Start up: so who did hack Sony? Apple on Pay, Pegatron workers, BlackBerry’s phone timing, and more

“Hey, from here you can see the posters for The Interview coming down!” Photo of Pyongyang, North Korea, by orangetruck1 on Flickr. (Searching Flickr for CC-licensed photos of “North Korea” yields some strangely anodyne pictures from “North Korea travel”.)

A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Why the Sony hack is unlikely to be the work of North Korea >> Marc’s Security Ramblings

Marc Rogers, with the only piece you need to read on the Sony hack, making 10 points (a couple excerpted here):

It’s clear from the hard-coded paths and passwords in the malware that whoever wrote it had extensive knowledge of Sony’s internal architecture and access to key passwords. While it’s plausible that an attacker could have built up this knowledge over time and then used it to make the malware, Occam’s razor suggests the simpler explanation of an insider. It also fits with the pure revenge tact that this started out as.

4. Whoever did this is in it for revenge. The info and access they had could have easily been used to cash out, yet, instead, they are making every effort to burn Sony down. Just think what they could have done with passwords to all of Sony’s financial accounts? With the competitive intelligence in their business documents? From simple theft, to the sale of intellectual property, or even extortion – the attackers had many ways to become rich. Yet, instead, they chose to dump the data, rendering it useless. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that a “Nation State” which lives by propaganda would be so willing to just throw away such an unprecedented level of access to the beating heart of Hollywood itself.

5. The attackers only latched onto “The Interview” after the media did – the film was never mentioned by GOP right at the start of their campaign.

CNN was reporting on Thursday night that (unnamed) hackers stole a sysadmin’s credentials to get access to the company’s system. That fits with everything we know, though that’s not unknown for hackers who aren’t nation states; it’s been used by external hackers trying to get into companies for ages. What doesn’t fit a nation state attack is what Rogers points to in No.4: if North Korea wanted, it could ruin Sony silently.

What still puzzles me is why US sources are indicating that they think it is North Korea. Perhaps I’m too disbelieving it would do something weird like this.

Apple Pay will change marketing, not just payments >> Business Insider

If you think Apple Pay is only about payments, you’re not alone. UBS recently noted that Apple Pay (unlike Google Wallet) doesn’t let you “push” offers to people, and speculated that flaw would keep some merchants away from the platform.

[CEO of Vibes, Jack] Philbin disagrees because Apple already has a way for merchants to push these offers: Passbook. 

“The marketing is done through Passbook,” said Philbin. “Apple Pay is just the payment functionality.”

Passbook has been around since 2012. What’s changed is that iPhone users are paying a lot more attention to their mobile wallets now that there’s an easy way to pay for things from their phones as well.

Vibes’ clients — which include retailers like Gap, The Home Depot, and Bloomingdales— saw a 54% increase in people installing coupons or loyalty cards into Passbook from September to October, which Philbin attributes to the introduction of Apple Pay.

Apple ‘failing to protect Chinese factory workers’ >> BBC News

Filming on an iPhone 6 production line showed Apple’s promises to protect workers were routinely broken. It found standards on workers’ hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached at the Pegatron factories.

Apple said it strongly disagreed with the programme’s conclusions. Exhausted workers were filmed falling asleep on their 12-hour shifts at the Pegatron factories on the outskirts of Shanghai.

One undercover reporter, working in a factory making parts for Apple computers, had to work 18 days in a row despite repeated requests for a day off. Another reporter, whose longest shift was 16 hours, said: “Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn’t want to move.

“Even if I was hungry I wouldn’t want to get up to eat. I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress.”

Apple declined to be interviewed for the programme but said “”We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions.We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done.”

Pegatron’s Wikipedia entry doesn’t say who else it makes things for. Its corporate social responsibility report for 2013 (PDF) says “‘Joyful Working; Happy Living’ is Pegatron Group’s caring philosophy to employees.” Some employees, perhaps.

Former Apple supplier Wintek shutters China plants >>

Taiwanese group Wintek, formerly a major supplier of touchscreens for Apple’s iPhone and iPad, has shuttered two plants in southern China and axed 7,000 jobs, leaving unpaid suppliers to chase debts of Rmb230m ($37m).

Armed police surrounded the plants in the city of Dongguan as workers collected their final pay this week, while suppliers demonstrated in front of the factories.

The company sought insolvency protection in October, filing in Taiwan for a restructuring of more than NT30bn ($961m) in debts owed to both local and mainland lenders and suppliers.

The move to in-panel technology with the iPhone 5 didn’t go Wintek’s way; now it’s laying off thousands of staff and may go bust. Keeping up with Apple’s demands is tough.

Stop the presses! >> Counternotions

Kontra, on the dire “reporting” of the (untrue) suggestion by the replacement plaintiff’s lawyers that Apple had deleted songs on peoples’ iPods (it hadn’t):

Yes, journalism isn’t exact science, but from epidemiology to space exploration, from technology reporting to business coverage, the sheer amount of fact-free, opinion-framing ‘news’ is now exceeding our collective ability to notice, care or correct. Yes, journalism has always been messy, but the speed with which it’s generated, aggregated and distributed may now be overwhelming us. Yes, we have ever growing access to filtering software to shape our own sphere of coverage, and yet tens of millions of people read, and likely most believed, that Apple had deliberately and secretly deleted competitors’ songs from users’ iPods, an impression which may never be sufficiently corrected.

All people needed to do was say “Apple deleted songs, court told” and they’d have been factually correct, even if the claim is bunkum.

Sony Pictures employees now working in an office “from ten years ago” >> TechCrunch

John Biggs:

She works for Sony Pictures. She said she’s now working in an office on lock-down, a throw-back to an earlier time when the Internet wasn’t around.

“We are stuck in 1992 over here,” she said.

She requested anonymity but agreed to talk a bit about her day-to-day experience as a Sony Pictures Employee post-hack. She said things were getting back to normal and were, in some ways, more pleasant.

But the thing that bothers her most is the need to depend on old technology to do new work, now.

“We had barely working email and no voicemail so people talked to each other. Some people had to send faxes. They were dragging old printers out of storage to cut checks,” she said. “It was crazy.”

…“My bank account was hacked [on the day of the first attack,]” said our source who works at SPE offices in Los Angeles. “At first we just thought it was total coincidence.”

Now she suspects someone found something in the email dump that allowed them to access her accounts.

Smart journalism from Biggs.

Why the BlackBerry Classic is critical to the new BlackBerry >> CNET

Roger Cheng:

CEO John Chen made a few remarks, then pulled out the Classic for a photo opportunity. But as the presentation went on, it was clear whom the company was targeting: the IT guy working in a highly regulated business.

The conversation dashed past the typical walkthrough of the Classic’s features, spending a healthy chunk of time on the phone’s enterprise software capabilities and looping in guests like the chief information officer for Citco Fund Services, the founder of Niederhoffer Capital Management and the chief operating officer of Ontario-based Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital.

It’s a far cry from Alicia Keys, the pop music sensation BlackBerry once played up as its “global creative director.”

The timing of this launch fascinates me: two days before BlackBerry announces its quarterly results. Look back to September, and BlackBerry launched the Passport on 24 September – two days before it announced (not great) results.

And yes, BlackBerry’s quarterly results are today (Friday) at 1300GMT. Analyst forecasts are for $936m in revenue (a fall against the year-ago period) and a 5c per share loss. Perhaps we’ll hear how many Passports were sold, and whether it has a future.

Different relationships with their phones: iPhone versus Android >> The Network Garden

Mark Sigal did some user testing:

in the new app that we are building, one question in user testing was how important having a desktop web version of the functionality would be.

Get this, 90% of the Android users thought it was pretty important, most commonly because the test user saw the PC as the central part of their computing experience — even though the app is for a highly mobile type of action.

By contrast, 90% of the iPhone users looked cockeyed at the question, noting that the action is designed for palm in the hand, on the go types of behaviors, adding (I’m paraphrasing) that their iPhone is their hub, not the PC.

Same questions. Same product feature for feature; a variety of young to middle age males and females, and the only difference is iPhone versus Android.

His blog is worth reading more generally.

Nokia publishes maps on your iPhone, leaves Lumia in the shadows >> IT Vikko

This is a link to the Google Translation of this page (the headline is from the Bing translation, but it doesn’t have a static URL):

Nokia is not planning to upgrade in the near future the Here Maps application for Lumia phones. “When Nokia made handsets, we were a little different. Now, we are developing application on the basis of a realistic markets.”

Ouch. Harsh divorce; the parent doesn’t want to see its child any more.