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Ted Lieu are asking if the agency has enough resources to address the threat. "Although there have been a few news stories about this topic, we suspect that most Americans simply have no idea how easy it is for a relatively sophisticated adversary to track their movements, tap their calls, and hack their smartphones."
Youtube

YouTube To Discontinue Video Annotations Because They Never Worked On Mobile (theverge.com) 61

You know those notes found plastered on many YouTube videos, often asking for you to "CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE?" Well, they're called annotations and they're being replaced with what YouTube calls "End Screen and Cards," which are mobile-friendly tools that let content creators poll their audience, link to merchandise, recommend videos, and more. Unlike annotations, they work on mobile and are designed to be less obnoxious to viewers. The Verge reports: YouTube says it made this change primarily because annotations didn't work on mobile and most viewers found them obnoxious and unhelpful. The change takes effect on May 2nd, and existing annotations will continue to show up when using the desktop browser version of YouTube. YouTube annotations have felt increasingly outdated and out of place. The small text boxes were meant as a way to let creators link to other videos, write in little jokes, and add ancillary information to a video much like a hyperlink or footnote of sorts. But over the years, annotation use has drastically fallen off, by 70 percent, YouTube product manager Muli Salem says. In fact, a majority of viewers interact with annotations only to close them, so the boxes don't obstruct the video screen. Many users turn them off altogether. So now YouTube is investing entirely in End Screens and Cards, and making both tools easier to use and faster to implement.

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