20 March 2014 ~ 0 Comments

#6 The New iPads and iOS 7

We’ve been working on a recap of the biggest stories in mobile and tech from last year. With our good friend Scottie Ladeaux we’re going to bring you a new post looking back on our picks from 2013 every Thursday.

Today we have #6 in the countdown where Scottie is taking a gander at the release of the latest Apple iPads and the update to their mobile operating system, iOS 7.

Last October Apple held a special media event at which they unveiled several new hardware and software developments. There were updated Macbook Pros, and a newly designed version of OS X called Mavericks (named after a Californian surfing hotspot).

However, the real stars of the show were undoubtedly the two newest iPads, the iPad Air and the iPad Mini with Retina Display.

What’s your opinion of iOS 7? And what did you make of the specs and pricing on the new iPads? Are you going to buy one and if so, which model to you prefer?

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23 December 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Apple’s Touch ID hacked

touch id

German hacking collective, the Chaos Computer Club, have announced that they have successfully broken the security on Apple’s highly-fêted Touch ID fingerprint sensor. They used simple, everyday means to demonstrate a straightforward way to circumvent the fingerprint-reading technology on a Heise Security iPhone 5S.

The group of hackers claim that this conclusively demonstrates that fingerprint biometrics are unsuitable as an access control method (as they have been claiming for some time). The news further calls into question Apple’s use of Touch ID and the various claims they are making about how secure it is. The implementation of a fingerprint sensor on the new iPhone 5S has been touted as an advanced technology with both privacy and security benefits. Fingerprints biometrics are also used on some passports.

However, despite the fact that the home button sensor is only 170 microns thick and has a scanning resolution of 500 ppi, it appears to be fairly trivial to bypass with normal household materials. Previous attempts to incorporate fingerprint sensors as access devices have been found to be easily broken. For all the typical bigging up Apple has been engaging in, there’s nothing revolutionary about the Touch ID sensor. The only real meaningful difference between it and earlier incarnations is that it has a higher resolution.

And so, the Chaos Computer Club attempted to put to rest all the bogus speculation surrounding the fingerprint sensor. They have experience in bypassing other finger and sensors, they decided that the first step to try would be to simply produce a fake fingerprint with as high a high resolution as possible.

For their proof of concept hack, they simply photographed the fingerprint at 2400 dpi, digitally cleaned up the image, and then laser printed it at half that resolution onto a transparent sheet using as thick toner as the printer was able to produce. Then, by applying a layer of standard PVA wood glue and then peeling off, the thick toner leaves a tiny invent similar to a fingerprint. If you just peel off the set glue from the plastic sheet, you then have your very own fake fingerprint. The little bit of damp breath applied, it’s now effortless to break into any Apple device supposedly-secured by touch ID.

This is just a quick hack that took a couple of days to produce working results. Later on, the Chaos Computer Club refined and affected their method. Instead of photographing the fingerprints, they use the scanner instead. And they found that using photosensitive PCB produced a cleaner mould than a simple computer printout. They also determined that the end product be improved upon by using a thin coat of graphite grey instead as it is easier to peel off the fake fingerprint before applying the PVA glue. Frank Rieger, spokesperson of the CCC said the following:

We hope that this finally puts to rest the illusions people have about fingerprint biometrics. It is plain stupid to use something that you can’t change and that you leave everywhere every day as a security token. The public should no longer be fooled by the biometrics industry with false security claims. Biometrics is fundamentally a technology designed for oppression and control, not for securing everyday device access.

We can only concur with this sentiment. After all, it is well known that governments and state security agencies scan your fingerprints at way high resolutions that is required to perform this hack will stop not only that, but your fingerprint is permanent and cannot ever be changed. It’s already been claimed by many that the whole Touch ID system is little more than a meaningless gimmick, but this surely puts to rest the notion that it provides meaningful security for your devices.

What you make of this hack? Did you think the security would be broken this quickly? Do you have an Apple device with Touch ID and do you make use of this feature? And what you think would be the best way to secure our mobile devices?

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10 July 2013 ~ 27 Comments

Is this the UK’s cheapest PAYG tariff?

321 tariff

Three Mobile have massively shaken up the UK market with a rather-appealing new pay-as-you-go tariff called 321. The new pricing is the height of simplicity and dirt cheap to boot with calls costing just 3p per minute, texts coming in at only 2p each and mobile data being exceptionally good value with a charge of only 1p/MB.

Compared to the competition, this is clearly far and away the best deal going as long as you are relatively light mobile phone user. While it is possible to get better value from bundles offered by some other mobile networks, the new pricing is hard to beat. To sweeten the deal even more, Three are offering hundred and 150MB mobile web browsing allowance for free every time you top up by £10 or more.

Previously, networks such as White Mobile were offering the cheapest rates available with calls being just 6p a minute and SMS text messages coming in at 5p each. However, they were rather unknown and untested option and only a brave user with transfer their main mobile number to them. However, now Three Mobile – which is a major high-street brand and one of the biggest mobile networks in the UK – is offering rates that totally crush those offered by White Mobile and their other competitors.

In fact, the treaty one tariff is at least half the price of that previously offered by White Mobile and pretty much an order of magnitude cheaper than the other major mobile networks such as Orange, Vodafone, O2, and T-Mobile. It’s hard to think of a good reason why you’d pay 30p for calls on T-Mobile will you get the same thing to any number at any time on Three for just 3p. Likewise, why would you pay 12p for sending a text on O2 when Three are offering you a price of just 2p? The data charges where things get really silly: budget operators such as ASDA Mobile will charge you 50p/MB for mobile data whereas Three’s new tariff is a almost-unbelievable 50x cheaper!

We really welcome the fantastic value offered by this new pricing structure. Hopefully it will really shake up the UK mobile market and encourage competition. The price cuts that they have introduced are pretty astounding and will only mean better value for consumers no matter what network they are on.

This move will only serve to cement Three’s place as one of the fastest-growing networks in the country. While other mobile operators in the UK are struggling to retain their existing users, Three gained over 1 million new customers in 2012. They also the biggest 3G network in the UK right now and have superb high-speed coverage and great data rates.

Is it too good to be true? Well the tariff has been live for a few days now and in our tests has been working fine at the rate advertised. The only catch, if there is any, is that tethering is not allowed on Three’s PAYG plans including this 321 tariff. This means you can only use your PAYG SIM in mobile phone devices and not dongles or tablets such as the iPad. You will also find your account is blocked if you share your phone’s Internet connection by tethering it to a computer or tablet.

So how do I switch?

Switching your phone to Three Mobile in order to take advantage of this great offer is really simple. You don’t even need to change your phone number.

First of all, just make sure that your handset is unlocked so you can use it on Three and that it supports the 3G network that Three uses. Pretty much any modern handset will be fine, but if your phone is particularly old it’s worth checking that it works on 3G as Three does not support 2G any more. If your handset is not unlocked, there are several guides online that make it quite simple or you can always take it to a shop and pay about £5 for them to do it for you.

If you are an existing Three Mobile PAYG customer, switching to the 321 tariff is as simple as calling customer services on 333 from your mobile phone. If not, you can just go to Three’s website and order a free SIM card which they’ll post to you in a couple of days.

Keeping your phone number is really easy as long as you get your PAC code from your existing mobile operator. We’ve got a full guide to switching mobile network and porting your mobile number to a new mobile network already published on the site.

And that’s all there is to it. Runs some quick calculations to see whether you’ll save lots of money by changing to this tariff and if so, get started switching over!

Will you save money if you start using Three’s 321 tariff? Or is your current network offering a better deal? Do you know of any network with better PAYG prices? And, if you think you can save money, are you switching over today?

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