Rumors say the S8 Active won't crack under pressure thanks to a shatter-resistant screen.

We all have that friend whose phone screen looks like a mosaic. Some of us are that friend.

But shatter-resistant screens are here to put an end to the sadness. And it sounds Samsung's latest Galaxy S8 variant -- the Galaxy S8 Active -- will be merely the latest phone to get the goods.

How might it work?

Spiderwebs begone

In 2015, the Motorola Droid Turbo 2 was one of the first flagship smartphones to brag about a screen that wouldn't crack.

When CNET put that claim to the test, it turned out Motorola was right. The display was damn near invincible, and it was mostly thanks to a surprisingly simple old-school technique: Plastics.

Unlike hard glass screens, soft plastic ones don't tend to crack on impact.

Image result for Galaxy S8The more recently released Moto Z2 Force, too, features a shatterproof display with polycarbonate (aka plastic) layers. The downsides are that plastic doesn't feel quite as nice to the touch and it tends to scratch easily -- which is why the Motorola phones typically come with a factory-installed screen protector to start.

Will Samsung do this?

Turns out it already has. The Galaxy S7 Active featured a screen that was made with a plastic/glass blend akin to the Motorola phones.

And now, it seems Samsung may give the S8 Active a similar treatment. A recent leak on Chinese Social network Weibo claims that the S8 Active could feature a shatter-resistant screen as well. It'll also be a flat screen according to previous leaks, which could protect from corner impacts as well.

But that might not be the only way Samsung improves upon the Galaxy S8. The Weibo leak claims that the S8 Active could get the following:

4,000mAh battery (vs. the S8's 3,000mAh battery)
MIL-STD-810G durability rating (meaning protection against things like extreme temperature, high altitudes, and shock)
Colors like gray and gold
And that's in addition to maintaining the Galaxy S8's IP68 water resistance and edge-to-edge display.

The S8 Active may also be slightly bigger and heavier than the S8, according to the leak.

When can I get one?

The S7 Active was released in July and the S6 Active in June. This could mean we're in store for a summer release, but there's still no official word yet. The closest we got to a confirmation of the phone was when it was mentioned in some Samsung documents back in June, but no release date was given

The Moto Z2 Force, meanwhile, will be available August 10.

Source and Credit:

Why the Galaxy S8 Active could be nearly invincible

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Microsoft is forging ahead to make FPGA processing power available to external Azure developers for data-intensive tasks like deep-neural-networking tasks.

Microsoft has been using field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to improve performance and efficiencies of Bing and Azure for the last few years.

But next year, Microsoft plans to make this kind of FPGA processing power available to developers who will be able to use it to run their own tasks, including intensive artificial-intelligence ones, like deep-neural-networking (DNN).
At its Build developers conference this Spring, Azure CTO Mark Russinovich outlined Microsoft's big-picture plans for delivering "Hardware Microservices" via the Azure cloud. Russinovich told attendees that once Microsoft solves some lingering security and other issues, "we will have what we consider to be a fully configurable cloud."

Image result for azure"This is the core of an AI cloud," Russinovich said, and "a major step toward democratizing AI with the power of FPGA." (A good recap of Russinovich's remarks can be found in this TheNewStack article.)

FPGAs are chips that can be custom-configured after they're manufactured. Microsoft researchers have been doing work in the FPGA space for more than a decade.

More recently, Microsoft has added FPGAs to all of its Azure servers in its own datacenters, as well as implementing FPGAs in some of the machines that power Bing's indexing servers as part of its Project Catapult efforts. Microsoft's Azure Accelerated Networking service, which is generally available for Windows and in preview for Linux, also makes use of FPGAs under the covers.

In May, Russinovich said Microsoft didn't have a firm timeline as to when the company might be ready to bring hardware microservices and FPGA cloud-processing power to customers outside the company. But this week, Microsoft officials said the goal for doing this is some time in calendar 2018.

Microsoft's Hardware Microservices are built on Intel FPGAs. (Intel bought FPGA-maker Altera in 2015.) These chips, coupled with Microsoft's framework, will provide advances in speed, efficiency and latency that are particularly suited to big-data workloads.

Microsoft also is working specifically on the DNN piece via a project codenamed "Brainwave." Microsoft demonstrated BrainWave publicly at the company's Ignite 2016 conference, when Microsoft used it to run a massive language-translation demonstration on FPGAs.

Microsoft officials were planning to discuss Brainwave at the company's recent Faculty Research Summit in Redmond, which was entirely dedicated to AI, but looking at the updated agenda, it seems references to Brainwave were removed.

BrainWave is a deep-learning platform running on FPGA-based Hardware Microservices, according to a Microsoft presentation on its configurable-cloud plans from 2016. That presentation mentions "Hardware Acceleration as a Service" across datacenters or the Internet. BrainWave distributes neural-network models across as many FPGAs as needed.

Microsoft is not the only company looking to FPGAs in its cloud datacenters; both Amazon and Google are using custom-built silicon for AI tasks.

Amazon already offers an FPGA EC2 F1 instance for programming Xilinx FPGAs and provides a hardware development kit for FPGA. Google has been doing work around training deep-learning models in TensorFlow, its machine-learning software library and has built its own underlying Tensor Processing Unit silicon.

Credit and Source:
By Mary Jo Foley

How Microsoft plans to turn Azure into an 'AI cloud'

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There is a dark web market called "The Real Deal" which posted fresh LinkedIn credentials for sale. A reported 117 million LinkedIn usernames and passwords has been leaked.

LinkedIn spokesperson confirmed that the company is working on resetting the affect users passwords. So they say they have no indication there has been a breach. Please help me understand how 117 million usernames and passwords have been taken but there is not a breach.

A security guy name Troy Hunt says the hacker inflated the data.
"He told FORBES he’d seen a number of passwords in plain text, indicating the hackers had managed to crack some of the hashes – the result of the password being passed through a cryptographic algorithm to turn it into gobbledygook. “The reality is, it’s a breach from four years ago and some passwords won’t just be valid today, they’ll be valid across different sites,” Hunt warned."


LinkedIn Warns Users To Reset Passwords As 117M Logins For Sale On Dark Web

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Whenever you see a headline that poses a question, the answer to that particular question is usually a big fat no. However, when it comes to software development for next-generation car infotainment systems like Android Auto and Apple Carplay, that’s not the case. If you can spare a few minutes, I will try to explain why.

We’ve all heard talk of autonomous, driverless cars for years, and many of us had a chance to try out some rudimentary implementations of such technologies, which are slowly making their way to mainstream cars. This post won’t deal with those for the following reasons: driverless cars are still years away, they will be closed for development, and they will not create a new market for developers, not unless you want your car to be parallel parked using code written by a 16-year-old coder freelancing for $5 an hour.

However, cars with next-generation connected infotainment systems will create new opportunities on several fronts. In case you already have an infotainment system with a neat touchscreen and GPS in your car, please accept my condolences; it’s about to become as obsolete as a Nokia 3310 compared to an iPhone.

Next-gen infotainment platforms are to current systems what smartphones are to feature phones.

I know that is a bold statement, and many of you won’t agree with me, but I like to kick off on a provocative note. I will do my best to change your mind, and if I fail, feel free to let me know in the comment section.

Evolution Of Car Infotainment Systems, Or Lack Of It

So what’s so wrong with the current generation of car infotainment and navigation systems? How come many of us chose not to buy them? Why don’t we see a lot of development in this niche?

It all boils down to a combination of technical and economic considerations. Consumer tech is rendered obsolete in years, roughly two product cycles for smartphones, three to four cycles for desktops and laptops. That usually translates into two to five years. Naturally, as products mature, their lifecycle is extended as well.

The car industry does not work that way, so very few of us go out and buy a new car nearly as often. In fact, many new cars ship with three- to five-year warranties, so most people are unlikely to sell them for five or more years. Cars are built to last a decade or more, and they can’t be upgraded like desktop PCs, or receive OTA updates like our smartphones.

But hold on, why don’t carmakers simply install off-the-shelf technology employed in tablets and smartphones? Why do we still have expensive dials if it would be cheaper to replace them with a high-resolution panel used in $200 tablets? The answer is simple; it wouldn’t work.

Automotive electronics are a world apart from consumer tech. While they can be based on similar chip architectures and technologies, they need to be a lot more durable. Unlike your iPad, your car infotainment system has to put up with a very hostile environment and deal with loads of potential issues:

Constant vibrations and G forces.
Extremely high and low temperatures.
Ability to stand up to high levels of humidity, or the occasional splash of water.
MTBF has to be much longer.
When they fail, they need to fail safe.
Infotainment systems are integrated with numerous other components.
Legal and regulatory issues must be addressed.
I could expand this list, but I think it’s enough to prove my point; a car infotainment system and an iPad don’t have that much in common. They may share the same DNA, but the same goes for a MacBook Air and a Panasonic Toughbook.

The good news is that developers needn’t be concerned by any of these issues, because they will be addressed by carmakers and tech companies trying to slide their foot in the door and grab a piece of this emerging market. That leaves us with good old chips and operating systems, and whether they’re in a desktop, smartphone, smart toaster or a new car, they all speak the same language; they all execute code.

What Sort Of Technology Is Coming To Our Cars?

A number of tech heavyweights, including Apple, Google, Texas Instruments, and Nvidia, have already entered this market. You can already buy cars equipped with some of these systems, and some solutions like Nvidia’s Tegra-based infotainment platforms, have been on the market for years.

The next obvious step is to open up these platforms and get more brands, and consumers, on the bandwagon.

Google Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are bound to dominate this space for years to come. In case you would like to check out a head-to-head comparison of the systems, you can head over to CNET.

Now, these platforms don’t have much in common with driverless cars, autonomous cars or whatever you choose to call them. They are merely a replacement for the “dumb” infotainment systems we have today. Here is an analogy that should explain what’s about to happen: next-gen infotainment platforms are to current systems what smartphones are to feature phones. They have a lot more potential for future development, integration with other devices, fast mobile broadband connectivity, and so on.

In terms of hardware, we will see more powerful System-on-Chip (SoC) solutions, capable of providing fast 4G data, stunning graphics, improved GPS capabilities, and even some cutting-edge features such as motion tracking.

For example, Nvidia is trying to leverage its GPU technology to enable motion tracking that should provide drivers with better situational awareness. This does not mean we’ll end up with driverless cars powered by Nvidia SoCs, but the technology could be used to look out for obstacles when parking, cars in our blind spots and so on. Not long ago, the computational power needed to pull this off was reserved for professional graphics solutions, but the latest crop of Nvidia Tegra processors features 192 GPU cores, or CUDA cores to be precise. Upcoming Tegras will feature even more powerful CPUs and additional CUDA cores (256 and more cores).

Even the current generation is powerful enough to enable the development of autonomous cars, let alone vehicles with some rudimentary motion tracking features. In case you are interested in the geeky details, you can check out this Nvidia blog, detailing how a Jetson TK1 development board can be used for low-power sensing and autonomy.

The really good news is that the industry will be able to use vast amounts of CUDA code, developed for discrete graphics cards. It will work on Nvidia mobile platforms as well. The bad news is that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay simply won’t harness this potential, at least not yet. Instead, they will act as “second screens” for our mobile devices.

Bottom line; hardware will not be an issue.

What Does This Mean For Developers?

By this point, many of you are probably asking this question. The potential for third-party development on these platforms will be limited; people won’t use them to browse or play games. Certain apps are off the table for safety considerations, the size of the market will remain limited for years, and growth will be slow due to long product lifecycles.

ABI Research estimates Apple CarPlay will be installed in about 24 million new cars shipped in 2019. The research outfit also expects Android Auto uptake to accelerate and be “more aggressive than CarPlay.” In any case, these numbers don’t look too exciting, at least not from our perspective. More than a billion smartphones are shipped each year, so shipping about 50 million cars with next-generation infotainment systems four years from now doesn’t look impressive. However, these cars will be on our roads for about a decade, while smartphones and tablets are rendered obsolete and replaced in 2-3 years. In spite of low overall sales, the infotainment user base will grow and by the end of the decade we could be looking at a couple of hundred million new cars with fancy infotainment systems on our roads. Now that sounds a bit more tempting, does it not?

The user base will be limited for years to come, but it boils down to quality over quantity. Those buying a $50,000 Audi with a new infotainment system can afford a few premium apps for their new toy. This is not the case with hundreds of millions of phone users, who simply don’t use paid apps at all.

But what are people going to develop for these things to begin with?

Well, to be perfectly honest, not much. While these units may be viewed as standalone platforms, with more than adequate hardware and software capabilities, in reality they will be used as “second screens” for mobile devices, they are projected from your smartphone to the infotainment system. There’s nothing wrong with that, and developers are already tackling wearables in a similar way.

This means we will end up with two approaches:

Standard mobile apps that will use infotainment systems as a second screen.
Apps developed specifically for automotive infotainment.
Developers working on certain types of applications that may be useful in cars will have to make sure that they work well on infotainment systems. The number of applications that could be considered useful in a car is limited. Apart from core apps, which will be preinstalled on these systems anyway, there won’t be a lot of room for standard mobile apps tweaked to run on infotainment systems. Games, fitness apps, outdoor apps, news readers, social apps – very few of them would make sense in a car.

The second approach looks more challenging, but it could prove more lucrative in the long run. There is no “killer app” specifically designed to use the multitude of sensors on our phones that will seamlessly integrate with infotainment systems. After all, would you rather have a killer app running on 10 percent of all deployed automotive systems than a mediocre iOS app installed by 0.1 percent of iPhone users? What if your team comes up with something truly useful and original, and eventually big carmakers start preinstalling your app on their systems. Long drinks on the yacht, anyone?

But what could third party developers create? Core apps will handle a lot of stuff, complemented by major services like Spotify, or TuneIn radio. The real question we should be asking is what we would want to use while driving, so here are a few basic apps, features, and services the average user would like to see on their infotainment screen.

Maps and navigation.
Voice calls and messaging.
Relevant notifications.
Music and radio.
Voice control.
It’s clear most of this will be covered by core apps, but there is always room for improvement. A lot of content streaming services are bound to pounce, because everybody loves good tunes on the road, whether they are streamed from your personal collection in the cloud, or if you are into talk radio. Maps and navigation are also covered by core apps and popular third-party solutions. Core apps will handle notifications, voice calls, messaging and voice commands.

Creating Opportunities For Small Developers

This does not leave much room for small third-party developers or startups keen to get in on the action. They will have to be creative and carve out an all-new niche if they want to make it big. They will have to be original, or cater to a very small group of potential users, like motoring enthusiasts.

This is an obvious problem, because small developers can be very agile, innovative, and they are a vital part of any app ecosystem. Still, this does not mean there is no room for them. Monetization will be a problem because startups and independent developers won’t be able to rely on ads. Even if they could, it wouldn’t make much difference due to the small user base and the fact that these apps wouldn’t be used nearly as often as their smartphone counterparts. Few automotive apps will be free (save for existing services trying to enter a new market), and I suspect many niche apps will end up with a hefty price tag to justify development and ensure ROI in a reasonable timeframe. There is also a chance industry leaders will try to subsidise development, but it’s too early to say.

Personally, I am a cautious optimist. We will see people with good ideas and the know-how to execute them and create entirely new services for these platforms. It might not be as straightforward as creating a cross-platform app, but risk-takers often hit the bullseye and build successful services.

So let’s take a look at what could be accomplished and which niches could be covered:

Road safety.
Security and insurance liability.
Applications for motoring enthusiasts.
Fuel economy applications.
Health and ergonomics.
Safety is obviously a great selling point, so developers could focus on some aspects not covered by core apps. It all depends on how elaborate the infotainment system is, whether it is opened up properly, and if there is room for improvement on preinstalled, stock solutions.

For example, how about an app that would collect anonymous information on the average speed of vehicles traveling on a particular stretch of road? Store the info in the cloud, match the vehicle type, road conditions, eliminate the outlier results (top and bottom 5%), and you could end up with a very simple way of informing the driver whether or not they are driving in a safe speed range (which they could define themselves, matching their personal preferences, abilities and their vehicle). If you are approaching a few hairpins, the system could warn you that other drivers slow down just behind the curve, or that they know something you don’t (i.e. the location of speed cameras). This would allow all drivers to rely on the experience of other drivers who are familiar with that particular road.

Security and insurance liability is another niche that could make a lot of sense, especially in some markets. In certain parts of the world, a huge number of drivers rely on dashcams. They act like cheap black boxes and help clamp down on insurance fraud. As an added bonus, we also get to see some amazing YouTube videos. A modern infotainment system could provide a lot more information than a dumb dashcam. You could extract location, acceleration/deceleration data, speed at impact and so on. This would, obviously, make many court cases and insurance claims an open and shut affair.

Theft is another problem, although it would be much harder to address with technology. Sure, you could set up some IP cameras that could identify the car thief as soon as they break in, but there is an inherent weakness to this approach; professional crooks already use jammers for cell phone frequencies and GPS signals.

Petrol heads might get some interesting apps that would allow them to interface with the vehicle’s On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) system. This would save a few expensive and unnecessary trips to the garage, but it could also provide motorists with additional information. Some of it could be displayed in real time, transforming the infotainment screen into a bunch of dials capable of displaying info the average driver couldn’t care less about. Some developers have already made a name for themselves in this niche, and if you are not familiar with the concept, you can check out the highly acclaimed Torque Pro app for more details.

Fuel economy could be improved with smart tech as well. The system could track your commute and figure out the most economical route, the most frugal driving style, and it could help you track expenses, compare prices at different petrol stations and so on. This could be of particular interest to fleet operators and businesses in general.

Health apps aren’t an obvious choice when it comes to automotive platforms, but bear with me. Thanks to wearables, we could feed the system with some important data, like the heart rate of the driver, physical activity and movement, and so on. The infotainment system could warn drivers to take a break if they are stressed out, or if they haven’t taken a break and stretched their legs for hours. What if new cars integrate driver-facing cameras? Those could also be used to check the driver’s posture and sound off if they notice the driver is about to doze off behind the wheel.

Why Develop For Apple CarPlay And Android Auto?

If you are interested in checking out the automotive niche, and if you think you have what it takes to develop for Android Auto, or Apple CarPlay, the official dev pages are the obvious place to start.

The Android Auto developer page offers a lot of useful info and resources, with more on the way. The focus is on extending your app to work in vehicles, so Google offers clear guidelines for Android Auto UI design, messaging apps, audio apps and so on. The best practices section is home to a lot of helpful info, so be sure to check it out if you want to get a clear picture of Google’s vision.

There aren’t as many freely available resources for Apple CarPlay, at least not for the time being. Since both platforms are still wet behind the ears, it’s understandable that the volume of documentation is limited.

On the face of it, the two platforms are similar, but Google’s appears to be more flexible and “smarter.” Since both are likely to evolve, it’s too early to pass judgement and say which will come out on top. I already mentioned some market forecasts, and it seems that both platforms will be evenly matched in terms of overall sales.

However, there are a few considerations developers should keep in mind. Since the lifecycle of these products will be much longer, users will be stuck with whatever they get for years. This isn’t a big deal when you buy a $300 tablet, but what about a $30,000 car? What if you decide to swap your Nexus for an iPhone, or vice versa? Well, you might as well buy a new car, because it won’t work. It’s probable that these systems will lock in users for years, forcing them to choose a mobile platform when they buy a new car, and stick with it. Most car makers are expected to offer both systems (as an optional extra, obviously), but this is not an elegant solution. What if your spouse or kids don’t use the same mobile OS as you? What if your car’s resale value is negatively affected by your choice of infotainment platform?

What about older cars? The good news is that aftermarket head units with CarPlay and Android Auto are showing up, but they aren’t cheap. Sooner or later Chinese white-box outfits will start making their own versions for a couple of hundred bucks. However, installing aftermarket head units in many modern cars can be tricky, so it’s a turn-off for many car owners.

In any case, despite their limitations and slow uptake, smart automotive platforms will become a significant niche market by the time the decade is out. Hardware outfits and carmakers will make a few billion dollars, but the potential for developers will remain limited for years to come.

Is Developing For Car Infotainment Systems like Android Auto and Apple Carplay the Next Big Thing?

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On Thursday, the hacking group Anonymous claim to leak Donald Trump’s personal information including his Social Security number and cell phone number. Anonymous twitter account with 1.61 million followers tweeted a link to video that so called blast Trumps information. The information is a bit outdated, a lot of it has been on the internet for a year now.

Trump campaign say they have launched an investigation with authorities, aka the U.S Secret Service. They want to arrest the people responsible for attempting to illegally hack Trumps accounts.

Fox news state “Anonymous has already declared war on Trump”.

Hackers target Donald Trump, claim to leak his Social Security number

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I hope you are not sleeping on Whatsapp. Just in case, WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. You can leave voice recordings and make phone calls using your data. So I was reading an article by this evening about WhatsApp decision to remove annual subscription fees.  As a consumer, this is awesome. I use this app frequently to communicate with international coworkers without using international calling on my phone. It’s a great feature that I would pay the 99 cent fee to continue using it. However, the company says that most consumers that uses the app doesn’t have a debit or credit card. The best option to prevent a halt in growth, is to just drop the fee. Fine with me!!

Along with this information, the company also announced a few new features with WhatsApp version 2.12.16.

  • You can now choose to save incoming media for specific chats in contact info or group info
  • Pull down on in-app notifications to quickly reply to them
  • Missed call notifications will now appear inside of chats
  • Share PDFs from other apps into WhatsApp. 

Share PDF’s was a great idea. However, I would prefer to use email, Skype for Business or another business application to share documents. 

WhatsApp Stop Charging annual subscription fee's

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Turns out North-Bit, a software research agency, conducted research that proves 275 million Android devices could be prone to a hack. The security concern is within Android software library, Stagefright, which is Androids core component. Stagefright is collective name for a group of software bugs that affect versions 2.2(“Froyo”) to 4.0 and newer Android OS. 

Sources state that Android operating systems 5.0 and 5.1 on HTC One, LG G3 or Samsung S5 are vulnerable to the new exploit. 

In order for an attacker to succeed, they must bypass your security by tricking you to click on an infected link within a web page long enough for the hack to complete. 

No fix yet, so watch what you are clicking!! I'm just saying.

275 million Android devices can be at risk of a hack

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The average Instagram user misses 70 percent of what’s in their feed, including great photos with tons of Likes and posts by their best friends. So today Instagram announced it will start rearranging the order of posts in its feed. Rather than strictly reverse chronological, Instagram will order posts “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”

The testing will start out slowly; at least at first “all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.” But eventually, low-quality posts might be filtered out entirely.

The changes mean if you don’t check your feed until the next morning but a friend whose photos you usually Like posted something awesome the night before, it could appear at the top of your feed even if it is hours old. This is essentially how Facebook’s feed works, and how Twitter recently reconfigured its feed to work.

On the one hand, the relevancy-optimized Instagram feed will make sure you don’t miss great content even if you don’t neurotically check it all the time. You’ll be able to follow more accounts without worrying about them drowning out your favorites. And it will be easier to keep up with international friends who might normally post while you’re asleep.

At the same time, remixing the feed will make Instagram less useful as a real-time content feed because the most recent posts won’t necessarily be at the top. Users will have to worry about making their posts good enough to be chosen by the algorithm or their posts could be de-prioritized. And brands might lose the reach of a previously reliable marketing channel, the same way they did with Facebook Pages.

Filtered feeds tend to score more attention from users, as there are few boring posts that push them to close the app and do something else. And at this point, Instagram is so ingrained in people’s lives that they’re unlikely to ditch it over this change. But with Instagram and Twitter both moving to algorithmically sorted feeds, getting seen on social media will become more of a competition than ever.


Instagram is switching its feed from chronological to best posts first

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Google is changing how its massive webcrawler, Googlebot, is identified when accessing websites. Googlebot's job is to scan the internet and add any new websites or updated webpages to Google's index, a catalogue that underlies its search engine. When doing this, Googlebot will pretend to be different devices in order to test the performance of individual sites on smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. Right now, Googlebot tests mobile websites by pretending to be an iPhone running iOS 8.3. But that will change on April 18 when Googlebot will begin appearing as a Google Nexus 5X smartphone running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.

According to Google's Webmaster Central Blog, the switch will let Googlebot better understand web pages that use newer web technologies like HTML5. It's also making the switch because the tool that Googlebot uses to render webpages has been updated over time to behave more like an Android phone's native browser (Google Chrome) than an iPhone's native browser (Safari).

This could be seen as a symbolic move on Google's part, as iPhones have lost marketshare to Android phones over the past year. But in practical terms, the switch doesn't mean much. Google says that it should go unnoticed by most everyone, promising 99 percent of all websites won't be affected. Those could be sites already trying to block Googlebot from finding them. Anyone worried about the change can use Google's Fetch and Render tool to figure out if the mobile version of their site will continue to be catalogued as normal.


Googlebot switches from iPhone to Android

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The FBI wants Apple to do something no private company has ever been forced to do: break its own technology. Specifically, the FBI wants Apple to build a new version of its mobile operating system (iOS, or GovOS) so that the contents of an iPhone can be removed from an iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the gunmen in the San Bernardino shooting.

A magistrate judge recently ordered Apple to comply with this request; Apple in turn filed a Motion to Vacate (MTV) the magistrate’s order. The key point made in the MTV — and the key issue on which this entire case hangs — is that complying with the FBI’s request would weaken a valuable encryption platform at a time when the United States desperately needs stronger, more effective encryption.

There is an arms race to create more-sophisticated, harder-to-crack encryption tools, and if the FBI gets its way, we will be running that race with a self-imposed handicap.

This week Apple is appearing before Congress to address the issues raised above. For those unable to attend the hearings, I want to explore how Apple is thinking about the FBI’s legal authority to compel the company to create new software to crack Apple’s security measures.

After exploring that legal issue, we’ll consider the broader constitutional stakes involved in this case. After all, it’s not everyday that the U.S. government asks a private company to undermine a technology platform without providing any concrete evidence that doing so will make Americans safer.

What does the law say?

To understand what the law says, we must first properly frame what the FBI is trying to compel Apple to do. Without a precise understanding of what the FBI is demanding in this case, it is hard to clearly say that the FBI is trying to overstep its bounds.

What is the FBI seeking here? First, the FBI is demanding that Apple make a new software product. Second, that software product would have to be designed in accordance with specifications provided to Apple by the FBI. Third, once Apple created that software product, it would have to test the product to ensure it met Apple’s own quality standards. Fourth and finally, Apple would have to test and validate this software product so that criminal defendants would be able to exercise their constitutional rights to challenge the government’s legal claims as provided by the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE).

Forcing a company to break its own technology appears to be something a dictatorship might do, not a democracy like the United States.

Simply put, the FBI is demanding that Apple create a new software product that meets specifications provided by the FBI. As Apple clearly articulates in its MTV, the FBI is demanding “the compelled creation of intellectual property.” The legal grounds for the FBI’s demand come from the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and the All Writs Act (AWA).

With this understanding in mind, what does the law say? Is there any law that allows a government agency such as the FBI to compel private companies to create new software products?

Let us begin with the key law regulating the interception of electronic communications, CALEA. This law was enacted to carefully control the government’s right and ability to intercept communications in order to enforce the laws of the United States. Specifically, CALEA outlines the circumstances in which a private company must provide law enforcement with assistance in order to effectively carry out electronic surveillance.

Under CALEA, there is a strong argument that Apple cannot be legally required to create new software of any kind for any department of the federal government. When Congress passed CALEA, it had the opportunity to include device manufacturers like Apple within the scope of the law. Congress decided to require telecommunications companies to ensure that their equipment and facilities are built in a way that allows the government to conduct surveillance on the basis of a lawful surveillance warrant.

In other words, telecommunications companies have to build in a back door. However, under CALEA, Apple is not a telecommunications company; instead, Apple is considered an “information service” to which CALEA does not apply. In short, Congress made it clear they did not intend for CALEA to even apply to companies like Apple.

Even if CALEA applied to Apple, the FBI would not be entitled under CALEA to force the company to break its encryption protocol. The statute in section 1002(b)(3) states that telecommunications companies are not responsible for decrypting communications “unless the encryption (1) was provided by the carrier and (2) the carrier possesses the information necessary to decrypt the communication.”

Because Apple does not currently possess that information, even an improperly broad interpretation of CALEA would not compel Apple to create GovOS in this case. The FBI can ask, but under CALEA it cannot compel.

The All Writs Act (AWA) also does not allow the FBI to compel Apple to create new software. Enacted in 1789 as a stop-gap that allows the government to efficiently administer its given legislative privileges, the AWA is being given an impermissibly broad interpretation by the FBI.

According to that interpretation, this stop-gap gives courts any relief that is not specially prohibited by existing law. So, if there’s no law expressly prohibiting Apple from being compelled to write code for the FBI, then the AWA gives courts the authority to force the company to do just that.

Apple should do what is necessary to preserve our enduring constitutional values.

Let’s take a completely make-believe example. Imagine that a federal law gives a particular agency the right to do X, but doing X is hard and costly. The AWA might be invoked to help get X done more efficiently. But the key is this: The AWA is only appropriate when there’s already a federal law or a constitutional principle that gives the particular agency the right to do X in the first place. That is precisely why the AWA cannot be lawfully used by the FBI in this case: The FBI has no underlying right to compel Apple to create new software products.

If this seems like a legal technicality, zoom out a bit and reconsider that for just a minute. Imagine if the Department of Homeland Security used the AWA to argue that citizens with certain last names should be subject to arbitrary detention to make it easier to catch terrorists. Would that violate American values and our system of laws? Absolutely.

Alternatively, consider a scenario in which the Department of Energy tried to use the AWA to force federally funded universities to “donate” resources to the DOE in order to enhance its Energy Materials Network. Would this be inappropriate? It would be completely inappropriate, because the DOE does not have the underlying legal right to force universities to do this.

In a nation of laws, the FBI’s attempt to expand the AWA is dangerous. The FBI’s interpretation of the AWA transforms the law into something it was never meant to be: a tool granting government agencies boundless powers not authorized under the Constitution or in existing federal law.

Lawyers have a fancy way of describing this problem. They say that expanding the AWA violates the separation of powers between the federal courts and Congress. After all, what is the purpose of Congress if our courts are allowed to expand federal law without any meaningful limitations? One might go further still and say that forcing a company to break its own technology appears to be something a dictatorship might do, not a democracy like the United States.

Fortunately, a Brooklyn judge recently ruled, in a separate but similar case involving a demand from the Department of Justice to unlock an iPhone, that the AWA only empowers courts with “residual authority to issue orders that are consistent with the usages and principles of law.” Judge Orenstein explicitly condemned the government’s overreach in that case, echoing the exact concerns explored above: “The implications of the government’s position are so far-reaching — both in terms of what it would allow today and what it implies about Congressional intent in 1789 — as to produce impermissibly absurd results.”

What should Apple do?

Apple should do what is necessary to preserve our enduring constitutional values, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those values also include the privacy and speech rights protected by the Constitution. The First Amendment famously protects an individual’s right to say what he or she thinks or feels, and the Fourth Amendment guarantees that Americans shall be free of unreasonable searches and seizure.

These values and constitutional ideals are not mere commodities to be traded away, but are instead regulative ideals that capture and define who we are. Such ideals must remain unmolested by the temporary whims of each and every government agency. That’s what it means to be a nation of laws that is guided by a constitution.

In this particular case, Apple has a responsibility to resist the FBI’s efforts to force the company to undermine the security measures in its mobile operating system. To understand what is at stake here, one has to think deeply about what the world would be like if Apple were to comply with the FBI’s demands.

Imagine that Apple complied with the FBI. To do so, Apple would need to build a new version of iOS (GovOS) that does three things.
First, GovOS would bypass the auto-erase function for an individual iPhone. This feature is designed to prevent third parties from getting unauthorized access to an iPhone’s contents.

Second, Apple’s newly minted GovOS would need to provide the FBI a new way of electronically submitting passwords to a particular iOS device. At present, these passwords must be manually submitted, and each incorrect password submission results in a delay before another attempt can be made.

Third, and finally, GovOS would disable the delay between incorrect password submissions. In a nutshell, GovOS would be a special version of iOS that allowed an iPhone to be cracked automatically without knowing the owner’s password.

The FBI, then, is asking Apple to build a technology that destroys the value of the key security mechanisms built into its mobile operating system: The FBI wants to force a private company to build a tool that completely breaks the security technology for what is arguably the world’s gold-standard for mobile operating systems, iOS.

On this narrow issue, the FBI has to agree and concede this critical point. For the FBI cannot say that (1) it needs Apple’s assistance to crack an iPhone but (2) Apple’s assistance would not break a world-class encryption product. Once the FBI says that it needs Apple’s help, the FBI can’t honestly challenge the fact that the help it seeks would utterly break a security suite that Apple has spent years developing.

A recent conversation with information security expert John Sebes (formerly of Securify, acquired by McAfee) put this issue into proper context. Imagine you are building a security mechanism for your mobile ecosystem. You have spent years developing this system because you want to provide your customers, private citizens as well as the government, a software product that is secure. Your intention, in other words, is to create a product that protects the security and integrity of information your customers place on any device that has that security mechanism.
Now, someone comes along and asks you to make a special technology that defeats your security mechanism. If you go ahead and create this special technology, what happens to the retained value of the security mechanism that you took so many years to create? It simply vanishes because your customers now know that you have designed a way to undermine your supposedly world-class security mechanism. No one has to wonder whether this security mechanism could be broken; you’ve already demolished it.

This is a key insight lost on many who argue that the FBI’s request can be honored without eliminating the value of Apple’s security features on iOS. Many have said that Apple or the FBI could protect the integrity of GovOS by maintaining a special lab specially designed to make sure no bad guys ever got access to GovOS.

Do you see the irony here? The agents in charge of this case are effectively admitting that they are deeply confused, because here’s what they’re saying: Once Apple makes technology B (GovOS) to compromise technology A (standard iOS), we’ll make sure that technology B can never, ever be compromised because we’ll make a special super-secure room that no one will ever be able to break into.

The idea that a super-secure place, virtual or real, can be designed to make sure none of the bad guys ever get ahold of GovOS is really, really silly. “If human beings can in any way touch the code, to create it in the first place or modify it later, then human beings can copy and steal it, period,” noted Mr. Sebes. Further condensed: If you can touch it, it can be stolen.

This is precisely the point: There is no perfect “super-secure room” to hide GovOS so only the good guys can use it to catch the bad guys. So, in a world where Apple created GovOS for the FBI, a couple of things would happen immediately.

First, the retained value of iOS’s security protocol would vanish. All of Apple’s customers, including government agencies, would know that iOS has been cracked. Reflect for a second on what this means: In this imagined future, we would all know with certainty that iOS could be breached.

Second, the bad guys would have an additional incentive to rely on non-Apple encryption technologies from third-party vendors. After all, once the bad guys know with certainty that Apple’s products are not secure, they will want to use tools that are not susceptible to countermeasures by the U.S. government.

Third, while the bad guys transition to third-party encryption vendors, Apple would have to rethink its strategy. Because its individual and government customers would know that iOS’s core security features had been defeated, the company would have to decide whether it should continue investing in best-of-breed encryption technology.

It’s really hard to say how Apple would internally approach this question. Yet one thing would loom large in the minds of Apple executives: Technological advances in encryption would no longer matter to consumers because they would no longer have any reason to believe that encryption is, well, what it’s meant to be — a technology that prevents any and all third parties from accessing one’s data.

Final thoughts

Perhaps this is the right time to share Franklin’s adage about the moral quality, or lack thereof, of folks who want to trade privacy for a little temporary security. Franklin wrote the following to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1755: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

I truly wish Franklin’s quote sufficed to describe the constitutional predicament we are in today. But matters are far worse than that. Franklin’s quote imagines a scenario where “temporary safety” can indeed be purchased by giving up liberty. That’s not the bargain the FBI is offering.

Instead, the FBI is offering what some people have called a grand bargain — where A gives something of concrete value to B, but B is not required to clearly specify what A will receive in return. In this case, Apple is being asked to give something of concrete value to the FBI (e.g. the time of its engineers) but it is totally unclear what the FBI is giving back to Apple or to the American people.

In a nutshell, here’s where we are: A government agency is trying to force the world’s most valuable technology company to break its encryption technology despite (1) having no legal authority to do so and (2) being unable to articulate what they hope to achieve on behalf of the American people. Sounds like a grand bargain to me.


Why Apple is right to resist the FBI

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