Communications

Telecom Lobbyists Downplayed 'Theoretical' Security Flaws in Mobile Data Backbone (vice.com) 33

An anonymous reader shares a report: According to a confidential document obtained by Motherboard, wireless communications lobby group CTIA took issue with an in-depth report by the Department of Homeland Security on mobile device security, including flaws with the SS7 network. In a white paper sent to members of Congress and the Department of Homeland Security, CTIA, a telecom lobbying group that represents Verizon, AT&T, and other wireless carriers, argued that "Congress and the Administration should reject the [DHS] Report's call for greater regulation" while downplaying "theoretical" security vulnerabilities in a mobile data network that hackers may be able to use to monitor phones across the globe, according to the confidential document obtained by Motherboard. However, experts strongly disagree about the threat these vulnerabilities pose, saying the flaws should be taken seriously before criminals exploit them. SS7, a network and protocol often used to route messages when a user is roaming outside their provider's coverage, is exploited by criminals and surveillance companies to track targets, intercept phone calls or sweep up text messages. In some cases, criminals have used SS7 attacks to obtain bank account two-factor authentication tokens, and last year, California Rep. Ted Lieu said that, for hackers, "the applications for this vulnerability are seemingly limitless."
Businesses

Why is Comcast Using Self-driving Cars To Justify Abolishing Net Neutrality? (theverge.com) 222

Earlier this week, Comcast filed its comments in favor of the FCC's plan to eliminate the 2015 net neutrality rules. While much of the document was devoted to arguments we've heard before -- Comcast believes the current rules are anti-competitive and hurt investment, but generally supports the principles of net neutrality -- one statement stood out. The Verge adds: Buried in the 161-page document was this quirky assertion (emphasis ours): "At the same time, the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public... And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it. In other words, Comcast is arguing for paid prioritization and internet fast lanes to enable self-driving cars to communicate better with other vehicles and their surrounding environment, thus making them a safer and more efficient mode of transportation. The only problem is that autonomous and connected cars don't use wireless broadband to communicate. When cars talk with each other, they do it by exchanging data wirelessly over an unlicensed spectrum called the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) band, using technology similar to Wi-Fi. The FCC has set aside spectrum in the 5.9GHz band specifically for this purpose, and it is only meant to be used for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications. That includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) -- so cars talking to other cars, to traffic signals, to the phone in your pocket... you name it. Soon enough, all cars sold in the US will be required to include V2V technology for safety purposes, if the Department of Transportationâ(TM)s new rule goes into effect.
Network

Mesh Networking Comes To Bluetooth, Which Could Set Off a New Wave of Smart Buildings (geekwire.com) 70

One of the most widely used technologies in mobile computing is getting an important upgrade that could accelerate the development of the smart home and industrial internet. From a report: The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, the Kirkland, Wash.-based group that enforces compatibility among the billions of devices that use the short-range Bluetooth wireless technology, plans to announce Tuesday that the standard now supports mesh networking. Mesh networks connect a variety of access points and devices across a distributed network, rather than the one-to-one connection that currently exists between your smartphone and that headset that makes you look ridiculous. This approach dramatically improves the range and reliability of a wireless network, since information can be relayed across several different devices rather than having to stretch between two far-apart devices. And if part of the network goes offline, mesh technology has the capability to route around that outage and still carry out its original mission. Wi-Fi networks have also been getting in on this mesh networking act, which has an additional bonus: mesh networks are much easier to set up than traditional wireless networks.
Google

Google Fiber Is Losing Its Second CEO in Less Than a Year (businessinsider.com) 71

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google Fiber, the high-speed internet service operated by Alphabet, has lost its second CEO in less than a year. Gregory McCray is stepping down from the CEO job of Access, the Alphabet subsidiary that houses the Fiber unit, Google confirmed to Business Insider on Monday. The change is the latest shake-up at Access, which announced in October that it would stop rolling out its 1 gigabit per second wired broadband networks to new cities and focus on newer, wireless options, such as the Webpass wireless service it acquired last year. The Access group also had layoffs towards the end of 2016 and shifted hundreds of other employees to different units within Google earlier this year. Alphabet CEO Larry Page said in an emailed statement to Business Insider on Monday that the company is "committed to the success of Google Fiber" and was looking for new leader for the business.
United Kingdom

UK Wifi Provider Tricks Customers Into Agreeing To Clean Sewers (upi.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes UPI: Unwitting customers in the United Kingdom who didn't read the terms and conditions for use of a public WiFi hotspot agreed to perform 1,000 hours of community service, including unclogging sewers and scraping gum off the street. The gag was conceived by WiFi provider Purple. The company inserted the clause into its terms and conditions -- the technically legally binding agreement consumers approve in exchange for use of free Internet, though virtually few actually read the terms. The company said it did so to call attention to the fact consumers are regularly agreeing to terms that they may not actually like, including granting access to private information and data about their web browsing habits.
Other community service tasks agreed to by users included "providing hugs to stray cats and dogs" and "painting snail shells to brighten up their existence." The agreement also promised a prize to anyone who actually became aware of the prize's existences after reading the terms and conditions -- yet after two weeks only one person came forward to claim the prize.
Verizon

Millions of Verizon Customer Records Exposed in Security Lapse (zdnet.com) 44

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: An Israeli technology company has exposed millions of Verizon customer records, ZDNet has learned. As many as 14 million records of subscribers who called the phone giant's customer services in the past six months were found on an unprotected Amazon S3 storage server controlled by an employee of Nice Systems, a Ra'anana, Israel-based company. The data was downloadable by anyone with the easy-to-guess web address. Nice, which counts 85 of the Fortune 100 as customers, plays in two main enterprise software markets: customer engagement and financial crime and compliance including tools that prevent fraud and money laundering. Nice's 2016 revenue was $1.01 billion, up from $926.9 million in the previous year. The financial services sector is Nice's biggest industry in terms of customers, with telecom companies such as Verizon a key vertical. The company has more than 25,000 customers in about 150 countries.
Microsoft

Microsoft Pledges To Bring Better Broadband To Two Million Rural Americans in the Next Five Years (recode.net) 99

Microsoft on Tuesday announced a new campaign to try to "eliminate" the gap in high-speed internet access in the country's hardest-to-reach areas -- an effort called the Rural Airband Initiative, which will set an ambitious target of bringing better broadband to two million Americans within the next five years. From a report: The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant plans to start its efforts in 12 states, offering seed money -- Microsoft wouldn't specify the amount -- to local telecom providers that are trying to improve internet access through means like "white spaces," which are the invisible, wireless radio airwaves that aren't already owned by broadcasters. From Microsoft point of view, this approach -- aimed at delivering speedy wireless internet -- is the best way to improve connectivity in parts of the country that broadband providers long have ignored, given the prohibitive costs of building and sustaining networks there. By Microsoft's count, more than 23 million Americans in rural areas currently lack high-speed internet access, despite billions of dollars in federal investment. But the company emphasized that it is not looking to become a telecom provider -- it's only providing capital to local firms -- and does not seek to profit from the endeavor. Through revenue-sharing agreements, Microsoft instead plans to invest any money it raises in additional projects in other states where internet access is lacking.
AT&T

Forced Arbitration Isn't 'Forced' Because No One Has To Buy Service, Says AT&T (arstechnica.com) 342

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T is denying that its contracts include "forced arbitration" clauses, even though customers must agree to the clauses in order to obtain Internet or TV service. "At the outset, no AT&T customer is ever 'forced' to agree to arbitration," AT&T Executive VP Tim McKone wrote in a letter to U.S. senators. "Customers accept their contracts with AT&T freely and voluntarily; no one 'forces' them to obtain AT&T wireless service, DirecTV programming, or other products and services." AT&T was responding to concerns raised by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who previously alleged that AT&T's use of forced arbitration clauses has helped the company charge higher prices than the ones it advertises to customers. While AT&T is correct that no one is forced to sign up for AT&T service, there are numerous areas of the country where AT&T is the only viable option for wired home Internet service. Even in wireless, where there's more competition, AT&T rivals Verizon and Sprint use mandatory arbitration clauses, so signing up with another carrier won't necessarily let customers avoid arbitration. One exception is T-Mobile, which offers a way to opt out of arbitration. The terms of service for AT&T Internet and DirecTV require customers to "agree to arbitrate all disputes and claims" against AT&T. Class actions and trials by jury are prohibited, although individual cases in small claims courts are allowed. AT&T doesn't offer any way to opt out of the arbitration/small claims provision, so the only other option is not buying service from AT&T.
GNU is Not Unix

15 Devices (Including 6 Laptops) Awarded FSF's 'Respects Your Freedom' Certification (fsf.org) 85

This week the Free Software Foundation awarded its coveted 'Respects Your Freedom' certification to 15 products -- more than doubling the number of certified products (from 12 to 27) since the program began in 2012. An anonymous reader writes: The non-profit FSF certified six different laptops, two docking stations, three WiFi USB adapters and two internal WiFi devices, a mainboard, and their first-ever certified Bluetooth device, the TET-BT4 USB adapter. The products are all from Technoethical (formerly Tehnoetic), a Romania-based company who previously had just one mini wireless USB adapter on their list of FSF-certified products. "In 2014 we started selling hardware compatible with fully free systems in order to fund the free software activism work that we've been doing with our foundation," said Technoethical founder, Tiberiu C. Turbureanu. "Since then, we worked hard to build a hardware catalog that allows free software users to choose what best fits their computing needs, while also helping with the funding of different free software projects."
"We are excited that Technoethical has brought out such an impressive collection of hardware whose associated software respects user freedom," said the FSF's executive director, John Sullivan. "RYF certification continues to gain speed and momentum, thanks to companies like them."
Republicans

Trump Picks Republican To Fill Empty Commissioner Seat At FCC (arstechnica.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission's empty slots are about to be filled. President Donald Trump will nominate Republican Brendan Carr to the FCC's fifth and final commissioner position, the White House announced last night. Carr served as FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's Wireless, Public Safety, and International Legal Advisor for three years. After Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. "Brendan has a distinguished record of public service, having worked at the agency for over five years, including most recently as the FCC's General Counsel," Pai said after the White House announcement. "In particular, Brendan's expertise on wireless policy and public safety will be a tremendous asset to the Commission."
Network

Comcast and Charter In Talks With Sprint To Offer Wireless Service (theverge.com) 42

According to The Wall Street Journal, Sprint's merger talks with T-Mobile are temporarily on hold while the carrier mulls over a number of potential deals with the United States' two biggest cable companies, Comcast and Charter. While Comcast is already using Verizon's wireless service under their own name, the company may want to use Sprint's network as well. Charter doesn't have a wireless phone offering yet, but the company's CEO indicated last year that it has every intention of launching one. The Verge reports: Such a deal would likely involve the two cable companies making an investment in Sprint, which the carrier would then use to build out its network, generally known to be the worst of the four major phone service providers. The Journal also reports that Comcast and Charter could make a bid to acquire Sprint outright, but it said the outcome was seen as less likely. Though they're usually an unlikely pairing, Comcast and Charter agreed in May to team up when making deals around wireless coverage for a full year. For the most part, both companies have been slowly losing TV subscribers year after year as customers shift over to online services. They see phone service as a new offering that could help to restore growth and lock in subscribers.
Wireless Networking

How A Contractor Exploited A Vulnerability In The FCC Website (wirelessestimator.com) 69

RendonWI writes: A Wisconsin wireless contractor discovered a flaw in the FCC's Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) database, and changed the ownership of more than 40 towers from multiple carriers and tower owners into his company's name during the past five months without the rightful owners being notified by the agency, according to FCC documents and sources knowledgeable of the illegal transfers. Sprint, AT&T and key tower companies were targeted in the wide-ranging thefts... Changing ASR ownership is an easy process by applying online for an FCC Registration Number (FRN) which is instantly granted whether the factual or inaccurate information is provided. Then, once logged in, an FRN holder can submit a form stating that they are the new owner of any or multiple structures in the database. As soon as it is submitted, the change is immediately reflected in the ASR.
The Internet

If You Can Decentralize the Internet, Mozilla Has $2 Million For You (cnet.com) 127

Mozilla and the National Science Foundation want a new internet. And they want it to be free and accessible for everybody. From a report: They'll pay $2 million for it. On Wednesday, the two organizations issued a call to action for "big ideas that decentralize the web" as part of the "Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society" challenges. The challenges include getting the internet to communities off the grid, with proposals like a backpack with a computer and Wi-Fi router inside.
Businesses

Samsung Begins Production For Its First Internet of Things-optimised Exynos Processor (zdnet.com) 50

An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung Electronics has launched the Exynos i T200, its first processor optimised for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the company has announced. The South Korean tech giant said the chip has upped security and supports wireless connections, with hopes of giving it an advantage in the expanding IoT market. The Exynos i T200 applies Samsung's 28-nanometer High-K Metal Gate process and has multiple cores, with the Cortex-R4 doing the heavy lifting and an independently operating Cortex-M0+ allowing for multifunctionality. For example, if applied to a refrigerator, Cotext-R4 will run the OS and Cotex-M0+ will power LED displays on the doors.
Businesses

Wireless and Drone Execs Praised President Trump as He Pledged To Cut Down Regulations (recode.net) 94

U.S. President Donald Trump offered support for emerging technologies including unmanned aerial vehicles and next-generation wireless networks in a meeting on Thursday with the chiefs of AT&T and General Electric and other business leaders. From a report: For the likes of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, the public audience with Trump offered an opportunity to continue nudging the U.S. government -- including in a scheduled, private session with the leader of the Federal Communications Commission earlier Thursday -- to cut back on restrictions that make it difficult for AT&T and other telecom giants to grow their footprint and deploy the new technologies, such as 5G wireless. Speaking with Recode later Thursday, Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of Sprint, said that he and others in his industry had emphasized to Trump that the government must help them deploy new tools like small cells -- essentially, mini cell towers that improve wireless connectivity. Trump, for his part, promised Thursday to cut down on "too many years of excessive government regulation" to enable innovators and investments to offer new cutting-edge tools in health care, science, medicine and communication. "We have had regulation that's been so bad, so out of line that it's really hurt our country," he said.
Wireless Networking

T-Mobile Rolling Out 600 MHz Low-Band Wireless (yahoo.com) 47

s122604 quotes a report from Yahoo Finance: T-Mobile, the third largest U.S. national wireless operator, has decided to roll out 600 MHz wireless spectrum in its footprints by this summer. Low-band spectrum is essential for wireless operators as the signals can be transmitted over longer distances and through brick-and-mortar walls in cities. Smartphones for this radio frequency are likely to be made available by Samsung and other manufacturers this summer.
Patents

Amazon Granted a Patent That Prevents In-Store Shoppers From Online Price Checking (theverge.com) 465

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amazon's long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon's own stores. The patent, titled "Physical Store Online Shopping Control," details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways. The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you're trying to access a competitor's website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what's offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright. Amazon's patent also lets the retailer know your physical whereabouts, saying, "the location may be triangulated utilizing information received from a multitude of wireless access points." The retailer can then use this information to try and upsell you on items in your immediate area or direct a sales representative to your location.
Communications

CIA Created 'CherryBlossom' Toolkit For Hacking Hundreds of Routers Models (bleepingcomputer.com) 107

An anonymous reader writes: After a two-week hiatus, WikiLeaks dumped new files as part of the Vault 7 series -- documents about a CIA tool named CherryBlossom, a multi-purpose framework developed for hacking hundreds of home router models. The tool is by far one of the most sophisticated CIA malware frameworks in the CIA's possession. The purpose of CherryBlossom is to allow operatives to interact and control SOHO routers on the victim's network. The tool can sniff, log, and redirect the user's Internet traffic, open a VPN to the victim's local network, execute actions based on predefined rules, alert operators when the victim becomes active, and more. A 24-page document included with the CherryBlossom docs lists over 200 router models from 21 vendors that the CIA could hack. The biggest names on this list are Apple, D-Link, Belkin, Aironet (Cisco), Linksys, and Motorola.
Canada

CRTC Bans Locked Phones and Carrier Unlocking Fees (mobilesyrup.com) 94

An anonymous reader shares a report: Canada's telecom regulator has announced that as of December 1st, 2017, all individual and small business wireless consumers will have the right to have their mobile devices unlocked free of charge upon request, while all newly purchased devices must be provided unlocked from that day forward. The decision came following the February 2017 review of the Wireless Code, where unlocking fees took center stage, with some parties (like Freedom Mobile) advocating for the abolishing of those fees altogether, some arguing they should remain as an important theft deterrent and the CRTC suggesting the fee should be far under the current $50 CAD standard. "The Wireless Code has helped make the wireless market more dynamic to the benefit of Canadians. While they appreciate the Code, they told us loudly and clearly that it could be more effective," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC, in a press release.
Cellphones

We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier (reason.com) 263

_Sharp'r_ writes: Professor Thomas Hazlett of Clemson University analyzed the history of wireless spectrum and concluded the technology was known and available for cellphones in the 40s, but there was no spectrum available. Based on assumptions cellphones would always be luxury goods without mass appeal, significant spectrum for divisible cellular networks wasn't legally usable until the early 80s. Instead, the unused spectrum was reserved for the future expansion of broadcast TV to channels 70-83. Here's an excerpt from the report: "When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not 'in the nature of convenience or luxury.' This view -- that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base -- persisted well into the 1980s. 'Land mobile,' the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC's list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter."

Slashdot Top Deals