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Edward Snowden wants you to know at all times whether the NSA is keeping tabs on your iPhone. Along with Andrew Huang, his coauthor and fellow hacker, Snowden presented his research on phone "hardware introspection" at MIT, which aims to give users the ability to see whether their phone is sending out secret signals to an intelligence agency. "This work aims to give journalists the tools to know when their smart phones are tracking or disclosing their location when the devices are supposed to be in airplane mode," the pair wrote in their technical paper. Snowden, an ex-NSA contractor living in exile in Moscow, and Huang, a prominent hacker who has reverse-engineered the Xbox and other hardware, believe that their solution can protect journalists and activists from being betrayed by their smartphones. View the full article
Apple’s iTunes App Store is home to over 1.5 million apps and Google Play hosts over 2 million, but the number of apps that actually get installed and used on consumers’ devices is still quite small. We already knew that people only interacted with a small handful of third-party apps on a regular basis, and now, according to a new study on mobile app usage, we learn that about one in four mobile users only use an app once. Based on data from analytics firm Localytics, and its user base of 37,000 applications, user retention has seen a slight increase year-over-year from 34 percent in 2015 to 38 percent in 2016. However, just because this figure has recovered a bit, that doesn’t mean the numbers are good. Instead, what this indicates is that 62 percent of users will use an app less than 11 times. View the full article
Last week, the Department of Justice filed its response to Apple’s appeal in the ongoing San Bernardino case. The government is attempting to force Apple to create a method of bypassing the security that would unlock an iPhone 5C that belonged to the shooter, Apple is fighting this demand by arguing against the 1789 All Writs Act that the DOJ has used against it. The Department of Justice’s latest filing ups the ante on this topic by claiming it could compel Apple to give up the source code for iOS itself, so the government could make the appropriate modifications. The Department of Justice’s latest filing is best classified as vitriolic. It does not hint that Apple has commercial motivations, it accuses the company of manufacturing the entire controversy — and a great deal more besides. The second sentence of the filing reads: “This burden, which is not unreasonable, is the direct result of Apple’s deliberate marketing decision to engineer its products so that the government cannot search them, even with a warrant.” Apple has taken a strong, pro-user stance on this issue and numerous security experts (and even John Oliver) have weighed in to explain why creating this kind of backdoor for the FBI is dangerous. You can watch his video here. The FBI’s brief dismisses all of this as a marketing ploy, and then blasts Apple as a literal threat to American democracy, writing: “Apple’s rhetoric is not only false, but also corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights: the courts, the Fourth Amendment, longstanding precedent and venerable laws, and the democratically elected branches of government.” View the full article