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Facebook eliminated potential 'webcam spying' hack this summer
Dec 30th 2012, 20:42

Facebook eliminated potential 'webcam spying' hack this summer

A Facebook security vulnerability, which could have been exploited to activate a user's webcam and record them without their knowledge, was closed off this summer, it has been revealed.

Facebook paid Indian research firm XY Security a $2,500 (UK£1,546, AUD$2,409) "bounty" in July for discovering the issue and drawing the bug to its attention, the social network has confirmed.

The flaw, which Facebook said had never exploited by a potential 'Peeping Tom', could, conceivably have troubled users who had already agreed to give Facebook permission to access the camera.

Beyond that the user would have to be 'tricked' into visiting a malicious page, then agree to activate the camera - allowing the spy/pervert to begin recording.

Five times the going rate

Facebook must have felt the threat was serious at it paid five times its usual rate to the two researchers who reported the flaw.

"This vulnerability, like many others we provide a bounty for, was only theoretical, and we have seen no evidence that it has been exploited in the wild," Facebook spokesperson Josh Wolens told Bloomberg.

"Essentially, several things would need to go wrong - a user would need to be tricked into visiting a malicious page and clicking to activate their camera, and then after some time period, tricked into clicking again to stop/publish the video."

Facebook is one of many Silicon Valley heavyweights (other notables being Google and Mozilla) who offer 'bug bounties', paying out millions to researchers who spot flaws and potential dangers.

Apple drops patent claim against Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini
Dec 30th 2012, 14:16

Apple drops patent claim against Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini will not be involved in the next round of the never-ending Apple vs Samsung patent war.

The little brother of the flagship Galaxy S3 had been named alongside a host of Samsung devices which, according to Cupertino, infringe Apple's intellectual property.

The warring companies had been asked to present their lists of disputed devices as they gear up for a second trial in California, scheduled to begin in March 2014.

As the Galaxy S3 Mini is not being sold in the United States, Apple has sportingly agreed to strike it from the list.

Round two

However, it's not as if Samsung will be doing cartwheels about the news. Apple's list still includes the Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and Rugby Pro devices.

Apple also reserves the right to reinsert the S3 Mini if Samsung decides to launch it Stateside.

The second trial, which follows Apple's crushing victory this summer, will also hear Samsung's claims about the iPhone 5.

In Depth: 10 tech trends to watch for in 2013
Dec 30th 2012, 14:00

In Depth: 10 tech trends to watch for in 2013

Some predictions are easy.

In 2013 Facebook will do annoying things, people will get into trouble for posting rude messages on Twitter and it won't be the year of desktop Linux.

But what about the more interesting issues?

Seismic shifts are happening in technology as we move to mobile, always-on devices that stream stuff instead of storing it - and that's causing massive disruption to some of tech's biggest players.

Here's what we see in our crystal ball.

1. Misery for Microsoft

Microsoft's business remains enormous, but it's under pressure: tablet and smartphone sales are booming as more and more computing is done on mobile devices, and the PC market is saturated.

So far at least Microsoft's efforts in new sectors haven't been huge successes: Bing is costing a fortune and remains a distant second to Google in search, Windows Phone trails not just Android and iOS but even the ailing BlackBerry, Facebook doesn't think Windows RT is important enough to justify a dedicated Facebook app and if Microsoft was selling stacks of Surfaces, it would be shouting the numbers from the rooftops. It isn't.

Windows RT, Windows Phone, Surface and Bing are all long bets, of course, but in 2013 we'll see if they're going to pay off.

2. Interesting times for Apple

Steve Jobs said that his greatest invention wasn't a product, but Apple itself - and in 2013 we'll see if his confidence was justified.

After a few wobbles in 2012, including the Maps debacle and the subsequent departure of iOS chief Scott Forstall, Apple has changed the way it does things.

Jonathan Ive has inherited Jobs' role as the man who says yes or no for both hardware and software, and all he needs to do in 2013 is ensure that iOS 7, OS X 10.9, the iPhone 6, iPad mini 2 and iPad 5, and possibly the new Apple TV, are the greatest products the universe has ever seen. So no pressure there, then.

3. The end of SMS

We've reached Peak Text: in many countries, the volume of SMS messages being sent is slowing or starting to decline.

Instead, people are using 'over the top' (OTT) systems such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Skype and Facebook messaging.

These systems can use SMS to send messages but they aren't limited to it, so you can use them to communicate over broadband and Wi-Fi as well as traditional mobile connections.

Expect WhatsApp to be a very big deal next year.

4. Streaming, not shopping

At the time of writing, the first four seasons of Breaking Bad are £44.99 on DVD - or you could stream five seasons as part of a £5.99-per-month Netflix subscription. Netflix, Spotify, Xbox Music, LoveFilm Instant and many, many more offerings are cheaper and more convenient than discs, especially now that fast broadband is generally available indoors and out.

10 tech trends to watch for in 2013

Why pay more for things that you then have to store?

5. RIM reborn - or ruined

It's make or break for the BlackBerry platform next year: market share is in freefall in both the consumer and the business sectors, and the platform's would-be saviour, the brand new BlackBerry 10 OS, didn't ship in 2012 as originally planned.

10 tech trends to watch for in 2013

It's due in January now, and while we like it a lot, BlackBerry now has to tempt people away from Apple, Android and Windows Phone.

That won't be easy, and if it doesn't happen then RIM is toast.

6. 4G everywhere, not just Everything Everywhere

Forget Everything Everywhere's risibly named 4GEE and its comedy bandwidth allowances: in the UK, the real 4G action will take place in 2013, with all of the operators getting in on the speedy broadband act.

That means we'll see more devices, rapidly improving coverage, and, most importantly of all, competition between operators.

7. The battle for your front room

The Wii U's already out, and we should see both the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 in 2013 - and these days there's much more to consoles than gaming, as they want to be the devices you use to listen to music, watch videos and communicate on social networks.

Unfortunately for them, they face stiff competition from streaming-enabled smartphones and tablets, many of which are perfectly good games devices, and it's just a matter of time before Apple TV gets Angry Birds.

Could 2013 see the last generation of dedicated games consoles?

8. Firms that don't make hardware making hardware

In 2012 we saw the Nexus 7, 4 and 10, Amazon's Kindle Fires, Barnes & Noble's Nooks and Microsoft's Surface, and the trend will continue in 2013: Amazon is reportedly working on a smartphone and Facebook might be; Microsoft plans to make more Surfaces next year and possibly a phone too; and more Kindle Fires and Nooks are clearly coming too.

10 tech trends to watch for in 2013

2013 will be all about the ecosystems, not just the hardware: firms will increasingly want to sell you everything from soup to nuts, and if that means getting into the hardware business then so be it.

9. Gadgets made in the USA

Google's ill-fated Nexus Q was US-made, and some of Apple's latest iMacs are assembled in the US instead of China. We don't mean the build-to-order ones, either.

This could be a trend: firms such as GM and GE are 'insourcing', going back to hiring people in the US instead of subcontracting to overseas suppliers.

10 tech trends to watch for in 2013

For many firms, outsourcing's benefits have disappeared amid record oil price rises (which massively increases shipping costs), rising Asian wages, increased Western productivity and lower energy bills due to the current natural gas boom.

According to The Atlantic, when GE insourced the manufacturing of expensive water heaters, it found that it could make them faster, to a higher standard and for less money than by outsourcing the work.

10. Everything connected to everything else

It's all coming together: as basic networking tech gets smaller and cheaper it becomes more widespread, and before you know it you've got everything from fitness trackers to thermostats, door locks and lightbulbs, connecting to a router or talking to your smartphone.

10 tech trends to watch for in 2013

From cars to coffee machines, if it's possible to control it with an app, someone's going to find a way to do it.

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