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msm1267 writes "Next week at the Black Hat Briefings in Las Vegas, a security researcher will release a modified RFID reader that can capture data from 125KHz low frequency RFID badges from up to three feet away. Previous RFID hacking tools must be within centimeters of a victim to work properly; this tool would allow an attacker or pen-tester to store the device inside a backpack and it would silently grab card data from anyone walking close enough to it.The researcher said the tool will be the difference between a practical and impractical attack, and that he's had 100 percent success rates in testing the device. Schematics and code will be released at Black Hat as well."

Plus it's built using an Arduino.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher

Think mobile devices are low-power? A study by the Center for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications—a joint effort between AT&T's Bell Labs and the University of Melbourne in Australia—finds that wireless networking infrastructure worldwide accounts for 10 times more power consumption than data centers worldwide. In total, it is responsible for 90 percent of the power usage by cloud infrastructure. And that consumption is growing fast.

The study was in part a rebuttal to a Greenpeace report that focused on the power consumption of data centers. "The energy consumption of wireless access dominates data center consumption by a significant margin," the authors of the CEET study wrote. One of the findings of the CEET researchers was that wired networks and data-center based applications could actually reduce overall computing energy consumption by allowing for less powerful client devices.

According to the CEET study, by 2015, wireless "cloud" infrastructure will consume as much as 43 terawatt-hours of electricity worldwide while generating 30 megatons of carbon dioxide. That's the equivalent of 4.9 million automobiles worth of carbon emissions. This projected power consumption is a 460 percent increase from the 9.2 TWh consumed by wireless infrastructure in 2012.

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Original author: 
Ben Rooney

It was hard to avoid the message at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The GSMA, the organizing body, was keen for everyone to believe that Near Field Communication might finally be about to have its day.

NFC has been a decade in the making, and has always been about to be “The Next Big Thing.” It is a contactless radio technology that can transmit data between two devices within a few centimeters of each other. Coupled with a security chip to encrypt data, it promises to transform a wide range of consumer experiences from simple ticketing to the Holy Grail of replacing your cash and payment cards with just your smartphone. The key word there is “promise.”

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Gretchen from Mean Girls.

SNL Studios

The 2004 film Mean Girls is a modern-day masterpiece, and I have been thinking about it constantly at Mobile World Congress (MWC) this week, because everywhere I turn, I feel that technology companies are channeling the spirit of Gretchen Wieners.

As part of the Plastics clique, Gretchen tried desperately to make fetch the Next Big Thing. "That's so fetch," was the ultimate in praise, to be used only to describe the coolest of the cool. Just as Queen Bee Regina George had to put Gretchen in her place and bitchily tell her, "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen. It's not going to happen," I think that the technology companies need to be told the same.

Stop trying to make "NFC" happen. It's not going to happen.

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After disasters (or to minimize expensive data use generally, and take advantage of available Wi-Fi), bypassing the cell network is useful. But it's not something that handset makers bake into their phones. colinneagle writes with information on a project that tries to sidestep a dependence on the cellular carriers, if there is Wi-Fi near enough for at least some users: "The Smart Phone Ad-Hoc Networks (SPAN) project reconfigures the onboard Wi-Fi chip of a smartphone to act as a Wi-Fi router with other nearby similarly configured smartphones, creating an ad-hoc mesh network. These smartphones can then communicate with one another without an operational carrier network. SPAN intercepts all communications at the Global Handset Proxy so applications such as VoIP, Twitter, email etc., work normally."

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Moves launches today as a free iPhone app available worldwide to help people track their physical activity and keep a daily journal of it.

Moves app

The main Moves interface is a neat-looking personal daily timeline, with proportional representation of time spent walking, running, biking, and in transit, in a vertical display that links together all the locations visited within 24 hours.

The app uses adaptive techniques to minimize battery drain by drawing cell-tower data most of the time, and then activating GPS when the accelerometer moves in a recognized way.

It’s made by a Helsinki-based company called ProtoGeo that is led by designer Sampo Karjalainen, a founder of kids’ virtual world Habbo Hotel.

Karjalainen thinks Moves can be a viable alternative to the Fitbit, Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up, because it doesn’t require people to buy an additional device and keep it charged.

And besides, wristband-based sensors are not terribly sophisticated, anyway — many people find that they only approximate a measure of their physical activity, and they do a terrible job of tracking cycling, since it’s a stiff-wristed sport.

I was particularly interested in the app because I think it’s an example of passively harvesting personal data for the user’s benefit.

So the two big questions are 1) Is Moves accurate? And 2) Will it kill my phone battery?

This isn’t a product review, but I’d say that in two weeks of using the app my answers would be 1) It’s pretty accurate, but not as accurate as constant GPS tracking. And 2) It will have an impact on your battery, but not as bad as constant GPS tracking.

You may still want to use an additional app like Endomondo or RunKeeper to track workouts. I found that Moves was particularly bad at counting my mileage on the treadmill at the gym.

Karjalainen told me that Moves users can hold their phones normally — in their pocket or bag is fine — and the service has learned patterns of movement that correspond to various activities.

His goal is for Moves to be an everyday, mainstream tool to make people more conscious of their physical activity. It’s all about low-effort record-keeping. For instance, a future feature that Karjalainen mentioned would be interspersing photos from the day throughout the timeline.

But there is nothing if not competition in this space. Passive tracking seems likely to be a future feature of Google’s Google Now Android personal assistant app, which quietly launched a monthly activity summary of walking and biking.

I’d previously experimented with using Alohar Mobile’s Placeme app to passively track all the locations I visited on a daily basis, but Moves’ timeline interface seems more interesting and informative than a map of everywhere I’ve been (plus, Moves has a map view, too).

ProtoGeo has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from Lifeline Ventures and PROfounders.

 

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jfruh writes "Call it Google Analytics for physical storefronts: if you've got a phone with wi-fi, stores can detect your MAC address and track your comings and goings, determining which aisles you go to and whether you're a repeat customer. The creator of one of the most popular tracking software packages says that the addresses are hashed and not personally identifiable, but it might make you think twice about leaving your phone on when you head to the mall."

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An anonymous reader writes "Chris Testa recently presented at TAPR Digital Communications Conference and annouced his development work on a hand-held software defined radio. Running uClinux on an ARM Corex-M3 coupled to a Flash-based FPGA, it will be capable of receiving and transmitting from 100MHz to 1GHz. Designed to be low power, Chris has designed the radio primarily with the Amateur 2m and 70cm bands in mind. Currently in early prototyping stage, Chris intends to release the design under the TAPR Open Hardware License."

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apple

A patent granted to Apple in late-August allows governments to disable iPhones and other smartphones, targeting specific apps even, when they enter what is deemed a "sensitive" area.

U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902, titled "Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device," enables phone policies to be set to change "one or more functional or operational aspects of a wireless device ... upon the occurrence of a certain event."

Camera? Off. Voice recorder? Off. No calls out, no calls in. Total blackout; or, for an event like a concert, the organizers could target specifically just recording functions of a user's phone.

Zach Whittaker of ZDnet points out that "although Apple may implement the technology ... it would be down to governments, businesses and network owners to set such policies."

The policies would be activated primarily by GPS and would create a perimeter around a sensitive area–like a building, protest or riot— to prevent users from taking pictures or recording, video, prevent "wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices" and force devices into "sleep mode," according to the patent. 

The patent notes that "Covert police or government operations may require complete "blackout" conditions" — which essentially gives police a "kill switch" they can flip prior to conducting an operations.

This may seem cool for military purposes abroad, against America's enemies, but domestic applications have other implications — like stifling a successful protest.

Here's Tim Pool—who has live-streamed the recent protests in Spain as well as those of Occupy Wall Street—explaining the implications of the patent.

SEE ALSO: These Are The Scariest Electronic Weapons In The U.S. Arsenal >

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It's a confusing time in the world of mobile and portable gaming. Consumers seem to be moving away from the idea that they need an entirely separate device to play games on the go, settling for cheap, generally simple touchscreen games on their cell phones and tablets. Nintendo, following up the insanely successful DS system that rested on a seemingly gimmicky double screen design, added a newer glasses-free 3D gimmick to its Nintendo 3DS—only to see extremely slow sales force it into a premature price drop. Sony's PlayStation Portable, meanwhile, has carved out a niche for itself as a serious gamer's system, especially in Japan, but is beginning to show its age as a system designed in the pre-smartphone era.

For the new PlayStation Vita, Sony responded to this confusion by throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the system. For hardcore gamers, there are two analog sticks—a first for a portable system—and a gigantic screen loaded with pixels. For casual players, there's the now-ubiquitous touchscreen as well as a unique rear touch panel to enable new tactile, touchy-feely gameplay. The Vita has two cameras, a GPS receiver, and a 3G data option. There's music and video players, a Web browser, Google Maps, and even a proximity-based social network. Oh, and it also plays games, I guess (more on those in a separate post).

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