Samsung smartphones vulnerable to remote data wipe

Code that’s making the rounds on the Internet could trigger a factory reset on the handsets without warning, a security researcher discovers.


Samsung's Galaxy S3.Samsung’s Galaxy S3.

(Credit: Samsung)

Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3 may be vulnerable to a flaw that could allow their personal data to be deleted from their device, a security researcher has discovered.

The malicious code, which is now circulating on the Internet, could trigger a factory reset of the popular handsets, according to Ravi Borgaonkar, a researcher in the Security in Communications department at Technical University Berlin, who demonstrated the vulnerability at the Ekoparty security conference in Argentina last week (see video below).

The flaw lies in the way Samsung’s TouchWiz UI interacts with unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) codes, which execute commands on the handset’s keypad. While most dialers require the user to hit the “send” button to complete the code, Samsung’s does not, Borgaonkar said.

He showed how the flaw could be exploited on a Samsung Galaxy S3 via a single code embedded in a Web link, QR code, NFC connection, or SMS, supplying the correct factory reset code to wipe the device without warning the owner or asking for permission.

Borgaonkar also said it was possible to lock the SIM card, preventing owners from using many of the device’s features. However, attacks can be prevented by turning off “service loading” in settings and disabling QR code and NFC apps, he said.

Samsung appears to be the only Android smartphone maker affected by the flaw, Borgaonkar said.

“It’s possible to exploit this attack only on Samsung devices,” he said.


RIM CEO: We have a ‘clear shot’ at No. 3

Research In Motion has had a hard slog over the past year, but is poised to reclaim its spot among the top mobile ecosystems, CEO Thorsten Heins said today during a press briefing at BlackBerry Jam. Heins said the company’s decision to bet everything on its new BlackBerry 10 operating system would allow the company to begin growing its user base once again in the United States and North America, where it has rapidly lost ground to devices from Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft, among others. “We have a clear shot at being the No. 3 platform in the market,” said Heins, who took the reigns at RIM nine months ago. “Carriers want other platforms. And we’re not just another open platform running on another system. We’re BlackBerry.” Becoming no. 3 in installed base of mobile devices would mean surpassing Symbian, which currently holds that spot. Android and iOS are the top two mobile platforms by a comfortable margin. Heins said developers are eager to build apps for BlackBerry’s base of 80 million users around the world, and said BlackBerry 10 was the most productive version of the operating system to date. But for all the cheerleading, there was little in the way of concrete information about the new platform: when the new devices will be available, beyond reiterating it will be in the first quarter of 2013; how they will be priced; which carriers it has signed; and, crucially, why mainstream consumers are likely to opt for these devices over robust offerings on iOS and Android. The company also declined to discuss financial data, citing a mandatory quiet period in advance of its earnings report on Thursday. “BlackBerry 10 is on track,” Heins said. “Our sales forces are getting ready. Better devices are in testing.” Heins’ remarks came after a nearly two-hour demonstration of BlackBerry 10’s user interface, which employs a system called “Peek” to allow for fast switching between apps, messages, and notifications. In a demonstration, it appeared to be an elegant way to check in quickly on various corners of the operating system. At the same time, engineers struggled at times to get it to work, occasionally having to swipe up two or three times before the gesture started to work. RIM executives worked nonetheless to rally developers back to the company’s side, pledging that certified developers will make at least US$10,000 from their apps (if they meet a few conditions), and appearing in a whimsical music video together that quickly went viral in tech circles.

IPhone 5 Limits Set to Spark Samsung Discounts in Europe

IPhone 5 Restriction Poised to Spark Samsung Discounts in Europe

IPhone 5 Limits Set to Spark Samsung Discounts in Europe

Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone 5, which bars customers of some European carriers from accessing the fastest available mobile networks, will prompt those operators to cut prices for handsets from rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) The iPhone 5, which went on sale today, will connect to fourth-generation wireless networks in Europe that run on an 1,800 megahertz band, favoring carriers who do have a network attuned to that frequency, including Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE) and its British EE venture with France Telecom SA. (FTE) Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) and Telefonica SA (TEF)’s O2 unit will only be able to offer the iPhone 5 on their slower 3G networks.

The restrictions of the iPhone 5 will “push Vodafone and many other European operators harder into the arms of Samsung,” especially as the South Korean company’s popular Galaxy line of phones includes a 4G version that is compatible with their networks, said Robin Bienenstock, a London-based analyst for Sanford C Bernstein. With the iPhone 5 predicted by analysts to become the fastest selling technology gadget in history, subsidies and promotions will help operators that only offer the device on slower networks to keep customers. Vodafone lost its top spot in the U.K. to O2 after failing to win the exclusive rights to the first iPhone in 2007.

The device became Telefonica’s best- selling phone ever and two-thirds of the clients coming to its U.K. network were poached from rivals. Upgrade Discount O2 plans to offer iPhone 5 customers with a long-term contract the chance to upgrade to a 4G phone once the operator’s own 4G service is available, according to Telefonica spokesman Simon Lloyd. The carrier will chip in 10 percent of the cost of buying out the contract and pay the taxes, he said. The new networks, based on long-term evolution, or LTE, technology, allow users to watch videos, stream music or perform other data-intensive tasks at a faster speed. EE, the largest mobile-phone operator in the U.K., said this week that the new 4G service is five times faster than is currently available. Samsung vaulted to the top of the global smartphone market by introducing a variety of Galaxy models using Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android software.

While the iPhone is the most popular smartphone, Android is more widely used, showing up in devices from Samsung to HTC Corp. (2498) Galaxy S III Samsung said this month that sales of its latest Galaxy S III, which has a bigger screen than the iPhone 5 and also works with 4G networks based on different frequencies, topped 20 million units. Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) unveiled a lineup of Lumia models this month with the most recent Microsoft Corp. Windows Phone software, aiming to win back market share with better camera and mapping technology. Customers in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris and New York lined up for the iPhone 5 today.

Queues of more than 1,000 people gathered in Frankfurt and London this morning as loyal Apple customers raced to get the latest device. Piper Jaffray Cos analyst Gene Munster predicts that 10 million iPhone 5 may be sold this weekend. Shares of Samsung climbed 1.2 percent to close at 1,302,000 won in Seoul. In German trading, Apple slipped 0.2 percent to the equivalent of $701.10 as of 10:56 a.m. in Frankfurt. Nokia dropped 0.6 percent to 2.19 euros on the Helsinki exchange. Subsidy Question “The question for operators now becomes in the near term – – how sticky is Apple’s software versus the better speeds of the Samsung Galaxy’s, and how much subsidy will be put behind this,” Bienenstock said. Vodafone and O2 offer 4G devices from Samsung, LG Electronics Inc. (066570) and HTC that are able to run on the operator’s 4G networks based on frequencies other than the 1,800 MHz band.

In the U.K., EE said Sept. 11 it will start the service and give pricing details in coming weeks. The U.K. auction of 800 MHz and 2,600 MHz frequencies is set to begin later this year, allowing a general rollout of faster data services in 2013, regulator Ofcom has said. Vodafone has opposed EE’s move to start 4G services ahead of an upcoming auction of frequencies, saying it was “shocked” by Ofcom’s approval of the service, which creates a “competitive distortion.” “We’ll have to work a bit harder and we’ll have to work with other devices,”

Vodafone Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford said last week. “We’ll be looking at the pricing and competitiveness of those devices.” To be sure, EE’s LTE network isn’t widely available — rolling out in 16 British cities by Christmas — and as the first entrant in the U.K., the burden will fall on them to introduce customers to the new technology and market its benefits, said Gyanee Dewnarain, a London-based analyst at researcher Gartner Inc. (IT) “They’ll have to do the work to educate the mass market,” Dewnarain said. “The mass market doesn’t have a clue what LTE is.” By the time they do, Vodafone may be ready to offer its own service, she said.

Happy 4th Birthday, Android

Android Birthday Cake

Apple may have the brand cachet, but Google has the sheer firepower. In just four short years, Google’s Android mobile platform has overtaken the global smartphone market. The first Android-powered phone, the T-Mobile G1, launched on Sept. 23, 2008. It landed more than a year after the first iPhone—and a few months after Apple introduced the App Store and made the iPhone a proper smartphone.

It’s always fun to look back and see how much the tech world has changed. But even as recently as 2008, when Android first hit the scene, most consumers still had regular cell phones instead of smartphones, Palm OS was still a contender, Research In Motion was on a BlackBerry Curve-fueled and Pearl-fueled upswing, and there was no such thing as an iPad. Mobile apps had yet to enter the public consciousness. Most phones were either 2G or 3G, not many had GPS yet, and any touch screen phone that wasn’t an iPhone needed a stylus.

The G1 wasn’t an amazing piece of hardware, either. Its 384MHz processor was relatively slow even for the time, and it looked like a slightly ungainly and unfinished T-Mobile Sidekick, with its oversize, slide-out QWERTY keyboard and thick, slanted chin. The OS itself was pretty barren, and looked like a Linux install without any customizations. Still, it had a glass capacitive touch screen and a WebKit browser like the iPhone, and you could heavily customize the home screen. As a result, the G1 still felt more capable than the stylus-based and non-touch smartphones of the day. Our reviewer Sascha Segan called the G1 “a basic introduction to what could be a blockbuster mobile platform.”

Enter the Motorola Droid
Sascha was right, of course, but it wasn’t immediately obvious at the time. After the G1 came out, we only saw a few other Android handsets appear over the course of the next 12 months, leading us to wonder if the platform was ever going to make it for real. Then came the Motorola Droid—the first high-profile Android handset to hit Verizon, complete with a tremendous “Droid Does” marketing campaign and a signature “Droiiid” sound for when new email arrived. It helped that it was also a fast phone and came with free voice navigation, the first handset ever to do so.

The Droid in fact did it for Android; for the first time, mainstream consumers began to wonder if they should get an iPhone or a Droid. From there, Android popularity surged—and the rest is history. 2010 saw the first Samsung Galaxy S handsets, while the start of 2011 brought the first 4G LTE devices running Android, more than a year and a half ahead of Apple. Screen sizes began to expand further and further. Google tried and failed to sell its own Nexus handset, only to resurrect the name in a series of purist phones across multiple manufacturers, culminating in the current Samsung Galaxy Nexus lineup.

Then there are the Android tablets. Most weren’t success stories, and many were downright terrible. But we’ve seen some bright spots recently, including the Kindle Fire HD, the versatile Galaxy Note 10.1, and my personal favorite, the Google Nexus 7, with its smooth, fast performance, bright display, and $200 price tag. We’ve even seen the debut of “phablets,” devices that straddle the line between phones and tablets, with screens in the low 5-inch range.

Two of the newest Android phones—the LG Optimus G and the Samsung Galaxy Note II—feature quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon and Samsung Exynos processors, respectively. Even on regular smartphones, screen sizes are pushing up against the 5-inch mark. And we’re beginning to moving away from pure spec regurgitating, and into genuinely new capabilities like live zoom during mirrored video playback and on-the-fly photo filtering apps.

On Top, With Some Stumbles
Today, Android sits on the top of the platform heap in smartphone sales, beating its nearest rival (iOS) by roughly two to one in the U.S, and with Samsung far and away the sales leader. Android phones are great choices for consumers, for enterprises, for accessing the cloud, for enthusiasts hacking emulators and installing rogue OS builds—you name it and there’s a market for it. The latest OS, Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean,” rivals iOS in its smoothness and sophistication and beats it on customization options, if not in outright usability, and it’s finally beginning to appear on a few devices, too.

To be sure, the OS has taken some hits lately—most notably in Samsung’s massive loss to Apple during last month’s patent trial, one of the largest and most significant the tech industry has seen in more than a decade. The trick going forward will be for phone vendors to differentiate their devices and software builds, while simultaneously steering clear of existing UI patents and not completely alienating Android purists in the process. It’s a balancing act.

In addition, Android may have finally lost some of its inherent advantages over iOS with the introduction of the iPhone 5 last week, such as 4G LTE support, free voice navigation, and (to a limited extent) support for larger screen sizes. Finally, while Google Play is now stuffed with over half a million third-party apps, nearly all of them are for phones; there’s still a distinct lack of tablet-specific apps compared with the iPad.

These hurdles can all be overcome, though. There exists a vibrant and thriving Android enthusiast and developer community, plus more choice and fewer restrictions than you’ll ever see on Apple’s side. It’s been good to have you around, Android; here’s to faster performance, even cooler devices, and hopefully, fewer lawsuits in the months and years to come.

HTC Elation leaked as Windows Phone 8 flagship


Better than One X on paper




HTC Elation leaked as Windows Phone 8 flagship
Not much Elation at HTC HQ over latest leak (credit: ubuntulife)


The HTC Elation appears to have leaked online in what seems a bit of an own goal by the Taiwanese manufacturer.

Ahead of its press conference on Wednesday in New York, Ubuntulife claims HTC has posted details of its upcoming flagship Windows Phone 8 handset on its own website.

Originally rumoured as the HTC Zenith, the Elation looks to be the final name for the smartphone touted to sport a 4.7-inch HD 720p super LCD display, 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera and running Windows Phone 8.

One X killer?

The product page on the HTC website which reportedly revealed this information has now been taken down, but if correct the Elation is set up to be a more powerful device than the Android-driven One X.

We’d be surprised if the Elation did pack the quad-core processor the captured screen grab claims it does, as Microsoft has made a point about its operating system running happily on dual-core devices.

Plus we’ve already seen the Windows Phone 8-running Samsung Ativ S, Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 unveiled, none of which have four cores inside them.

HTC’s press conference kicks off at 4pm UK time (11am New York) on Wednesday, and TechRadar will be bringing you all the information live as it’s announced.