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Privacy

Connected Cars Don't Necessarily Disconnect Previous Owners When Resold (thedrive.com) 111

A modern car should be treated like a personal computer. Before you sell it, you should make sure all connections are severed and personal information is wiped before handing the keys to the buyer. The Drive reports of a former Volkswagen owner who recently discovered that her connection to her car lingered even after her old car was sold to a new owner. In what may seem like a public service announcement, The Drive writes: "It's up to you to wipe out your data and connections, not the dealer or manufacturer." From the report: Ashley Sehatti sold her 2015 Jetta back to her local VW dealer back in December. Like most car owners, she figured that was the end of it. So she was baffled when she continued to get monthly reports about her car's health. After receiving April's report, she attempted to log into her account for Car-Net, Volkswagen's connected car service. Much to Sehatti's surprise, she found that not only was her account still active, she still had access to her old car. She could see its current mileage, the status of its locks and lights, and, most disturbingly, its current location on a map. Sehatti was not aware that she, not Volkswagen or her dealer, was responsible for disabling access to Car-Net when she sold the car. Its new owner likely didn't sign up for the Car-Net service, which meant that Sehatti's access remained available, even though she didn't even want it. "Our Car-Net Terms of Service explicitly outlines that as a subscriber, the customer has the responsibility to terminate the contract when selling their vehicle," writes Catharina Mette, the head of technology communications for Volkswagen Group's North Americas region. "This is a practice common in the industry." The takeaway here is to read the Terms of Service because most car owners don't do so in any great detail.
Wireless Networking

Researchers Want To Turn Your Entire House Into a Co-Processor Using the Local Wi-Fi Signal (arstechnica.com) 102

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: Researchers are proposing an idea to make your computer bigger. They are suggesting an extreme and awesome form of co-processing. They want to turn your entire house into a co-processor using the local Wi-Fi signal. Why, you may be asking, do we even want to do this in the first place? The real answer is to see if we can. But the answer given to funding agencies is thermal management. In a modern processor, if all the transistors were working all the time, it would be impossible to keep the chip cool. Instead, portions of the chip are put to sleep, even if that might mean slowing up a computation. But if, like we do with video cards, we farm out a large portion of certain calculations to a separate device, we might be able to make better use of the available silicon.

So, how do you compute with Wi-Fi in your bedroom? The basic premise is that waves already perform computations as they mix with each other, it's just that those computations are random unless we make some effort to control them. When two waves overlap, we measure the combination of the two: the amplitude of one wave is added to the amplitude of the other. Depending on the history of the two waves, one may have a negative amplitude, while the other may have a positive amplitude, allowing for simple computation. The idea here is to control the path that each wave takes so that, when they're added together, they perform the exact computation that we want them to. The classic example is the Fourier transform. A Fourier transform takes an object and breaks it down into a set of waves. If these waves are added together, the object is rebuilt. You can see an example of this in the animation here.

Cellphones

Facebook's Phone-Free, Wireless 'Oculus Go' VR Headset Is Released Today 34

UnknownSoldier writes: The Oculus Go is finally available for purchase. Amazon is selling the 32GB model for $199, while the 64GB model is selling for $249. As a standalone virtual reality unit, it doesn't require a computer or phone to use. Ironically, you must use a phone for the initial setup. Reviews are out on The Verge and Ars Technica. The TL;DR -- Pros: Inexpensive; Cons: LCD, fixed 72 Hz rate, limited motion tracking. Will 2018 finally will be the year of cheap VR?
Security

Volkswagen, Audi Cars Vulnerable To Remote Hacking (bleepingcomputer.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: "A Dutch cyber-security firm has discovered that in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems deployed with some car models from the Volkswagen Group are vulnerable to remote hacking," reports Bleeping Computer. The vulnerabilities have been successfully tested and verified on Volkswagen Golf GTE and Audi A3 Sportback e-tron models. Researchers say they were able to hack the cars via both WiFi (remote vector) and USB (local vector) connections. Researchers hinted they could have also went after the cars' braking and acceleration system, but stopped due to fear of breaking VW's intellectual property on those systems.

"Under certain conditions attackers could listen in to conversations the driver is conducting via a car kit, turn the microphone on and off, as well as gaining access to the complete address book and the conversation history," Computest researchers said in their paper. "Furthermore, due to the vulnerability, there is the possibility of discovering through the navigation system precisely where the driver has been, and to follow the car live wherever it is at any given time," researchers added. VW deployed patches.

Businesses

Will the T-Mobile, Sprint Merger Be Bad For Consumers? (vice.com) 130

On Sunday, T-Mobile and Sprint said that they have agreed to a $26.5 billion merger, creating a wireless giant to compete against industry leaders AT&T and Verizon. While a new website has been set up by the companies to help quell consumers' and regulators' fears by promising new jobs, improved broadband service, and increased competition, Motherboard's Karl Bode cites previous telecommunications mergers and Wall Street analysts to argue against the merger. From the report: The two companies attempted to merge in 2014 but had their efforts blocked by regulators who were justly worried about the deal's impact on overall competition. As Canadian wireless users can attest, the reduction of major wireless competitors from four to three only reduces the overall incentive for wireless carriers to engage in real price competition. That was the central point repeatedly made by regulators when they prohibited AT&T from gobbling up T-Mobile back in 2011. Even with four competitors, the industry frequently does its best to avoid genuine price competition, and industry watchers have noted that the overall volume of quality promotions for wireless consumers had been dropping so far in 2018. After regulators blocked the AT&T merger, T-Mobile wound up being a largely positive impact on the sector, forcing its competitors to adopt more consumer-friendly policies like eliminating long-term contracts and early termination fees. However, even with T-Mobile intact, price competition in the sector tends to be theatrical in nature.

Wall Street analysts are on record predicting that a Sprint, T-Mobile merger could result in the loss of up to 30,000 jobs -- potentially more than Sprint even currently employs. From retail operations to middle managers, there's an endless roster of human beings who, sooner or later, will be viewed as redundant. "If approved, this deal would especially hurt consumers seeking lower-cost wireless plans, as the combined company's plans would likely increase while competitors AT&T and Verizon would have even less incentive to lower prices," said Phillip Berenbroick, lawyer for the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. "Unless the merging parties can demonstrate clear competitive benefits we have yet to see, we will urge the Department of Justice and the FCC to reject this deal."

China

China is Now Monitoring Employees' Brainwaves and Emotions (fastcompany.com) 123

From a report: The Orwellian-as-all-get-out practice is being conducted using "emotional surveillance technology" by both businesses in China and the country's military, reports the South China Morning Post. The tech uses small wireless sensors embedded in employees' hats that can monitor brainwaves. That brainwave data is then analyzed by AI to tell when an employee is tired, anxious, or even full of rage. One company using the brain-monitoring tech says profits have increased by $315 million since rolling it out way back in 2014. Other uses of the tech include monitoring drivers of trains to tell if they've fallen asleep or are at risk of doing so. It's important to note the technology cannot read people's thoughts.
Communications

Sprint, T-Mobile Agree To Combine in a $26.5 Billion Merger (bloomberg.com) 105

T-Mobile and Sprint said on Sunday that they have agreed to combine in a $26.5 billion merger, creating a wireless giant to compete against industry leaders AT&T and Verizon. From a report: Deutsche Telekom AG, the Bonn, Germany-based company that controls T-Mobile, and SoftBank Group, the Tokyo-based owner of Sprint, agreed to a combination that values each Sprint share at 0.10256 of a T-Mobile share, the companies said in a statement Sunday. That ratio values Sprint at $6.62 a share based on T-Mobile's Friday closing price of $64.52. The new company will use the T-Mobile name, with T-Mobile's John Legere as chief executive officer and Mike Sievert at chief operating officer. The German company's chairman, Tim Hoettges, will serve in that role at the combined company, and the board will include SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son. The companies said they expect synergies of about $43 billion, with more than $6.5 billion on a run-rate basis.
Businesses

Apple's Working on a Powerful, Wireless Headset for Both AR, VR (cnet.com) 65

Apple CEO Tim Cook has nothing but praise for augmented reality, saying it's a technology that's potentially as important as the iPhone. It turns out he may have big plans for virtual reality too. From a report: The company is working on a headset capable of running both AR and VR technology, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans. Plans so far call for an 8K display for each eye -- higher resolution than today's best TVs -- that would be untethered from a computer or smartphone, the person said. The project, codenamed T288, is still in its early stages but is slated for release in 2020. Apple still could change or scrap its plans. It's notable that Apple is working on a headset that combines both AR and VR given its intense focus over the past year on pushing augmented reality in iPhones and iPads. Cook has said he sees bigger possibilities in AR than VR, partly because augmented reality allows you to be more present. Either way, it's vital for Apple to expand beyond its iPhones, currently its top moneymaker, and the slowing mobile market.
Businesses

Sprint, T-Mobile Aiming To Reach Merger Deal Next Week (reuters.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint have made progress in negotiating merger terms and are aiming to successfully complete deal talks as early as next week. The combined company would have more than 127 million customers and could create more formidable competition for the No.1 and No.2 wireless players, Verizon and AT&T, amid a race to expand offerings in 5G, the next generation of wireless technology. T-Mobile majority-owner Deutsche Telekom and Japan's SoftBank, which controls Sprint, are considering an agreement that would dictate how they exercise voting control over the combined company. This could allow Deutsche Telekom to consolidate the combined company on its books, even without owning a majority stake. Deutsche Telekom owns more than 63 percent of T-Mobile, while SoftBank owns 84.7 percent of Sprint. Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile are also in the process of finalizing the debt financing package they will use to fund the deal, the sources said. There is no certainty that a deal will be reached, the sources cautioned.
Communications

Old AM Broadcast Towers Get a New Life 126

Esther Schindler shares an article from Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Video may have killed the radio star, but other media certainly make old AM radio towers superfluous... maybe. "As once-loyal listeners tune away, most AM stations are barely holding onto life, slashing staff and budgets as deeply as they can while struggling to find a return to profitability," reports HPE. "Once upon a time, having a broadcast license of any kind was like having a permit to print money. In today's world, that's no longer true." But, with some 10,000 AM broadcast towers in the United States stretching high into the sky, there may be an opportunity for wireless carriers who don't want to argue with community opposition from neighborhoods where residents don't want yet another cell tower. The amount of money an AM station owner can pocket by sharing its tower with a wireless partner varies widely, depending on the tower's location, height, and several other factors. But it's certainly more income -- and a way to keep "old" technology from becoming obsolete. "Using an AM tower, which has very often been in place for many years, avoids many zoning and other permitting issues, versus going in and creating a new site for a tower," Behr explains. He says local residents, businesses, and officials rarely complain about an AM broadcast tower that suddenly begins serving as a cell site. "That tower was there before they were, and it doesn't bother them," Lawrence Behr, CEO of Greenville, North Carolina-based LBA Group, says. "Hanging a few things on it is rarely controversial, so that's a real good thing for AMs."
Wireless Networking

Apple Discontinues Its AirPort Router Line (9to5mac.com) 189

9to5Mac reports that Apple is officially exiting the wireless router business and selling off its remaining inventory of AirPort products. This includes the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and both models of the AirPort Time Capsule. "We're discontinuing the Apple AirPort base station products," Apple said in a statement to 9to5Mac. "They will be available through Apple.com, Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last." From the report: While the news is disappointing for fans of Apple's routers, the end of the AirPort line is no surprise either. Bloomberg reported back in November 2016 that Apple had disbanded the team responsible for developing Apple's routers, and in January 9to5Mac was first to report that Apple Stores started selling third-party. At the time, Apple told us that its AirPort line would remain -- with the mesh Wi-Fi routers adding a solution for larger homes: "People love our AirPort products and we continue to sell them. Connectivity is important in the home and we are giving customers yet another option that is well suited for larger homes."
Security

Hackers Built a 'Master Key' For Millions of Hotel Rooms (zdnet.com) 126

An anonymous reader writes: Security researchers have built a master key that exploits a design flaw in a popular and widely used hotel electronic lock system, allowing unfettered access to every room in the building. The electronic lock system, known as Vision by VingCard and built by Swedish lock manufacturer Assa Abloy, is used in more than 42,000 properties in 166 countries, amounting to millions of hotel rooms -- as well as garages and storage units. These electronic lock systems are commonplace in hotels, used by staff to provide granular controls over where a person can go in a hotel -- such as their room -- and even restricting the floor that the elevator stops at. And these keys can be wiped and reused when guests check-out.

It turns out these key cards aren't as secure as first thought. F-Secure's Tomi Tuominen and Timo Hirvonen, who carried out the work, said they could create a master key 'basically out of thin air.' Any key card will do. Even old and expired, or discarded keys retain enough residual data to be used in the attack. Using a handheld device running custom software, the researchers can steal data off of a key card -- either using wireless radio-frequency identification (RFID) or the magnetic stripe. That device then manipulates the stolen key data, which identifies the hotel, to produce an access token with the highest level of privileges, effectively serving as a master key to every room in the building.

Iphone

New iPhone SE Could Launch In May With Touch ID and A10 Fusion, Without 3.5mm Headphone Jack (macrumors.com) 129

Mac Rumors reports, citing Japanese website Mac Otakara, that Apple will release an updated iPhone SE next month with a similar form factor as the previous model. It is expected to retain Touch ID, but will drop the 3.5mm headphone jack. From the report: Also like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the new iPhone SE will supposedly be powered by Apple's last-generation A10 Fusion chip, up to 40 percent faster than the A9 processor in the current iPhone SE. The chip will likely enable support for the HEIF image format and HEVC video compression standard. The report speculates that the new iPhone SE may have a glass back with wireless charging capabilities, like the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, but evidence is said to be inconclusive at this time.
AT&T

AT&T, Verizon Under US Investigation For Collusion To Lock In Customers (nytimes.com) 39

bongey writes: AT&T and Verizon are currently under investigation for colluding with the GSMA standards group to thwart eSIM technology and hinder consumers from easily switching wireless carriers. eSIM technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device. According to The New York Times, the two companies "face accusations that they colluded with the GSMA to try to establish standards that would allow them to lock a device to their network even if it had eSIM technology." The Justice Department opened the investigation roughly five months ago after at least one device maker and one wireless carrier filed formal complaints. Compare cell plans at Wirefly to see the current plans being offered by AT&T and Verizon.
Wireless Networking

Planet Fitness Evacuated After WiFi Network Named 'Remote Detonator' Causes Scare (windsorstar.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windsor Star: A Michigan gym patron looking for a Wi-Fi connection found one named "remote detonator," prompting an evacuation and precautionary search of the facility by a bomb-sniffing dog. The Saginaw News reports nothing was found in the search Sunday at Planet Fitness in Saginaw Township, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. Saginaw Township police Chief Donald Pussehl says the patron brought the Wi-Fi connection's name to the attention of a manager, who evacuated the building and called police. The gym was closed for about three hours as police responded. Pussehl says there's "no crime or threat," so no charges are expected. He notes people often have odd names for WiFi connections. Planet Fitness says the manager was following company procedure for when there's suspicion about a safety issue.
Google

Google Is in Talks to Buy Nokia's Airborne Broadband System: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 12

Google is in advanced talks to buy Nokia's airborne broadband system, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. Google would use Nokia's system, the report claimed, to tap into new services and reach more users by offering in-flight high-speed internet. From the report: Nokia's technology could help Google offer a faster alternative to existing Wi-Fi on airplanes, said the people. Talks are advanced and an agreement may be reached soon, the people said. A final decision hasn't been made and the companies could still decide against a deal, the people said. Nokia's LTE A2G cellular-based system creates a direct link between an aircraft and the ground instead of bouncing the signal off of a satellite, enabling in-cabin high-speed internet services using Wi-Fi, according to its website.
The Almighty Buck

Russia Debuts Postal Drone, Which Immediately Crashes Into Wall (futurism.com) 107

On Monday, Russia's postal service tested a delivery drone in the city of Ulan-Ude, Siberia, -- and it went horribly wrong. According to Futurism, soon after launch it crashed violently into the wall of a nearby building, "turning the UAV into a mess of jumbled parts." From the report: Here was the original plan for Monday's test. The $20,000 drone was supposed to pick up a small package and deliver it to a nearby village, Reuters reports. Instead the device failed spectacularly, only making it a short distance before crashing into a three-story building. The small crowd gathered to watch the test can be heard uttering expletives, according to Reuters. No one was injured in the crash, and it didn't do any damage, except to Russia's pride. The organizers aren't quite sure what went wrong, but they suspect the 100 or so nearby wifi spots could have had something to do with it.
United States

US Suspects Listening Devices in Washington (apnews.com) 137

For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminal could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages. From a report: The use of what are known as cellphone-site simulators by foreign powers has long been a concern, but American intelligence and law enforcement agencies -- which use such eavesdropping equipment themselves -- have been silent on the issue until now. In a March 26 letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation's capital. The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where.

The agency's response, obtained by The Associated Press from Wyden's office, suggests little has been done about such equipment, known popularly as Stingrays after a brand common among U.S. police departments. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the nation's airwaves, formed a task force on the subject four years ago, but it never produced a report and no longer meets regularly. The devices work by tricking mobile devices into locking onto them instead of legitimate cell towers, revealing the exact location of a particular cellphone. More sophisticated versions can eavesdrop on calls by forcing phones to step down to older, unencrypted 2G wireless technology. Some attempt to plant malware.

AT&T

Verizon Has Been the Fastest US Mobile Carrier in Last Six Months: Wirefly (wirefly.com) 33

Verizon was the fastest mobile carrier in the United States during Q4 2017 and Q1 2018, according to 2018 Internet Speed Rankings Report published by Wirefly. According to the report, Verizon Wireless offered its subscribers 19.92 Mbps "overall" Internet speed, followed by AT&T at 18.26 Mbps, T-Mobile at 17.29 Mbps, and Sprint finishing at last with 14.77 Mbps. (The report defines overall speed capability as a summation of download speed with a 90% weight, and upload speed with a 10% weight.) T-Mobile was ranked as the fastest Internet service provider by Wirefly in Q1 and Q2 2017.

Verizon was also the carrier with fastest average download and upload speeds during the aforementioned period. It offered 20.44 Mbps (down) and 15.26 Mbps (up), compared to AT&T, which offered an average of 19.11 Mbps download speed and 10.53 Mbps as its average upload speeds. You can read the full report here. The results were collected from the results of users using the Wirefly Internet Speed Test.
The Internet

Ajit Pai Faces Heat Over Proposal To Take Away Poor People's Broadband Plans (arstechnica.com) 196

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Democratic senators yesterday asked Ajit Pai to abandon a proposal that the senators say would take subsidized broadband plans away from "millions of Americans." The Federal Communications Commission chairman's plan for the Lifeline subsidy program would force most users of the program to find new providers. But such users could have trouble finding replacement plans or similar prices because Pai's proposal would prevent all telecom resellers from offering Lifeline-subsidized service. "Your proposal impacts over 70 percent of current Lifeline-recipient households by eliminating their wireless providers from the program, leaving less affordable and fewer Lifeline options, while making it more difficult for the companies trying to serve Lifeline customers," Senate Democrats wrote in the letter to Pai yesterday. "Instead of cutting the program, we should ensure Lifeline reaches more Americans in need of access to communication services." The letter was written by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

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