Tag Archives: iPod

Your iPhone’s watching you. Should you care?

22 Apr

Your iPhone’s watching you. Should you care?

Researchers announced today that they found what look like secret files on the iPhone that track user location and store it on the device, without the permission of the device owner. It’s unclear what the data is used for and why Apple has been collecting it in iOS electronic gadgets that carry a 3G antenna for nearly a year now.

Alasdair Allan, senior research fellow in astronomy at the University of Exeter, and writer Pete Warden, who discovered the log file and created a tool that lets users see a visualization of that data, say there’s no evidence of that information being sent to Apple or anybody else. Even so, the pair note that the data is unencrypted, giving anyone with access to your phone or computer where backups may be stored a way to grab the data and extrapolate a person’s whereabouts and routines.

Who are the researchers and how did they find this?
Warden, who used to work at Apple (though not on the iPhone), and Allan had been collaborating on some location data visualization projects, including a visualization of radiation levels over time in Japan after the earthquake, when Allan discovered the file on an iPhone. “After we dug further and visualized the extracted data, it became clear that there was a scary amount of detail on our movements,” they wrote in a blog post.

When did this start and what devices are tracking this data?
According to Allan and Warden, the tracking did not begin until iOS 4, which was released in late June 2010. This was the first version of iOS to drop support for devices like the original iPhone, with devices like the iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod Touch getting a more limited feature set. Along with iPhones, 3G-enabled iPads are also keeping track of the data, though it’s unclear if this is true for people who have 3G electronic gadgets without active cellular subscriptions.

The tracking data itself was actually discovered last year. A tool by French programmer Paul Courbis, that’s similar to the one released by Allan and Warden, is able to plot up to 10,000 of these data points from the database file to a Google Map. The issue was known in forensics circles but not widely, Allan and Warden said in a news conference this afternoon at the Where 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, Calif. An application they released that allows people to see what data is on individual devices makes the abstract tracking concept more real.

Did they contact Apple on their findings?
The researchers said they had contacted Apple’s Product Security team, but hadn’t heard back.

Where is this data being stored?
The database of location information is stored primarily on your phone, though due to the iOS device backup system in iTunes, these files can also end up on your computer. When iTunes saves these backups, which are set by default to be stored every time you sync an iOS device, the data file goes along with it.

What’s curious is that this log can extend across multiple devices as long as those electronic gadgets use the same restore point. Allan and Warden noted that the database used as part of the project spanned an iPhone 3GS and an iPhone 4, the latter of which had used a restore point.

The researchers have more technical details and the downloadable application to see a visualization of the data collected from your phone over time here. The application does not work with iPhones on Verizon, the researchers said.

What’s inside this data?
A database of cell tower coordinates and timestamps to indicate when your device was connecting with them. This includes what operator you’re on and the country code. The research also found that Apple was tracking data about what Wi-Fi networks you were connecting to, which also included slightly less accurate location information, but continued to track that data by time. The researchers’ visualization app shows large blue dots for frequent activity and smaller red or orange-colored dots for less frequent activity. However, it’s unclear exactly what is triggering the logging, they said.

Is there an easier way to see that information than a giant database form?
Yes, Allan and Warden created an open-source software program that is able to go through the data from the database file and turn it into a visualization of what towers your device connected to based on the dates and times. The pair say the application intentionally cuts down on the accuracy of this data to keep the software from being used for bad things. You’re also likely to see points in places you haven’t been, since the tracking tools within the iPhone make use of nearby cell towers to triangulate location. “As a data geek I was excited to have this data set, but I don’t want anyone else to have this data,” Allan said.

What is the harm with this data being collected and stored on the device?
“By passively logging your location without your permission, Apple [has] made it possible for anyone from a jealous spouse to a private investigator to get a detailed picture of your movements,” the researchers wrote in their FAQ.

While acknowledging that there is no need to panic, the researchers noted that if someone gets hold of the device, they can access the unencrypted data. “Your cell operator has this information,” they said in the news conference. Anyone who wants it has “to get a court order to get that from a provider. But now, all you have to do is lose your phone electronic gadgets in a bar.”

Apps on the device cannot access the data, because it is “sandboxed,” the researchers said. However, it could be accessed by software on the computer that holds the backup, they said.

How do I protect this data from being seen by others?
The data file itself is completely unencrypted, meaning anyone who gets hold of it can access the data freely. On the iTunes side, there’s an option to encrypt your backups, which will keep someone who gets access to a backup file while rummaging through your hard drive from being able to dig through it and pull out the database file.

To enable that feature, click on the device icon when it’s plugged into iTunes, then check the “Encrypt iPhone Backup” item in the “Options” area. As for your iPhone, or iPad with 3G, your best bet is to keep someone else from getting it in the first place, and then using Apple’s free “Find My iPhone” app to do a remote wipe if it’s lost or stolen.

How do I turn this tracking off?
Right now there’s no way to turn the tracking off, since it’s baked into the operating system. Turning off GPS will make the device less functional for location-based services such as mapping.

Can Apple do this?
According to the iTunes terms and conditions, yes. The company pretty clearly spells out its right to “collect, use, and share” location data any time it pleases.

That said, the company made a big kerfuffle about making third-party application providers–as well as the built-in Google Maps application–alert users when location was being used by including an arrow in the status bar that is required to appear whenever the phone is sending or receiving location data. This feature came as part of iOS 4, which is when the company began the tracking process.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs also made it a point during an interview at the D8 conference last year that privacy was a topic of utmost importance to the company. “Before any app can get location data, they can’t just put up a panel asking if it can use location, they call our panel and it asks you if it’s OK,” Jobs said. “That’s one of the reasons we have the curated App Store. A lot of the people in the Valley think we’re old-fashioned about this. But we take it seriously.”

Why is Apple doing this?
Apple has not responded to requests for comment. Allan and Warden suggest the company has been using this tracking technology as a precursor to extended location-based services it plans to add as a part of a future version of iOS.

Backing that claim up is an Apple patent application that surfaced back in February, which showed that Apple was considering a service called “Places.” Based on the filing, the service would offer Apple electronic gadgets owners a way to locate one another using GPS. While there are third-party applications like Loopt, Foursquare, and Beluga that let people do this, such a feature would presumably be a built-in part of the phone, and rely on geodata logging for any past history features.

“There are legitimate use cases here, but the matter underscores the need for vendors to be clear about what data they collect and what they are doing with it,” said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer of mobile security provider Lookout in a call with CNET.

Is Apple the only one doing this?
Android does not appear to do this, sources familiar with the platform said. A Google spokeswoman said the company had no comment on the matter. A Microsoft representative told CNET that the company’s Windows Phone platform does not store location history, and that the “Find My Phone” service only keeps the phone’s most recent location.

Source from CNET

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Apple sues Samsung: here’s the deal

21 Apr

So we all know that Apple’s suing Samsung alleging myriad IP infringements, but you may not know what all the fuss is about. On one hand, the lawsuit is surprising because Apple gets much of the goodies it needs to build its iconic iPhones, iPads, and Macs from Sammy, and common sense dictates that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. On the other hand, however, folks in Cupertino don’t take too kindly to copycats, and while it’s hard to put a dollar value on the brand equity Apple currently enjoys, this lawsuit shows it’s valuable enough for Apple to risk upsetting its relationship with Samsung and jeopardizing its supply chain. Having given the court docs a good read, here’s our rundown of what’s going on.

According to Apple’s complaint, phones from Samsung (particularly the Galaxy S variety) and its Galaxy Tab are eroding the efficacy of Apple’s carefully crafted brand. That brand is built, in no small part, upon the trade dress (aka the appearance and packaging) of its iDevices and its trademarked iOS icons, and Apple has spent over two billion dollars on advertising from 2007-2010 to stake out a little space in everyone’s brain that associates the iPhone’s looks and its progeny’s derivative forms with Apple. It’s worked quite well too, as Apple revealed (for the first time) in its complaint that it has sold over 60 million iPod touches electronic gadgets, 108 million iPhones, and 19 million iPads total. Problem is, Apple views the Galaxy devices, their TouchWiz UI, and packaging — with their Apple-esque appearance — as illegal infringers on its hard-earned mental real estate, and it’s suing Sammy to stop the squatting and pay for its IP trespassing ways.

Of course, Apple isn’t just dragging Samsung to court for cashing in on the iPhone image in our hearts and minds — Jobs and company have accused Sammy of infringing several of their patents, too. Apple asserts that TouchWiz and the Galaxy S infringe upon its iOS home screen and iPhone 3G design patents. Additionally, the complaint says Samsung has run afoul of several Apple utility patents for: the iOS instant messaging interface, the “bounce back” effect you get upon scrolling too far in a list or window, control and status widgets, UI status windows that disappear a set time after being opened, and scrolling and ellipse multi-touch gesture recognition. In light of these alleged mass IP infringements, Apple’s asking the court for preliminary and permanent injunctions to take Samsung’s Galaxy electronic gadgets off the market, in addition to the usual request for punitives, triple damages and lost profits. We’ve already heard that Samsung will “respond strongly” to Apple’s show of legal force, but time will tell if Sammy’s strong response comes in, or out of court. Those looking for a full breakdown of Apple’s legal claims can hit the more coverage link below.

Oscium’s iMSO-104 turns iPad, iPhone into mixed signal oscilloscopes

8 Apr

We’ve seen oscilloscopes repurposed as clocks and MAME machines, but we hardly ever see the pendulum swing in the opposite direction. The iMSO-104, however, actually turns your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch into an oscilloscope display. Using a Cypress Semiconductor system on a chip, the iMSO-104 electronic gadgets tout a 5MHz bandwidth and as much as 12 megasamples per second, and connects to your device by way of the dock connector — according to its maker, it’s also the world’s smallest and most portable oscilloscope. That’s all well and good, but what we really want to know is, does it support Tennis for Two? The iMSO-104 is now available for pre-order for $300, but if you’re itching to see the thing in action, you can download the corresponding app today and give it a test drive. Full PR after the break.

Source from Engadget

Chinon’s Avi Stylix iPod / iPhone docking station packs 7-inch LCD, streams Netflix*

23 Mar

It doesn’t scream quality (or maybe the legion of professional stock photographers were all on vacation last week), but the June-bound Avi Stylix does have something that the vast majority of me-too iPod / iPhone docking stations do not: an embedded 7-inch LCD. The usual suspects are also here, including a Dock Connector port, twin two-watt speakers, USB port, SD card slot and a bundled remote. The kicker is its ability to stream Netflix, but there’s an obvious catch; you’ll need an iPhone or iPod touch with a live internet connection in order to do so. There’s no actual WiFi module built into the main unit, so you’ll need to rely on your connected device to pull in the content. Still, for $99.99, it might not be a bad bet for your guest room. Or your office desk, since you know you aren’t getting any actual work done. Can’t wait for these tech gadgets?

Source from Engadget

Top 8 Radar Detectors for Drivers

20 Mar

If you drive a lot and they are legal in your state a radar detector can keep you from getting into trouble. Radar detectors are legal in my state and I am not the sort that speeds or races, but I often end up going faster than I thought I was and run up on a cop.

There is nothing worse than the feeling you get when you pop over a hill doing 80mph in a 70mph zone without realizing you are even doing it only to find a cop at the bottom of the hill. Radar detectors for many people aren’t so they can go as fast as they want, but just to help them remember to check there speed when they hear the beep.

I can remember as a kid my dad had a radar detector and it beeping constantly. If you went by a store with automatic doors it beeped, it beeped so much you hardly knew when it was worth listening too and when to ignore it. The newer radar detectors on the market today are much different from that. These electronic gadgets are more particular about when they go off and when they don’t.

They are also able to detect more radar bands including laser detectors. However, nothing will protect you from the instant on laser radar that many police agencies use today. When you are shopping for a radar detector there are gobs and gobs of them out there and they can get very expensive. Some of them will alert you to intersections with cameras or speed cameras using GPS and an integrated database. These are great for people that drive in unfamiliar areas a lot. I always seem to be the driver that gets in the spot in traffic where the light changes to yellow and I can’t decide to hit the brakes hard or go on through the intersection. It would be nice to know if there were cameras there watching me.

Some of the radar detectors on the market will also show you if the radar is in front of you or behind you and some have a digital compass and color screens while others make due with lights and beepers. If the beeps drive you crazy, some have a voice sort of like a GPS uses too to make things more agreeable with you. Whatever you order just be sure that a radar detector is legal in your state and get one to suit your needs and your budget. Check out the list below for some of the coolest radar detectors around.

1. Whistler XTR-140 Laser/Radar Detector – This radar detector is one of the most popular mainly thanks to its low price of well under $80. It covers all laser bands, Radar, and VG-2 as well as safety bands. It has a twin alert periscope for visual attention and a large display that is easy to read. It also has a city mode switch and a band identification switch. It also uses VG-2 cloaking for undetectability.

2. Escort Passport 9500ix – Drivers that have the budget for a fully featured radar detector will want to check out the Passport 9500ix. Rather than getting a beep that tells you nothing about what is going on, this detector has a voice alert system and a high resolution screen. It has user selectable preferences and AutoLearn capability. It’s not cheap at right under $500 but it is one of the better units on the market today.

3. Cobra XRS 9970G – This radar detector uses voice alerts and comes bundled with a GPS device that allows the user to now where speed cameras are as they drive. The price of the device at a bit under $200 includes the lifetime subscription to the Aura database. The device has a 1.5-inch color touchscreen and can detect all 15 radar and laser bands with fast lock on. It also has a compass and a car battery voltage display and more.

4. Cobra iRadar iRAD100 for iPhone and iPod touch – This is one of the more interesting radar detectors on the market today. The radar detection portion has no major display like some units you see on the market today. It interfaces via Bluetooth with your iPod touch or iPhone. It has a high performance radar detector inside that can recognize all radar and laser guns in use today. The app that runs on your iPhone or touch is a free download and will show you speedometer, compass, and alert history on the radar map view. It also has city modes and will log areas where it senses radar frequently as a speed trap. This detector sells for $129.

5. Valentine One – One of the more respected radar detectors on the market is the Valentine one. This is one of the few radar detectors that can show you the direction the radar is hitting you. It’s a good thing to know if the radar is in front, behind, or beside you. The Valentine One detects X, K, Ka, and Super Wideband Ka as well as laser protection. It has a rear radar antenna as well. You can but the Valentine One for about $500.

6. Escort Passport iQ – If you want a radar detector, but you also want GPS navigation the new Passport iQ combines the two into one device. The detector has a 5-inch widescreen LCD and full GPS mapping capability. The device has full radar and laser detection with speed camera locations and more. It uses NAVTEQ maps and will give you turn by turn driving directions and more. It will reject false alarms based on location and the strength of the signal. It also has a database with thousands of red light camera locations and speed camera locations .You can get the Passport iQ for $649.95.

7. Cobra XRS R10G – If you want a radar detector that you can hide a bit better the XRS R10G is an interesting unit This thing has a smaller radar detector that you can mount behind your mirror or in another out of the way place. It has a small LCD with the controls for the detector on it that runs off rechargeable batteries. The remote screen shows the warnings and allows you see the details of the hidden unit. The R10G sells for $249.99.

8. Escort Passport 9500ci – If you want the ultimate in hidden radar protection the 9500ci is the unit to look at. This thing is $1599 making it the most expensive radar detector on the list and it has to be custom installed. The detector has sensors that mount on the front and rear of your car and a remote control system and a small screen. The screen gives the warning from the system and the remote control allows the driver to control functions of the device. It promises protection from all radar and laser bands and has safety and speed camera locations programmed in.

 

Source from i4u