Mark Wycislik-Wilson

Knowledge Graph 'bug' makes it possible to spoof Google search results

Google and graphs

A security specialist has discovered a bug in Google's Knowledge Graph -- the cards that appear at the top of search results to highlight key pieces of information and provide quick answers to questions-- which makes it not only possible, but simple to manipulate search results.

Wietze Beukema has demonstrated how it is possible to make simple tweaks to a search URL and display a knowledge panel card containing whatever data you want. While it is not possible to change the results that appear when people conduct a search, the bug means that fake links can be shared with others, displaying false information to mislead people.

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After its profit warning, Apple slashes iPhone production by 10 percent

iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max

It's not all that long since Apple celebrated becoming a trillion dollar company, but then just last week it issued a profit warning and its value plummeted. Hot on the heals on this comes the news that Apple is cutting production of new iPhones for the current quarter by a significant amount.

The Nikkei Asian Review reports that Apple is slashing production of its current trio of iPhone models by 10 percent in the January-March quarter.

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NSA plans to release tool for reverse-engineering software

Reverse engineering

It feels like it has been a while since we've had any NSA-related news -- interest in mass surveillance has been overtaken by other concerns. After a series of Vault 7 leaks from WikiLeaks about the organization, the NSA is now planning to release its GHIDRA framework, designed to reverse-engineer malware and other software, later in the year.

The framework will be available for Windows, macOS and Linux, and it is set to be demonstrated and publicly released at the RSAConference in March. While it might seem like a bad idea to release a tool that can be used to break down malware and see how it works -- and, therefore, create other similar attack tools -- the idea is actually to help increase security.

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Microsoft now lets everyone create unlimited private GitHub repositories for free

GitHub free private repositories

Since Microsoft bought GitHub last year there have been a few changes here and there, but the company has just announced something pretty major. While it previously cost $7 per month to create a private repository, now it is possible to create an unlimited number free of charge.

There is a slight caveat, of course. Private projects are limited to up to three collaborators before a charge is applicable. Microsoft has also announced a new service, GitHub Enterprise, which brings together Enterprise Cloud (previously known as GitHub Business Cloud) and Enterprise Server (previously, and confusingly, known as GitHub Enterprise).

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Android Q could well have a native, system-wide dark mode

Dark Q

If you want to be part of the in-crowd, adding a dark mode to your software is essential. Google has already shown a lot of love for gothic hues, and it looks set to continue this with Android Q -- or Android 10, if you prefer.

Over on the Chromium Bug Tracker, Google worker Lukasz Zbylut appears to confirm that Android Q will feature a system-wide dark mode, with all preloaded apps offering the option natively.

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DuckDuckGo denies using fingerprinting to track its users

DuckDuckGo search engine

Responding to a forum post that accused it of "fingerprinting users", privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo says that fears are unfounded and that it is not tracking its users.

The allegation was made after the Firefox extension CanvasBlocker showed a warning to users. The suggestion of fingerprinting -- gathering as much information as possible about a user through their browser to create a unique identifier that can be used for tracking -- is clearly something that would seem to sit in opposition to what DuckDuckGo claims to stand for. The company CEO says the accusation is simply wrong.

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New Apple support page addresses the issue of bent iPad Pros

Angled Apple logo

A number of complaints came to light recently from iPad Pro owners who were unhappy to discover that their expensive Apple tablets were bent. Apple responded to these complaints by saying that the iPad Pro's unibody design "meets or exceeds" all of its high standards.

Now the company has gone further, publishing a support page explaining the manufacturer and testing process of the iPad Pro, and explaining that the way the tablet is made is the reason some people see a bend. Apple insists, however, that an bend should be within a tiny 400 micron tolerance.

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Marriott hack update: attackers accessed fewer user records than first thought, but 5.3 million passport numbers were unencrypted

Marriott Hotel

Back in late November, Marriott International went public with news that its Starwood Hotel reservation database had been hacked. At the time, the company suggested that up to 500 million customer records had been put at risk as a result, but now it has provided an update with a reduced estimate.

The company now says that it believes up to 383 million guests may have been affected; but the news is not all good. Marriott also reveals that over 5 million unencrypted passport numbers were stolen by hackers.

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Weather Channel app accused of opaquely selling users' location data

The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel app holds the accolade of being the most popular mobile weather app, but it is also facing accusations of misleading users into agreeing to allow the company to sell their location data to third parties.

A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles this week alleges that the operator of the IBM-owned app -- TWC Product and Technology LLC -- sold user data to at least a dozen companies and failed to make details of this clear to users. The lawsuit says that the data was used to delivered targeted advertising and also to analyze consumer behaviour.

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Microsoft tests Project Bali, a privacy-focused tool to control personal data collection

Microsoft Project Bali

Microsoft Research is currently testing a new control panel which could enable users to manage the data the company collects about them.

Known as Project Bali, the tool is currently undergoing private beta testing. It promises to not only give users the option of managing and controlling the data collected about them, but also -- intriguingly -- the ability to monetize it.

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Shares plummet following Apple's profit warning, blamed on China, lower iPhone sales and cut-price battery replacements

Angled Apple logo

After Apple issued a profit warning, indicating that it believed first quarter revenue will be lower than previously expected, shares in the company dropped by as much as 9 percent in early trading, and the effects were felt by other companies as fear mounted that Apple's troubles could spread wider.

Tim Cook issued a letter to shareholders, warning that "our revenue will be lower than our original guidance for the quarter". He cites a number of reasons for the revised figures, including the timing of iPhone sales, the strength of the dollar, market saturation, and lower than expected numbers of iPhone upgrades -- this being partly blamed on the high uptake of Apple's reduced-price battery upgrade program introduced a little over a year ago.

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Dark mode is coming to Chrome in Windows 10 soon

Chrome logo on black

An increasing number of apps and websites are gaining dark modes, often simply for the sake of aesthetics, but also because of power-saving considerations. Having added eye-saving dark modes to numerous Android apps, Google has confirmed that it is doing the same for the Windows 10 version of Chrome.

While there is no particular time frame in which we can expect to see Chrome's dark mode, a Chrome developer has confirmed that the feature is in progress.

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Updating from Windows 10 1803 to 1809 could disable the built-in administrator account

Windows 10 - Do great things

If you have enabled Windows 10's built-in administrator account, and upgrade from build 1803 to 1809 -- that is, the April 2018 Update to the October 2018 update -- you will find that a bug has been introduced that disables the account.

Microsoft says that it is aware of the problem, but the company does not plan on releasing a fix for it until the end of the month.

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FCC will suspend many operations tomorrow if Trump's government shutdown continues

Government shutdown

President Trump's partial shutdown of the US government is now well into its second week, with little sign of the impasse over funding for a wall on the southern border coming to an end. Large numbers of government employees are already feeling the pinch due to a lack of pay checks, and the impact is on the verge of spreading further.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that it will suspend "most operations" at midday on Thursday, January 3 "in the event of a continued partial lapse in federal government funding".

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Privacy International investigation finds a huge number of Android apps share data with Facebook -- whether you have an account or not

Facebook key

Facebook's track record with privacy is a rocky one, but the idea of giving up some personal data is seen by many users as an acceptable price to pay for using the social network. But an investigation by Privacy International has found that many Android apps are sharing data with Facebook about people regardless of whether they are logged into their Facebook account... or even have a Facebook account at all.

The findings of the investigation raise questions about Facebook's transparency when it comes to handling user (and non-user) data, and the privacy implications of profiling by the social networking behemoth -- particularly in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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