Start up: hackers for hire, Chrome grows, Tinder’s CEO chats, and more


Google Timeline: law-enforcement-friendly, at least in theory. Picture by portalgda on Flickr.

Mumble mumble receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Rhubarb rhubarb confirmation link, mutter no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. Free as in cabbage. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Hired-gun hacking played key role in JPMorgan, Fidelity breaches » Reuters

Jim Finkle and Joseph Menn:

The trio, who are accused of orchestrating massive computer breaches at JPMorgan Chase & Co and other financial firms, as well as a series of other major offences, did little if any hacking themselves, the federal indictments and a previous civil case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicate.

Rather, they constructed a criminal conglomerate with activities ranging from pump-and-dump stock fraud to Internet casino break-ins and unlicensed Bitcoin trading. And just like many legitimate corporations, they outsourced much of their technology needs.

“They clearly had to recruit co-conspirators and have that type of hacker-for-hire,” said Austin Berglas, former assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s New York cyber division, who worked the JPMorgan case before he left the agency in May. “This is the first case where it’s that clear of a connection.” Berglas, who now heads cyber investigations for private firm K2 Intelligence, said additional major cases of freelance hacking will come to light, especially as more people become familiar with online tools such as Tor that seek to conceal a user’s identity and location.

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Living in different worlds » Benedict Evans

A few years ago, one of the big UK retailers told me an anecdote from some market research they’d done into cameras. Their customers had said they wanted a solution for storing all the camera cards they had. This puzzled the researchers, so they dug a little further, and found out that a lot of their customers had dozens and dozens of memory cards.…

[they] just took the memory card out of the camera at the end of a trip, and when they wanted to show people the photos they’d taken they retrieved the card and put it back into the camera. 

I recognise this behaviour because it’s what my father-in-law does – and when he wants to print something from his computer, he takes a photo of the screen, takes out the camera’s memory card, slots it into the printer and prints out the photo (he also made quite a lot of money day-trading Imagination Tech – over the phone). 

As we go from 1.5bn PCs, of which only half are consumer, to 3bn iOS and Android devices today and 4-5bn in the future, this will become ever more important.

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Chrome’s number of monthly active users on mobile devices has doubled over the past year

Bertel King:

During the keynote address yesterday for this year’s Chrome Dev Summit, VP of Chrome Darin Fisher shared some numbers about the mobile web browser’s rate of adoption. tl;dr, people are flocking to Chrome, and fast. Over the past year, the number of 30 day active users has doubled from 400 million to 800 million.

Chrome’s adoption has been boosted by an increasing number of devices now shipping the browser by default. Chrome for Android users visit 100+ sites a month on average, showing a decent level of engagement.

The power of defaults. Once it was Internet Explorer; now it’s Chrome. That final sentence is maddening, though. Where’s the evidence that that’s a decent level of anything? What does it compare to? Three different sites per day is “decent engagement”? Seriously? There’s a new generation of people writing content who seem incapable of doing simple maths and following its thread. (1.4bn Google Android monthly active users, 800m Chrome monthly active users. Think about that too.)
link to this extract


Exclusive: Samsung Pay to launch in China, Spain, and the UK in Q1 2016 » SamMobile

As per the information that we’ve received, Samsung is planning to launch Samsung Pay in China, Spain, and the UK in the first quarter of 2016. Currently, only five Samsung devices – the Galaxy S6, the Galaxy S6 edge, the Galaxy S6 edge+, the Galaxy Note 5, and the Gear S2 – support Samsung Pay, though the Gear S2 only supports NFC payments.

Samsung uses MST technology, which mimics card swipes at regular checkout equipments to make payments, in Samsung Pay-enabled smartphones.

Card swipes are useless in the UK and Spain, as everything is chip-and-PIN. But Samsung Pay does support those too. Wonder if that will help sales of the high-end phones at all.
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How law enforcement can use Google Timeline to track your every move » The Intercept

Jana Winter:

The recent expansion of Google’s Timeline feature can provide investigators unprecedented access to users’ location history data, allowing them in many cases to track a person’s every move over the course of years, according to a report recently circulated to law enforcement.

“The personal privacy implications are pretty clear but so are the law enforcement applications,” according to the document, titled “Google Timelines: Location Investigations Involving Android Devices,” which outlines the kind of information investigators can now obtain.

The Timeline allows users to look back at their daily movements on a map; that same information is also potentially of interest to law enforcement. “It is now possible to submit a legal demand to Google for location history greater than six months old,” the report says. “This could revitalize cold cases and potentially help solve active investigations.”

Familiar? Exactly the same realisation for iOS in 2011, which was then quickly encrypted. Android was already doing that too.

Four years later, nothing’s really changed.
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Tinder? I’m an addict, says hook-up app’s co-creator and CEO Sean Rad » London Evening Standard

Charlotte Edwardes swipes quite a weird interview, including this:

He’s obsessed with journalists — “too many are not seeking truth but fame” — and baffled by critics because “you can’t deny Tinder is what the world wants”. His own “truth” is that Tinder is “wonderful” — “we’ve solved the biggest problem in humanity: that you’re put on this planet to meet people.” 

In September Vanity Fair accused Tinder of heralding the “dawn of the dating apocalypse” in an article that interviewed twentysomethings in New York who used it solely for casual sex. 

Rad is “defensive” and still “upset” about the article, muttering  mysteriously that he has done his own “background research” on the writer Nancy Jo Sales, “and there’s some stuff about her as an individual that will make you think differently.” He won’t elaborate on the matter.

His argument for why the piece was “wrong” veers from “our research shows 80 per cent of users are looking for a long-term meaningful relationship” to “we believe in democracy. If society just wants to ‘hook up’, who am I to judge?” 

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WhatsApp reneges on their promise of true message encryption » Medium

Dawud Gordon:

In interviews with journalists WhatsApp stated that they would use Public Key Encryption, where only the sender and recipient can unencrypted content. Indeed they did, but they used the same key for every user. This makes the Brno hack possible, meaning anyone on the same network as your phone could gain access to the content of your messages. Also, it means that WhatsApp themselves still have access to all message content. Moreover, their parent corporation Facebook has access as well and the ability to target you with advertising based on the content of your WhatsApp messaging. While this is surprising given WhatsApp’s previous PR, it does explain the mysterious $19bn price tag that Facebook was willing to put on WhatsApp.

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India to overtake US next month with 402 million internet users » Tech In Asia

Malavika Velayanikal:

The number of internet users in India will reach 402 million next month, nearly 50% more than what it was last year, according to a study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International. With the latest surge, India will overtake the US to have the second-largest internet user base in the world, next only to China. This will be music to the ears of mobile and internet-based businesses targeting the fast-growing digital market in India.

It took a decade for India to move from 10 million internet users to 100 million, but only four years to quadruple that figure. The primary driver of this takeoff is the boom in affordable smartphones over the past couple of years. But two-thirds of India’s population remain outside the internet, and broadband availability is poor.

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Google Glass successor dumps some glass » The Information

Jessica Lessin:

So much for the screen. We’ve learned that Google’s revamped Google Glass project, dubbed Project Aura, is working on a wearable with a screen—and at least one without.

People tell us there have been three versions of the head-mounted device in development, although the three may be consolidated into two. One version, targeted at enterprises, has a screen. The others, one of which is targeted at “sport” users, doesn’t and relies on audio. They use bone conduction, like the original Google Glass. In other words, headphones worn on your face.

Or even like headphones worn on your head?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

3 thoughts on “Start up: hackers for hire, Chrome grows, Tinder’s CEO chats, and more

  1. I really wish Apple hadnt taken out the ability to retrospectively check where one has travelled.

    I often start a walk and then carried away and walk miles and it would be nice occasionally to see just where and how far I walked.
    (No not enough to buy an Apple watch;)

      • Oh yeah I know – I have one (mostly for cycling)

        As I said it’s the ability to check how far I’ve walked when I didnt necessarily plan to do so. Starting a pedometre app feels like a chore – maybe the motion co-processor in post iPhone 5 does allow retospective checking via those apps – if so I’ve finally got a reason to uograde – maybe for the iPhone 7

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