Oct 172012

The BlackBerry as Black Sheep

Quick Hide the BlackBerry, It’s Too Uncool


The New York Times
by Nicole Perlroth
October 15, 2012


BlackBerry vs iPhone


Rachel Crosby speaks about her BlackBerry phone the way someone might speak of an embarrassing relative.

“I’m ashamed of it,” said Ms. Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry at cocktail parties and conferences. In meetings, she says she hides her BlackBerry beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her.


“I want to take a bat to it,” Rachel Crosby, of Los Angeles, says of her creaky BlackBerry. “You can’t do anything with it.” J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times


The BlackBerry was once proudly carried by the high-powered and the elite, but those who still hold one today say the device has become a magnet for mockery and derision from those with iPhones and the latest Android phones. Research in Motion may still be successful selling BlackBerrys in countries like India and Indonesia, but in the United States the company is clinging to less than 5 percent of the smartphone market — down from a dominating 50 percent just three years ago. The company’s future all depends on a much-delayed new phone coming next year; meanwhile RIM recorded a net loss of $753 million in the first half of the year compared with a profit of more than $1 billion a year earlier.

Among the latest signs of the loss of cachet: One of the first steps Marissa Mayer took as Yahoo’s newly appointed chief executive to remake the company’s stodgy image was to trade in employees’ BlackBerrys for iPhones and Androids. BlackBerrys may still linger in Washington, Wall Street and the legal profession, but in Silicon Valley they are as rare as a necktie.

As the list shrinks of friends who once regularly communicated using BlackBerry’s private messaging service, called BBM, many a BlackBerry owner will not mince words about how they feel about their phone.

“I want to take a bat to it,” Ms. Crosby said, after waiting for her phone’s browser to load for the third minute, only to watch the battery die. “You can’t do anything with it. You’re supposed to, but it’s all a big lie.”

The cultural divide between BlackBerry loyalists and everyone else has only grown more extreme over the last year as companies that previously issued employees BlackBerrys — and only BlackBerrys — have started surrendering to employee demands for iPhones and Android-powered smartphones.

Goldman Sachs recently gave its employees the option to use an iPhone. Covington & Burling, a major law firm, did the same at the urging of associates. Even the White House, which used the BlackBerry for security reasons, recently started supporting the iPhone. (Some staff members suspect that decision was influenced by President Obama, who now prefers his iPad for national security briefings. A spokesman for the White House declined to comment.)

Out in the world, the insults continue. Victoria Gossage, a 28-year-old hedge fund marketer, said she recently attended a work retreat at Piping Rock Club, an upscale country club in Locust Valley, N.Y., and asked the concierge for a phone charger. “First he said, ‘Sure.’ Then he saw my phone and — in this disgusted tone — said, ‘Oh no, no, not for that.’ ”

“You get used to that kind of rejection,” she said.

“BlackBerry users are like Myspace users,” sneers Craig Robert Smith, a Los Angeles musician. “They probably still chat on AOL Instant Messenger.” 

BlackBerry outcasts say that, increasingly, they suffer from shame and public humiliation as they watch their counterparts mingle on social networking apps that are not available to them, take higher-resolution photos, and effortlessly navigate streets — and the Internet — with better GPS and faster browsing. More indignity comes in having to outsource tasks like getting directions, booking travel, making restaurant reservations and looking up sports scores to their exasperated iPhone and Android-carting partners, friends and colleagues.

“I feel absolutely helpless,” said Ms. Gossage. “You’re constantly watching people do all these things on their phones and all I have going for me is my family’s group BBM chats.”

Ryan Hutto, a director at a San Francisco health information company, said he frequently depended on others, often his wife, for music playlists, navigation and sports scores. “After two or three questions, people start to get irritated,” Mr. Hutto said.


His wife, Shannon Hutto, says with a sigh: “Anytime we go anywhere, I always have to pull up the map. If we’re searching for a restaurant, I pull up the Yelp app. If we need a reservation, I pull up OpenTable. I kind of feel like his personal assistant.”


Still, a few BlackBerry users say they’re sticking with the device, mainly because of the BlackBerry’s efficient, physical keyboard. “I use my BlackBerry by choice,” said Lance Fenton, a 32-year-old investor who frequently travels and needs to send e-mails from the road. “I can’t type e-mails on touch-screen phones.”

Mr. Fenton said he could not wrap his head around iPhone fever. “I constantly ask people, ‘What is so great about it?’ and they have these nonsensical answers,” he said. “Someone told me I’m missing out on some app that maps their ski runs. I ski four days a year. On the road, I don’t need a ski app.”

RIM’s most recent efforts to hold on to loyal customers, as well as software developers building apps for its next generation of phones scheduled to be available next year, have elicited universal cringes. In a recent promotional video, Alec Saunders, RIM’s vice president for developer relations, is shown belting out a rock song titled “Devs, BlackBerry Is Going to Keep on Loving You,” a riff on the 1981 power ballad by REO Speedwagon “Keep on Loving You.”

“This is the sign of a desperate company,” said Nick Mindel, a 26-year-old investment analyst. “Come on, BlackBerry, I always had some faith, but you just lost a customer. Frankly, I don’t think they can afford to lose many more.”

After eight years with a BlackBerry, Mr. Mindel said he just joined the wait list for the iPhone 5. When it arrives, he said, “I’m considering removing my BlackBerry battery, pouring in cement, and using the BlackBerry as an actual paperweight.”


Direct Link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/technology/blackberry-becomes-a-source-of-shame-for-users.html?_r=0

Sep 272012

To Unlock A Full Price AT&T iPhone 5, Just Restore It In iTunes

by Romain Dillet
September 26, 2012


If you have bought an AT&T iPhone 5 without a contract over the past few days, chances are that you want to unlock it to use it on another carrier. The traditional process involves filling out an online form on AT&T’s website, sending a fax (yes, a fax) to AT&T, waiting 5 to 7 days and restoring your phone. It turns out that it is much easier than that: just restore the phone in iTunes and it will be unlocked.

We have confirmed the process with AT&T’s technical support and successfully tried it with a T-Mobile SIM card. After restoring the device in iTunes, the user is prompted with the usual unlocking message: “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.”

This message wasn’t enough for me though. I need more proof that I could use the iPhone on every carrier and abroad.

After receiving the notification my new iPhone was unlocked, I cut a micro-SIM card into the shape of a nano-SIM by using the AT&T SIM card that was already in the iPhone 5 as a guide. The most difficult part was to make it narrower so that you can close the tiny nano-SIM tray, though some have reported that this step may be optional.

In a couple of seconds, the iPhone was able to pick up the T-Mobile network, and calls and EDGE data connectvity worked as expected. Some reports, including on AT&T forum, confirm this.

When you buy an iPhone, the device is added to Apple’s big iPhone database thanks to the IMEI, which is used as a unique identifier. Full price and subsidized iPhone 5 models apparently don’t have the same status in the database as it is flagged as “ready to be unlocked” when purchased without a contract.

The iPhone 5 we tested was bought in an Apple retail store, but we couldn’t confirm this with another, pre-ordered iPhone 5 — even though the device was purchased at full price, it was tied to an existing AT&T account during the pre-order process. The carrier clearly states on its website that you have to be either a former customer or a customer without contract obligations to be eligible to go through the entire process, fax included. It could be problematic as well if you bought your iPhone 5 directly from AT&T.

Chris Velazco contributed reporting.


Direct Link: http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/26/to-unlock-a-full-price-att-iphone-5-just-restore-it-in-itunes/

Aug 232012

Don’t trust that text: How the iPhone SMS spoof works

Digital Trends
by Daniel McKlienfeld
August 19, 2012

A hacker claims to have found an SMS trick to which iPhones are particularly vulnerable, but how does it work, and why can’t Apple stop it?


Late Friday, a blog focused on iOS security research claimed to have found a severe security flaw in iOS. It’s not a way to install malware or otherwise run destructive code, but it is an effective way to create fraudulent text messages that could be used in phishing schemes. While any phone that uses SMS text messaging is vulnerable, UI aspects of the iPhone make it a particularly tempting target. Since then, Apple has claimed the vulnerability lies in SMS technology, not iOS, and that it has no way of fixing it. So how does such a gaping hole in SMS security work?

As pod2g’s security blog explains, the vulnerability originates in the Protocol Description Unit system that’s used to transmit text messages. When you create an SMS message on your phone and hit the Send button, your phone translates the message into PDU terms, tosses it across the network to its recipient, and the phone at the other end catches the bundle of PDU code and translates it into whatever display format the recipient phone uses. But if you’re handy with raw code, you can bypass all the technology that UI designers have worked so hard to make nice and instead create a message in raw PDU text format.

That’s where shenanigans can begin. Just by typing a few words into a text string, a nasty spammer can change the User Data Header in the PDU code, and make it appear to the recipient that the text is coming from their beloved “Mother,” “The FBI,” “Messengers From Space,” or any other recipient they choose to specify. So you could get a message from “Mom” asking you to “Please log into this bank site so we can pay for your Uncle’s kidney surgery” or some other piece of  phishing trickery. Even more maliciously, someone who knew the name of your trusted contacts could send, for example, a message that appears to be from your buddy Dave claiming to have had an affair with your house-pet, driving you into a jealous frenzy for nothing but their own amusement. More seriously, courts have used SMS messages as evidence, so this scam could be used to falsely prove that someone violated a restraining order, or is engaged in criminal conspiracy.

The iPhone is especially vulnerable because of its SMS user interface. In a typically Jobsian pursuit of cleanliness, the iPhone doesn’t display the phone number of whoever sent you a message, only the name of the sender. So if “Uncle Jed” is texting you from a phone number in Kazakhistan, there’s no way to tell that you’re getting messages from a suspicious number. Obviously, the iPhone isn’t the only phone to keep those ugly integers tucked away in the pursuit of elegance, but it’s by far the most prominent, and therefore the one with the most to lose if its interface gets regarded as a security risk.

Apple has dealt with phishing vulnerabilities on the iPhone before, as well as phishing scams built around the Apple ID. Unfortunately, this vulnerability is inherent to the SMS protocol, making it much harder for Apple to unilaterally fix it. Seth Bromberger, a security consultant at NCI Security, suggests that the iPhone should display an originating number but it’s hard to imagine Apple cluttering up its clean lines with the kind of numeral strings that we all stopped remembering the day we got a built-in contacts list. For now, Apple has issued a statement telling users to be careful, and mentioning that hey, by the way, if you and all your friends just used iPhones exclusively then you would automatically be texting with the iMessage system, where these problems can’t happen. So perhaps the solution to this iPhone vulnerability is to buy an iPhone for all the people who might text you. Everybody wins. 


Direct Link:  http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/sms-spoof-could-hit-iphone-users/

May 062012

Narcotic Honey Traps: Drug Cops Seduce Teenagers


Author: Julie Ershadi

Independent Correspondent

Posted: March 2, 2012

[Originally published on Reason]



(Photo is just an example of a hot girl aka Honey Pot)


An undercover 25-year-old female police officer maintained an ongoing relationship with a teenager in order to pop his pot-selling cherry— and then arrest him for it.


Last week, Alternet shared this story, part of a segment on NPR’s This American Life:

Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other.


One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn’t smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn’t want the money — he got it for her as a present.


This is reminiscent of a story from September 2011, also featured on This American Life, where narcotics task force commander Norm Wielsch collaborated with private investigator and former SWAT officer Chris Butler to set up a high schooler who had been selling ecstasy in Contra Costa, CA. Butler hired two amateur actresses off of Craigslist to essentially offer group sex in exchange for the feel-good pill. When the kid came to make the deal, he was slammed against a car at gunpoint in an effort to “scare him straight,” according to the story. Listen to the whole podcast, or click to minute 25 for the bit about the high school ecstasy dealer known as the Candyman.

Unlike the Candyman, who appears to have been at least already selling drugs, Justin from Florida had a clean record before this incident and repeatedly claimed to have had zero interest in the drug world, or the people who deal in it, before this officer instigated the whole scenario.

Wielsch and Butler are both currently facing charges for their corrupt antics, including selling large amounts of methamphetamines and pot from Wielsch’s narcotics department evidence stash.


Yet these don’t appear to be isolated incidents. The Huffington Post article cited two other cases in which police went undercover and hung out with teenagers and minors for extended periods of time:

In Brooklyn, New York, a 19-year-old student was charged with receiving stolen property after buying an iPhone from an undercover police officer in December.

The New York Police Department set up the operation to target people buying and selling stolen electronics, NBC New York reported. The sting led to 141 arrests, with Robert Tester among them.

But Tester said he was tricked into purchasing the phone after the undercover officer told him he needed money to feed his daughter for Christmas.

Police defend the arrest, but Tester is planning on filing a civil counter-suit against NYPD, according to the report.

In January, police arrested ten students at a Texas high school for selling prescription drugs and marijuana.


When interviewed for the NPR story, the female undercover cop said, “These kids need to wake up. They need to realize they can’t be doing this.”

But it’s worth noting that in every one of the these stories, the undercover cops manipulated teenagers and took advantages of their vulnerabilities. In the end, it’s worth wondering whether Robert Tester or Justin learned lessons about selling and buying contraband, or whether they just learned to distrust people a little more.

When the operation concluded at the Florida high school, “the police did a big sweep and arrested 31 students — including Justin,” according to the Alternet article. Justin has been convicted of selling pot inside a school, a felony in Florida. He is no longer eligible to join the Armed Forces as he had planned to do upon graduation and is now attending community college.


Direct Link:  http://julieershadi.com/2012/03/02/narcotic-honey-traps-drug-cops-seduce-teenagers/