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Sep
27

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We’ve been hearing for some time now that Apple is working on an all-glass front for next year’s iPhone, with the Home button and Touch ID sensor built into the display itself. The touch-sensitive Home button on the iPhone 7 is likely intended as a stepping stone toward that goal, and an Apple patent published back in May described the technology Apple is most likely to adopt: ultrasonic imaging.

Demonstrating that this is not just a concept but technology that works in the real world, Chinese brand Xiaomi has today launched a new phone that uses that exact type of embedded fingerprint reader. The mi 5s and mi 5s Plus both use an ultrasonic fingerprint reader built into the glass …

Ultrasonic imaging of fingerprints not only allows the reader to sit beneath the glass, but is even more accurate than the capacitive sensor used in Touch ID. To help your finger locate the sensor, Xiaomi has put an indent in the glass, an approach seen in early iPhone mockups.

Of course, Xiaomi’s reputation as an Apple clone-maker means that its latest handsets are designed to go head-to-head with the iPhone 7, most notably offering a very similar large-pixel 12MP camera with dual-tone flash, right through to a dual-camera setup on the mi 5 Plus – though Xiaomi has opted for a combination of color and black-and-white sensors rather than a wide-angle and telephoto lens. The display is also force-sensitive, allowing the company to emulate 3D Touch.

One thing to note: Xiaomi’s implementation shows the reader beneath the glass, but not below the actual display – all the homescreen icons are above the fingerprint reader. So you do get an all-glass front, but not a full-height display.

As you can see, this type of indented glass is the approach suggested in this mockup (created before we knew Apple was dropping the headphone socket) by Martin Hajek, though this one shows the display itself extending through the fingerprint reader.

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By the time Apple adopts it, we should all be used to the touch-sensitive Home button, making this a relatively minor adjustment.

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Aug
30

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WASHINGTON: The White House said on Tuesday it was concerned about a European Commission order for Apple Inc to pay billions in unpaid taxes to Ireland because it seemed TO undermine joint US-EU progress on creating a more fair international tax system.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was possible the EU order for Apple to pay $14.5 billion in back taxes could be unfair to US taxpayers because Apple might be able to claim it in the United States as a tax deduction.

“We are concerned about a unilateral approach … that threaten to undermine progress that we have made collaboratively with the Europeans to make the international taxation system fair,” Earnest told a briefing.

Apple shares lose a little shine

Apple shares lost some of their shine on Tuesday after the European Union ordered the US tech giant to pay a record 13 billion euros in back taxes in Ireland.

Shares in the iPhone and iPad maker were down 0.7 per cent in late morning trading, making for a more than 3 per cent loss in the two weeks ahead of the widely-anticipated decision.

Apple has vowed to appeal the ruling, as has Ireland, which has attracted multinational firms with its low corporate tax rate and willingness to negotiate specific tax treatment.


EU order for Apple to pay $14.5bn in back taxes could be unfair to US taxpayers because Apple might be able to claim it in the United States as a tax deduction.


The European Commission concluded that Dublin had shown preferential treatment in an arrangement that allowed Apple to avoid virtually all tax on its business in the bloc, paying an effective corporate tax rate of just 0.005 per cent on its European profits in 2014.

ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson said investors were fretting over the longer term implications rather than the size of the fine.

“For Apple and others like it, this could be a watershed,” Wilson added.

‘Tough for multinationals’

“Caught between an aggressive EC and the Obama regime’s clampdown on tax inversions, it’s looking increasingly tough for multinationals to avoid paying the going tax rate.”

The EU has recently stepped up its campaign against its member states giving huge tax breaks to firms, last year ordering US coffee giant Starbucks and Italian automaker Fiat to each repay up to 30 million Euros in back taxes to the Netherlands and Luxembourg respectively.

Shares in other multinationals which run much of their international operations via Ireland, such as Google parent Alphabet and Facebook, also dipped.

Overall, Wall Street’s main indices were down around 0.3 per cent in late morning trade. Meanwhile in Europe, shares ended mixed.

Frankfurt’s DAX 30 finished up 1.1 per cent and the CAC 40 in Paris added 0.8 per cent as weak German inflation and a drop in eurozone business confidence reinforced expectations that the European Central Bank will have to step up stimulus measures.

The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) for the 19-nation eurozone compiled by the European Commission fell one full point to 103.5 in August as Britain’s vote to quit the European Union continued to undermine eurozone business and consumer confidence in August, holding above the boom-bust line of 100 points.

Meanwhile Germany’s 12-month inflation rate dipped to 0.3 per cent in August using the ECB’s methodology, an indication that its efforts to stimulate the eurozone economy and bring inflation back towards a healthier rate of just fewer than 2 per cent are not yet bearing fruit.

“The ECB has reason to increase its policy support, perhaps as soon as next week,” Jack Allen at Capital Economics wrote.

Meanwhile, London’s FTSE 100 index of top blue-chip companies dipped 0.3 per cent after coming back from a long holiday weekend.

Asian equities mostly rose on Tuesday, but Tokyo ended slightly lower on tepid data and profit-taking.

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Aug
28

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WHEN a government seeks to rein in a political opponent by listening in on his calls, reading his text messages, and spying on his meetings, how do they go about doing so? In the case of the UAE and pro-democracy activist Ahmed Mansoor, they sent him a short text message. “New secrets about torture of Emiratis in state prisons,” the Aug 10 and 11 SMS messages to Mansoor read. The texts included a link, and had Mansoor clicked it, his phone would have turned into a powerful surveillance tool for an entity that researchers believe is the Emirati government.

Pegasus, the software used against Mansoor, allows its operator to record phone calls and intercept text messages, including those made or sent on nominally encrypted apps such as Viber and WhatsApp. It can mine contact books and read emails. The software can also track its subject’s movements and even remotely turn on the phone’s camera and microphone.

The cyber-offensive against Mansoor was detailed in a new report by Citizen Lab, a research outfit based at the University of Toronto that has extensively chronicled foreign governments’ use of hacking for surveillance. The report shows the spies targeted Mansoor’s iPhone using so-called zero-day vulnerabilities, flaws that Apple had been unaware of.

Mansoor may have been one of the most high-profile people targeted with Pegasus, but he won’t be the last. As technology like Pegasus comes into wider use and governments become more aware of just how powerful a surveillance tool a smartphone can be, other dissidents, human rights activists, and journalists could come under similar attack. “These dissidents or high-value targets [give] us all a taste of the future,” said Bill Marczak, one of the report’s authors and a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab.

Thursday’s report cannot definitively prove that the UAE government targeted Mansoor for surveillance, but the researchers assembled a strong, if circumstantial, case pointing squarely at the Emiratis. Among other things, they found links between the use of Pegasus and an earlier hacking campaign, dubbed Stealth Falcon, linked to the Emiratis. The UAE’s embassy in Washington did not return calls and emails seeking comment on the report.

The NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance vendor, said in a statement that its “mission is to make the world a safer place by providing authorised governments with technology that helps them combat terror and crime”. It said the company has no knowledge of specific cases in which its technology has been used, and that its “products may only be used for the prevention and investigation of crimes”.

Mansoor is a prominent and internationally recognised human rights activist. He was one of the so-called UAE Five arrested and imprisoned in 2011 amid the Arab Spring for insulting the UAE’s royal family. Mansoor’s crime was signing a pro-democracy petition.

This is the third time Mansoor has been targeted by sophisticated malware written by a private intelligence firm. In 2011, he was attacked with a program developed by FinFisher, a company based in Germany and the UK. In 2012, he was targeted with surveillance software written by Hacking Team, an Italian firm that was hacked last year by cyber-vandals who leaked its internal emails onto the internet. Researchers have tied previous attempts to use sophisticated malware to monitor Mansoor to the Emirati government.

It is unclear how much money the UAE purportedly paid to the shadowy Israeli firm that created Pegasus, the NSO Group, but Marczak said it was likely that the firm’s contract with the Gulf nation was in the range of $10 million to $15 million. The size of that contract, he added, would depend on how many targets the UAE would have hired NSO to surveil.

NSO reportedly sells its surveillance tools to governments around the world, and the UAE appears to be one of its biggest clients, judging by the company’s use of Emirati domains.

The Pegasus software utilised a chain of three zero days in Apple’s mobile operating system to turn iPhones into highly capable, multifunction surveillance tools. It effectively enables the kind of intrusive, round-the-clock snooping that in the past would have required a huge team of operatives and massive resources. Foreign intelligence services once needed to install microphones in the walls to snoop on their subjects’ private conversations at home. Now, operatives from countries like the UAE — and, potentially, more authoritarian regimes like Russia and China — can just hack a phone.

“The cost of monitoring people is no longer the cost of following people around and wiring bugs into your apartment, like the Stasi did in the 1980s,” said John Scott-Railton of Citizen Lab.

Zero-day vulnerabilities are highly rare and can fetch six figures from companies that traffic in such information. Last year, a company called Zerodium issued a $1 million bounty for an iPhone flaw such as the one utilised in the Pegasus software. The bounty was claimed within weeks, an indication of how large payouts for tools to hack into encrypted products such as Apple’s devices is attracting high-end programmer talent.

Though the software used to target Mansoor was written in Israel, NSO is owned by an American private equity firm, Francisco Partners Management LLC. After purchasing NSO for a reported $110 million in 2014, Francisco Partners was reportedly exploring a sale last year that would have valued the company at around $1 billion. To stay under the radar, NSO has repeatedly changed its name.

The spread of Pegasus reflects the cat-and-mouse game taking place between governments determined to steal personal data and companies determined to safeguard it. That was the fundamental divide earlier this year when Apple and the FBI waged a highly publicised war over the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists in December’s shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California. The FBI got a court order demanding that Apple undermine the phone’s security features, but Apple pushed back. In the end, the FBI reportedly paid private hackers more than $1 million to break into that device.

That may get steadily harder for the FBI and other intelligence services around the world. As consumers become more aware of the privacy risks posed by the digital revolution, companies have responded in many cases by rolling out sophisticated encryption tools to safeguard the contents of their customers’ conversations. WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular messaging apps, uses end-to-end encryption, in which only the participants of a conversation can unscramble its contents. It has incorporated this technology throughout its app — phone calls, voice messages, and texts are all protected by advanced encryption.

This has hugely frustrated government security officials and law enforcement, who are often unable to obtain evidence from phones with encryption enabled. But tools such as Pegasus circumvent such encryption by breaking into the device used to communicate. The surveillance software records communications as they are input into an app, before encryption occurs, and then reports that information back to its maker.

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Aug
09

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Apple Inc. is preparing to unveil successors to the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus as early as next month with more advanced photography capabilities and upgraded hardware in a design similar to that of last year’s models, according to people familiar with the matter.

The standout features will be a dual-camera system on the larger iPhone, a re-engineered home button that responds to pressure with a vibrating sensation rather than a true physical click and the removal of the devices’ headphone jack, said the people, who didn’t want to be identified discussing unannounced features. Apple declined to comment.

While iPhone demand has waned in recent quarters, partly due to the lull between product launches, the device continues to be the major source of Apple’s revenue. The new models will be critical to the holiday quarter, and Apple is counting on the phones to prop up sales ahead of an expected iPhone overhaul in 2017, the device’s 10th anniversary.

Moving away from the typical two-year iPhone redesign cycle, this year’s models will look similar to the 6 and 6S, the people said, who added that there will still be noticeable tweaks. The new iPhones will retain the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screen sizes as their predecessors, the first of which was introduced in September 2014. Apple will remove the two innermost antenna lines that run across the back of the current iPhones, the people added.

Sharper Photos

The dual cameras on the larger new iPhone will produce brighter photos with more detail, according to a person who has used a prototype version of the upcoming device. Both sensors, which each capture color differently, simultaneously take a picture, and the device produces a single, merged photograph, said the person.

The dual system sharpens photos taken in low-light environments, the person said. The combination of the merged photos from the two camera sensors also allows users to zoom while retaining more clarity, the person added. The smaller version of the new phones will not include dual lenses, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier this year.

Home Button

Apple is planning an updated home button for the new models. Current home buttons are switches that physically press into the phone, but the new models will have a pressure-sensitive button that employs so-called haptic feedback, according to the people. This mechanism is similar to that of the trackpads on the latest MacBook line. 9to5Mac reported on the home button design earlier.

The new iPhones will remove the headphone jack in favor of connectivity via Bluetooth and the charging port. That will make room for a second speaker, said the people. Apple started allowing headphone makers to build headphones that can connect via the iPhone’s charger connector in 2014, the same year the company acquired headphone maker Beats Electronics. Macotakara earlierreported the headphone jack’s demise.

The new models will run iOS 10, the new version of Apple’s mobile operating system coming this fall. The updated software offers interactive widgets to quickly glance at calendar appointments and favorite contacts, new messaging features, a new application for controlling smart home appliances, and a redesigned Apple Music. The new software will also run on current and some past iPhone models.

Apple’s shares were little changed at $107.78 at 9:36 a.m. in New York. The stock was up 2.1 percent this year through Friday.

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Aug
08

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LAS VEGAS: Apple Inc (AAPL.O) said it plans to offer rewards of up to $200,000 (£152,433) to researchers who find critical security bugs in its products, joining dozens of firms that already offer payments for help uncovering flaws in their products.

The maker of iPhones and iPads provided Reuters with details of the plan, which includes some of the biggest bounties offered to date, ahead of unveiling it on Thursday afternoon at the Black Hat cyber security conference in Las Vegas.

The program will initially be limited to about two dozen researchers who Apple will invite to help identify hard-to-uncover security bugs in five specific categories.

Those researchers have been chosen from the group of experts who have previously helped Apple identify bugs, but have not been compensated for that work, the company said.

The most lucrative category, which offers rewards of up to $200,000, is for bugs in Apple’s “secure boot” firmware for preventing unauthorized programs from launching when an iOS device is powered up.

Apple said it decided to limit the scope of the program at the advice of other companies that have previously launched bounty programs.

Those companies said that if they were to do it again, they would start by inviting a small list of researchers to join, then gradually open it up over time, according to Apple.

Security analyst Rich Mogull said that limiting participation would save Apple from dealing with a deluge of “low-value” bug reports.

“Fully open programs can definitely take a lot of resources to manage,” he said.

Apple declined to say which firms provided advice.

Such rewards are currently offered by dozens of firms, including AT&T Inc (T.N), Facebook Inc (FB.O), Google (GOOGL.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) and Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O).

Microsoft, which has handed out $1.5 million in rewards to security researchers since it launched its program three years ago, also offers rewards for identifying very specific types of bugs. Its two biggest payouts have been for $100,000 each.

Not all bounty programs are as focused as the ones from Apple and Microsoft.

Facebook, for example, has an open program that offers rewards for a wide-range of vulnerabilities. It has paid out more than $4 million over the past five years, with last year’s average payment at $1,780.

In March, Facebook paid $10,000 to a 10-year-old boy in Finland who found a way to delete user comments from Instagram accounts.

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Jul
24

Apple may be planning an iPhone 7 release in early September, tech watcher says

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Cue the lines at the Apple Store—the world could be just months away from the newest iPhone.

 Evan Blass, a prominent Apple watcher with an accurate track record of predicting the tech giant’s releases, posted a tweet early Saturday saying the latest iPhone iteration would be released the week of September 12. Thus far, Apple has given no overt indication that it’s planning an event.

Recently, rumors surfaced that Apple was planning to push out three different iPhone 7s—with leaked photos depicting a larger screen and bigger storage capacity. At least one of those phones is said to be a professional version, Apple Insider reported this week.

Yet Blass, a reporter for VentureBeat whose cultivated a reputation as an Apple tipster, dismissed the idea that the smartphone maker would create a “Pro” version of the device. However, he added that Apple was likely to put out at least two new versions of its signature smartphone.

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Analysts had been expecting a September iPhone launch, but say the timing is key. An early September launch could give Apple’s quarterly revenue a large boost.

“In terms of outlook, we think there is downside risk to current September quarter revenue estimates but we also believe that it is largely expected at this point,” Mizuho Securities said in a recent research note. Apple’s iPhone sales have taken a hit from a dip in Chinese demand, it said.

“We note that it is hard to estimate September shipments as it is highly dependent on the timing of the iPhone 7 launch,” the firm said, adding that a new smartphone would create “upside” for the company’s performance, depending on the launch date.

Apple, which usually doesn’t respond to speculation about impending releases, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

May
16

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Some users who switch from iOS to Android are facing problems with receiving SMS from other iPhones, according to a blog post by Adam Parsh. The…

Some users who switch from iOS to Android are facing problems with receiving SMS from other iPhones, according to a blog post by Adam Parsh. Continue Reading…

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