WSJ: FBI can remotely activate Android and laptop microphones

Anthony Garreffa | Hacking, Security & Privacy | Aug 2, 2013 12:31 AM CDT

If you still thought you had privacy after all of the news you've been reading about the NSA PRISM system, or the GCHQ, then you'd be wrong. Very wrong. The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the FBI has the power to remotely activate microphones in Android smartphones and laptops to record conversations.

This is all coming from a single anonymous former US official, who says that remotely forcing a cellular microphone to listen in on a conversation isn't something new. The FBI used something they called "roving bugs" to spy on alleged mobsters back in 2004, and further back in 2002 they used the roving bugs to keep tabs on supposed criminals using the microphone in a vehicle's emergency call system.

The anonymous US official said that there is a dedicated FBI group that regularly hacks into computers, where they use a mix of custom and off-the-shelf surveillance software which they purchase from private companies. One of the Journal's sources said that the "Remote Operations Unit" will sometimes install software by physically plugging in a USB device, but they can also do it through the Internet by "using a document or link that loads software when the person clicks or views it."

Continue reading: WSJ: FBI can remotely activate Android and laptop microphones (full post)

James Cameron to release three more Avatar movies starting in 2016

Anthony Garreffa | TV, Movies & Home Theatre | Aug 1, 2013 9:26 PM CDT

I was one of those people that didn't really enjoy Avatar that much, but we all know it was one of the most successful movies of all times at the box office. James Cameron and 20th Century Fox have now confirmed that Avatar 2, 3 and 4 will be released one year apart starting from 2016.

Cameron has been spending some time in New Zealand working on the story for Avatar, with the famous director now coming out with 20th Century Fox and announcing the three sequels to Avatar. Cameron has called in some help for the script, with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes co-writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver stepping on, as well as Black Dahlia screenwriter Josh Friedman and Savages writer Shane Salerno.

Cameron says: "Building upon the world we created with Avatar has been a rare and incredibly rewarding experience. In writing the new films, I've come to realize that Avatar's world, story and characters have become even richer than I anticipated, and it became apparent that two films would not be enough to capture everything I wanted to put on screen. And to help me continue to expand this universe, I'm pleased to bring aboard Amanda, Rick, Shane and Josh - all writers I've long admired - to join me in completing the films' screenplays."

Continue reading: James Cameron to release three more Avatar movies starting in 2016 (full post)

AMD responds to hardware backdoor allegations

Charles Gantt | Hacking, Security & Privacy | Aug 1, 2013 4:51 PM CDT

Yesterday, I covered a story about the big chip manufacturers allegedly installing hardware level backdoors into the processors used in all of our PCs. The allegations came from two security industry experts who both claim to have proof of concept demonstrations already. Earlier today, AMD's Michael Silverman contacted me with an official statement on the matter in which he called the allegations "unfounded."

Providing security to users of our processors is a key priority for AMD. We've been incorporating security features into our silicon for many years. There's no reason for the unfounded speculation that has been occurring.

With the Black Hat conference wrapping up today, we will be keeping our eyes open for any whitepapers or proof of concept demos that prove the backdoors exist. I have reached out to both of the security experts for statements as well, but have yet to receive a response. If and when that response comes in, I will be sure to post an update.

Continue reading: AMD responds to hardware backdoor allegations (full post)

Phanteks launches new Enthoo Primo PC chassis

Charles Gantt | Cases, Cooling & PSU | Aug 1, 2013 4:05 PM CDT

Today, Phanteks launched a new legacy with the announcement of a new addition to their line of custom PC hardware. The Enthoo Primo is Phanteks' first foray into the PC chassis market, and boy did they make one heck of a first impression. Phanteks says that the Enthoo Primo combines innovative design and rich styling that appeals to enthusiast of any caliber.

The case features a uniquely located PSU mounting point that is thermally isolated from the rest of the case. Additionally, a multifunctional cable/ reservoir cover and other features give the case massive cooling potential. The PSU is now isolated in the back of the case away from all of the other thermally sensitive components. The case is designed with exclusive mounting brackets that hide cables as well as provide perfect mounting locations for liquid cooling reservoirs.

The Enthoo Primo features mounting locations for up to 16 fans, a built in PWM hub that allows PWM control of all fans in the system, including 3-pin units. The case has provisions for five 5.25-inch ODDs, six 3.5-inch HDDs, or twelve 2.5-inch HDDs / SSDs. The top of the case is also able to accommodate a 480mm radiator up top, a single 140mm out back, a 240mm in the front, and another 480mm on the bottom. Graphic cards up to 515mm in length are also able to squeeze in to the Enthoo Primo.

Continue reading: Phanteks launches new Enthoo Primo PC chassis (full post)

BlackBerry pushes out BBM beta invites to Android and iOS users

BlackBerry's launch of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android and iOS is quickly approaching and today, the company's CEO confirmed that they have began pushing out beta invitations to both Android and iOS users in an attempt to thwart off any major bugs on launch day. While we have no definitive date on when the messaging platform will debut on either of the mobile operating systems, we do know that it will happen sometime this summer. With the beta launching today, the official public launch can not be very far away.

An image of the BBM app running on a Samsung Galaxy SIII has popped up on BGR recently that gives us a glimpse of how the app will look on the Android platform. The report also says that users of Android 4.0 or higher will be getting the invitations before iOS users but as to why, we are still unsure. It is also unclear as to why BlackBerry is pushing out its proprietary messaging service to the rival OS' in the first place as BBM has widely been thought of a BlackBerry's final ace-in-the-hole. Our only guess is that the company is looking for other sources of revenue as its hardware business continues to sink out of popularity.

Continue reading: BlackBerry pushes out BBM beta invites to Android and iOS users (full post)

Team behind Forza 5 say Xbox One cloud boosts AI by 600 percent

Charles Gantt | Gaming | Aug 1, 2013 1:00 PM CDT

During its launch event, Microsoft spent a good amount of time talking up the benefits of the new cloud computing aspect the Xbox One will feature. While we expected the company to boast about high performance gains, we reserved judgement until we saw some numbers come from the developer side of things. Today, we got just what we were waiting for and honestly, the news was a lot better than we expected.

In a recent interview with OXM, Dan Greenawalt, the creative director for Forza 5, said that the new cloud computing aspect of the Xbox one created a "tremendous opportunity" for the game's AI to become better than ever. The game uses the cloud-based processing power to handle the game's "Drivatar" AI, something that saves 10 to 20 percent of the processing load that the actual Xbox One hardware sees.

Greenawalt says that by letting the cloud handle the AI side, the performance of Drivatar can be boosted by as much as 600 percent, letting the Xbox One hardware use that freed 20 percent of processing power on something else. 600 percent sounds like an almost too good to be true gain, but when you really think about it, it is actually very feasible. If the Xbox One's hardware has to handle the Drivatar AI, it must juggle it within the 10 billion other lines of code that it must process every second. When offloaded to the cloud, the Drivatar AI can be focused on exclusively and performance numbers could in theory rise exponentially.

Continue reading: Team behind Forza 5 say Xbox One cloud boosts AI by 600 percent (full post)

V-MODA unveils two new headphone accessories for the gamer market

Charles Gantt | Audio, Sound & Speakers | Aug 1, 2013 12:03 PM CDT

Today, V-MODA announced two new high-end accessories for use with its award winning Crossfade M-100 headphones. The BoomPro and CoilPro are aimed at enhancing the audio experience for even the most hardcore gamers as well as the Podcaster and Skype user. The BoomPro is a universal, hi-fi boom mic that instantly enhances voice clarity while greatly reducing background noise. It plugs directly into the audio jack of the CrossFade M-100 and a built-in on-cable Control Clip allows for quick adjustment of volume controls.

The CoilPro is a professional grade coiled extension cable that allows users to move up to 12 feet away from their battle station. The company says that this extension cable is perfect for the DJ booth, production studio, or for use while on a Skype call or other times when you may need to stay connected but move freely around your room or office. The cable is reinforced with an inner reinforcement strand of kevlar, which should prevent any stress breakage from occurring. Both of these new accessories are available from V-MODA and Amazon for $30.

"With the launch of these new accessories, V-MODA is raising the bar for headphone versatility. Up until now, there hasn't been a professional quality boom mic for high-end headphone enthusiasts and gamers," states Val Kolton, Chief Visionary Officer at V-MODA. "BoomPro opens up a world of opportunity, converting headphones like M-100 into an incredibly versatile headset for gamers, business professionals, podcasters and anybody who wants extreme clarity for their phone or conference calls. CoilPro bolsters M-100's appeal within the professional audio, music instrument and DJ community. As a musician, I can attest that the last thing you want to worry about is not having enough slack on your headphone cable while playing guitar or drums at home or spinning in the DJ booth. This gives you additional reach so you can focus on creating boundless music."

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Samsung is planning a new Galaxy flip phone dubbed the Galaxy Folder

Charles Gantt | Mobile Devices, Tablets & Phones | Aug 1, 2013 10:38 AM CDT

Today, a new user manual has surfaced for what appears to be a new flip style phone from Samsung. Engadget is reporting that the device will be part of the company's Galaxy line of smartphones. Dubbed the Galaxy Folder, this new phone will feature what appear to be 3.7-inch AMOLED displays on each side of the top half.

A dual-core QUALCOMM Snapdragon 400 processor, 2GB of RAM, and full LTE support will also be onboard. The phone resembles the now old-school Motorola Razr, which was in its day was the king of the flip phone form-factor. We can see a rear-facing camera with what appears to be an LED-based flash along with a front shooter of unknown spec. The design is similar to a phone the company released last year in China, and for all intents and purposes, it is safe to assume that this is where the Galaxy Folder will end up as well.

There is no mention (that I can find) of what operating system the device will run, but it could theoretically feature Tizen or Android, but my bet is on Tizen. The company has been working long and hard on developing the new OS and this would be the perfect platform to show it off. If you are interested in checking out the user manual, head over to Source #2 below.

Continue reading: Samsung is planning a new Galaxy flip phone dubbed the Galaxy Folder (full post)

Snowden still stuck in Moscow airport after more than a month

Charles Gantt | Current Affairs | Aug 1, 2013 9:03 AM CDT

Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who blew the whistle on PRISM, has been sitting in a isolated room at the Moscow Airport since June 23 and has not been allowed to leave or fly to another country. Today, he met with his lawyer in hopes of seeing his temporary request for asylum granted.

Today around 2:18 BST, Snowden met with his Russian Lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, and shortly there after, the lawyer addressed the press saying that Snowden would be staying in the airport's transit zone for now. He said that the immigration officials are still looking at the request for asylum and are drawing the process out. Snowden withdrew the permanent request and filled a temporary one which would allow him up to one year, but comments from Kucherena seem to sound like Snowden might stay in Russia permanently.

He is not planning to leave for now. He asked for temporary asylum, which in the case of a positive decision, is granted for a term of one year. Currently his final country of destination is Russia.

Continue reading: Snowden still stuck in Moscow airport after more than a month (full post)

New BlackBerry BB10 update said to be deleting text messages randomly

Charles Gantt | Mobile Devices, Tablets & Phones | Jul 31, 2013 10:50 PM CDT

Reports are coming in that a new over-the-air update to BlackBerry's BB10 OS includes a major bug that is randomly deleting SMS messages on some devices. The update is meant to improve operational functionality of BB10 devices such as the Z10 and Q10, but no one expected it to begin deleting text messages at random.

Some reports are coming in that says the update has even blocked SMS messaging entirely on their device. The issue appears to be widespread, but the bug appears to affect each device differently. Some users just experience the message deletion, while some only delete random messages from a message chain, while still other devices are seeing the messaging blocked entirely. BlackBerry has yet to confirm the issue, and we would recommend that you do not install the update until a fix has been released.

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