Monthly Archives: December 2016

Promises to Do Better on Samsung Explains

Samsung Electronics on Monday announced that it has developed new quality assurance protocols to ensure that it won’t have a repeat of the catastrophic issues that plagued its Galaxy Note7 handsets. The company last fall issued a universal recall after several of the devices caught fire or exploded.

In one incident, a Southwest Airlines flight had to be evacuated in Louisville, Kentucky, after a Samsung Galaxy Note7 caught fire and produced thick smoke on an aircraft. Samsung initially blamed the problem on an “isolated” faulty battery cell issue, before opting to issue a general recall of the device.

Samsung has reaffirmed that the design and production of the batteries caused the problems — not the hardware or software — but the company has acknowledged that it should have done more to ensure that the batteries could not overheat and cause fires. It has enlisted a group of external advisors to provide clear and objective perspectives on battery safety and innovation.

 

All the Right Moves

Samsung unveiled its new “8-Point Battery Safety Check,” which is meant to address any potential problems. It encompasses a durability test, visual inspection, X-ray test, disassembling test and OCT test, as well as a charge and discharge test, TVOC test and accelerated usage test.

In addition, Samsung will conduct a multilayer safety measures protocol on all its devices. It will cover the overall design and materials, as well as device hardware strength. Further, it will ensure that software algorithms are in place for safer battery charging temperatures.

“Samsung is doing the right thing. It took its time, but eventually it got enough instances of failed batteries in the lab to figure out what the technical issue was,” said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

“At the same time, Samsung has been relatively forthcoming about the results and taking responsibility,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The first thing Samsung had to do was make it clear that it understood the core of the Note7 fire, and it had to ensure that it won’t happen again,” noted Ian Fogg, senior director for mobile and telecoms at IHS Markit.

“It had to make creditable assurances to customers, vendors and retailers that this wouldn’t happen with future models,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The announcement today addressed both of those issues.”

Customizing a Computer

There are plenty of reasons to build a custom computer. While custom computers may initially be more expensive than prepackaged desktops or laptops, they can provide you with nearly endless possibilities, whether you’re looking for a top-notch gaming machine, a system for mixing music, or the ideal choice for developing Web applications.

A custom computer is the way to go if you want both performance and flexibility. Upgrading individual parts often is less expensive than buying a new computer, which could save you money in the long run.

Following are the essential parts you’ll need.

 

Processor and Motherboard

The component to start with is the processor, which will dictate your selection of other necessary parts, like the motherboard. UserBenchmark’s exhaustive list of user-rated processors is a good resource to help you decide. AMD and Intel are the top manufacturers, but I prefer Intel.

Intel is the industry standard when it comes to processors, so you can’t go wrong if that’s your choice. Its Core series comes in three families: i3, i5 and i7. The i3 series is good for average computing needs, while the i5 offers a little more horsepower. The i7 series offers you the best performance. For the price, a Core i7-6700k really can’t be beat.

After you choose your processor, select a motherboard to go with it. Make sure it is USB 3.1/3.0-capable for optimal speed. One factor to consider is whether you plan on overclocking, which involves running your PC at a speed higher than manufacturer recommendations.

While you can benefit from short-term performance boosts, overclocking may lead to a shorter lifespan for your computer, so you’ll need to consider a compatible motherboard if you plan to do it.

 

Storage and Memory

Next, choose the storage you want to use. HDD drives are the traditional hard drives that most computers have, and they are extremely affordable.

Personal Phone Despite Security Risks

President Donald J. Trump has continued to use his personal Android smartphone despite security concerns, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Trump was concerned about losing access to his personal phone even prior to taking his oath of office, the Times reported last fall, citing unnamed aides who told reporters he worried about how isolated he could become in the White House without his phone to keep in touch with friends.

The president told a friend he had given up his phone as security officials urged him to do, the AP reported last week. It was unclear whether he would be using a heavily modified BlackBerry like the phone President Barack Obama carried, however.

Trump nevertheless has continued to use his personal Android to tweet, according to multiple reports.

 

Mic Hijacking

If the president were to limit his personal phone use to tweeting — and it’s not clear whether he has — it still could pose a threat to national security.

“Even if he isn’t using the device for storing or sending classified information, having the device in the president’s presence still raises security concerns,” maintained Andrew Blaich, a security researcher atLookout.

“We have discovered sophisticated spyware that when successfully deployed can remotely access the phone’s microphone and camera,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Think about the impact an attacker could have if they could access the POTUS phone’s microphone during key briefings throughout the day.”

Telemetry features, such as GPS tracking, also pose a risk.

“Tracking the physical movement and geographical location of a target is classified information for high-value targets,” said Israel Barak, CISO of Cybereason.

“It’s also valuable information for an adversary. Using a commercial off-the-shelf smartphone by a high-value target like the U.S. president is an unacceptable risk,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“When it comes to a corporate executive, balancing risk with functionality might lean towards using a commercial device,” Barak said, “but when it comes to a high-value national target, where the threat actors are sophisticated military-grade adversaries, that’s a risk that can’t be balanced in favor of a commercial phone.”

 

Safety vs. Convenience

Obama’s BlackBerry mobile phone was specially modified to be extra secure, even though BlackBerry devices, in general, are considered more secure than other phones.

That’s because BlackBerry isn’t just a phone. It’s also a network. Traffic from the phone is encrypted and sent to BlackBerry servers operated by the enterprises or government agencies. The traffic also is encrypted when it goes from the server to the Internet.

The tradeoff for all that security, though, is performance.

“The reason that BlackBerry isn’t as popular as it used to be is all that encryption slows things down,” explained Slawek Ligier, vice president of engineering for security at Barracuda Networks.

“Using a browser on a BlackBerry device has always been painfully slow,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The good news for the president, though, is that text-only tasks, such as tweeting, don’t take much of a performance hit.

 

Resistant to Change

When it comes to their phones, many consumers resist change, and it appears presidents aren’t any different.

“Where Trump is concerned, usually the most banal explanation is the correct one — he’s used to it, it seems convenient, and he’s stubbornly digging in his heels against the advisors explaining it’s a bad idea,” said Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

“He’s also clearly not terribly technically sophisticated, and so probably doesn’t grasp how risky it is,” he told TechNewsWorld.

China Aims to Wash VPNs

8China this week announced new measures to further restrict its citizens’ access to the Internet.

The 14-month campaign appears designed to crack down on the use of Web platforms and services unapproved by the government, and on virtual private networks, which can used to access those platforms and services covertly.

While China’s Internet network access services market is facing many development opportunities, there are signs of “disorderly development” that show the urgent need for regulation, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology explained in a notice posted to a government website.

The coming “clean-up” of China’s network access services will standardize the market, strengthen network information security management, and promote the healthy and orderly development of the country’s Internet industry, the ministry noted.

In order to operate legally, Internet service providers, VPN providers, data centers and content delivery networks will have to obtain a license from the government and adhere to strict limitations.

 

Great Firewall

The clean-up also places severe new restrictions on cross-border business activities. It requires that government approval be obtained to create or lease lines, including VPN channels, to perform cross-border business activities.

Those restrictions essentially will block any Chinese citizen from using a VPN — basically, hiding their IP address and rerouting their connections to servers outside their country — in order to access websites the government doesn’t want them to see.

China is famous for controlling the information its citizens can see on the Internet with its “Great Firewall,” which screens Internet traffic between China and the outside world. Any requests to see information Beijing deems inappropriate are sent to an Internet graveyard.

Among the 171 of the world’s top 1,000 websites the Great Firewall blocks are Google, Facebook and Twitter, according to Greatfire.org, a censorship monitoring service. VPNs offer a way to get through the firewall, which is why the government wants to block them.

China also has taken a more proactive approach to dealing with websites that it doesn’t like. It crafted a Great Cannon, which it uses to launch DDoS attacks on domains critical of Beijing.

 

Shaping the Narrative

China’s government has attempted to restrict VPN access in the past, particularly at sensitive times, such as when the national Communist party convenes. Such a meeting is scheduled for the end of this year.

The great clean-up may be a departure from the past, however.

“This new directive may be a sign that the restrictions might become more systematic,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch.

In the past, enforcement of VPN restrictions seemed spotty. Sometimes they worked; sometimes they didn’t.

“Part of the problem with censorship in China is it’s often opaque,” Wong told TechNewsWorld.

“Users are often left wondering why their VPN isn’t working. Is it because of technical problems or is it because of the government?” she wondered. “This needs to be viewed as part of a broader crackdown on any kind of independent media by the Chinese government. In recent years, the government has doubled down on efforts to restrict any information that diverges from its official narrative.”

VPNs are used for many purposes in China, though — among them to keep companies’ discussions about their intellectual property and market strategies secure.

“I would hope industry pushes back on this, because it will be much more difficult to run innovative businesses in China without full access to information,” Wong said. “It’s in their interest for this to be a concern for them, and they should be concerned about corporate espionage as well.”