California passes law mandating smartphone kill switch

Smartphones sold in California will soon be required to have a kill switch that lets users remotely lock them and wipe them of data in the event they are lost or stolen.

The demand is the result of a new law, signed into effect on Monday, that applies to phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, and sold in the state.

While its legal reach does not extend beyond the state’s borders, the inefficiency of producing phones solely for California means the kill switch is expected to be adopted by phone makers on handsets sold across the U.S. and around the world.

The legislation requires a system that, if triggered by an authorized user, will lock a handset to essentially make it useless. The feature must be installed and activated in new smartphones, but users will be able to deactivate it if they desire, and it must be resistant to attempts to reinstall the operating system.

Police can also use the tool, but only under the conditions of the existing section 7908 of the California Public Utilities Code. That gives police the ability to cut off phone service in certain situations and typically requires a court order, except in an emergency that poses “immediate danger of death or great bodily injury.”

The law doesn’t specify how the system locks the phone, nor what happens to the data on the phone when it’s locked. Each manufacturer can come up with their own system.

The law follows pressure on phone makers from the state’s law enforcement community to do something about rising incidents of smartphone theft, which has become one of the most prevalent street crimes in the state.

Apple has already responded and added a feature called Activation Lock into its iOS 7 operating system, which meets all requirements of California’s kill switch law bar one—it doesn’t come enabled in new phones. That will have to change.

Both Google and Microsoft have said they are introducing similar features in upcoming revisions to their smartphone operating systems.

“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” California State Senator Mark Leno, the sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement. “Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities.”

The law makes California the second state in the U.S. to pass legislation aimed at reducing smartphone theft. Minnesota passed a law in June, but it doesn’t require the kill switch to be enabled as default. Law enforcement says that’s key because it will increase the chance that a new smartphone has the kill switch enabled, hopefully reducing its attractiveness to thieves.

The kill switch function was actively opposed by the wireless industry until earlier in 2014, when carriers and their lobbying group reversed course and came out in favor of the plan. They received more persuasion in the form of two additional bills introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

- As seen on PC World
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS
here!



Goodbye To MSN Messenger, An Aughties Relic

Call it the Gchat effect.

MSN Messenger, the ubiquitous instant messaging platform of the early aughties, is no more. After 15 years of facilitating hookups between high school kids, Microsoft will finally pull the plug on its online chat program this fall.

Windows Live Messenger (as it's currently known) will officially be put to bed on October 31. And, while many believed it already extinct, it is still operational in China.

At its peak, Messenger claimed 300 million users, and held the title of the most widely used messaging service in the world. However, as Microsoft began focusing its attention on Skype — after purchasing the video chat platform for $8.5 billion — and Google unveiled their acclaimed Gchat, Messenger suddenly felt antiquated.

Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here!

2014 Survey: The Year of Encryption

Market survey 2014: The Year of Encryption[Source: Egress Software Technologies Ltd.]

People like Emojis, I prefer Emoticons :-)

Hieroglyphics are making an unlikely 21st century comeback, and it's all thanks to millennials' insatiable appetite for texting. Young people might hate history class, but they can't get enough of the cute little characters known as emoji, according to Daniel Wroclawski by Reviewed.com.

You're probably familiar with the bright yellow smiling, winking and frowning faces that seem to follow every text message these days. You probably even use them yourself. But you might not be aware that there are more than 1,500 to choose from.

Designed to symbolize everyday objects, expressions and ideas, they range from smiley faces, to foods, to sporting equipment, to holiday decorations and everything in between. And they're expressive enough to act as stand-ins for words or entire phrases.

Their eye-catching designs have propelled them to pop-culture fame, and that's made them fertile ground for research and experimentation by academics and artists. Just last summer, Emoji Dick, a translation of Moby Dick into emoji, was accepted into the Library of Congress. In December, the first all-emoji art exhibition was held in New York City.

Perhaps more important, the sheer diversity of emoji makes them a viable tool for crossing language and cultural barriers -- and could see them effectively become a pidgin language of their own. Italian art director Giorgio Mininno recently used emoji to help teach Chinese students about art, even though he couldn't speak a word of their language.

"The emoji helped them to find new ideas and facilitated the communication with us, sometimes breaking the language gap," Mininno told us. Eventually, he asked his students to create art out of the universally understood characters.

But while the characters seem simple, their meanings can vary in surprising ways.

"An emoji can mean a completely different thing to completely different people," said Nick Kendall. He's the co-creator of Emojicate, an app that asks its users to communicate solely through emoji.

Kendall has noticed this effect while chatting with his friends. Take the dumbbell emoji: Some friends use it to say, "Let's go to the gym," while others use it to tell him to "toughen up."

Despite their global appeal, emoji actually originated in Japan, and their unique cultural roots have created confusion over the intended meaning of certain symbols. Take the icon that depicts a woman with one hand outstretched, palm up. The official name of this emoji is "information desk person."

"There's something about her pose or the look on her face that people have read into," said Matthew Rothenberg, creator of Emojitracker. The site monitors emoji use on Twitter, revealing both real-time and long-term usage trends. "Everyone I know who uses that one, they use it to mean like ... she's the 'whatever' girl. Like, whatever."

(He pronounced that last "whatever" in a dead-on valley girl accent.)

But for all their diversity and flexibility, Mark Davis, president of the Unicode Consortium, says it doesn't take long before emoji users hit a conversational wall. There are only so many ideas the tiny pictographs can convey.

Still, that hasn't stopped people from trying. Some teenagers and young adults routinely converse using more emoji than words -- a trend reflected in the emoji-heavy lyric video for Katy Perry's 2013 hit single Roar.

While the video shows the pop star texting with the well-established WhatsApp messenger, new apps like Emojicate and an upcoming competitor called Emojli are swooping in to capitalize on the fad with specialized, emoji-only chat services.

Emojicate founder Kendall thinks emoji are especially useful because of their artful economy.

"Ten or 15 years ago, the idea that everything can be condensed into a 140-character tweet seemed ridiculous," Kendall said. But a single-character emoji, he argued, can convey the same information as 10 or more letters.

Unicode's Davis said he thinks emoji will be around for the next few years. What they'll evolve into after that is anyone's guess. For now, 1,500 emoji characters will have to do. Which do you prefer, emojis or emoticons?

- As seen in USA Today
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS
here!

The Selfie Boom: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Infographic courtesy of TeenSafe.com

Apple and Home Depot Tread Lightly on Hacking Attacks

Don’t blame us. That’s what Apple is saying in a very carefully worded statement about the hacking of nude photos of celebrities. “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone,” the company says.

According to a report filed by Richard Davies of ABC News Radio, if any weaknesses or bugs in Apple’s cloud-based systems were found, it would be a major embarrassment. The attacks come less than one week before Apple shows off its new iPhone.

“After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet,” Apple said in a statement. “To protect against this type of hacking attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification.”

Apple says the hacking attack involved user names, passwords and security questions of specific celebrity iCloud accounts.

ABC News’ Alex Stone reports: “In 2012, a Florida man admitted to – and was sent to prison for – hacking into celebrity email accounts and stealing nude photos,”

“He would get a celebrities’ email address and then click Forgot Password on the email welcome screen. When prompted to answer security question – like a mother’s maiden name – he was able to find the answers online and then gain access.”

Home Depot is also dealing with a possible hacking attack. The No 1. home improvement retailer says “we’re looking into some unusual activity.” The company is working with banks and law enforcement, including the Secret Service, after reports of a major credit card breach. “Protecting our customers’ information is something we take extremely seriously, and we are aggressively gathering facts at this point,” a spokeswoman said.

Hackers have broken security walls for several big retailers in recent months – including Target. The rash of breaches has rattled shoppers’ confidence in the security of their personal data and pushed retailers, banks and card companies to increase security by speeding the adoption of microchips into U.S. credit and debit cards.

Supporters say chip cards are safer because, unlike magnetic strip cards that transfer a credit card number when they are swiped at a point-of-sale terminal, chip cards use a one-time code that moves between the chip and the retailer’s register. The result is a transfer of data that is useless to anyone except the parties involved. Chip cards are also nearly impossible to copy, experts say.

The possible data breach at Home Depot was first reported by Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security, a website that focuses on cybersecurity. Krebs said multiple banks reported “evidence that Home Depot stores may be the source of a massive new batch of stolen credit and debit cards” that went on sale on the black market.

The breach may have affected all 2,200 Home Depot stores in the United, Krebs says. Several banks that were contacted said they believe the breach may have started in late April or early May.

“If that is accurate — and if even a majority of Home Depot stores were compromised — this breach could be many times larger than Target, which had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen over a three-week period,” the Krebs post said. Krebs said that the party responsible for the breach may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers suspected in the Target breach late last year.

It’s an open question whether repeated reports of hacking will change consumer behavior. Periodic cases fuel outrage, but there’s no retreat from digital engagement or any imminent promise of guaranteed privacy.

“We have this abstract belief that privacy is important, but the way we behave online often runs counter to that,” said author Nicholas Carr, who wrote the 2010 book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

“I’d hope people would understand that anything you do online could be made public,” Carr said. “Yet there’s this illusion of security that tempers any nervousness. It’s hard to judge risks when presented with the opportunity to do something fun.”

-As seen on ABC
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here!

Could Wearable Tech Like Google Glass Play a Role in Connected Education?

Google Glass Education
Guest post by: Online-PhD-Programs.org

Searching for better selfies

The world needs more selfie-friendly smartphones, said Molly Wood in The New York Times. For whatever reason, smartphone-makers haven’t “gotten the memo and made great forward-facing cameras.”

Selfies remain “unfocused, pixelated, dark, blown-out, backlit, grainy, and worst of all, distorted.” Part of the problem is that better cameras demand “bigger sensors and bigger optics, and that leads to thicker phones.”

Slender devices still dominate the market, “but bigger phones are becoming the rage.” In the meantime, customers looking to take better self-portraits should consider models with more megapixels, such as the HTC One or Nokia Lumia 1020. These cameras can’t take “good” photos, but they’re better than the Samsung Galaxy and iPhone, which both present would-be selfie-snappers with chronic focus and lighting issues. C'mon, get with the program!

Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here!

Apps: Why you should be wary of health trackers

The use of fitness apps “has exploded in recent years,” but you aren't the only one keeping an eye on the data.

The use of apps that track your health and fitness “has exploded in recent years,” said Emily Steel and April Dembosky in the Financial Times. But do you really know who else is keeping an eye on how much you run, sleep, eat, smoke, and weigh? According to new research our newspaper commissioned, health and fitness apps routinely share user data with digital analytics and advertising firms; one of the most popular, MapMyRun, shares data with 11 outside companies.

The developer, like most others in the sector, says that only aggregated data is sold to advertisers, and that no “personally identifiable information” goes to third parties without the user’s explicit permission. In fact, that’s how many of the apps make money. Developers often profit from actively collaborating with insurance firms, which use authorized personal data to set fitness and health goals for employee health plans. “When users meet certain fitness benchmarks, they are offered discounts on their health premiums.” Some employers even offer incentives like “vacuum cleaners or luxury vacations.”

“This isn’t a surprise,” said Stuart Dredge in The Guardian (U.K). In this privacy day and age, data sharing is inevitable. “Developers know this, and so do tech-savvy app users.” But providing—or selling—data to insurance providers is clearly “a particularly sensitive area.” Not everyone will want such information to get out. That’s why app developers “should be as transparent as possible with their users about how their data is being shared.” And before you start oversharing with your health app, ask yourself who might own that data down the road. “If your favorite fitness apps take off, they may be acquired by bigger fish in the health-care or insurance industry in the next few years.” Your data may well be part of the deal.

There are ways to minimize the risk of your health data going where you don’t want it to go, said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. Consumers should “consider the credibility of the health apps they choose.” Look for apps from better-known brands that have a track record and “more resources to spend on comprehensive data security.” Smaller developers might not encrypt your data before transmitting it to their servers, for instance. Inspect an app’s privacy policy; you may be able to opt out of certain information-sharing practices that raise a red flag. But don’t count on the law to be on your side—“there’s little regulatory protection for health information shared over consumer apps.”

Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here!

3 Good Reasons Why You Need to Like RATS

Of course no one likes actual rats, but since we have social-media-savvy tweens and teens, we do need to Recognize Acronyms and Text Shorthand (RATS  is my creative acronym, not the nasty rodent).

Could you spot a good acronym if you saw it? No, not LOL. I mean one that adolescents use with each other (FYI LOL is DOA with teens). Take this quick quiz to see how many acronyms or shorthand symbols you recognize (the answers are at the end of this post).

1) DDAS
2) 9
3) WRUDATM
4) ASL
5) BTOIYA

How do you think you did? Could you spot them in a text and know what they mean? I borrowed these from a website called NetLingo.com. Click here for the thorough list of chat acronyms and text shorthand. If your child uses odd letters and numbers in texts and chat messages, then this list will solve the mystery of the message. Get ready…it’s a long list and if you are like me you’ll shake you head at the lengths some will go to come up with certain words so they don’t have to type it out. You will also be shocked at the foul language and sexual innuendoes that have acronyms. They are horribly inappropriate! SMH!

Here are 3 reasons why we, as parents, need to watch out for odd combinations of letters and numbers within texts and chat messages:

1)  Our kids could be victims of bullying or they could be bullying others.
2) They could be dealing with pressure from their boyfriend/girlfriend to do something they shouldn’t do. They could also be the ones pressuring the boyfriend/girlfriend.
3) They are making bad choices with drugs, alcohol, child groomers or simply using inappropriate language that is not inline with your family values. The reasons vary in degree from family to family.

Granted, most of the acronyms and shorthand are light-hearted and innocent so 9 times out of 10 there is no reason for alarm. However, as a parent with a tween or teen, we need to have all the information we can get to keep our head above the water when it comes to social media.

Quiz your kids to see how many they know. My guess is they won’t know all of them but they are so used to seeing acronyms that they can figure them out quickly. *WARNING: many of them are inappropriate.

Let us know how you did on the quiz in the comments!

Answers to the quiz: 1) Don’t Do Anything Stupid; 2) parent is watching; 3) What Are You Doing At The Moment; 4) age/sex/location; 5) Be There Or It’s Your A** (sorry for that one but I wanted to give an example of the language that bullies could be using with other kids).

This is a guest post from our friends at CyberForward!