Links: $1m NFC hacking, illegal iPhone 6s in Korea, why Taylor Swift’s off Spotify, and more

1989 album logo
Taylor Swift’s 1989 album logo on Flickr – not Spotify. Pic by C´sar J Paiva on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m Charles Arthur on Twitter. Point links at me or leave them in the comments.

Flaw in New ‘Secure’ Credit Cards Would Let Hackers Steal $1M Per Card | WIRED

As US banks and retailers are barreling toward a 2015 deadline to replace magnetic-stripe credit and debit cards with more secure cards that come embedded with a microchip, researchers have announced a critical flaw in the card system.

According to researchers at Newcastle University in the UK, the card system developed by VISA for use in the United Kingdom fails to recognize transactions made in non-UK foreign currencies and can therefore be tricked into approving any transaction up to 999,999.99.

What’s more, because the cards allow for contactless transactions, wherein consumers need only to have the card in the vicinity of a reader without swiping it, a thief carrying a card reader designed to read a card that’s stored in a wallet or purse could conduct fraudulent transactions without the victim ever removing their card.

I knew there was a reason I wanted to be able to decide if I wanted an NFC card. Now on sale: RFID-blocking wallets.


Why Taylor Swift got off Spotify >> Business Insider

Nicholas Carlson:

This source blamed one person: Scott Borchetta.  

Borchetta is the president and CEO of Taylor Swift’s record label, the Big Machine Label Group. 

Our source notes Borchetta is trying to sell Big Machine. Reports say he wants $200 million.

Our source says Borchetta believes the only metric that will matter to potential buyers is the number of albums the label is able to sell. Our source says Borchetta doesn’t think the number of plays Swift’s songs have on Spotify will move the needle.

The source says Borchetta believes that pulling Swift’s music off Spotify will create “scarcity” online, and drive CD sales and paid downloads.

…Swift is very popular on Spotify. 25% of Spotify listeners have streamed her songs. Her songs were on 20m playlists.

Makes sense. Some music label people think streaming music is a passing fad. By contrast, as the story says, many of Swift’s fans have never bought a CD. (Some haven’t seen one.)


Illegal subsidies return for iPhone 6 >> Korea Times

Illegal handset subsidies to lure customers into buying new iPhone models have returned to the market, rendering the new telecom law designed to prevent such practices almost ineffective.

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the nation’s telecom watchdog warned the three mobile carriers ― SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus ― against such practices and pledged to enforce “tough measures if any illegality is confirmed.”

An expert pointed out more customers who paid the regular price to buy the handset will suffer disadvantages unless the government establishes strict punishment for such illegalities.

Having breached this law previously, the three carriers were previously banned from selling new handsets earlier this year – just around the time that the Samsung Galaxy S5 was launched. (They found ways around it.) South Korea doesn’t seem very good at applying the law. But it’s also telling that it’s the iPhone 6 that they’ve all chosen to breach the law for.


FBI begins secret lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill to gain access to Apple and Google encrypted customer data >> Matthew Aid

The Obama administration is ramping up its campaign to force technology companies to help the government spy on their users.

FBI and Justice Department officials met with House staffers this week for a classified briefing on how encryption is hurting police investigations, according to staffers familiar with the meeting.

The briefing included Democratic and Republican aides for the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the staffers said. The meeting was held in a classified room, and aides are forbidden from revealing what was discussed.

It’s unclear whether the FBI is planning a similar briefing for Senate aides.

…The speech was prompted by new policies from Apple and Google to provide default encryption on their phones, making it impossible for the companies to give police access to photos, contact lists, and other data stored on devices.

They’re not going to get Apple and Google to reverse this, so what’s the point? To create a villain they can blame when (it’s surely when) the next terrorist attack or other outrage occurs?


Fan TV Web video settop box maker looking for buyer >> Re/code

Conventional wisdom among industry sources is that Fan’s investors, who put at least $40m into different incarnations of the company over the years, will be unlikely to get all of their money back. Some sources say the company was recently looking for something in the $15m range.

Assuming that a deal goes through with numbers like that, the logical conclusion will be that Fan failed at a tough task: selling a stylish, affordable box that integrated Web video and pay TV programming, without a big push from pay TV providers or deep-pocketed consumer tech companies. I’ve asked Fan CEO Gilles BianRosa and some of his investors for comment.

Fan has a slightly confusing corporate history; it started life as a spinout from Vuze, a BitTorrent software company. For a few years, it concentrated on video “discovery” software that was supposed to help Web video watchers find their favorite shows and movies across competing platforms, like Netflix and Apple’s iTunes.

This year, operating as Fan TV, it started selling a $149 box that was supposed to replace both conventional pay TV set-top boxes and Web video boxes like Apple TV and Roku.

Could be that price is part of the problem.


Project Ara modularized smartphone to enter commercial production in 2015 >> Digitimes

Project Ara under Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group (ATAP) is currently working with more than 20 partners and aims to bring its modularized smartphone into commercial production in 2015, according to industry sources.

Makers in Taiwan’s supply chain will play an important role to help realize the production of modularized phones, with related handset frames to be produced by Quanta Computer and connector boards by Foxconn Electronics, the sources noted.

Hardware partners will ship modularized parts, including displays, camera modules, CPUs, wireless modules, batteries, memory devices and cases, to consumers directly through Google’s platform.


Hands on with Microsoft Band: It’s awkward and inaccurate, but stuffed with features >> PCWorld

Jon Phillips (I guess – there’s no byline on the article, but that’s the name on the photos):

I’ve never worn an ankle bracelet like the one Lindsay Lohan had to wear while under house arrest. But after two days testing the Microsoft Band, I think I may have an idea of how constricting and confining those electronic monitors might be.

The Microsoft Band is uncomfortable to wear, and its heart-rate tracking, a marquee feature, doesn’t hold up to real-world testing. It’s a shame my first impressions are so negative, because with built-in GPS, a UV sensor, skin temperature and perspiration sensors, and a broad set of smartwatch-style notifications, the Microsoft Band promises a lot of cool features for $200.

Where the best wrist wearables are pliable and unobtrusive, the Microsoft Band is bulky and rigid, and never lets you forget you have it on.

And there’s huge variability in the heartrate monitoring. Who wants an awkward, inaccurate and pricey piece of technology on their wrist?


Dell’s life after Wall Street >> NYTimes.com

Dell has a comprehensive strategy at a time when peers like Hewlett-Packard and IBM are splitting apart and selling bits of themselves.

The new Dell has software, equipment for data storage and computer networking, services and sensors. It is developing software that measures facial expressions, voice tone, even how we individually swipe key cards. There is a device that can make a hotel room’s digital television into a secure corporate computer. A Dell tablet is the world’s thinnest and lightest, the company says, with a four-million-pixel screen and a three-dimensional camera. And, of course, there are lots of new personal computers.

But some things have not changed. Dell is using the same plan in software and services that it used with PCs and servers two decades ago: Come in with a lower-profit-margin, “good enough” version of something like networking, then make the cheap stuff better.

…But will the big reboot of Dell work? Toni Sacconaghi, a financial analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein, said Dell’s strategy will hold up as long as PCs sell well.


Comments and links welcome. Be insightful, be helpful.

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