The United States Department of Justice has fined the CEO of spyware vendor StealthGenie $500,000 and demanded the firm turn over the source code for software designed to remotely monitor calls, texts and other activity on Android and jailbroken iOS devices.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division wrote, “Spyware is an electronic eavesdropping tool that secretly and illegally invades individual privacy,” adding, “Make no mistake: selling spyware is a federal crime, and the Criminal Division will make a federal case out if it.
“Today’s guilty plea by a creator of the StealthGenie spyware is another demonstration of our commitment to prosecuting those who would invade personal privacy.”
The announcement stated that the StealthGenie spyware “could be installed on a variety of different brands of mobile phones, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Blackberry Limited’s Blackberry. Once installed, it could intercept all conversations and text messages sent using the phone. The app was undetectable by most users and was advertised as being untraceable.”
If your iPhone has never been jailbroken before then you are safe
Hammad Akbar, a 31 year old Danish citizen, plead guilty to developing and marketing the spyware tool, and was sentenced to time served, a $500,000 fine and “was also ordered to forfeit the source code for StealthGenie to the government.”
While the government announcement didn’t detail how StealthGenie worked, other reports on the web indicated that the spyware required manual installation on Android phones to allow the installation of a background listening service named “device.service.”
On iOS phones and tablets, the device must be jailbroken first, as an installation video (below) detailed. “If your iPhone has never been jailbroken before then you are safe,” a report by Flexispy stated in its removal instructions.
If the app were installed on a jailbroken iOS device, it would show up in the Cydia app installed as “Mobile Developer http://cpios.net.”
StealthGenie was sold between 2012 and the end of September 2014, targeting iOS 4 through iOS 7.1.2; two months ago, the software was taken off the market during the government’s investigation.
In August, details leaked of another spyware package named FinSpy, marketed for use by law enforcement and government agencies. It too required a jailbroken iOS device to work, but could attack any Android version up to then latest 4.4 KitKat as well as Blackberry, Symbian and older Windows Mobile devices.
While Apple’s iOS is not impossible to exploit, users are protected by the company’s strong security policy that blocks third party app distribution, piracy and malware. Two recent Trojan Horse malware exploits, WireLurker and Masque Attack both similarly required users to disable Apple’s built in security systems on iOS or OS X in order to install them.
Android is the favored platform of Al-Qaeda, making it obvious why government surveillance teams seek to target the platform. However, the ease in exploiting Android is also directly related to severe security lapses Google has made in designing its mobile platform.
Outside of Samsung, the majority of Android devices now shipping are low end products from smaller vendors that have no qualms about blocking Google’s security features, installing malware and backdoors or simply selling products with outdated software that is vulnerable to exploit.
Every discounted Android tablet of the dozen purchased from major retailers and tested by Bluebox Labs this month was found to have wide-open vulnerabilities that would enable spyware vendors or government agencies to exploit them for remote monitoring.
Easy to use Android “RAT” (Remote Administration Tool) packages are commonly sold for at little as $300 to allow anyone to monitor large groups of Android users.
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In an order filed late Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh granted in part Apple’s motion requesting ongoing royalties from Samsung, though there is only a slight chance that Apple will find reason to collect.
Judge Koh’s ruling awards Apple ongoing post-judgment royalties on possible continuing sales of Samsung models found in infringement of three Apple patents, as well as future products similar to those already found to infringe.
The order applies to the second Apple v. Samsung jury trial heard in California, where Samsung was found guilty of infringing on three Apple patents, two of which — the ’647 patent for data detectors and the ’721 patent for “slide-to-unlock” — were decided by a jury. A summary judgment handed down by Judge Koh in the days leading up to trial found Samsung in infringement of Apple’s ’172 patent for predictive text input.
As noted by FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller, a distinction must be made in that Apple is not guaranteed royalties from future Samsung sales, but may potentially seek payments on ruled infringed products and only under very narrow circumstances. Specifically, as it pertains to products adjudicated during trial proceedings, Apple would have to prove Samsung continued to sell offending devices post judgment and that these devices infringed its patents in the same way a trial jury decided in May.
The public version of the ruling redacts exact royalty amounts, though it does specify separate rates for ten Samsung products and those “no more than colorably different” from adjudicated models. Mueller believes the final royalty rates will likely be made public in upcoming appeals proceedings.
Today’s ruling points out that Samsung previously claimed continuing remedies are not necessary as products no infringement allegations were leveled on products sold after 2012. Samsung also said it designed workarounds for Apple’s patents, adding that post-verdict sales of products accused to be in infringement have already ended. A lone Galaxy S III version is still on sale but does not use code that infringes Apple’s ’647 data detectors patent.
From Judge Koh’s judgment, filed alongside today’s order:
For the reasons stated in the November 25, 2014 Order Granting Apple’s Motion for Ongoing Royalties, Samsung is ordered to pay ongoing royalties for any continuing infringement at the per-unit rates set forth in that Order. Those royalties shall apply to products adjudicated to infringe U.S. Patent Nos. 5,946,647; 8,046,721; and 8,074,172, and to products “not more than colorably different therefrom.” The starting date for any ongoing royalties shall be after the date of this Judgment.
Samsung quickly appealed the ruling in its own filing later Tuesday.
Apple and Samsung agreed to settle all non-U.S. patent disputes in August, leaving the California cases open. The companies will next meet on Dec. 5 when a hearing is scheduled to hear Samsung’s appeal of the final judgment in the first Apple v. Samsung jury trial, which ended in an initial $1.05 billion win for Apple. That number was later whittled down to $929 million due to juror error and appeal. Apple dropped its appeal of the same ruling in July.
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Early Black Friday: Apple’s current 15" MacBook Pro for $1,699 ($300 off), 27" iMac 5K with AppleCare for $2,299 ($369 off), 13" MacBook Air for $889 ($110 off)
Though Black Friday remains 3 days away, multiple Apple Authorized Resellers on Monday began releasing aggressive door busters on current, 2014 MacBooks and iMacs, all of which can be paired with exclusive deals for AI readers offering free accessories, discounted or free AppleCare and significant tax-savings.
Dozens of early Black Friday deals and discounts are already present on our Apple Deal Tracker and Apple Price Guides, respectively. Among the highlights released just hours ago, some of which are limited in supply at their current prices, are:
2014 MacBook Pros
BH Photo: 15″ MacBook Pro (2.2GHz, 16GB, 256GB) for $1,749.00+ [$250 Savings]
Adorama: 15″ MacBook Pro (2.2GHz, 16GB, 256GB) for $1,749.00! [$250 Savings]
Best Buy: 15″ MacBook Pro (2.2GHz, 16GB, 256GB) for $1,699.00# [$300 Savings]
Best Buy: 15″ MacBook Pro (2.5GHz, 16GB, 512GB, 750M) for $2,199.00# [$300 Savings]
+ No tax collected on orders shipped outside NY.
! No tax collected on orders outside NY NJ.
# Tax collected on all sales.
The Adorama offer can be paired with an exclusive offer from Adorama for AppleInsider readers that offers 25-100% off AppleCare plus a free Apple Magic Trackpad with every MacBook, Mac Pro and non-Retina iMac by clicking this link and applying promo code APHOLIDAYS in the “Payment” section during checkout. Note that new customers must first register for a free Adorama VIP account before adding items to their cart.
Also note that while Best Buy offers this 15″ MacBook Pro (2.2GHz, 16GB, 256GB) $50 cheaper than its competitors, unless you live in NY, your lowest price will still be at BH Photo (or Adorama unless you live in NJ) since it will save you around $150 in tax.
Adorama: 15″ MacBook Pro (2.2GHz, 16GB, 256GB) with AppleCare Magic Trackpad for $1,993.00! [$355 Savings]
! Price after applying promo code APHOLIDAYS no tax outside NY NJ.
2014 iMac Retina 5Ks with Free AppleCare
BH Photo: 27.0″ iMac 5K (3.5GHz/8GB/1TB/290) with 3-Years of AppleCare (Free) for $2,299.00+ [$369 Savings]
Adorama: 27.0″ iMac 5K (3.5GHz/8GB/1TB/290) with 3-Years of AppleCare (Free) for $2,299.00! [$369 Savings]
+ No tax collected on orders shipped outside NY.
! No tax collected on orders outside NY NJ.
The Free 3-Years of AppleCare offer can also be applied to 40 additional iMac 5K configurations from Adorama.
2014 MacBook Airs
+ No tax collected on orders shipped outside NY.
2013 MacBook Closeouts
Additionally, MacBook Pro shoppers looking for exceptional value can check out a handful of remaining closeouts (limited to existing supply) from BH which are largely identical to current models with the exception of CPU speed bumps:
2.0GHz 15″ (8GB, 256GB) for $1,499.00+ [$500.00 Savings]
2.3GHz 15″ (16GB, 512GB, 750M) for $1,999.00+ [$600.00 Savings]
2.6GHz 15″ (8GB, 512GB) for $2,199.00+ [$400.00 Savings]
2.6GHz 15″ (16GB, 1TB, 750M) for $2,799.00+ [$500.00 Savings]
+ Instant discounts and no sales tax collected on orders shipped to every state by NY.
Stay Tuned For More Exclusive
Stay tuned to AppleInsider throughout the week and weekend as we continue to announce unbeatable, exclusive deals for our readers.
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Secret documents being shared by Apple with creditors of former sapphire partner GT Advanced Technologies could become a matter of public record next month, as part of the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.
Though the information being shared by Apple remains out of the public eye, the creditors could decide to use some of it to challenge the bankruptcy ruling. In that event, it’s likely that the details would not be kept secret by the judge overseeing the case, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
“I don’t want to get into the sealing business again if I don’t have to,” Judge Henry Boroff said in court, making it clear that more of Apple’s secrets could come out as a result of the bankruptcy hearing.
Apple initially fought to keep a number of documents secret in the case, but ultimately conceded and agreed to unseal a number of secret documents in order to comply with the bankruptcy settlement.
The secret documents revealed the terms of Apple’s extensive non-disclosure agreements with suppliers. For example, suppliers are prohibited from mentioning Apple by name during their daily operations, and the project itself is given a code-name.
Apple suppliers are also required to lock down their operations with a qualified security team, 24/7 security cameras, sensors, a personal identification credential screening, and vehicle markings. Suppliers must also agree to be audited by Apple at any time, providing access to information systems, facilities, and personnel that work for the company.
Creditors are currently reviewing the documents provided to them by Apple ahead of a December court date. In the event that creditors believe the terms of the bankruptcy agreement are not in their favor, they could present some of Apple’s confidential documents as evidence to bolster their case.
The creditors have already alleged that Apple breached its contract with GT Advanced Technologies. GTAT noteholders including Aristeia Capital and Sumitomo asked for and received an extension earlier this month, pushing back the approval date for the settlement with Apple.
Following its bankruptcy filing in October, GT Advanced has said its arrangement with Apple was a “classic bait-and-switch” deal that favored the Cupertino, Calif., company. For its part, Apple said it “bent over backwards” to help the supplier, which failed to deliver sufficient quantities of scratch-resistant sapphire material as was agreed upon.
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As promised earlier in November, Dropbox on Tuesday activated a new iOS app feature that lets users open and edit Microsoft Office documents through their respective apps, with automatic syncing and saving.
When a compatible Office file is opened in Dropbox, such as a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, a new “Edit” icon appears. Tapping the button will open the corresponding Microsoft Office app, where Office 365 subscribers can edit or review a file. Exiting the Office app automatically saves the revised version to Dropbox.
Alternatively, files can be accessed from Dropbox in an Office app, with support for the same automated save and sync features.
If users do not already have Word, Excel, or PowerPoint installed on their device, tapping the Edit icon will first redirect to the iOS App Store for download. Following a registration process that involves authorizing Dropbox to edit Office documents, the set up procedure is complete.
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An effort to unionize security guards across Silicon Valley has set its sights on Apple, pushing the tech trendsetter to stand up for contract laborers in hopes of catalyzing interest from other companies in the area.
In its fight to unionize Silicon Valley contract workers, a regional division of Service Employees International Union called United Service Workers West is asking Apple to support an initiative seeking better treatment of security guards, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
Apple’s campus is currently staffed by a security guard force supplied by contractor Security Industry Specialists, which supposedly treats their employees poorly, according to the SEIU-USWW. Chief among the union’s concerns is pay, as these workers have to deal with quickly rising cost of living in and around San Francisco.
“Apple can be the leader,” said Samuel Kehinde, vice president of United Service Workers West. “They can decide how life should be for this class of workers in the valley.”
Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson lent his voice to the movement in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook last month, asking the company to take a closer look at SIS operations. Jackson asked for a meeting with Cook to discuss the issue, but has yet to receive a reply, the report said.
“Part of the narrative of their firm is equitable and first-class leadership,” Jackson said. “As they grow at such a rapid pace, they should have world-class working conditions for their workers from the bottom up.”
For its part, SIS CFO Tom Seltz last year claimed Silicon Valley security guards contracted by his company made an average of $19.77 per hour, not including benefits. While higher than the state average, advocates and unions argue SIS salaries are not enough to account for ballooning living expenses seen in the Bay Area.
The push for unionization is linked to a wider issue concerning a supposed gentrification of the Bay Area, where longtime residents are being displaced by an influx of affluent tech industry workers.
Employees holding skill positions at tech companies like Apple are widely considered to garner lopsided salaries compared to contract workers who perform menial duties, such as security guards. Economic discord has manifested in outrage famously directed at tech company shuttle buses that ferry passengers from their homes in San Francisco to jobs outside the city. The shuttles, which make stops at city bus stops, have become a symbol for activists’ struggle for normalization.
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