A new patent has surfaced from Microsoft that may shed some light on the company's upcoming Surface Phone. The patent, which was first filed in October 2014 and recently made public, details a 2-in-1 foldable device with a flexible hinge that can act both as a smartphone and a tablet. TrustedReviews reports: The device in the filings can be configured into various shapes, either folded out like tablets, or folded back inwards to create a smaller phone-like handset. There's also the opportunity to place it in a tent-mode much like Lenovo's range of Yoga hybrids which can be propped up to make it easier to watch media. Microsoft has taken a universal approach to Windows 10, in that the OS is designed to work across multiple devices, so a Surface Phone that could transform into another mobile product would make a lot of sense in terms of demonstrating Windows 10s capabilities. The inventor of the product in the patent is listed as Kabir Siddiqui, the man behind Microsoft's successful patent for the Surface kickstand and Surface camera angle -- which bodes well for this latest design in the long run. Unfortunately, there's every chance we'll never see this technology in a retail-ready product from Microsoft, though some version of the foldable device could well arrive.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned on Monday that pacemakers, defibrillators and other devices manufactured by St. Jude Medical, a medical device company based in Minnesota, could have put patients' lives at risk, as hackers could remotely access the devices and change the heart rate, administer shocks, or quickly deplete the battery. Thankfully, St. Jude released a new software patch on the same day as the FDA warning to address these vulnerabilities. Motherboard reports: St. Jude Medical's implantable cardiac devices are put under the skin, in the upper chest area, and have insulated wires that go into the heart to help it beat properly, if it's too slow or too fast. They work together with the Merlin@home Transmitter, located in the patient's house, which sends the patient's data to their physician using the Merlin.net Patient Care Network. Hackers could have exploited the transmitter, the manufacturer confirmed. "[It] could (...) be used to modify programming commands to the implanted device," the FDA safety communication reads. In an emailed response to Motherboard, a St. Jude Medical representative noted that the company "has taken numerous measures to protect the security and safety of our devices," including the new patch, and the creation of a "cyber security medical advisory board." The company plans to implement additional updates in 2017, the email said. This warning comes a few days after Abbott Laboratories acquired St. Jude Medical, and four months after a group of experts at Miami-based cybersecurity company MedSec Holding published a paper explaining several vulnerabilities they found in St. Jude Medical's pacemakers and defibrillators. They made the announcement at the end of August 2016, together with investment house Muddy Waters Capital.
fiannaFailMan writes: Norton has announced the launch of a smart router designed to protect connected home devices from intrusions. The Symantec-owned company says the device aims to keep safe up to 20 devices connected to it, including Windows computers, Macs, phones, tablets or any internet-of-things devices, in real time. Norton Core, shaped a little like a geodesic dome, can isolate an infected device from the rest of your network to prevent the spread of any malware. Some of the technical specifications include a dual-core 1.7GHz processor, 1MB of system memory and 4GB of flash memory, and the latest 4x4 AC2600 Wi-Fi standard, with a top speed on the 5GHz band of 1.73 megabits per second and up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. It also features four Gigabit LAN ports and can cover between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet.
Patently Apple has recently uncovered a new Apple patent that may help AirPods stay in your ears. The patent details a magnetic mechanism that wraps around the user's ear. Digital Trends reports: The magnets attract each other through the ear tissue, keeping the AirPods in place and ensuring that they don't get lost. Of course, it's not certain if Apple filed this patent with AirPods in mind -- one of the images clearly shows a wired pair of headphones, and the patent was filed in June. The concept, however, would help keep both wired and wireless earbuds in place. The issue of keeping AirPods in the ear has been arguably the biggest issue related to the AirPods, and for good reason -- they're pretty expensive little devices, so losing them is definitely not something you want to do. It's possible that Apple decided against using the ear hooks for aesthetic reasons -- Apple is known for its excellent design and the ear hooks in the patent don't exactly look great. Not only that but the design of the charging case would have to change with the ear hooks. Some reports indicate that the patent could be implemented with future versions and given the hullaballoo surrounding keeping AirPods in, we wouldn't be totally surprised. It's also possible, however, that Apple patented the design but ultimately ended up nixing it.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Smart electricity meters, of which there are more than 100 million installed around the world, are frequently "dangerously insecure," a security expert has said. The lack of security in the smart utilities raises the prospect of a single line of malicious code cutting power to a home or even causing a catastrophic overload leading to exploding meters or house fires, according to Netanel Rubin, co-founder of the security firm Vaultra. If a hacker took control of a smart meter they would be able to know "exactly when and how much electricity you're using," Rubin told the 33rd Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg. An attacker could also see whether a home had any expensive electronics. "He can do billing fraud, setting your bill to whatever he likes [...] The scary thing is if you think about the power they have over your electricity. He will have power over all of your smart devices connected to the electricity. This will have more severe consequences: imagine you woke up to find you'd been robbed by a burglar who didn't have to break in. "But even if you don't have smart devices, you are still at risk. An attacker who controls the meter also controls the meter's software, allowing him to cause it to literally explode." The problems at the heart of the insecurity stem from outdated protocols, half-hearted implementations and weak design principles. To communicate with the utility company, most smart meters use GSM, the 2G mobile standard. That has a fairly well-known weakness whereby an attacker with a fake mobile tower can cause devices to "hand over" to the fake version from the real tower, simply by providing a strong signal. In GSM, devices have to authenticate with towers, but not the other way round, allowing the fake mast to send its own commands to the meter. Worse still, said Rubin, all the meters from one utility used the same hardcoded credentials. "If an attacker gains access to one meter, it gains access to them all. It is the one key to rule them all."
A new report from Nikkei Asian Review says that Apple will cut iPhone production by around 10% in the first quarter of 2017. From the report: This comes after the company slashed output in January-March 2016 due to accumulated inventory of the iPhone 6s line at the end of 2015. That experience led Apple to curb production of the iPhone 7, introduced in September, by around 20%. But the phones still have sold more sluggishly than expected. Information on production of the latest models and global sales suggests cuts in both the 7 and 7 Plus lines in the coming quarter. The larger iPhone 7 Plus, which features two cameras on its back face, remains popular. But a shortage of camera sensors has curbed Apple's ability to meet demand for the phones. U.S. research company IDC forecasts global smartphone shipments in 2016 on par with the 2015 level. Even Apple has had difficulty creating appealing new features, stifling demand from customers who otherwise would look to upgrade to the latest device.
randomErr quotes a report from Quartz: In the last 10 years, researchers have developed specific sniff tests for diagnosing tuberculosis, hypertension, cystic fibrosis, and even certain types of cancer. A group of global researchers led by Hossam Haick at the Israel Institute of Technology have taken the idea a step further. They've built a device -- a kind of breathalyzer -- that is compact and can diagnose up to 17 diseases from a single breath of a patient. The breathalyzer has an array of specially created gold nanoparticles, which are sized at billionths of a meter, and mixed with similar-sized tubes of carbon. These together create a network that is able to interact differently with each of the nearly 100 volatile compounds that each person breaths out (apart from gases like nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide). Haick's team collected 2,800 breaths from more than 1,400 patients who were each suffering from at least one of 17 diseases (in three classes: cancer, inflammation, and neurological disorders). Each sample of the disease was then passed through the special breathalyzer, which then produced a dataset of the types of chemicals it could detect and in roughly what quantities. The team then applied artificial intelligence to the dataset to search for patterns in the types of compounds detected and the concentrations they were detected at. As they report in the journal ACS Nano, the data from the breathalyzer could be used to accurately detect that a person is suffering from a unique disease nearly nine out of ten times.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Android Authority: It seems that some Pixel devices are affected by the same infamous shutdown bug that plagued the Nexus 6P where the device would prematurely turn off at 25 to 35 percent. The Huawei Nexus 6P has finally received the Nougat update. But ever since, Google's last ever Nexus device has been on the news, and for all the wrong reasons. Among the problems was a shutdown bug: the phone would shut down when the battery is at 30 percent or so. Well, it looks like the issue isn't unique to those Nexus 6P users. A few Reddit users are reporting that their Pixel devices are also suffering from the same shutdown bug. Some Pixel phones would prematurely shut down at or around 30 percent and would not turn back on until a charger is connected. A user by the name of vrski_15, who started the thread explains: "Twice in last 5 days, has the phone shutdown abruptly while I am in middle of something. In both instances, battery was between 25-35%, and the phone under normal conditions should have lasted for at least next 3-4 hours." With the Nexus 6P, Huawei first ruled that this was not a hardware problem but a software-related one. However, users found that the problem persisted even after downgrading to Android Marshmallow. This led Huawei to investigate further with Google, and although the company hasn't revealed the cause yet, it is probably related to the problem that these Pixel users have been experiencing.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: When you think of North Korea, the first thing that springs to mind is probably not a well-featured tablet PC. But that's just what researchers at the Chaos Communication Congress hacking festival revealed on Tuesday. Called Woolim, this tablet is designed to limit the distribution of contraband media, track its users, and generally act as a propaganda platform for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Woolim is a small, white Android device that looks like a fairly standard tablet. The hardware itself is made by Chinese manufacturer Hoozo, but the North Korean government has removed some components such as those for wi-fi and bluetooth, and put its own bespoke software on top. After the researchers presented work covering RedStar OS, North Korea's Linux-based operating system, a South Korean NGO offered the tablet to the group. Woolim is just one of several tablets designed for North Korea, but Woolim appears to be the most recent, likely dating from 2015. The tablet has PDFs on how to use it; various propaganda texts for users to read as well as the capability to play local TV and connect to the country's own internet, and it also comes with a slew of educational apps, such as French, Russian, and Chinese dictionaries. There's even an app for kids which teaches them how to type with a keyboard, and video games such as Angry Birds that have been lightly customized. The tablet only allows specific files to be used or played: users cannot just load whatever they want onto the device. Woolim also constantly keeps tabs on what its users are up to. Whenever a user opens an app, the tablet takes a screenshot. These screenshots are then available for viewing in another app, but they can't be deleted.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its recommendations for how medical device manufacturers should maintain the security of internet-connected devices, even after they've entered hospitals, patient homes, or patient bodies. Unsecured devices can allow hackers to tamper with how much medication is delivered by the device -- with potentially deadly results. First issued in draft form last January, this guidance is more than a year in the making. The 30-page document (PDF) encourages manufacturers to monitor their medical devices and associated software for bugs, and patch any problems that occur. But the recommendations are not legally enforceable -- so they're largely without teeth. The FDA issued an earlier set of recommendations in October 2014 (PDF), which recommended ways for manufacturers to build cybersecurity protections into medical devices as they're being designed and developed. Today's guidance focuses on how to maintain medical device cybersecurity after devices have left the factory. The guidelines lay out steps for recognizing and addressing ongoing vulnerabilities. And they recommend that manufacturers join together in an Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) to share details about security risks and responses as they occur. Most patches and updates intended to address security vulnerabilities will be considered routine enhancements, which means manufacturers don't have to alert the FDA every time they issue one. That is, unless someone dies or is seriously harmed because of a bug -- then the manufacturer needs to report it. Dangerous bugs identified before they harm or kill anyone won't have to be reported to the FDA as long as the manufacturer tells customers and device users about the bug within 30 days, fixes it within 60 days, and shares information about the vulnerability with an ISAO.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: Apple's iPhone and iPad were the most popular mobile devices gifted during the holidays this year, according to new data shared by Yahoo-owned mobile analytics firm Flurry. Flurry examined device activations by manufacturer between 12/19 and 12/25, finding Apple devices to be twice as popular as Samsung devices. 44 percent of all new phone activations were Apple iPhones, while Samsung smartphones accounted for 21 percent of activations. Huawei, LG, Amazon, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Motorola trailed behind with between two and three percent of activations each. Google's Pixel smartphone, which came out in October, did not make Flurry's list. Last year, Flurry released a similar report, and Apple devices made up 49.1 percent of all device activations, while Samsung devices came in at 19.8 percent. Phablets, or smartphones and tablets ranging in size from 5 inches to 6.9 inches, continued to grow in popularity. In 2016, the phablets category, which includes the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, 6s Plus, and 7 Plus, was responsible for 37 percent of total device activations. Medium-sized phones, like the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7, were responsible for 45 percent of all activations. Activations of full-sized tablets, like the iPad, have continued to wane. From Flurry's report: "While Samsung is slowly growing in popularity throughout the holiday season, up 1% from last year, Apple devices continue to be the gift to give. Holding the third and fourth positions for activations are Huawei and LG; which is remarkable, as both manufacturers do not have an individual device within the top 35 devices activated. Their high rank is likely due to the fact that they have wide variety of devices and affordable options (hundreds of phablet and medium phones) for consumers to choose from."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: According to research published Thursday in Science, physicists at Princeton University have designed a device that allows a single electron to pass its quantum information to a photon in what could be a big breakthrough for silicon-based quantum computers. The device designed by the Princeton researchers is the result of five years of research and works by trapping an electron and a photon within a device built by HRL laboratories, which is owned by Boeing and General Motors. It is a semi-conductor chip made from layers of silicon and silicon-germanium, materials that are inexpensive and already widely deployed in consumer electronics. Across the top of this wafer of silicon layers were laid a number of nanowires, each smaller than the width of a human hair, which were used to deliver energy to the chip. This energy allowed the researchers to trap an electron in between the silicon layers of the chip in microstructures known as quantum dots. The researchers settled on photons as the medium of exchange between electrons since they are less sensitive to disruption from their environment and could potentially be used to carry quantum information between quantum chips, rather than within the circuits on a single quantum chip. The ability to scale up this device would mean that photons could be used to pass quantum information from electron to electron in order to form the circuits for a quantum computer. "We now have the ability to actually transmit the quantum state to a photon," said Xiao Mi, a graduate student in Princeton's Department of Physics. "This has never been done before in a semiconductor device because the quantum state was lost before it could transfer its information."
The Dutch Consumer and Markets regulator ordered T-Mobile to shut down its zero-rated music streaming service because it violates the country's net neutrality rules. T-Mobile launched the Music Freedom service in October, allowing customers to stream music on their mobile devices without it impacting their data plans. Reuters reports: The AFM said the practice, often called "zero rating" is a violation of Dutch net neutrality rules, because it puts rival services such as Spotify at a competitive disadvantage. Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile Netherlands, which had introduced the product on Oct. 10, must stop offering it or face penalty of 50,000 euros ($52,000) per day, the AFM said. Zero rating is shaping up as one of the major battlegrounds for European telecommunications companies as they seek ways to attract customers. The Dutch net neutrality law unambiguously forbids the practice, but European Union rules are less clear.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Earlier this year, we were sent a series of large, encrypted files purportedly belonging to a U.S. police department as a result of a leak at a law firm, which was insecurely synchronizing its backup systems across the internet without a password. Among the files was a series of phone dumps created by the police department with specialist equipment, which was created by Cellebrite, an Israeli firm that provides phone-cracking technology. We obtained a number of these so-called extraction reports. One of the more interesting reports by far was from an iPhone 5 running iOS 8. The phone's owner didn't use a passcode, meaning the phone was entirely unencrypted. The phone was plugged into a Cellebrite UFED device, which in this case was a dedicated computer in the police department. The police officer carried out a logical extraction, which downloads what's in the phone's memory at the time. (Motherboard has more on how Cellebrite's extraction process works.) In some cases, it also contained data the user had recently deleted. To our knowledge, there are a few sample reports out there floating on the web, but it's rare to see a real-world example of how much data can be siphoned off from a fairly modern device. We're publishing some snippets from the report, with sensitive or identifiable information redacted.
According to a new SuperData Research report, the worldwide gaming market was worth a whopping $91 billion this year, with mobile gaming leading the way with a total estimated market value of $41 billion. The PC gaming market did very well too, as it pulled in nearly $36 billion over the year. PC Gamer reports: The mobile game segment was the largest at $41 billion (up 18 percent), followed by $26 billion for retail games and $19 billion for free-to-play online games. New categories such as virtual reality, esports, and gaming video content were small in size, but they are growing fast and holding promise for 2017, SuperData said. Mobile gaming was driven by blockbuster hits like Pokemon Go and Clash Royale. The mobile games market has started to mature and now more closely resembles traditional games publishing, requiring ever higher production values and marketing spend. Monster Strike was the No. 1 mobile game, with $1.3 billion in revenue. VR grew to $2.7 billion in 2016. Gaming video reached $4.4 billion, up 34 percent. Consumers increasingly download games directly to their consoles, spending $6.6 billion on digital downloads in 2016. PC gaming continues to do well, earning $34 billion (up 6.7 percent) and driven largely by free-to-play online titles and downloadable games. Incumbents like League of Legends together with newcomers like Overwatch are driving the growth in PC games. PC gamers also saw a big improvement with the release of a new generation of graphics cards, offering a 40 percent increase in graphics power and a 20 percent reduction of power consumption.