Google stops challenging federal search warrants

Search warrants on data are a little different than those on physical property – especially because a lot of data is stored on overseas servers. According to the Justice Department of the United States, Google has stopped challenging warrants from U.S judges that request data from these servers.

A lot of tech companies, including Google, have challenged these warrants in the past after a federal appeals court sided with Microsoft when the issue came up in a drug investigation. As explained by Ars Technica, “Microsoft convinced the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals—which has jurisdiction over Connecticut, New York, and Vermont—that US search-and-seizure law does not require compliance with a warrant to turn over e-mail stored on its servers in Ireland.” The government has challenged the court’s decision, but the Supreme Court has not decided whether or not to hear the case.

But courts have not always sided with tech companies. Google has even been found in contempt of court for refusing to comply with a D.C judge’s order to hand over data stored overseas. Perhaps that is why the company has moved away from Microsoft and stopped challenging these kinds of warrants.

It is a tricky issue, and not everyone agrees on the philosophy that data should be turned over from servers abroad. But according to Ars, the government’s theory is that “where the tech sector stores data should not matter. What matters is whether a company can access that data in the US, according to the Justice Department.”

Bluetooth devices vulnerable to BlueBorne attack

Bluetooth has quickly become the default way for devices to share data across short distances since its original invention in 1994. Unfortunately, its widespread, easy-to-use nature makes it a prime target. According to an article by ArsTechnica, researchers have created an attack that can hack a wide range of Bluetooth enabled devices running Android, Linux, and Windows. That includes billions of devices worldwide.

Called “BlueBorne”, the attack method is notably effective and far in its reach. As ArsTechnica explains, “Virtually any Android, Linux, or Windows device that hasn’t been recently patched and has Bluetooth turned on can be compromised by an attacking device within 32 feet. It doesn’t require device users to click on any links, connect to a rogue Bluetooth device, or take any other action, short of leaving Bluetooth on. The exploit process is generally very fast, requiring no more than 10 seconds to complete, and it works even when the targeted device is already connected to another Bluetooth-enabled device.”

Sounds scary, right? Well, it kind of is. Nadir Izrael, CTO and co-founder of security firm Armis, told ArsTechnica that BlueBorne “abuses the fact that when Bluetooth is on, all of these devices are always listening for connections.”

There is some good news, however, if you use Microsoft. Microsoft has patched the vulnerabilities, so recent updates should protect you against this hack. Moreover, a representative has said that the Windows Phone was never vulnerable to the attack in the first place.

Google is also working on patching the vulnerabilities for its Pixel XL and other Google-branded phones, but a total fix might take some time. Apple’s iOS prior to version 10 was quite vulnerable, but should be better going forward, and Linux is expected to release a fix soon. ArsTechnica says that the attack is most potent against Android and Linux devices.

Yahoo legally responsible for data breaches

According to Reuters, a United States court has decided that lawsuits against Yahoo regarding two major hacking events can move forward. The hacking events took place in 2013 and 2014 and impacted a billion and 500 million users respectively. Since then, five class action suits have brought against the web company by account holders whose personal information and security has been compromised.

Yahoo dismissed the case on the grounds that the victims did not have the legal standing to sue, but US District Judge Lucy Koh rejected this, stating, ““All plaintiffs have alleged a risk of future identity theft, in addition to loss of value of their personal identification information.”

According to The Verge, this lawsuit is bad news for Verizon, which now owns Yahoo: “Verizon reduced its acquisition offer by $350 million following the disclosure of the breaches, purchasing the site for $4.48 billion in cash.”

Xfinity Mobile plans now available across the U.S. are worth considering

Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile plans were soft-launched a few months back in limited markets, but now they are available nationwide. According to BGR, they might just be worth considering.

These Comcast plans run using Verizon’s network, so you won’t have to worry about coverage dropping or otherwise poor connection. On top of this, users get unlimited data for only $45 per month, which is in stark contrast to Verizon’s $80 per month plan. The other plans include a soft cap of 20GB per month for $25, or the per-GB option which charges $12 per GB.

The catch is that you’re only eligible for this plan if you’re already a Comcast home internet customer. So this very reasonable package is not available to everyone, but if it applies to you, it’s definitely worth your attention.

As reported by BGR, Comcast is also “letting you mix and match different types of line on one account, which is unusual for a wireless carrier, and can help make a family plan a lot cheaper.” In other words, if different family members have different data usage needs, you can design your account accordingly.

Samsung Pay expanding in Canada

According to The Financial Post, Samsung Pay is expanding to more Canadian financial institutions soon. The payment platform came to Canada in late 2016, and is currently only compatible with CIBC Visa cards. Allegedly, the service will soon include Interac, meaning it will be accessible through a number of Canadian banks as early as this month.

Interac compatibility made Apple Pay a success in Canada, as many banks use it for both credit and debit card transactions. Likewise, Google’s Android Pay has recently come to Canada and works with most banks, including BMO, CIBC, Banque Nationale, Scotiabank, Desjardins, President’s Choice Financial, ATB Financial and Canadian Tire Financial Services.

Samsung is being tight-lipped about the rumor so far, providing the following statement to The Financial Post.

“Thank you for your interest in Samsung Canada. Samsung Pay is available in Canada for select CIBC customers. We look forward to sharing more details about expansion soon.”

Is the $100 Google Mobile Web Developer certificate worth it?

Has your dream always been to be a Google-certified mobile web developer? Well, now is your chance. According to The Next Web (TNW), Google recently launched a certification program for mobile web developers, in which you must successfully pass a “Mobile Web Specialist” exam and interview, in return for a badge that can be used on websites and resumes. Recipients of the certification are also entered into a registry, so that employers can check if their certification is legitimate. The certification costs $99.

“The exam content focuses on several fundamental areas, like creating and formatting forms, and rudimentary JavaScript. Google has also thrown a few advanced topics in for good measure, like front-end networking, and building ‘progressive’ applications that work offline and ‘offer a native app experience’,” said TNW.

This might sound like a cool program, and it is affordable in comparison to some competitors, but whether or not it is worth the time and money is still up for debate. As the TNW article on the certification explains, “Software development is something that, by and large, doesn’t tend to concern itself with certifications. Plenty of people enter the field without having gone to university at all.” Basically, prior experience might be a lot more valuable on your CV than a badge from Google.

That doesn’t mean there’s no reason to get the certification. It is an extra qualification and it cannot hurt. Time will tell how helpful the badge is for job applicants in the web development field.

Google Chrome to add perma-mute button

Nobody likes noisy popups on websites. In fact, ad blocker extensions might not be so popular if it weren’t for those annoying little videos. If you feel these frustrations, then Google Chrome has a nice surprise for you. According to PC Mag, the browser will soon add a setting that can permanently mute certain web pages.

Google’s François Beaufort wrote in a Google+ post on August 25 that Chrome “is currently experimenting with a setting to mute a website directly from the Page Info bubble. This will give you more control about which website is allowed to throw sound at you automatically.”

Right now, you’re able to silence any website in Chrome by right-clicking the browser tab and selecting the “Mute Tab” option. This new setting will allow you to permanently mute sites, meaning you will not have to hit the mute button every time you visit. On top of this, Chrome plans on automatically blocking some of the most annoying adverts starting in 2018 – including ads that play audio or prevent you from visiting a webpage.

PC Mag explains that this setting is currently available as a part of Google Chrome Canary, “a version of the browser designed to give developers and early adopters access to the newest features before they’re available to the general public.” The Chrome team has not disclosed when this will be available to regular Chrome users.

Does T-Mobile have the most loyal customers?

Among America’s ‘Big Four’ carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile – new data suggests the latter has the most loyal customers. According to a Telecom Consumer survey from Business Insider Intelligence, almost a quarter of T-Mobile’s subscribed base said “they wouldn’t switch mobile carriers for anything.”

In comparison, the other three carriers scored relatively low. Sixteen percent of AT&T subscribers said they would stick it out no matter what, and for Verizon that number was close at fifteen percent. Unfortunately for Sprint, their customer loyalty dragged far behind the rest. Only seven percent of Sprint subscribers said they wouldn’t switch carriers for any reason.

This is very good news for T-Mobile. In the words of Business Insider, “US smartphone penetration is approaching saturation, causing mobile carriers to fight over each others subscribers.”

Pew Research says that 95 percent of Americans own a mobile phone, and 77 percent own a smartphone, meaning there aren’t a lot of new customers on the market. For T-Mobile, knowing less of its existing customers are willing to jump ship is very comforting news. This is made more important with the end of the two year contract, as well as an overall price drop.

“Average revenue per user across the Big Four dropped to $45 in Q1 2017, from $49 in Q1 2014,” explains Business Insider. “To remain profitable, carriers need to maintain or grow their customer base.”

The iPhone 8 is ready to unlock your device via your face

Remember when unlocking your phone via fingerprint was the future of cell phones? Now fingerprint scanners are old news. The new big thing is facial recognition: a feature that the Samsung Galaxy 8 already has and, reportedly, the iPhone 8 does as well. According to The Korea Herald, the new iPhone’s 3D sensors for facial recognition can sense your face in millionths of a second.

Rumours of the iPhone 8’s features have been wildly speculated, and right now some of the big hopes for the upcoming phone include an edge-to-edge OLED display, wireless charging, AR capabilities, and of course facial recognition.

According to an article by CNET, the rumours of facial recognition are looking pretty reliable after “mention of the iPhone’s facial recognition was spotted in Apple’s HomePod firmware code.” Likewise, an Apple patent filed in July “shows facial recognition being used for anything from unlocking your iPhone to zooming in and out based off of how far away you are from the screen.”

Is this the most secure method of locking your phone? Unfortunately not. As shown with the Galaxy S8, the phone’s sensors can be fooled simply by showing it a photograph. However, The Korea Herald believes the iPhone 8 will be more advanced than the S8 because of its unique 3D sensors.

Is the Nokia 8 the phone for you?

You may not think of Nokia as a top smartphone brand, considering that in recent times it has only launched three middle-tier devices. But Nokia’s newest device releasing in September, the Nokia 8, is challenging this reputation. According to a review from The Independent, the Nokia 8 might just be worth considering as your next purchase.

“In feel alone, this is easily the best phone the new HMD Nokia has produced, slick and smooth enough to slide easily between your fingers,” said The Independent.

The Nokia 8 comes in four different shades; matte silver, polished blue, matte blue, and polished copper. It has a 5.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 resolution display, and with 554 pixels per inch, the sharpest resolution of any Nokia phone. Unlike the popular OLED display favoured by Samsung, the Nokia 8 keeps it simple with an LCD screen.

Cameras are undoubtedly important features on any smartphone nowadays, and the collaboration between Nokia and optical system manufacturers Zeiss should result in an excellent quality product.

According to The Independent, “The rear dual cameras are both 13-megapixel sensors, one colour and one monochrome. Huawei has a similar approach on its latest phones, saying that the monochrome sensor can get a sharper result as it grabs light quickly, and the colour one gives you the colour fidelity.” This should make photography feel a bit more professional than the average smartphone.

The Nokia 8 also boasts high-quality audio, using a system called OZO, in which three microphones work together to record better sound with no special playback system required.

The Nokia 8 will be one of the first smartphones to receive Android O when it goes live, and until then will run on the latest version available, Android 7.1.1. The functionality of the Nokia 8 will feel very similar to most Android phones, with the only stark difference being in the camera.