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Hackers Can Read Your Private SMS and Listen to Phone Calls, Security researchers have discovered

Hackers Can Read Your Private SMS and Listen to Phone Calls, Security researchers have discovered

By  Swati Khandelwal

Security researchers have discovered a massive security flaw that could let hackers and cybercriminals listen to private phone calls and read text messages on a potentially vast scale – no matter if the cellular networks use the latest and most advanced encryption available.

The critical flaw lies in the global telecom network known as Signal System 7 that powers multiple phone carriers across the world, including AT&T and Verizon, to route calls, texts and other services to each other. The vulnerability has been discovered by the German researchers who will present their findings at a hacker conference in Hamburg later this month.

“Experts say it’s increasingly clear that SS7, first designed in the 1980s, is riddled with serious vulnerabilities that undermine the privacy of the world’s billions of cellular customers,” said The Washington Post, which first uncovered flaws in the system earlier this year.

NUMBER OF SECURITY FLAWS IN SS7

SS7 or Signaling System Number 7 is a protocol suite used by most telecommunications operators throughout the world to communicate with one another when directing calls, texts and Internet data. It allows cell phone carriers to collect location information from cell phone towers and share it with each other. A United States carrier will find its customer, no matter if he or she travels to any other country.

According to the security researchers, the outdated infrastructure of the SS7 makes it very easy for hackers to hack, as it is loaded with some serious security vulnerabilities which can lead to huge invasions of privacy of the billions of cellular customers worldwide.

“The flaws discovered by the German researchers are actually functions built into SS7 for other purposes – such as keeping calls connected as users speed down highways, switching from cell tower to cell tower – that hackers can repurpose for surveillance because of the lax security on the network,”the report reads.

BACKDOOR OPEN FOR HACKERS

So far, the extent of flaws exploited by hackers have not been revealed, but it is believed that using the flaws hackers can locate or redirect users’ calls to themselves or anywhere in the world before forwarding to the intended recipient, listen to calls as they happen, and record hundreds of encrypted calls and texts at a time for later decryption.

No matter how much strong or advanced encryption the carriers are using, for example AT&T and Verizon use 3G and 4G networks for calls, messages, and texts sent from people within the same network, but the use of that old and insecure SS7 for sending data across networks the backdoor open for hackers.

Not just this, use of SS7 protocol also makes the potential to defraud users and cellular carriers, according to the researchers.

ACLU – STOP USING TELEPHONE SERVICE, BUT WAIT!! IS THAT POSSIBLE?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also warned people against using their handset in light of the breaches.

“Don’t use the telephone service provided by the phone company for voice. The voice channel they offer is not secure,” principle technologist Christopher Soghoian told Gizmodo. “If you want to make phone calls to loved ones or colleagues and you want them to be secure, use third-party tools. You can use FaceTime, which is built into any iPhone, or Signal, which you can download from the app store. These allow you to have secure communication on an insecure channel.”

Soghoian also believes that security agencies – like the United states’ NSA and British security agency GCHQ – could be using these flaws. “Many of the big intelligence agencies probably have teams that do nothing but SS7 research and exploitation. They’ve likely sat on these things and quietly exploited them,” he said.

However, the poor security capabilities of SS7 protocol is not hidden from the people and its not at all a new, just three months ago we reported How a Cell Phone User Can be Secretly Tracked Across the Globe. But the era where each and every person care about privacy and security of their data, things like this really publicize exactly how big this threat really is and make many worried of its consequences.

 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Technology

 

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Top 5 Laptops of 2014

Top 5 Laptops of 2014

Microsoft Surface Pro 3: http://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/

 

Laptops are facing a lot of competition from tablets and even large smartphones, but they’re still the mainstay device for getting work done. Here are the best of 2014.

13-inch MacBook Air

The MacBook Air hasn’t changed much over the past few years, but that’s a testament to its design, which was introduced more than four years ago. The 13-inch MacBook Air has always been one of the lightest (just under 3 pounds) and thinnest laptops, and it has incredible battery life. Its most recent iteration packs Intel’s latest silicon and can run for 12 hours or more in common usage scenarios.

And let’s not forget its 11-inch sibling, which is probably the closest a laptop can get to the size and weight of a tablet like Apple’s iPad Air. The 11-incher’s battery life is comparable to the 13’s, but it’s even lighter at 2.4 pounds. And it starts at $899, a hundred bucks less than the 13.

The only notable drawback of both models is the screen. The MacBook Air 13 offers a modest 1,440 x 900 resolution display, a bit of a throwback to the days when screens were almost an afterthought in laptop design. But that’s easy to overlook when you have a design this good.

Surface Pro 3

This could be considered a controversial top pick because the Surface Pro 3 is not a laptop per se, and many business laptop users insist on a tried-and-true, traditional clamshell design. But Microsoft has reached a high degree of refinement with its third-generation Surface Pro after two generations of more or less experimental designs.

The Pro 3 is offered as a standalone 12-inch tablet, but almost no one would buy it without its Type Cover, the stellar detachable keyboard that essentially turns it into a laptop.

The design is impressive: At only 1.8 pounds (2.3 pounds with the keyboard) and 0.3-inches thick, it’s about the same weight (with the keyboard) as the uber-svelte 11-inch MacBook Air and packs all the power of a typical laptop, including the option for Intel Core i7 processors. And the gorgeous 12-inch, 2,160 x 1,440 resolution touch screen is icing on the cake.

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome operating system, and that’s just fine if you spend most of your time in the Chrome browser anyway, especially when the hardware comes cheap (below $400).

Topping the list is Toshiba’s latest entry, the 13-inch Chromebook 2, which goes above and beyond the typical stripped-to-the-bone hardware of this category and delivers a brilliant 1,920 x 1,080 display (high-end model), a plenty-fast Intel “Bay Trail” processor and a chassis with an easy-to-hold textured material.

The Toshiba offers probably the best experience you can have on a Chromebook, though it’s a minimalist one because of the limitations of the Chrome OS and the Chrome store.

Dell XPS 15

With the XPS 15, Dell has designed a laptop that might make you think twice about buying its Apple rival, the revered 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina.

For starters, it has a mind-blowing display with plenty of real estate. The 3,200 x 1,800 edge-to-edge screen is not only beautiful, it’s touch capable. Inside are a quad-core Intel processor and Nvidia graphics to push around those 5.7 million pixels. It’s reasonably light (4.4 pounds) for its size (a 15.6-inch diagonal display), and it’s only 0.7-inches thick at its widest point. The chassis is made of brushed aluminum with a carbon fiber bottom. It’s quality all around.

HP Stream laptops

The HP Stream laptops are exceptional for one reason only: price. The HP Stream 11 is available at the Microsoft Store for $199, a good deal considering that you get a full Windows 8.1 laptop with a one-year subscription of Office 365 Personal, to boot. The Stream 13 sells for $229. Think of it this way … based on pricing at the Microsoft Store, you could buy four Stream 11s for the price of one MacBook Air.

FOXNEWS -TECH

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2014 in Technology

 

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Top 5 Smartphones of 2014

Top 5 smartphones of 2014

iPhone 6 & 6 Plus: (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

 

Smartphones are getting bigger and better. Here are this year’s top five.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone got its biggest physical makeover ever this year, and Apple didn’t disappoint.

The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus is the standout of the two because it incorporates elements of both a smartphone and tablet, finally bringing Apple into the big-screen “phablet” league with Samsung. Think of the iPhone 6 Plus as a mini iPad Mini.

It sports a drop-dead gorgeous screen (401 pixels per inch) that delivers significantly higher resolution than the iPhone 6. It also has one of the best cameras going, featuring optical-image stabilization — a first for Apple. Both phones’ cameras boast better low-light quality and Apple’s “Focus Pixel” technology for faster autofocus (Samsung uses a similar technology in the Galaxy S5).

The 4.7-inch iPhone 6, no slouch itself, costs $100 less than the 6 Plus and maintains Apple’s one-hand rule: You can operate it with one hand, which is a challenge with the 6 Plus.

Both phones continue Apple’s tradition of top-drawer physical design, fast silicon (64-bit A8 chip), a vast app store and a solid operating environment. Apple’s highly refined iOS 8 spans both the new iPhones and iPads.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

When the Galaxy Note was introduced in 2011, many observers were skeptical of its “massive” 5.3-inch screen. Now that size is pretty much standard on a smartphone and may even be considered on the small side for flagship phones. The Galaxy Note is considered the first commercially successful phablet. (But beware, Samsung. Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus has quickly become a major player in that space.)

The 5.7-inch Note 4 is a technology tour de force, packing a Quad HD (2,560×1,440) Super AMOLED display, one of Qualcomm’s fastest Snapdragon processors and a stellar 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization that can go head-to-head with the iPhone 6 Plus.

Other goodies include a removable back, 3GB of RAM, multitasking (called Multi Window), and the S Pen, which allows quick cut and paste of data on the screen. The S Pen now has double the pressure sensitivity of the Note 3’s pen, making it that much easier to write memos.

Moto X (second generation)

Moto X (second generation) is a good phone and a great value proposition: With carrier subsidies, it starts at $99. At a relatively low price, the Moto X offers a beautiful 5.2-inch display, fast silicon and as close to a stock Android experience as anything out there (which gets you Android 5.0 “Lollipop” before other vendors). Standout features include Moto Voice, a hands-free way to control the phone and ask questions, and Moto Maker, which allows customization of back-cover design and colors. The camera is good, but it falls short of the ones on the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4.

Sony Xperia Z3

The Xperia Z series has not been worthy of flagship status until now. With the Z3, a genuine Sony flagship has arrived, boasting a great build (with waterproofing), a 20.7-megapixel camera, a dazzling 5.2-inch display and great battery life. The killer feature is its PS4 Remote Play, allowing PS4 gaming on the phone.

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One is a top pick not only because to its great design but because it’s offered on both Android and Windows. For Windows phone adherents tired of Nokia (and now Microsoft-branded) phones, the HTC One offers an enticing alternative. A doppelganger of the Android HTC One M8, it’s got the same premium metal body and a stunning display. It’s the best-looking of the Windows Phone 8.1 batch.

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Posted by on December 20, 2014 in Technology

 

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