NUTS: Hackers Target Government, Apple and Samsung Continue Battle

Hackers continued their wave of attacks, targeting several politicians including President Obama, while Apple attempts to put a stop to Samsung’s sales in the U.S.

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Hackers Shift to Political Figures

Hacker group “Script Kiddies” gained access to the Twitter account of Fox News and posted a fake message about the assassination of President Obama. White House officials quickly assured the nation of the president’s safety.

Meanwhile, hacktivist group Anonymous targeted Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer by posting photos of a Guy Fawkes mask hanging outside his home, as well as a photoshopped image of two headless police officers. The threats accompanied attacks on the city’s police websites.

Anonymous is proclaiming its disapproval with Orlando’s new policy against feeding the homeless without a licence.

Besides political targets, AntiSec, a mix of Anonymous and former LulzSec hackers, broke into an Apple server and collected 26 administrative usernames and passwords. The group claims to have gained entry through a security flaw in third-party software.

The recent spate of attacks prompted European officials to form the International Cyber-Security Protection Alliance, or ICSPA, in an effort to protect organisations against future attacks.

On a positive note, Sony re-launched its PlayStation Network and Qriocity music services in Japan after an 11-week blackout. Nearly 100 million accounts were compromised due to the attacks in April.

Apple Versus Samsung: The Saga Continues

Apple filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, asking for a ban on Samsung products in the U.S., claiming four of Samsung’s devices — the Galaxy S 4G, Infuse 4G, Droid Charge and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet — violated its iPhone and iPad patents.

In response, Samsung denied the allegations and said it will continue to sell its products until it is legally prevented to do so. The ITC filing hints may offer a faster settlement between the warring companies, since it takes less time to decide than the courts.

Apple’s App Store Breaks Records, Other Break Security

Apple’s App Store platform is expected to surge with apps and e-books at a rate of 39 per cent over the next three years, reaching an estimated $13 billion in revenue by 2013.

After debuting in 2008, users have downloaded 15 billion apps. There are now more than 200 million iOS devices worldwide, each with an average of 75 apps.

In total, more than 425,000 apps are currently available in the App Store.

However, the Apple’s popularity has made it a target among hackers. The company acknowledged a security flaw in iOS, allowing attackers to infect users’ devices with malicious software and give them administrative privileges.

Hackers may gain access to information like passwords, online banking data, e-mail and contact information, as well as a person’s camera or calls.

In the courtroom, a judge rejected Apple’s request to stop Amazon from using the “AppStore” name. Apple claims customers may confuse Amazon’s “AppStore” with Apple’s “App Store.”

Amazon is allowed to use its AppStore term up until a trial date for October 2012.

In future products, Apple filed two patents related to augmented reality and transparent touch screens. The AR patent gives Apple a way to populate live photos and video feeds from iPads and iPhones with digital information, allowing users to easily identify unknown objects and places.

The transparent screen patent allows Apple to overlay real-time images with digital data, hinting at improved iPad features in the future.

Cloud Competition Gets Crowded

Swedish-based Spotify is joining the fray in the U.S. The music-streaming service had planned to launch months ago, but licensing negotiations with major record labels delayed its debut.

Meanwhile, Amazon offered unlimited Cloud Drive and Player storage, allowing users to host as much music as they wish for a $20 annual fee.

Consumers unwilling to pay can still host up to 5-gigabytes of music files, as well as upload unlimited files purchased from Amazon. They also receive a free 20-gigabyte storage locker for photos and video.

Verizon Caps Data, Introduces New Phones

Verizon ended its unlimited data plans, ushering in tiered plans starting at $30 a month for 2-gigabytes of data.

Customers already with unlimited contracts can keep their plans for the duration of the contract, but new customers must sign up for capped data plans.

The carrier said about 95 per cent of its customers consume less than 2-gigabytes per month, suggesting users will pay the same under the limited plans.

Meanwhile, Verizon plans to sell the Droid Bionic on August 4. The phone packs a 1-gigahertz dual-core chip, 512-megabytes of RAM, a 4.3-inch screen and 8-megapixel camera.

It also unveiled the Motorola Droid 3, which will debut later this summer for $200 with a two-year contract. The device will run on Android 2.3, along with a dual-core processor, 4-inch display, including an 8-megapixel camera capable of capturing 1080p video.

Google+ Sees Familiar Face, NFC Goes Social

Google last week launched its Google+ social network, amid positive reviews. And its most followed member so far is none other than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

So far, Zuckerberg amassed over 21,000 followers, beating even Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both with less than 15,000 followers.

Google also launched a Google+ app for Android, which includes a mobile payment component. The app is still in beta, but Nexus device owners can now scan near-field communication, or NFC, tags and post information as a status update on their Google+ accounts

The features blend the world of mobile payments with location check-in sites like Foursquare and Facebook.

The Internet giant is in the courtroom as well. Transcenic filed a complaint against Google, Microsoft and AOL’s MapQuest, claiming Google’s street view-perspective technology, used in Google Maps, violates its patent for collecting and manipulating panoramic imagery.

The Louisiana company is seeking unspecified damages in Federal Delaware District Court.

HTC Sees Profits Rise

HTC posted record sales due to the popularity of its Android phones and a surge in demand from Asia. The company shipped about 11 million units in the April-June period, more than double the total from a year ago.

HTC is pushing ahead by buying chip-designer S3 Graphics for $300 million. The deal gives HTC a portfolio of 235 patents, which it can use to protect itself in the increasingly-heated patent infringement arena, as well as provide it with technology to improve its smartphone lineup.

Nortel Sale Under Investigation

Canadian regulators are investigating the winning $4.5 billion bid for bankrupt telecom Nortel.

Canadian Industry Minister Christian Paradis said the results of the auction, including its 6,000 patents, are subject to the Investment Canada Act, which require the country to gauge whether any foreign investment or acquisition more than $312 million benefits or hurts the country.

A group of major companies including Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Ericsson and Research in Motion won the auction for patents relating to 4G, Wi-Fi, search engines and other telecom areas.

Facebook, Skype Team Up for Video Calling

Facebook announced a partnership with Skype to bring video chat to its 750 million users. The move beefs up Facebook’s offerings before a showdown with Google+. To use the service, people need to download a plug-in for their browsers.

ISPs Cracking Down on Piracy

Internet service providers partnered with entrainment companies to curb online piracy. ISPs agreed to a six-strikes warning program to reprimand those suspected of downloading copyrighted music and movies from sites like BitTorrent.

The Copyright Alert System will monitor users of illegal file-sharing services. If users are caught sharing copyrighted files, the alert system will send users’ ISP a notice to dole out punishment. ISPs can then issue up to six warnings before reducing users’ Internet speeds or suspending services until illegal file-sharing stops.

Government Deals with Online Sexual Material, Cell Phones in Cars

Judge Ralph Beistline struck down an Alaska law that aims to hold adults criminally liable for distributing sexually explicit material to minors over the Internet. Beistline sided with the group of plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit last August, saying such a law violates the First Amendment.

The judge agreed, saying the Internet lacks a reliable mechanism for verifying the age of Internet users.

Meanwhile, the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA, concluded cell phone use while driving increases the chance of crashing. The group studied over 350 scientific papers released since 2000, and found a link between texting and higher risks while driving, but it remains inconclusive on how to prevent phone-related car crashes.

But, the GHSA did agree with a ban on cell phone use for teenaged drivers, who are the highest risk for crashes.

Meanwhile, New Jersey ruled tracking one’s spouse by GPS legal and not an invasion of privacy.

The case originated when Kenneth Villanova’s wife suspected he was cheating but couldn’t confirm this as the private investigator she hired was unable to follow the suspected husband. She then placed a GPS unit in the glove compartment of the vehicle they owned together, eventually tracing him to another woman’s driveway.

Nokia Firesale, Store Closure

Nokia announced it will cut prices on its current line of smartphones, including the popular N8, C7 and E6 models, by 15 per cent in Europe, as it readies the release of its Windows phones next year. Nokia claims these cuts are normal and part of on-going business.

Meanwhile, the company is shutting down its Vertu luxury mobile phone stores in Japan. The company said it will continue to do business with Japanese craftsmen on products sold in other markers.

Microsoft Targets Samsung

Microsoft is seeking $15 for each Android device Samsung sells because of alleged patent infringement. If Microsoft demands payment, Samsung may be looking at a shelling out $45 million to Microsoft for past Galaxy S 2 sales alone.

Samsung aims to negotiate a lower fee of $10 per device, in exchange for a deeper partnership with Microsoft to create smartphones using the Windows Phone platform.

It’s a Sad World for RIM

RIM fell to third place behind Apple and Google. The once-strong company now controls just 24 per cent of the market, behind Apple’s 26 and Google’s 38, according to ComScore.

Last week, the company agreed to conduct an independent study to determine the effectiveness of a leadership change, much to the chagrin of investment firm of Glass Lewis & Co.

The investor had wanted to conduct a vote over whether to split up RIM’s executive roles at this year’s shareholders meeting. The firm says a change, not a study, is needed to fix the company.

Sprint May Finally Get iPhone

Sprint may add the iPhone to its lineup before Christmas, according to Citadel Securities. If so, the company may attract customers since it is the last U.S. carrier to offer unlimited data plans.

The iPhone is expected to boost Sprint’s fortunes, especially if it struggles to survive in a post-AT&T and T-Mobile merger.

Cell Phones May Not Cause Cancer After All

A group of experts from the U.S., U.K. and Sweden found no convincing evidence linking cell phone use to cancer. The group also added there is little evidence to suggest radio signals trigger tumors. But committee cannot definitively say there is no connection at all between the two.

Meanwhile, a group of researchers are using smartphones to diagnose cataracts.

A team of MIT scientists developed the Catra System, which allows a user to look through an eyepiece that slides onto a smartphone or other mobile devices like tablets. The patient sees lines on the screen and pushes a button when the lines start to cloud. If there are enough lines that look cloudy, Catra diagnoses the cataract and recommends treatment.

Samsung Profits Dip, Sends Nexus S to Space

Samsung profits took a significant hit, even after the success of its Galaxy tablets. The company’s ongoing dispute with Apple casts doubt on the company’s future, especially if Samsung is forced to pay Apple for patent infringement.

Meanwhile, the company’s Nexus S phone joined rival Apple’s iPhone in space aboard the Atlantis space shuttle. The device is set to conduct several experiments with its computing power and camera.

Obama Holds Twitter Town Hall Meeting

President Barack Obama received nearly 170,000 questions and comments at his Twitter town hall meeting. The event was moderated by Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey.

More than a quarter of the questions dealt with jobs, while 10 per cent were about education. This was the first-ever online, live presidential town hall meeting.

Ebay Strengthens PayPal Service

Ebay purchased mobile payment provider Zong for $240 million. Ebay plans to connect the service’s 3.2 billion users and 250 wireless carriers with PayPal.

Shoppers use Zong to pay for items with their mobile phones by entering their mobile phone numbers, which Zong then verifies the transaction and charges the customer’s cell phone bill.

Japan Strikes… Metal

Japanese researchers reportedly found gadolinium, lutetium, terbium and dysprosium in the mud beneath the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. These are the same metals needed to make iPhones, iPads and other gadgets.

Experts believe the find could total billions of tons of materials, which could be more than 1,000 times the amount found in land sources locally mostly in China.

News Under the Sun is a weekly column rounding up all the events on in the mobile industry. Want the news but don’t want it every day? Subscribe to our weekly Facebook or Twitter page.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.

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