News Roundup: Unplugging The NSA, 2nd Class 4G and Bitponzi Schemes

Unplugging the NSA

The fallout from the NSA/PRISM story keeps falling. The proposed amendment that would essentially unplug the NSA was narrowly defeated in the US, all the while businesses in the US are feeling the pinch because less people want to do business with a country that can snoop on all their data. Even the EU is re-evaluating how it shares data with the US.

So you’d think the NSA would learn. But no. For one, it’s opening a new datacenter in September, reported by some as being able to hold around 12 exabytes worth of info. It’s still as transparent as a rock, claiming it doesn’t have the technology to search its own internal emails and seemingly ignoring the unbearable weight of irony attached to that BS statement. AND the cheeky beggars have apparently been trying to get the master encryption keys from web companies, essentially making them redundant for anyone wanting any kind of protection or privacy. And they can track your phones, even when they’re switched off.

TBL Scores a Win for the Internet

Patent Trolls are a pain in the neck for anyone that has to deal with them, usually the legal teams of large tech companies. But in a battle for the internet itself, Eolas claimed to have patented ‘interactivity on the Web’ in 1994. After years of trials involving Microsoft, Apple, Perot Systems, Blockbuster, eBay, Adobe, Google, Yahoo, and Amazon, and featured inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners Lee personally testifying, the patents have finally been declared invalid, and we can all rest easy. Hooray!

2nd Class 4G

Apparently 4G is now essential for business. But it still might be a bit of a stretch to say that not having 4G is equal to being anything less than a normal human being. But this is exactly what European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes said this week, attacking Europes like of superfast wireless internet. “This is no way to run an economy," She said. "It means also that Europeans living in rural areas and those on holiday get treated like second-class citizens."

While it’s a fair point places like the US has 90% 4G coverage while here in the UK we’ve only had it for a year and you’ll be lucky to get reception anywhere vaguely field-like, we have manage to make do with 3G for a while and not see the collapse of civilisation. Definitely a case of coming on a bit strong.

More Mobile Security SNAFUs, Time To Ditch Phones

Just a couple of weeks after the discovery of a ‘master key’ that makes 99% of all Android devices vulnerable, we now learn that millions of SIM cards are also vulnerable, essentially rendering all phones across the world an open target for criminals in one way or another. It’s clearly the time to ditch our phones and retreat back to the dark ages (late 80s-mid 90s) before we needed phones attached to us at all times.

Besides, who even wants phones anyway? According to the ever even-handed Daily Mail, mobiles give you acne, saggy skin and insomnia, while researchers at the Harvard Business School say they make you lazy and antisocial. Charming.

Blackberry Still Going Down the Spout

Since those dismal sales numbers, few have any long-term hope for the future of Blackberry. And things aren’t getting any better. Following some recent layoffs, the Canadian company has now lost out to Samsung in supplying the FBI and US Navy with phones. Blackberry once ruled government contracts for phones, but Samsung and Apple have both been given clearance recently, and the 500,000 thousand-odd BB devices currently in the hands of DoD staff could soon be sent to the scrapheap.

Zim & Somali mCommerce on the Up

Mobile money is big in Africa. Like, really big. Around 30% of Kenya’s GPD goes through M-Pesa. And in Zimbabwe mobile transactions have overtaken card payments for the first time this month. The service has also just been introduced in Somaliland too. It’s amazing that mobile money transfers are so popular on the continent, but in Europe the service is still in its infancy.


Another big week for Cryptocurrencies, both good and bad. Bitcoins have spread out into the Middle East and Central Asia, and are now being used in Israel, Iran and even Afghanistan. All good there. However, Bitcoin can now claim its own Bernie Madoff, after a Texan man was found guilty of setting up his own Ponzi scheme. He managed to raise 700,000 Bitcoins between 2011-2012 – then worth about $4.5m – “to pay for rent, food, utility bills, shopping and gambling.” Though he got caught, he’s probably more annoyed the equivalent value today is close to $60 million. If you’re worried about the potential damage to the currency’s reputation, relax. It probably won’t do as much harm as the upcoming film: The Rise And Rise Of Bitcoin. Seriously.


In a random bit of social media news, Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle admitted it recently ‘hacked’ its own Twitter feed. In a dangerous case of trying far too hard, the company’s feed contained random posts such as ‘Twitter’, ’Do I have a Tweet?’, ‘Hit send too soon!’, and ‘Hi sweetie, can you please pick up some lime, salt and onions? twitter’. The net result? 4000 new followers in a day.

The Price of Mixing Mobility and ALCOHOL

Drunk texting. The bane of a drunken Gen Y-er. We’ve all done it, and we’re usually ashamed about it. But a new survey from Giffgaff shows how dangerous mixing drink and smartphones can be, and claimed it’s costing the UK £638 million a year. As well as 400 million embarrassing drunken texts (3% to bosses, 11% to exes), almost 70% of respondents had taken out a loan, shopped online or phoned a premium number while under the influence. With it adding so much to the economy, no wonder the government is reluctant to curb drinking.

When Celebrity Endorsements Don’t Happen

Tech companies are full of celebrities. Myspace has Justin Timblerlake, Blackberry has Alicia Keys, and then Will.I.Am just sort of does what he wants. And for a brief moment, Mark Zuckerberg thought he got 50 Cent on board. When looking for a sales guy back in 2005, the photo of the candidate they wanted, Kevin Colleran, happened to be pictured next to the ‘In Da Club’ singer and they came to the erroneous conclusion that was their man. When they finally met in person, Zuckerberg apparently looked ‘crestfallen’, but they eventually gave their man the job anyways. Sean Parker apparently told Colleran, “The meeting went fine. But we both feel a little weird, because we thought you were African-American.” And 50’s reaction to the story? According to Techcrunch; “Damn, should have taken the job.”




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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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