Here is your recap of internet service provider and industry-related news from around the US and the world this week. This Rewind includes the Zello app, Equifax, Facebook, Android, Google, Amazon, Apple, the Bodega Startup shutdown, and the BlueBorne Bluetooth device vector attack:
Zello App Takes Off in the Hurricane
The Walkie Talkie app, Zello, has added more than 6 million users in the week leading up to Hurricane Irma as part of Florida resident’s hurricane preparations. The app lets users communicate using WiFi or cell towers on public channels. It is available on Android, iOS, Windows phone, Blackberry, and PCs. Zello proved itself a useful tool in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey making it the go-to app for Irma. In addition to voice messages, you can also send photos. You can join existing channels or create your own. There are channels created for responding to emergency situations like “Hurricane Irma Rescue and Relief” or “Cajun Navy” a group that came to help out during Hurricane Harvey.
Equifax Adds Insult to Injury For Consumers Inquiring About Data Theft
If you went to the Equifax website shortly after hearing of their data breach you might have seen an invitation to get free credit protection. Unfortunately, if you signed up you may have agreed to give up rights to sue them due to the arbitration clause attached. After the arbitration clause was discovered and the press and consumers complained Equifax deleted that requirement and stated that the arbitration clause would not apply. It looks like they tried to slip in the clause to preclude getting sued by consumers as a result of the data breach but the plan backfired when consumers noticed it. So far it looks like more than two dozen lawsuits have been filed against Equifax as a result of the breach.
Facebook Fined For Collecting Personal Information in Spain
The AEPD, Spain’s data protection regulator has fined Facebook 1.2 million Euros, about $1.4 million for violating Spain’s data harvesting laws. Facebook was found to collect personal information such as ideology, religious beliefs, personal tastes, and sex without “clearly informing the user about the use and purpose of the collection.” Facebook plans to appeal the fine but since the company’s income was almost $28 billion the fine is not likely to change their behavior. They make much more money in a day using that data in their advertising sales algorithms than they will lose from the fine.
Android Attacks on the Increase in 2017
Cybersecurity firm Avast released a report last week that said cyber-attacks against Android smartphones and tablets are up 40%, year-over-year from Q2 2016. Attacks have increased from about 1.2 million attacks per month in the second quarter last year to around 1.7 million attacks per month in the second quarter of this year. Avast has collected data from over 160 million Android users. ost of the attacks either spy on the user, steal information or download malicious apps that deliver spam advertising to the device.
Google Play Unknowingly Hosted Dozens of Malicious Apps
Recently researchers from security firm Check Point found that more than 50 apps that were available on Google Play store infected the devices they were installed on with malicious code that would sign up unknowing users to expensive services and charge them for sending messages. The app family, named ExpensiveWall, used encrypted executables to install malware. To help combat this, Google recently removed hundreds of infected apps from Google Play. Unfortunately, some of the malicious apps were back on Google Play within days.
Internet Giant Amazon Looks for Additional Space For Another Headquarters
Internet retail behemoth Amazon is looking to build another headquarters in North America. They are taking bids from cities for the next six weeks. Eventually, the location could employ as many as 50,000 employees so many city governments are chomping at the bit to woo the company to their area. Amazon has said they are looking for a metro area with a population of at least a million people with a large tech pool and an international airport. Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle is made up of 33 buildings throughout the city.
Apple’s New iPhone Proves Apple Doesn’t Want to Appeal to the Common Man
Apple has always seemed to want to be for the upper class but the new iPhone X seems to yell that out. With a price tag of $999.00, even die-hard Apple fans are balking at the price. That being said it does have some pretty nifty new features.
Face ID – they got rid of the fingerprint identification feature and now has facial recognition. Apple maintains it will be very hard to trick even with photographs, makeup or masks.
AR – Apple’s new AR development kit, the ARKit, the new iPhone delves deep into augmented reality territory.
Super Retina Display – The biggest new feature of the iPhone X is the lack of bezel, enabling the screen of the phone to go all the way to the edge of the phone. Despite being smaller than some of the previous phones it has a larger screen.
Bodega Start-up Faces Internet Backlash
Just because you CAN connect something to the internet, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Two former Google employees had this idea to create “smart” vending machines and install them all over the place so that “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.” That is right, they named their company after the very mom-and-pop corner market they wanted to put out of business. The internet collectively let them know they did not like the idea with dozens of online articles and thousands, maybe even millions of irate social media posts. They had procured $2.5 million in start-up funding but something tells me that was a bad investment. They already have trial 30 location and just unveiled 50 more. Frank Garcia, the chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, has already called for a boycott of the machines.
New Bluetooth Attack Vector can Put Bluetooth Connected Devices at Risk
BlueBorne, a new attack vector that can potentially affect any Bluetooth enabled device, including Internet of Things and mobile devices running Linux, Android, Windows, and iOS. And because it can spread over wireless, Blueborne can infect devices with ransomware, steal data and take control over the device for DDoS attacks without a direct connection. The flaw was discovered by Armis labs who have contacted most major players like Google, Linux, Apple, and Microsoft. Many of the companies have already patched the weakness so it is extremely important to keep devices updated.
Google Needs Input
Google is building a mass of voice samples from people around the world to build a speech command dataset with 65,000 one-second samples of different people saying short English words. They are giving away the dataset under a Creative Commons license. The purpose is to allow companies to better train their products to understand voice commands. They call it the Do-it-yourself artificial intelligence project and are making available kits to build your own Google Assistant. They are also inviting everyday people to contribute to the voice data set by recording their own commands here. They aren’t trying to teach devices to understand everything a person says, just the common commands likely to be needed in most instances.