Category: Mobile

North Korea turns to robbing banks

When he is not lobbing missiles into the Sea of Japan, shooting his rivals with anti-aircraft guns or having his brother poisoned, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is taking time out to rob Western banks.

Cyber security outfit Symantec said that a North Korean hacking group known as Lazarus was likely behind a recent cyber campaign targeting organizations in 31 countries, following high-profile attacks on Bangladesh Bank, Sony and South Korea.

Writing in its corporate bog Symantec said researchers have uncovered four pieces of digital evidence suggesting the Lazarus group was behind the campaign that sought to infect victims with “loader” software used to stage attacks by installing other malicious programs.

Symantec researcher Eric Chien said that it was reasonably certain Lazarus was responsible.

The North Korean government has denied allegations it was involved in the hacks, and said its glorious leader was at a wine and cheese evening when the attacks happened and there were nearly a dozen generals who can give him an alibi.

Symantec said it did not know if any money had been stolen. Nonetheless, Symantec said the claim was significant because the group used a more sophisticated targeting approach than in previous campaigns.

Lazarus has already been blamed for a string of hacks dating back to at least 2009, including last year’s $81 million heist from Bangladesh’s central bank, the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment that crippled its network for weeks and a long-running campaign against organizations in South Korea.

Symantec has one of the world’s largest teams of malware researchers, regularly analyses emerging cyber threats to help can defend businesses, governments and consumers that use its security products.

The firm analyzed the hacking campaign last month when news surfaced that Polish banks had been infected with malware. At the time, Symantec said it had “weak evidence” to blame Lazarus.

Symantec said the latest campaign was launched by infecting websites that intended victims were likely to visit, which is known as a “watering hole” attack.

ZTE pays $900 million fine

 

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has agreed to plead guilty and pay up in a US sanctions case, drawing a line under a damaging scandal that had threatened its cut off its supply chain.

While the fine was larger than expected, ZTE, also a major smartphone maker, reported robust underlying earnings for 2016 and was upbeat in estimates for the first quarter.

A five-year investigation found ZTE conspired to evade US embargoes by buying US components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.

It also made 283 shipments of telecommunications equipment to North Korea.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that ZTE Corporation not only violated export controls that keep sensitive American technology out of the hands of hostile regimes like Iran’s, they lied … about their illegal acts,”

But ZTE relies on US suppliers for 25 percent to 30 percent of its components, many of which are key to its goods. It buys about $2.6 billion worth of components a year from US firms. This includes  Qualcomm, Microsoft and Intel.

ZTE Chief Executive Zhao Xianming said in a statement that his outfit acknowledges the mistakes it made, takes responsibility for them, and remains committed to positive change in the company.

The company agreed to a seven-year suspended denial of export privileges, which could be activated if there are further violations, as well as three years of probation, a compliance and ethics program, and a corporate monitor.

It also agreed to an additional penalty of $300 million that will be suspended during the seven-year term on the condition the company complies with requirements in the agreement.

ZTE has replaced executives allegedly involved, including naming a new president.

The company said it slid to a preliminary net loss of $342 million in 2016, its first loss in four years, due to the settlement.

Jim Mackey leaves Blackberry

Blackberry head of corporate development and strategy,Jim Mackey has quietly cleaned out his desk and snuck out of the building without anyone noticing.

Mackey left the company in the middle of February and it appears that no-one has thought to alert the media. The move does dump Blackberry in it somewhat as it lacks leadership as it tried to move from smartphone hardware to software.

Mackey, who was executive vice president, executive operations, made his own announcement on social notworking site Linkedin. He did not give a reason and became unavailable for comment.

Blackberry, which in late 2013 issued a press release on the hiring of Mackey, did not announce his exit. Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard refused to answer any questions either.

Mackey worked directly with Blackberry Chief Executive John Chen, navigating the purchase and integration of a string of acquisitions and the signing of major partnership agreements.

Beard said in the interview that the company had largely completed its software portfolio and needed to push hard to win more customers, including by adding partners.

“The biggest issue we have is not getting invited to the table because the customer doesn’t know that BlackBerry is doing that. That’s the challenge.”

New drivers using smartphones could lose their licence

Under tough new rules in England, Scotland and Wales, drivers caught using a phone within two years of passing their test will have their licence revoked.

The tough new penalties for using a phone at the wheel double from March 1 to six points and a £200 fine. New drivers who get six points or more must retake their practical and theory.

More experienced drivers can be banned if they get 12 points in three years. This means that checking your social media or texts when queuing in traffic or stopped at traffic lights could cost you your licence.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for what you can be charged with too. In the UK coppers could charge people with shedloads of other offences if they are seen being on their mobile phones.

You can use your phones sat nav as long as the phone is mounted in a hands-free holder.

It appears that Blighty coppers have had enough of accidents caused by people using their mobile phones. Cognitive testing shows that smartphone use when driving is about the same as being over the drinking and driving limit. Goodness knows what would happen if you are drink driving and checking your emails.

Trump’s FCC boss calls Net Neutrality a mistake

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said today that net neutrality was “a mistake” and the Commission was taking steps to turn it into a telco’s wet dream.

Pai said that net neutrality injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market and uncertainty was the enemy of growth.

To be fair Pai has always been opposed to net neutrality and voted against the proposal when it came up in 2015. He had been widely expected to dismantle net neutrality to allow telos to charge people what they like. Basically, Pai’s thinks that internet providers were doing just fine under the old rules and that the new ones have hurt investment.

Both of those points have been discounted. There’s little competition in the wired broadband market, and Consumerist investigated the investment claims in early 2016 and found that internet providers were estimated to spend more in the coming year.

“Today, the torch at the FCC has been passed to a new generation, dedicated to renewal as well as change. We are confident in the decades-long, cross-party consensus on light-touch internet regulation … and we are on track to returning to that successful approach,” Pai said.

He cites the commission’s approval of zero-rating schemes — this, he says, is exactly why all four carriers are now offering unlimited data plans.

This is also rubbish as zero rating isn’t involved in these plans at all. Telcos offer highly competitive unlimited data plans because the last FCC chairman kept them in a competitive environment, leaving four nationwide wireless providers and a clear set of rules for them to follow.

Pai seems to think that the FCC should do nothing unless there’s a huge market failure and that competition can preserve an open internet even without rules.

The fact that the US telcos are hardly in competition and well just use their quasi-monopoly powers to double charge heavy web users is no part of Pai’s reality.

Apple tries to appease Trump with some strange numbers

The fruity tax-dodging cargo-cult Apple has told the world that it spent roughly $50 billion last year using US-based suppliers.

The move is an attempt to suggest to the US president Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump that Apple does not really make all its gear in foreign parts.  Apple has previously not mentioned this figure before.

Speaking at an annual shareholder meeting, Cook gave the previously undisclosed data at a time when Apple has come under pressure from President Donald Trump for building its iPhones in China.

“We’re always looking for more ways to help our country. We know that Apple can only exist in the US,” Cook told shareholders.

Cook named 3M and Corning as US companies which Apple buys its stuff from.  But the figures look rather strange and fly in the face of similar announcements a few years ago. In 2013 Apple said it spent Apple Spent Over $3 billion with 7,000 US business suppliers.  That announcement was touted as proof that Jobs Mob was building out its US supply chain.

Named by Cook were US companies 3M and Corning Glass.  The figure sounds quite high but given that an iPhone costs $200 to make and Apple sold 290 million of them in 2016 that means that the total cost was $58 billion. So Cook expects the world to believe that most of Apple’s manufacturing dollar was spent in the US?  Even if Cook’s figure does not just cover the iPhone, it strikes us a trifle high.

The good side about announcing a figure like that is that no one can check it.

 

Axeman looms large at Huawei

Staff at Huawei fear jobs cuts after internal memos highlighted intense pressure to improve earnings.

A key executive said the flagship smartphone business had missed internal profit targets and lost its top spot in China, the world’s biggest market, to new contender Oppo last year.

Richard Yu, head of its consumer business division that includes mobile device operation said mobile gear is still profitable but the profit margin is very low.

In an internal memo sent last Friday, Huawei Group founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei urged all employees to work hard, saying the company would otherwise “fall apart”.

“Thirty-something strong men, don’t work hard, just want to count money in bed, is that possible? Huawei will not pay for those that don’t work hard.”

This has rattled Huawei’s 170,000-strong workforce, 45 percent of which are in research and development,which is probably one of the least secure areas to be working.

“We are now all thinking more of the next steps, realising permanent employment with the company is no longer a given,” one worker moaned to the press.

According to company insiders, Huawei maintained its five percent annual quota to eliminate the worst performers, but was seen indirectly pushing underperformers out by asking them to relocate to undesirable posts.

“Huawei does not have a layoff plan,” the company said in an emailed response, declining further comment.

Consumer business chief Yu said in his New Year’s address to staff that the company needed to adhere to a “streamline strategy” in personnel as well as product portfolio as it must make profitability its focus in 2017.

“We will seek to improve efficiency and profitability by focusing on organizations at all levels, every employee, and every detail, and strictly control costs and risks to ensure sound development, ” Yu said.

“We will not tolerate low-performing managers, and prioritize removal of managers who fail to make noteworthy improvements after working in a position for several years.”

 

Nokia releases ancient phone

Nokia has just released a brightly coloured version of the classic 3310 talk and text phone which was the world’s most popular device 17 years ago.

Yup, it looks like we are all waking up in the Year 2000, the only thing different is a slightly bigger screen and a $52 price tag.  You can have 22 hours of talk time and up to one month of standby time too.

The 3310 is a retro gambit and Nokia also launched four moderately priced smartphones ranging from 139 to 299 euros.

Nokia Chief Executive Rajeev Suri told a news conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that people loved the brand and claimed it had a lot of affection from millions and millions of people.

Once the world’s dominant phonemaker, Nokia in 2014 sold its by-then ailing handset operations to Microsoft for $7 billion, leaving it with its network equipment business and a large patent portfolio.

Last year, it gave the Nokia brand a fresh start by licensing its devices brand to HMD Global, a new company led by ex-Nokia executives and backed by Chinese electronics giant Foxconn.

Industry analysts say the revived Nokia 3310 has the makings of one of the hit devices of 2017, appealing to older Nokia fans in developed markets looking for an antidote to smartphone overload, while also appealing to younger crowds in emerging markets.

The original 3310 sold 126 million phones, the 12th best-selling phone model in history. Nine of the top 12 selling models were produced by Nokia.

The other three three smartphones are cheap Androids. The Nokia 6 smartphone has a 5.5-inch screen, the Nokia 5 with a 5.2-inch screen and the Nokia 3 with a 5.0-inch screen.

It also offered a limited edition of the Nokia 6 with added features retailing for around 299 euros.

 

Sony releases the world’s fastest SD card

Sony has expanded its memory card line-up with the addition of the SF-G series cards – offering what it is claiming some rather impressive ultra-high-speed read and write times.

The SF-G series is supposed to be the world’s fastest SD card and is designed for high-performance DSLR or mirrorlesscameras, offering up to 299MB/sii write speeds, contributing to longer high-speed continuous burst mode shooting for high-resolution images with cameras supporting UHS-II.

Sony said the SF-G cards will allow more effective continuous burst mode shooting for high-resolution images so long as the camera in question supports UHS-II.

Write speeds will also be of considerable benefit to the wide range of high-end DSLR and mirrorless cameras that are capable of shooting 4K quality video. Faster write speeds also mean a shorter buffer clearing time, when shooting fast-moving action.

The series’ read speed is reaches up to 300MB/s, resulting in faster and smoother performance when transferring large files across to other devices for editing and sharing.

Available in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB from March 2017, all versions of the cards are compatible with Sony’s free file rescue software, for recovering lost content. No word on pricing yet.

Alongside the SF-G series, Sony has also introduced a new memory card reader, the MRW-S1, due for release in April. It features an in-built SuperSpeed USB port for cable-free PC connection, so that your files can be copied faster than by using the slower SD slot on a PC.

EE to build drones and balloons for better reception

UK telco EE has unveiled plans to deliver mobile and wireless broadband connectivity to internet blackspots via drones and helium balloons.

The company noted that its ‘air mast’ solution will be able to bolster 4G data services in rural locations, at major events, or in areas where natural disasters, such as flooding, have damaged traditional infrastructure.

EE CEO Marc Allera said that customers would be able to request a balloon with a mobile signal to hover over a certain area, providing them with an ‘on demand’ data service.

Dubbed ‘Helikites’ the sites will include a base station and antennae tethered to helium balloons. EE hopes to launch the first Helikite balloons later this year.

Drone technology is also under development to support the Helikite solution, it will not be introduced for the next year or two.

“I see innovations like this revolutionising the way people connect. We’re developing the concept of ‘coverage on demand”, said Allera.

The idea is that an event organiser could request a temporary EE capacity increase in a rural area, or a climber going up Ben Nevis could order an EE aerial coverage solution to follow them as they climb,

“We need to innovate, and we need to think differently, always using customers’ needs to drive the way we create new technologies,” he added.

The company also provided details on a fleet of rapid response vehicles (RRVs) which will be used to provide 4G connectivity to police, fire and ambulance services under a contract with the Emergency Services Network (ESN). At least to start with, Helikites are not expected to be used in the ESN programme.

EE is currently upgrading over 100 sites to 4G every week as part of its aim to reach 92 percent geographic coverage in the UK over the course of 2017. The company is also rolling out an additional 3,000 sites using low 800MHz spectrum to be able to reach further distances in rural areas and improve indoor coverage.