Monthly Archives May 2018

Facebook data center coming to Utah

On May 30th, Facebook announced it had plans to build a data center on a 490-acre site in Eagle Mountain, Utah. The center is expected to open in 2020, and will create around 30 to 50 full-time jobs and additional contract opportunities on an as needed basis. The City of Eagle Mountain has said that the project “represents a $750 million investment in [the city],” according to Fox Business.

Facebook has announced it will invest $100 million in local infrastructure in Eagle Mountain. This includes roads and a new electric substation. To make this investment appealing for Facebook, the company is “set to receive $150 million in property tax incentives.” Tax exemption legislation in Eagle Mountain was actually passed in 2016, with the exact purpose of attracting data centers.

“After a thorough search, we selected Eagle Mountain for a number of reasons – it provides good access to renewable energy, a strong talent pool, and a great set of partners,” said Rachel Peterson, vice president of data center strategy at Facebook, in a news release. Facebook’s decision to put its center in this region does not come as a huge surprise, because it will be located 15 miles south of another data center, belonging to the National Security Agency.

Source: foxbusiness.com – Facebook plans to build huge Utah data center
Published: May 30, 2018

New wireless service option coming to Eastern Quebec and Northern Ontario

Have you heard of Iristel? It is a Markham, Ontario based company that provides VoIP and other business data and voice services across Canada. Lately, Iristel has been getting in the wireless game as well, having recently acquired the Quebec-based company i-MobileCa and its licensed spectrum. Iristel is already the parent-company of northern carrier Ice Wireless, but the acquisition means that Iristel will begin to offer “3G and 4G LTE wireless services under its own brand beginning June 2018,” according to  MobileSyrup.

Iristel’s spectrum licenses mean it can provide services in Kirkland Lake, Ontario and Eastern Quebec in the Lower Saint Lawrence, the Gaspésie, the North Shore and certain areas of the Beauce. This covers a population of over half a million people.

Iristel CEO and president, Samer Bishay, released a press statement explaining why this move is good for Canadians, especially pertaining to competition with Canada’s ‘Big Three’; Bell, Rogers, and Telus. “This is really exciting for us to provide excellent cellular services at better prices for both residents and industries in this huge region from Quebec City eastward. The big three wireless oligopolists have done their best to keep our competitive and innovative wireless operations contained in the North, but no more. This is just the beginning.”

Source: mobilesyrup.com – Iristel to launch wireless service in Eastern Quebec and Northern Ontario
Published: May 28, 2018

FBI warns owners of routers to reboot their devices

You know cyber-security threats are serious when the FBI gets involved. Following Cisco’s recent report that 500,000 infected routers could be destroyed via malware, the FBI has taken action to warn small businesses and households to immediately reboot their devices.

ZD Net explains that “the malware, dubbed VPNFilter, was developed by the Russian state-sponsored hacking group Sofacy.” The malware was discovered by Cisco’s Talos Intelligence researchers, and looks to have infected routers made by Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link.

In fact, if you’re an owner of one of these specific devices, the FBI wants you to immediately reboot it:

  • Linksys E1200
  • Linksys E2500
  • Linksys WRVS4400N
  • MikroTik RouterOS for Cloud Core Routers: Versions 1016, 1036, and 1072
  • Netgear DGN2200
  • Netgear R6400
  • Netgear R7000
  • Netgear R8000
  • Netgear WNR1000
  • Netgear WNR2000
  • QNAP TS251
  • QNAP TS439 Pro
  • Other QNAP NAS devices running QTS software
  • TP-Link R600VPN

Why is this malware such a potential threat? Well, ZD Net explains that its “most worrying capability is that [the] malware allows its controllers to wipe a portion of an infected device’s firmware, rendering it useless. The attackers can selectively destroy a single device or wipe all infected devices at once.”

Unfortunately, the reboot will not completely save your router if you have been infected with this malware. After rebooting, Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the components of VPNFilter – the most dangerous components – will be removed. However, Stage 1 will linger, meaning there is the potential for hackers to reinfect your router in the future. The FBI is currently working on ways of preventing this.

Source: zdnet.com – FBI to all router users: Reboot now to neuter Russia’s VPNFilter malware
Published: May 29, 2018

Echo device shares one family’s data without consent

“Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.”

These were the frightening and urgent words a Portland, Oregon family received over the phone two weeks ago, after what the Toronto Star calls an “unlikely string of events” caused their Amazon Echo to record their private conversations and send them to an acquaintance in Seattle, all without consent.

The receiver of these recordings was an employee of the husband, and was also the person to alert them of the situation. This person was listed in the device’s contacts.

“My husband and I would joke and say, ‘I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,” said family-member, Danielle, to Washington news station, KIRO 7. Danielle and her husband were reasonably in disbelief when they found out about the incident. “At first, my husband was, like, ‘No, you didn’t!’ And the [recipient of the message] said, ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘Oh, gosh, you really did hear us.”

Lots of people are nervous about AI and especially anything with recording capability. Danielle and her family are now among that group. She described her feeling of violation to KIRO 7, saying “I’m never plugging that device in again. I can’t trust it.”

So how did this happen?

Amazon said in a statement to The Post last on May 24th that the Echo  woke up upon hearing a word that sounded like Alexa. “The subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request. At which point, Alexa said out loud ‘To whom?’ At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list.”

So there was no hack, but it certainly felt that way to the family. Amazon says it is “evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

Source: thestar.com – Amazon Echo recorded, sent Oregon family’s conversation without consent
Published: May 24, 2018

Senators ask FCC to investigate their own identity fraud

FCC Schooley MitchellYou might remember that towards the end of 2017, millions of “fake net neutrality” comments were posted on the FCC’s website, with identical messages, that allegedly showed support of the FCC’s decision to overturn the Obama-era laws. Although the comments were pretty obviously made by bots, they used the identities of real people, including Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Now, according to Engadget, Merkley and Toomey have penned a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to investigate the identity fraud.

In their letter, Merkley and Toomey said they were “among those whose identities were misused to express viewpoints [they] do not hold,” on the FCC’s previous proposals. These two senators would like the commission to identify who or what was behind the fake comment, as well as to “adopt safeguards to prevent the same incident from happening in the future,” says Engadget. They would also like the FCC to disclose the total number of fake comments, and to explain how it is working with the Department of Justice to determine if laws have been broken. They are also asking the FCC to answer how many of the posts were made by bots, and if the commission could implement a CAPTCHA feature in the future. Perhaps most seriously, they want to know if any foreign government was involved in the incident.

Merkley and Toomey should not be alone in their concern. When the FCC originally worked with the New York Attorney General’s Office in investigating the comments, it was revealed that as many as 2 million American identities were used in this fraud.

Merkley and Toomey have described the necessity of their bipartisan team-up; they believe that the comment process of legislation is “an essential part of [American] democracy” and therefore they have a duty to prevent “the deliberate misuse of Americans’ personal information.”

Source: engadget.com – Senators ask the FCC to investigate fake net neutrality comments
Published: May 22, 2018

Sprint Unlimited 55+ is now available

You might have heard buzz lately about Sprint releasing an Unlimited 55+ plan, similar to T-Mobile. If you are a Sprint customer who is 55 years or older, you can sign up for one line of unlimited service for $50 a month, or two lines for $70 a month. In comparison two lines of the typical Sprint unlimited plan – which include unlimited talk, text, data, limited international texting and data, and a mobile hot spot – costs $100 a month.

Maybe you’re thinking, “but didn’t T-Mobile just release the same thing?” Yes, they did. As explained by The Verge, Sprint’s deal “bears a shocking similarity to T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ plan, which, in addition to sharing the same name, also offers two lines of unlimited data for $70 a month (or $50 for one line).”

And maybe now you’re thinking, aren’t T-Mobile and Sprint merging anyway? Yes, yes they are. Soon enough this deal for the 55 and older demographic will come from one source, but until the merger, T-Mobile and Sprint are happily offering it separately.

Source: TheVerge.com – Sprint’s new Unlimited 55+ plan for seniors is now available
Published: May 18, 2018

Canadians pay the most in the world for telecom services

According to a new study by Rewheel, a specialist in mobile-data and marketing competition, Canadians face “some of the least competitive pricing… for their wireless plans.”

Rewheel’s study looked at how much data 30 Euros – or $46.13 CAD – buys in mobile broadband and smartphone plans in over 41 countries. Canada came last for mobile broadband, and 37th for smartphone plans, ahead of Greece, Korea, Hungary, and Malta.

This isn’t just a Canadian problem. North America in general is lagging behind Europe in a few ways. The study suggests that “Countries like Bulgaria and Lithuania are outperforming the United States and Canada by offering unlimited data.”

How can this change? In January of 2018, the CRTC was urged to hold a public inquiry into the telecom industry’s sales tactics. But can we ever reach a point where competition in Canada is as diverse as in the EU?

Source: news1130.com – Canadians paying most for data in developed world: report
Published: May 7, 2018

200 Facebook apps suspended over privacy concerns

In the latest addition to the post-Cambridge Analytica Facebook saga, the social media giant has suspended 200 third-party applications after a privacy audit. According to SlashGear, Facebook’s “data misuse investigation found signs that they may have been acting improperly.”

Cambridge Analytica has closed its doors following the scandal, but it was likely not the only company abusing data it collected from the platform. This is where the investigation of all apps that “had access to large amounts of information” became necessary. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised that all suspicious apps, as well as developers that refused to comply with the audit, would be banned.

On May 14, Facebook Vice President of Product Partnerships, Ime Archibong, confirmed that “thousands of apps have been investigated and around 200 have been suspended.” The apps will be investigated to ensure that they really did misuse data, and if they are found to have done so, will be permanently banned from Facebook.

If you are interested in learning more about this process, SlashGear says Facebook will be posting the results of its audit on a support page.

Source: slashgear.com – Facebook suspends around 200 apps in privacy audit
Published: May 14, 2018

Telus growing faster than expected in 2018

Canadian wireless giant Telus has recently revealed that its Q1 results were better than experts had predicted. According to Mobile Syrup, Telus “posted a consolidated operating revenue of 3.4 billion, an increase by six percent over the same period a year ago.”

Telus says its growth comes from the success of its wireline and wireless businesses. Its wireless business made “$1.5 billion in revenue, an increase of four percent over last year.” Telus also added 48,000 new subscribers to its wireless service – which is 4,000 more than it added in Q1 of 2017. Most analysts predicted Telus would add somewhere between 35,000 and 39,000.

Mobile Syrup explains that, although this is great news for Telus, the company is nowhere close to its main competitors: “The additions come in far below Rogers’ 95,000 net postpaid additions in Q1 2018, and under Bell’s approximately 68,000 Q1 2018 net postpaid additions.”

Telus has a total wireless subscriber base of around 8.9 million.

Source: mobilesyrup.com – Telus reports 48,000 net postpaid wireless additions in Q1 2018
Published: May 10, 2018

Your iPhone X might have a notable defect

One of Apple’s biggest boasts when selling its iPhone X device starting last November was Face ID. Face ID is a sophisticated AI that uses 3D-sensing for facial recognition. Unfortunately, many iPhone X owners may have noticed that the Face ID on their device is faulty, and according to BGR, Apple has “instructions for its stores and authorized service providers to repair or replace faulty devices.”

The solution is strange. If you take your iPhone X in tomorrow, citing these issues, chances are that the first thing they will do is try a repair procedure on the rear facing camera. However, the rear face camera does not impact Face ID.

To explain this procedure, MacRumours was able to find a copy of the instructions Apple gave its service providers:

“In order to provide the best customer experience, if a customer reports that their iPhone X is having Face ID issues, you may be able to resolve the issue with a rear camera repair. Run AST 2 on the customer’s device to check the camera. If the diagnostics find issue with the camera, perform the repair to see if the issue is resolved. If the issue is not resolved, perform a whole unit replacement instead of a same-unit display repair.”

Speculating on these instructions, BGR has said, “It’s unclear what the link between rear and front camera is, but it sure looks like an issue with the dual-lens camera on the back might hinder Face ID functionality.”

And if your Face ID simply isn’t working, back camera repaired or not, then Apple doesn’t seem to know exactly what’s wrong.

Source: bgr.com – Apple confirms a serious problem with the iPhone X – and an unlikely solution
Published: May 7, 2018