Amazon gifting $5 to people who download an app from its AppStore


Amazon will celebrate Christmas by handing out $5 store credits to anyone who downloads an app from its Amazon Appstore. It can even be a free app, so the deal is essentially open to anyone with access to the Android alternative app store.

From December 24 to December 28, customers who download an app from the Amazon Appstore automatically get a $5 credit to use toward the purchase of more apps. To make purchases more appealing, a dedicated section of the store has been created to highlight apps that have been discounted. Some discounts reach as high as 65 percent off its original price for popular apps. The biggest drop will be Office Suite Pro 7 costing only $0.99 on December 26, down from its usual 14.99.

Amazon will also increase the number of apps that it delivers for free. The Free App of the Day program will include “Welcome packs” with several utilities, and a few old but well-received titles like Angry Birds Star Wars and Where’s My Perry?

Anyone with a new Amazon Kindle HD or an Android app capable of running the Amazon Appstore can get more information here.

source: Amazon


LG G3 will hop on the fingerprint scanner bandwagon

Apple and HTC introduced smartphones that featured sensors that read fingerprints to unlock the device, and LG will reportedly follow suit with its 2014 flagship device, the LG G3. Korea Herald cites unnamed sources who say that LG is prototyping a sensor that would have more in common with HTC’s use of the technology because it would include swipes across the sensor rather than just a stationary finger begin read.

The unnamed source is quoted as saying:

“LG has recently made a decision to adopt the fingerprint scanner on the upcoming G3, the successor of the G2, and is conducting a series of tests for the product.”

It would seem late in the game to considering testing the G3 because LG is expected to unveil the phone at Mobile World Congress in February. It’s possible LG may decide not to include a fingerprint scanner if it doesn’t feel comfortable showing the feature by then. The fingerprint reader would be among other expected sensors for a fitness-based activity tracker or a smart watch.

Hackers Find Slim Pickings in Washington Post Attack

For the third time in three years, computers at The Washington Post came under attack by hackers, but this time it seems the paper of record in the U.S. capital was ready for them.

The intrusion targeting the usernames and passwords of Post employees was relatively short in duration — a few days, at most — although the magnitude of the breach has yet to be determined, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

However, no subscriber information — such as credit card numbers or home addresses — was accessed, the Post reported. The newspaper’s publishing and email systems were not hacked, and the personal information of employees, such as Social Security numbers, was not compromised.

Given how rapidly data thieves can nick information from a network, “a few days” may not seem like the fastest of response times, but it is when you consider the average time for discovering breaches is north of 200 days.

“The amount of time you have to respond before some data goes out the door is usually a matter of minutes,” Nick Levay, CSO at Bit9, told TechNewsWorld, “but many organizations that deal with targeted attacks don’t detect them for months so a few days puts the Post in the upper percentile in response time.”


Chinese Connection

As with other attacks on media outlets, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the source of this attack was laid on the doorstep of the Chinese.

The Post immediately suspected Chinese hackers were behind the attack, it said in its report, noting that the intrusion originated in a server used by the newspaper’s foreign staff but spread to more of the company’s servers before being discovered.

In fingering the Chinese, the Post and Mandiant, its security partner, appear to be recognizing attack patterns similar to those used in other media intrusions.

“The reason their suspicions immediately focused on China is they saw similarities in the way the attackers were operating,” said Matt Standart, director of threat intelligence with HBGary.

“That’s typically how you can detect them sooner, because you’ve observed them in the past,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Chinese involvement is only speculation, but if I were to put money down on who did it, I’d put my money on the Chinese,” Bit9’s Levay added.

Not Average Basement Troll

Whether the hackers were Chinese or not, one thing is certain: They did exhibit behaviors attributed to sophisticated actors.

“These hackers weren’t teenagers in their basement with too much time,” Aaron Titus, chief privacy officer with Identity Finder, told TechNewsWorld.

“We’re talking about highly organized people — criminals or state actors — with very clear interests,” he said. “This was an intelligence-gathering operation by somebody interested in intelligence, and The Washington Post clearly has a lot of intelligence.

It also has a lot of access, which could be another motive for snatching employee usernames and passwords.

“Any breach on media outlets is concerning, as reporters often have credentialed access to government or other secure facilities and portals,” said Mike Gross, director of professional services and risk management for 41st Parameter.

“This could cause additional exposure beyond just The Washington Post systems and networks,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Media outlets are also looked upon as a reputable news source and, as we saw with the Syrian Electronic Army attacks this fall, that can have enormous financial impacts if reporters’ social media accounts are also compromised, leading to official posts about a bogus attack,” he added.

This attack on the Post furthers a trend among hackers.

“We’re seeing attackers going after high-profile organizations or after companies with sensitive information that hackers can profit from,” Eric Chiu, president and founder of HyTrust, told TechNewsWorld.

“The impact of this breach could be big,” he added, “because the attackers could use the stolen credentials to access the Post’s data center as system administrators.”

Google Glass iPhone app debuts and disappears in App Store minutes later

Google Glass
Google Glass


Google Glass lets you search, make video calls, and take pictures without ever having to reach for your phone, but you still need to pair it with a phone. It looks like you’ll soon be able to pair it with an iPhone.

An iPhone version of MyGlass, the Glass companion app required to use the wearable computer, briefly appeared in the App Store today. The app was promptly removed because it may have been published prematurely. Jerry Hildebrand of Android Central managed to download the app before it was removed and snag a few screenshots. It appears that the app is on a different software version than his Google Glass unit, so the app was probably pulled to address connection issues between the phone and Glass.

Based on the photo he posted, MyGlass for iOS appears to offer the same features of browsing to discover apps, communicating with contacts, and managing Google Glass’s camera. One thing preventing people from getting Glass, aside from its price and difficulty being accepted into the program, has been that Glass depends on being connected to an Android device. Once the app reappears in the App Store, Google Glass will be useable by a larger portion of the population.

Chinese Man Heads to US Prison for Microchip Smuggling Attempt

A Chinese citizen was sentenced to three years in U.S. prison Wednesday for trying to smuggle American-made microchips from California to China.

The man, Philip Chaohui He, was targeted in a 2011 sting at a Los Angeles-area port. He was nabbed while approaching a Chinese freighter, toting with him 200 radiation-hardened microchips tucked inside a tub of baby formula.

U.S. officials say the Chinese government is increasingly trying to get its hands on American-made microchips, which are vital components for satellites, ballistic missiles and military hardware.

He, who pleaded guilty to smuggling and conspiracy to violate the Arm Export Control Act, said Wednesday that he loves the U.S. and is “sorry beyond words.”

[Source: Reuters]


UK Porn Filters Working a Bit Too Well

Filters designed to weed out pornography in the UK are blocking websites offering legitimate information on sex — sex education, advice on sexual health and how to curb porn consumption.

For example, Internet service provider TalkTalk has blocked — presumably unwittingly —, a British sex ed site that receives more than 1 million visits per month. TalkTalk has also walled off the website for the Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, as well as other sex-related but non-vulgar addresses.

It’s not just TalkTalk: ISP Sky has blocked a handful of porn-addiction addresses, while BT has barred sites that help victims of abuse.

Prime Minister David Cameron has long lauded the idea of forcing people to “opt in” to have access to pornographic content.

The last time we heard of overzealous Web filters in the UK, said filters were blocking Hamlet at a local library.

[Source: BBC]

China Cracks Down on Bitcoin Exchanges

Less than two weeks after barring its banks and financial institutions from handling Bitcoins, China said that the country’s Bitcoin exchanges can no longer accept new inflows of cash.

Bobby Lee, a former Yahoo developer and now the head of BTC China, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange in terms of trading volume, told The Financial Times that he was informed his site could no longer accept Chinese renminbi from people hoping to turn the Chinese currency into Bitcoins.

Earlier this month, Lee had expressed hope that Beijing would come around on Bitcoins. Alas.

The value of Bitcoins subsequently tanked.

[Sources: The Financial Times, CNN]

UN Adopts Privacy Measure

The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution Wednesday designed to protect privacy rights and stop unlawful surveillance.

The resolution was introduced by Germany and Brazil, which have been two of the most outspoken critics of U.S. surveillance practices. Which figures, given that the U.S. reportedly spied directly on both German Chancellor Angel Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

[Source: The Associated Press]

Italy Mulls ‘Google Tax’

Italian lawmakers are considering legislation that would require companies that advertise online in Italy to do so solely with entities that have a tax presence in the country.

However, passage of the legislation, unofficially called the “Google tax,” is far from certain.

The measure would not tax companies like Google and Amazon directly, but instead would force them to use Italian companies to sell ads. The thinking is that this would remove third parties — often located in tax-friendly countries like Ireland, Luxemburg or outside the EU — from the equation.

Next version of Windows Phone 8.1 will introduce Siri-style assistant and several fixes

Microsoft is reportedly working to address two of the major shortcomings its Windows Phone 8 operating system faces when compared to the Apple iPhone or Google Android devices. Rumors suggest that Microsoft will introduce a dedicated notification center and a new digital assistant akin to Google Now and Siri.

The Verge writer Tom Warren, who has a reliable track record when it comes to Microsoft rumors, says that his sources say Microsoft is beta testing Windows Phone 8.1 with plans to introduce the OS update at its BUILD conference in April 2014. There’s no guarantee that these features will be among the next major update of Windows Phone, it appears likely that the following software upgrades will be included:

– The “Cortana” assistant will upgrade Bing to be a mix of Siri and Google Now. It will have voice commands and text input, but it will also remind users about appointments and provide travel information. Microsoft also plans to add Bing Smart Search results.

– A dedicated notification center will be added and accessible by swiping down from the top of the screen. Users will still have Live Tiles but not have to rely solely on them for updates.

– Volume controls will added specifically for ringtones and music or video, so there no longer needs to be a one-volume level.

– The music hub, Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and several other apps that are built-in will be separated from the core OS in order to make updates faster and easier, a tactic Google employed for Android. Other rumored changes include apps being allowed to include the People Hub in new unspecified ways.

– The Verge also reports that Nokia is working on smartphones that support touch-free interaction and virtual navigation buttons, so Windows 8.1 may support gestures via the proximity sensor.

China: We’ve Got the Goods on Qualcomm

China has “substantial evidence” on Qualcomm in an antitrust probe, according to a report in the state-run China Daily that quotes Xu Kunlin, the head of the National Development and Reform Commission’s anti-price-fixing bureau. The Daily didn’t divulge any specific details — just Xu’s confident assertion that Qualcomm is squarely in the crosshairs.

Qualcomm released a statement saying it believes its business practices are lawful.

China launched an antitrust probe into Qualcomm, the world’s top maker of cellphone chips, in late November.

Though it could merely be a coincidence, the announcement of the investigation came just days after Qualcomm ‘s CEO waxed poetic about business in China in a Wall Street Journal interview.

The NDRC has been busy of late. In August, it levied record fines against a half-dozen milk powder companies. Xu said that the agency planned to add more than 150 people to its price-fixing units.

[Source: China Daily via Reuters]


China to Require Smog-Certified Pilots

China will require crews piloting planes into Beijing to be certified to land their crafts even in the smoggiest conditions.

The new regulation, which goes into effect Jan. 1, applies to flights originating in China’s 10 busiest airports. Specifically, it calls for crews to be certified to execute instrument-only landings when visibility is at roughly 450 yards or less.

Beijing’s Capital International Airport has a paltry 18 percent on-time rate, a number presumably depressed by the visibility-eroding smog that has taken up residence over the city.