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  1. A probe by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and computer security firm Kaspersky Lab has uncovered a massive network of mobile malware for all phone types that is sold by an Italian firm to police forces around the world. The malware, dubbed Remote Control System (RCS), was produced by a company called Hacking Team. It can subvert Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian and BlackBerry devices. The study found 320 command-and-control (C&C) servers for RCS running in over 40 countries, presumably by law enforcement agencies. Kaspersky has developed a fingerprinting system to spot the IP addresses of RCS C&C servers and found the biggest host is here in the Land of the Free, with 64 discovered. Next on the list was Kazakhstan with 49, Ecuador has 35, just beating the UK which hosts 32 control systems. "The presence of these servers in a given country doesn't mean to say they are used by that particular country's law enforcement agencies," said Sergey Golovanov, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. "However, it makes sense for the users of RCS to deploy C&Cs in locations they control – where there are minimal risks of cross-border legal issues or server seizures." The Milan-based firm that developed RCS boasts on its website that its malware can crack any mobile operating system and remain undetected while doing so. Based on documents leaked to Citizen Watch, the firm may be correct in its claims. The documents detail how the RCS system works. Once a target is identified by cops or g-men the malware is sent out and installed, either by tricking the user with a spearphishing attack or by exploiting vulnerabilities in the target's operating system. The Hacking Team has devoted a lot of time to hacking Android systems with great success. But the documents suggest that it has also found a way to crack Apple's iOS, albeit with a rather tricky attack vector. It appears that RCS won't work against iOS phones unless they have been jailbroken. But, if an unjailbroken iPhone is hooked up to an infected computer, then a remote-operated jailbreak can be carried out without the owner's knowledge using a tool like Evasi0n – then the malware can be installed easily. Once on a target's mobile, the RCS software can intercept and record all phone calls, SMS messages, chat conversations from apps such as Viber, WhatsApp and Skype, grab any files or pictures on the handset, spy on the calendar, look up the user's location, and take screenshots whenever the operator specifies, as well as harvesting data from third-party applications like Facebook. The malware's operator runs the code from behind an anonymizing firewall and the code can be tailored to provide little or no evidence that surveillance is taking place. The code is optimized to avoid running down the handset's battery, and can even get around the mobile data usage statistics displayed by the operating system. While Hacking Team says that its software should only be used to track down criminal targets, Citizen Watch says it has found samples of the code aimed at political targets in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Morocco and Ethiopia. "This type of exceptionally invasive toolkit, once a costly boutique capability deployed by intelligence communities and militaries, is now available to all but a handful of governments," said Citizen Watch. "An unstated assumption is that customers that can pay for these tools will use them correctly, and primarily for strictly overseen, legal purposes. As our research has shown, however, by dramatically lowering the entry cost on invasive and hard-to-trace monitoring, the equipment lowers the cost of targeting political threats." Source
  2. Amazon’s Fire TV platform now has over 40 million users, the company announced today. That’s up from the 34 million it claimed in May 2019 and more than the 32.3 million active accounts Roku reported during its Q3 2019 results this past November. Roku’s “active accounts” figure describes those accounts where users have streamed at least once during the past 30 days, but Roku notes that one Roku account may be shared by multiple members of the same household. However, the same can be said for Fire TV which, like Roku, doesn’t offer an easy interface for switching between different user profiles in order to create a personalized home screen or watch list. When Fire TV was touting its 34 million users, it had then led Roku by 5 million active accounts. With now 40 million monthly actives, that lead has widened to 7.7 million users. But the two platforms are often very close in terms of user numbers, with Amazon’s lead narrowing when Roku’s earnings are released — as they’ll soon be in early 2020. At that point, Roku will have likely added several million more users to its own figures, keeping the two platforms more neck and neck. Roku and Fire TV have proven to be fierce competitors, with Roku’s free movies and TV hub, The Roku Channel, spurring Amazon to leverage its IMDb subsidiary to launch a free streaming service, IMDb TV, also a Fire TV feature. Meanwhile, Roku has been developing its own voice control platform to counteract Fire TV’s advantage that comes from including virtual assistant Alexa with its connected TV platform. And while Roku has benefitted from its reputation as a neutral platform providing access to any streaming service, Amazon has been evolving to better support its rivals’ streaming services, including most recently YouTube, YouTube TV, and Apple TV’s app. Fire TV’s 40 million monthly actives figure is new today, but other figures about Alexa’s traction that Amazon shared were not. This includes the over 100,000 Alexa-compatible smart home products from more than 9,500 unique brands, the more than 100,000 skills from Alexa developers, and the hundreds of products with Alexa built-in. These were detailed at Amazon’s Alexa event this past fall, now an annual occurrence. Source
  3. Reuters) - Alphabet Inc’s Google Calendar app users were unable to access their schedules on Tuesday as the app faced technical issues globally. "We are aware of the issues and working on a fix," Google replied here, in response to a tweet. Earlier in the day, DownDetector.com, which monitors outages, showed a number of users saw the “Not Found” “Error 404” message when they tried to access the app. Other apps appeared to be unaffected by the outage. Source
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