Archive for November, 2017

Uber Technologies has informed Britain’s data protection regulator that about 2.7 million user accounts – representing the vast majority of people using the ride-hailing service in the country – were affected by a 2016 data breach.

The breach, which the company disclosed last week involving 57 million users worldwide, saw names, mobile phone numbers and email addresses compromised, the company told UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

ICO said it expects Uber to alert all the affected British users, both Uber drivers and passengers, as soon as possible.

The breach was a further setback to the Silicon Valley company after London’s transport regulator stripped it of its operating licence in September, citing Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

Uber failed to disclose the massive breach at the time, the company’s new chief executive officer said last week.

Under current British law organisations which fail to disclose data breaches to regulators face a maximum fine of up to GBP 500,000 ($670,600).

In Britain, Uber drew around 2.85 million users, on average, over the past three months, according to web and mobile app traffic measurement firm SimilarWeb, indicating that most British Uber users were likely caught up in the breach.

Uber said on its website on Wednesday that independent forensics experts had not seen any indication that trip location history, credit card numbers, bank account numbers or dates of birth were downloaded in the breach.

“We do not believe any individual rider needs to take any action,” the company said.

“We have seen no evidence of fraud or misuse tied to the incident. We are monitoring the affected accounts and have flagged them for additional fraud protection.”

Uber has been forced to quit several countries, including Denmark and Hungary, and faced regulatory battles in multiple US states and around the world.

It comes after a tumultuous few months for the San Francisco startup that led to former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick being forced out after a series of boardroom controversies.

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Following the footsteps of companies like Xiaomi and Sharp, Panasonic has launched the Eluga C with a bezel-less display and a dual camera setup. The new smartphone has been debuted in Taiwan with a price tag of TWD 6,000 (approximately Rs. 12,900) and is initially available for pre-orders.

The Panasonic Eluga C features a 5.5-inch display that has ultra-thin bezels and comes with an HD (720×1280 pixels) resolution. Interestingly, despite the minimal bezel-design, the display doesn’t have 18:9 aspect ratio that is quite common nowadays across most of the full-screen smartphones. The display panel, however, does have 450 nits of brightness, which would make the on-screen content visible under bright sunlight. The smartphone is powered by an octa-core MediaTek MT6750T SoC clocked at 1.5GHz, coupled with 4GB of RAM.

Panasonic has provided a 13-megapixel and a 5-megapixel camera sensor on the back of the Eluga C that both have f/2.2 lenses on top. On the front, the smartphone has an 8-megapixel camera sensor with an f/2.2 lens. The handset comes equipped with a fingerprint scanner that is touted to unlock the screen in a short span of 0.3 seconds and can record up to five fingerprints.

There is 64GB onboard storage that can be expanded via microSD card (up to 256GB).

The Panasonic Eluga C packs a 3000mAh battery and comes bundled with a 7.5W charger. Besides, it has a 5.1mm slim metal frame that has a glass finish on the back. Connectivity options, as well as network support of the smartphone, are yet to be revealed.

With the Eluga C, Panasonic appears to have taken a step to enter the nascent space of thin-bezel smartphones. The smartphone doesn’t have a premium price tag like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Apple iPhone X. It neither comes to the mid-range segment that recently added the OnePlus 5T. Nevertheless, the Panasonic Eluga C has a design that reminds us the innovative Xiaomi Mi Mix and Sharp Aquos Crystal that both brought the trend of bezel-less smartphones – much before Samsung’s Infinity Display or Apple’s Super Retina Display.

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Alphabet’s Google introduced an app on Wednesday designed to help Android smartphone users stay under the limits of pricey mobile data packages in developing countries. It’s now available to download via Google Play.

Datally, the new service, lists data consumption by app and enables users to shut off data transmissions by apps of their choosing, Google group product manager Josh Woodward told Reuters in an interview. It also provides a directory of nearby Wi-Fi networks that includes user commentary on their quality.

The offering is the latest from Google’s Next Billion Users division, an internal effort to make internet services more accessible to people in countries where technology infrastructure is not as fast or affordable as in the United States or Western Europe.

Previously, Google announced a peer-to-peer payment app aimed at Indian consumers and a low-bandwidth version of YouTube.

Some Datally functionality is available within the settings pages of Android smartphones, but Woodward said he expects the specialised app will make it easier to understand the options.

During testing of Datally, app developers inside and outside Google initially expressed concern about the effects of users limiting their services’ data access, Woodward said.

But they warmed to the idea as they saw that users welcomed data consumption by “apps they really like,” Woodward said. “The visibility gives users more confidence to use those apps.”

Talking about the new app, Caesar Sengupta, Vice President, Next Billion Users, Google, in a blogpost said, “Mobile data is expensive for many people around the world. And what’s worse, it’s hard to figure out where it all goes. That’s why we built Datally, an app that helps you to control, save more and do more with your data. We’ve been testing Datally in the Philippines for the past few months, and people are saving up to 30 percent on their data.”

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Xiaomi is all set to launch its ‘Desh ka Smartphone’ in India on Thursday, at an event that starts at 12pm IST. The event, where Xiaomi is expected to launch the entry-level Redmi 5A, will be live streamed on the company site, and users can stay tuned to Gadgets 360 for all the details from the launch event. The launch of Xiaomi Redmi 5A at the event has been speculated for a while, but a new report (now pulled) claiming the source code on the company’s teaser page contains mention of the Redmi 5A pretty much cements its launch.

With various teasers thus far, Xiaomi has hinted the ‘Desh ka Smartphone’ would have a good battery life, storage, and performance to offer its users. With the choice of tagline, we can expect the smartphone to bear an entry-level price tag, lower than Xiaomi’s cheapest phone in India at the moment – the Redmi 4A, which starts at Rs. 5,999. All this does indeed point towards the Xiaomi Redmi 5A, which was launched in China in October at CNY 599 (roughly Rs. 5,900) and we can expect Xiaomi to bring the smartphone to India at a slightly lower price.

The Xiaomi Redmi 5A’s biggest highlight is its ‘8-day battery life’, despite sporting just a 3000mAh battery, presumably due to software optimisations in MIUI 9. The dual-SIM smartphone sports a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) display with a pixel density of 296ppi. It is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC, clocked at 1.4GHz, and coupled with 2GB of RAM.

The Redmi 5A sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture, burst mode, panorama mode, HDR mode, and more. It comes with a 5-megapixel front camera with f/2.0 aperture lens. It supports 1080p and 720p video recording. It bears 16GB inbuilt storage that is further expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB). Connectivity options on the Redmi 5A include 4G with VoLTE, 3G, GPRS/ EDGE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Micro-USB. It comes with a hybrid SIM slot.

As we mentioned, the Redmi 5A will run MIUI 9 out-of-the-box which means that the handset will come with all bells and whistles of the new MIUI version. The new MIUI 9 features include Smart assistant, Smart app launcher, Image search, Quick reply and notification management, new Home screen enhancements, Lock screen enhancements, and split screen multitasking among others.

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More than four million donors in India have signed up for Facebook’s blood donation feature and the company will now expand this feature to Bangladesh, the social media giant has said.

In October, Facebook launched a new blood donations feature, starting in India, to make it easier for people to donate blood.

“There are now more than four million blood donors signed up on Facebook in India.

“In addition to enabling people in need to connect to blood donors, our tools also allow organisations to connect to donors more efficiently,” Naomi Gleit, Vice President, Social Good, said in a blog post late on Wednesday.

Hospitals, blood banks and non-profits can create voluntary blood donation events on Facebook, and nearby donors are notified of the opportunities to donate blood.

“In early 2018, we will expand blood donations to Bangladesh, where, like India, there are thousands of posts from people looking for blood donors every week,” Gleit noted.

Facebook also announced new tools and initiatives to help people keep each other safe and supported on its platform.

At the second annual Social Good Forum in New York late on Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is introducing a new mentorship connection programme, new fundraising tools, blood donation initiative and the suicide prevention programme.

“Mentorship and Support is a new product where mentees and mentors come together to connect and interact directly with each other and progress through a guided programme developed by nonprofit organisations,” Gleit posted.

All donations made through Facebook payments to nonprofits will now go directly to those organisations.

“Facebook Donations Fund” is a $50 million (roughly Rs. 322 crores) annual fund for 2018 to help communities recover from disaster by direct contribution.

“People will now be able to sync their off-Facebook fundraising efforts to Facebook fundraisers, making it easier to tell friends and family about the causes they support on and off Facebook,” the company said.

When people connect their off-Facebook fundraising campaign with Facebook, it creates a Facebook fundraiser that syncs with their campaign page.

Facebook also introduced a Community Help API, which will give disaster response organisations access to data from public “Community Help” posts that can offer important information about the needs of people affected by a particular crisis.

“We are piloting the Community Help API with NetHope and the American Red Cross,” Facebook said.

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India, with 1.185 billion mobile users in the third quarter this year, will see a surge in mobile data traffic that is expected to grow 11 times – from 1.3 exabytes to 14 exabytes – by 2023, a new report claimed on Tuesday.

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, the monthly data usage per smartphone (GB/month) in India will increase five times – from 3.9GB in 2017 to 18GB by 2023.

“We expect LTE to be the most dominant technology in India by 2023. LTE will account for more than 60 per cent of the total subscriptions in the country by 2023 compared to the 12 per cent subscriptions in 2017,” Nitin Bansal, Managing Director, Ericsson India, said in a statement.

The report estimated that there will be nearly 800 million VoLTE subscribers in India by 2023 — growing at a CAGR of 42.5 per cent between 2017 and 2023.

On the global level, the report said that 5G will cover more than 20 per cent of the population six years from now.

Ericsson predicted that there will be one billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband by 2023.

The first commercial networks based on 5G New Radio (NR) are expected to go live in 2019, with major deployments from 2020. Early 5G deployments are foreseen in several markets, including the US, South Korea, Japan and China.

The report said that mobile data traffic is expected to surge by eight times during the forecast period, reaching 110 Exabytes per month by 2023. This corresponds to 5.5 million years of HD video streaming.

By the end of this year, LTE will be the dominant mobile access technology. It is estimated to reach 5.5 billion subscriptions and cover more than 85 per cent of the world’s population by the end of 2023.

“The report examines the emergence of new use cases as network capabilities evolve — smartwatches, IoT alarms, and augmented reality-assisted maintenance and repair, to name a few,” added Niklas Heuveldop, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Technology and Emerging Business, Ericsson.

“As we prepare for 5G, these trends will continue to set the agenda for the mobile industry going forward,” Heuveldop said.

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Apple Inc. customers have discovered a significant security flaw in the latest version of the operating system for Mac computers that allows anyone to log in without a password, potentially making private user data vulnerable.

The issue, discovered in the MacOS High Sierra operating system for laptops and desktops that was released in September, allows people to enter the word “root” when prompted for a username, and provide no password when logging on to the device. The glitch allows anyone to access the file system for a Mac, exposing private documents on that particular computer. One user reported the ability to also access the computer using the root login remotely.

The glitch is a rare and potentially embarrassing failure for Apple, whose software is generally known for being less prone to hacking and malware infections than Windows software from Microsoft Corp. The previous version of the operating system didn’t appear to be affected by the bug.

“A password prompt that authenticates as root with an empty password would be a black eye for any OS. Never mind one from a security and privacy-conscious company such as Apple,” Steve Troughton-Smith, a Mac software developer, wrote on Twitter.

Apple spokesman Bill Evans said the company is “working on a software update to address this issue. In the meantime, setting a root password prevents unauthorized access to your Mac.”

Tests of the flaw indicate that it could be used to alter a user’s system settings that normally require a chosen username and password. Some settings include changing key security preferences — like enabling or disabling a computer’s firewall or storage drive encryption.

The flaw was publicized Tuesday on Twitter by Lemi Orhan Ergin, a software engineer based in Turkey. Edward Snowden, a key voice in the information security community after being the center of many years of National Security Agency leaks, commented on the disclosure. “Imagine a locked door, but if you just keep trying the handle, it says ‘oh well’ and lets you in without a key,” he wrote on Twitter.

Until Apple releases a new version of the software or patches the flaw, users can fix the issue by assigning their own password to the root account. This can be done by navigating to System Preferences, selecting Users and Groups, clicking Login Options on the left side of the menu, clicking the Join button next to Network Account Server, clicking Open Directory Utility, then clicking Edit in the Mac’s menu bar to assign a password. Apple also has instructions available on its website.

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Facebook said on Wednesday that it was removing 99 percent of content related to militant groups Islamic State and al Qaeda before being told of it, as it prepared for a meeting with European authorities on tackling extremist content online.

Eighty-three percent of “terror content” is removed within one hour of being uploaded, Monika Bickert, head of global policy management, and Brian Fishman, head of counter-terrorism policy at Facebook, wrote in a blog post.

The world’s largest social media network, with 2.1 billion users, has faced pressure both in the United States and Europe to tackle extremist content on its platform more effectively.

In June, Facebook said it had ramped up use of artificial intelligence, such as image matching and language understanding, to identify and remove content quickly.

“It is still early, but the results are promising, and we are hopeful that AI (artificial intelligence) will become a more important tool in the arsenal of protection and safety on the internet and on Facebook,” Bickert and Fishman wrote.

“Today, 99 percent of the ISIS and al Qaeda-related terror content we remove from Facebook is content we detect before anyone in our community has flagged it to us, and in some cases, before it goes live on the site.”

The blog post comes a week before Facebook and other social media companies like Alphabet’s Google and Twitter meet with European Union governments and the EU executive to discuss how to remove extremist content and hate speech online.

“Deploying AI for counter-terrorism is not as simple as flipping a switch … A system designed to find content from one terrorist group may not work for another because of language and stylistic differences in their propaganda,” Facebook said.

The European Commission in September told social media firms to find ways to remove the content faster, including through automatic detection technologies, or face possible legislation forcing them to do so.

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Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, blasted Twitter on Tuesday for what he said was a push to “discriminate” against conservatives, during an aggressive defense of his agency’s plan to repeal net neutrality rules.

Speaking during an event hosted by the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank, Pai accused Twitter of hypocrisy for its criticism of the FCC’s plan to repeal the Obama-era regulation.

“When it comes to a free and open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem,” Pai said. “The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”

Twitter, Google, and Facebook have been vocal opponents of the FCC’s proposal to repeal net neutrality, joining others who say the repeal will harm the flow of information on the Internet. On the other side, Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have supported the FCC’s push, which it says will allow the Internet to return to the free market environment it was created in.

The FCC is expected to repeal the Obama-era regulations, which are aimed at ensuring all websites are treated equally by Internet providers, at its December 14 meeting.

But Pai, a Republican, said that Twitter’s own practices already violate the principles of openness that the company espouses, accusing it of using a “double-standard” to police its own content. He cited the company’s recent regulation of “conservative users’ accounts,” apparently referring to Twitter’s recent decision to suspend and de-verify some prominent white nationalists and far-right users on its service.

Pai also noted Twitter’s decision to prevent Republican Senate hopeful Marsha Blackburn from being able to pay to advertise a campaign video with controversial remarks about abortion, a move which drew a torrent of criticism from conservatives.

“This conduct is many things, but it isn’t fighting for an open Internet,” he said.

Blackburn was able to post the video to her Twitter account. In the two-and-a-half minute advertisement, the congresswoman said she had fought Planned Parenthood and helped “stop the sale of baby body parts,” a reference to controversial 2015 videos that were filmed in secret and heavily edited by an antiabortion activist to purportedly show medical providers discussing the sale of fetal tissue for scientific research. But investigations launched in 13 states and in Congress afterward never unearthed any proof of actual tissue sales.

“Anyone voluntarily following her account could see it, as is their choice as a consumer when they choose to follow her,” Twitter said in a statement. “Because advertisements are served to users who do not necessarily follow an account, we therefore have higher standards for their content.”

The company eventually allowed the advertisement to be promoted on its service after the uproar.

Pai’s comments were yet another reminder of the sensitive place in which Twitter now finds itself in the caustic world of politics. Critics on the left have accused it, as well as other social media companies like Facebook, of being a safe haven for extremists, racists, conspiracy theorists and others spreading misinformation. Conservatives have echoed Pai’s attacks and increasingly taken aim at the company’s moves to suspend prominent far-right accounts.

The deactivation of President Donald Trump’s Twitter account for 11 minutes earlier this month, which the company blamed on a rogue employee on their last day of work, raised more questions about the security of political content on the site.

The company’s public image has badly suffered after the disclosures that Russian operatives created fake accounts on the service and had some success at gaming its algorithms in order to sow division before the 2016 election.

Pai himself has faced a similar problem: a comment forum set up by the FCC earlier this year for the public to weigh in on its proposal to repeal the net neutrality regulation appears to have been flooded with hundreds of thousands of identical comments supporting the move. Investigators say that many of the comments were submitted by impersonators, and that some of the names and information that were submitted appear to have emerged in a data breach. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, says the FCC has stymied an investigation into the fraudulent comments, while a journalist’s freedom of information requests have been rebuffed.

Pro-net neutrality activists have organised protests in Washington and outside Pai’s home in Virginia.

Pai, who is an active Twitter user with more than 39,000 followers, posted a video of his remarks Tuesday on his account.

“Now look, I love Twitter,” he said. ” And anyone who knows me knows that I use it all the time.”

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Uber Technologies withheld evidence in a lawsuit filed by Alphabet’s Waymo, a US judge said on Tuesday, delaying a trial to give Waymo time to review a letter alleging that Uber trained employees to steal trade secrets and hide their tracks.

The multibillion-dollar case, in which Waymo has accused Uber of stealing confidential information about its self-driving car designs, has hobbled Uber’s autonomous vehicle ambitions. It is the highest-stakes legal challenge on a lengthy list of litigation that Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, inherited when he joined the company in August.

Tuesday’s hearing centered on a 37-page letter from a lawyer for former Uber security analyst Richard Jacobs, which Uber did not show Waymo as both sides prepared their cases. The letter turned up last week when US District Judge William Alsup was informed of it by the US Department of Justice, days before the trial was set to begin. The discovery led Alsup to issue a new order for Uber to compel Jacobs to appear in court.

Uber’s not turning over the letter months ago when the company was asked to gather such documents raised the judge’s ire, setting up one of the most heated hearings in the case to date.

“I can’t trust anything you say because it’s been proven wrong so many times,” Alsup told Uber at the hearing. “You’re just making the impression that this is a total cover-up.”

Alsup agreed to Waymo’s request to delay the jury trial scheduled for next week, saying in federal court in San Francisco that “if even half of what this letter says is true it would be a huge injustice to force Waymo to go to trial” as planned.

It was the second time the judge has agreed to delay a trial at Waymo’s request. In October, he chided Uber lawyers for disclosing thousands of emails to Waymo just before the trial had been set to begin..

Jacobs, who was fired from his job at Uber in April but still works for the company as a consultant, testified on Tuesday about the contents of the letter. The letter said an organization within Uber called marketplace analytics “exists expressly for the purpose for acquiring trade secrets, code base and competitive intelligence.”

In his testimony, Jacobs described an elaborate intelligence operation inside Uber to deliberately research competitors and gather data about them, and use technology to avoid a paper trail.

“I did not believe it was patently legal,” Jacobs said. “I had questions about the ethics of it.”

Uber employees involved in researching rivals were given training with the purpose to “impede, obstruct or influence any lawsuit against Uber,” Jacobs said, including a communication strategy to ensure Uber did not create a paper trail that could come back to haunt the company in any “anticipated litigation.”

The strategy included using ephemeral messaging apps such as Wickr and laptops and wireless internet devices that could not be traced back to the user, Jacobs said. Some Uber employees also used separate servers from the rest of the business, he said, and invented attorney-client privileges to keep communications secret. Uber also relied on as many as 10 outside security vendors.

Jacobs said he learned of this activity primarily through discussions at Uber involving his manager and other colleagues.

Jacobs, however, disagreed with a portion of the letter his attorney had written on his behalf that asserted a team of Uber employees stole trade secrets from Waymo.

“None of the testimony today changes the merits of the case. Jacobs himself said on the stand today that he was not aware of any Waymo trade secrets being stolen,” an Uber spokeswoman said.

Another former Uber security analyst, Ed Russo, testified Tuesday and rebuffed Jacobs’ claims that he was a key figure in Uber’s effort to recruit insiders at competitors to steal confidential information and instruct Uber staff to keep their communications covert.

“It’s never been our role or my role to engage in the theft of trade secrets,” Russo said. “That’s false.”

Waymo sued Uber in February, claiming that former Waymo executive Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, called Otto, which Uber acquired soon after.

Uber has denied using any of Waymo’s trade secrets. Levandowski has declined to answer questions about the allegations, citing constitutional protections against self-incrimination. Uber has since fired him.

Waymo has estimated damages in the case at about $1.9 billion and wants to curtail Uber’s self-driving car program, which Waymo says uses its technology. Uber rejects the financial damages claim.

A new date for the trial has not yet been set, but the hearing will resume Wednesday with testimony from Uber’s in-house lawyer, Angela Padilla. Jacobs last May sent Padilla a letter outlining his concerns about Uber’s behavior similar to the letter obtained from the Justice Department.

Waymo has accused Uber of concealing Jacobs’ letter with Padilla.

Jacobs said that he believed Uber fired him because he objected to its practices. After his termination, he and Uber reached a $4.5 million (roughly Rs. 28.9 crores) settlement. He has been paid $2 million (roughly Rs. 12.8 crores) and will receive another $1 million (roughly Rs. 6.4 crores) at the end of his consulting contract, he said. Jacobs received another $1.5 million (roughly Rs. 9.6 crores) in Uber stock.

Uber attorneys characterised Jacobs’ letter as an ex-employee seeking money.

“There is not one bit of admissible jury evidence from that witness,” said Arturo Gonzalez of Morrison Foerster.

The ride-hailing service is the most valuable private US company, but its aggressive expansion has been dogged by scandals.

The company revealed last week that the data of 57 million Uber customers and 600,000 drivers had been stolen in a breach more than a year ago, and that Uber had paid two hackers $100,000 to cover it up. Governments across the globe have launched investigations into the incident, and the Illinois Cook County prosecutor and Washington state attorney general have filed lawsuits against Uber for failing to comply with data breach notification laws.

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