New Telebimy Technology

What new technology does is create new opportunities

Author: dwarf (Page 1 of 3)

Big data for text Next generation text understanding and analysis

News portals and social media are rich information sources, for example for predicting stock market trends. Today, numerous service providers allow for searching large text collections by feeding their search engines with descriptive keywords. Keywords tend to be highly ambiguous, though, and quickly show the limits of current search technologies. Computer scientists from Saarbrücken developed a novel text analysis technology that considerably improves searching very large text collections by means of artificial intelligence. Beyond search, this technology also assists authors in researching and even in writing texts by automatically providing background information and suggesting links to relevant web sites.

Ambiverse, a spin-off company from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, will be presenting this novel technology during Cebit 2016 in Hannover from 14 to 18 March at Saarland’s research booth.

Living in the age of business smartphones and enterprise chatrooms, most information in companies is not distributed via spoken words but rather through e-mails, databases, and internal news portals. “According to a survey by the market analyst Gartner, a mere quarter of all companies are using automatic methods to analyze their textual information. By 2021, Gartner predicts 65 per cent will do so. This is because the amount of data inside companies is continuously growing and hence, it becomes more and more costly to have it structured and to search it successfully,” says Johannes Hoffart, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and founder of Ambiverse. His team developed a novel text analysis technology for analyzing huge amounts of text where massive computing power and artificial intelligence (AI) are continuously “thinking along” in the background.

“For analyzing texts, we rely on extremely large knowledge graphs which are built upon freely available sources such as Wikipedia or large media portals on the web. These graphs can be augmented with domain- or company-specific knowledge, such as product catalogs or customer correspondences,” says Hoffart. By applying complex algorithms, these texts are screened further and analyzed with linguistic tools. “Our software then assigns companies and areas of business to their corresponding categories, which allows us to gather valuable insights on how well one’s own products are positioned in the market in comparison to those of the competitors,” he explains. Particularly challenging hereby is the fact that product or company names are anything but unique and tend to have completely different meanings in different contexts, making them highly ambiguous.

“Our technology helps to map words and phrases to their correct objects of the real-world, that way resolving ambiguities automatically,” explains the computer scientist. “Paris” for example stands for the city of light and the French capital, but also for a figure from Greek mythology or a millionfold-mentioned party girl with German ancestors — always depending on context. “Efficiently searching huge text collections is only possible if the different meanings of a name or a concept are correctly resolved,” says Hoffart. The smart search engine developed by his team continuously learns and improves over time, and also automatically associates new text entries to matching categories. “These algorithms are hence attractive for companies that analyze online media or social networks to measure the degree of brand awareness for a product or the success of a marketing campaign,” says Hoffart further.

At Cebit, Ambiverse will further present a smart authoring platform that assists authors in researching and writing texts. Users who enter texts are automatically provided with background information, for example company-internal guidelines and manuals or web links. “Relevant concepts are linked automatically and links for further research are shown” says the computer scientist.

Visitors to the Ambiverse Cebit booth (hall 6, booth 28) will also have the opportunity to compete with their novel AI technology by playing a question-answering game. Ambiverse is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs through an EXIST Transfer of Research grant.

HP Puts the Future of Computing On Hold

Plans by Hewlett-Packard for computers based on an exotic new electronic device called the memristor are scaled back.

In April I wrote about an ambitious project by Hewlett-Packard to use an electronic device for storing data called the memristor to reinvent the basic design of computers (see “Machine Dreams”). This week HP chief technology officer Martin Fink, who started and leads the project, announced a rethink of the project amidst uncertainty over the memristor’s future.

Fink and other HP executives had previously estimated that they would have the core technologies needed for the computer they dubbed “the Machine” in testing sometime in 2016. They used the timeline at the bottom of this post to sketch out where the project was headed.

But the New York Times reported yesterday that the project has been “repositioned” to focus on delivering the Machine using less exotic memory technologies–the DRAM found in most computers today and a technology just entering production called phase change memory, which stores data by melting a special material and controlling how it cools.

With memristors out of the picture, there’s reason to doubt just how revolutionary HP’s project can be.

The main feature of the Machine’s design was to be a large collection of memristor memory chips. They would allow computers to be more powerful and energy efficient by combining the best properties of two different components of today’s machines: the speed of the DRAM that holds data while a processor uses it, and the capacity and ability to hold data without power seen in storage drives based on hard disks or flash memory.

Prototypes of the Machine built with DRAM and phase change memory in the place of memristors had always been part of the plan. But when I met Fink and others working on the project I also heard that those technologies would hobble the idea at the heart of the Machine.

Because DRAM can’t store data very densely and must always be powered on, computers built around a large block of it will require a lot of space and power. Meanwhile, phase change memory is too slow compared to DRAM to be much use for data being worked on. When I met Stan Williams, who leads HP’s work on memristors, he dismissed the idea that any other technology could be used to reinvent the basic design of computers as HP wanted. Fink did a good job in this 2014 blog post of explaining why his team believed only memristors could build the Machine.

Still, this week’s climb down is not a complete surprise. Fink used the timeline below as recently as December 2014, predicting that memristor memory would “sample” in 2015 and be “launched” in 2016. But a few months later, in February of this year, he told me that sampling was most likely in 2016–an estimate that HP’s manufacturing partner SK Hynix would not confirm. Microelectronics experts I spoke to said that it looked to be challenging to make reliable memristors in large, dense arrays as needed to make a memory chip.

HP now appears to be avoiding making any prediction for when the technology will be mature. The company has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Microsoft and Nokia complete mobile phone unit deal

yyMicrosoft has completed its purchase of Nokia’s mobile phone business for 5.44bn euros ($7.5bn; £4.5bn).

The deal between the two firms should have been completed earlier this year but it was delayed by a hold-up in regulatory approvals.

The sale will see the end of production of mobile phones by Nokia.

“Today we welcome the Nokia devices and services business to our family,” said Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

“The mobile capabilities and assets they bring will advance our transformation.”

The Finnish company will now focus on networks, mapping services and technology development and licences.

Two Nokia plants will remain outside the deal – a manufacturing unit in Chennai, India, subject to an asset freeze by Indian tax authorities, and the Masan plant in South Korea, which it plans to shut down.

Former Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop has become executive vice president of the Microsoft devices group, in charge of Lumia smartphones and tablets, Nokia mobile phones, Xbox hardware, Microsoft Surface, and Perceptive Pixel (PPI) products

Nokia Microsoft mobile deal gets shareholder go ahead

Shareholders of the phonemaker Nokia have agreed to sell their mobile phone business to technology giant Microsoft for 5.4bn euros ($7.2 bn; £4.5bn).

The deal goes ahead despite objections from some investors who opposed the sale of a Finnish asset.

Regulators must clear the sale, but is expected to close early next year.

In September, Microsoft agreed to buy the mobile phone business and licence patents from Nokia.

Nokia has seen its share of the smartphone market shrink as competitors such as Apple and Samsung have risen in popularity.

‘Feels good’

Tuesday’s deal was approved by 99.5% of Nokia’s 3,900 investors at a meeting for shareholders in the Finnish capital of Helsinki.

At the five-hour-long shareholder meeting, Chairman Risto Siilasmaa said he believed the sale would “raise deep feelings” among Finns, who regard the phone company as a national success.

But one shareholder told the Reuters news agency he was happy with the vote.

“Now it feels good again. This is a really good result,” said Hannu Ryyppo. “It’s a new beginning for Nokia.”

When the sale was first announced, Nokia said it would also make changes to its leadership.

Stephen Elop, the former president chief executive of Nokia Corporation, was to step down and resign from the company’s board under the terms of the deal.

Nokia has faced criticism over the 18.8m euro pay-out Mr Elop is set to receive when he leaves the company. He is due to move over to Microsoft when the sale is completed.

Mr Elop left Microsoft to join Nokia in 2010, and has been cited by some as one of the frontrunners to replace Microsoft’s outgoing chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Mr Ballmer is expected to leave the company in 2014

5 Best Travel Headphones

I travel a lot. I also review headphones. Figuring out what headphones are the best for travel seems like a logical idea. More than just a “these seem cool” list, these are all headphones I’ve personally reviewed or at least heard, plus I’ve included links to other reviewers that like them too.

So, what are the 5 Best Travel Headphones?

Check out the 2015 version of this article: Best Travel Headphones 2015!

Before we get going, if you’re curious about the value of high-end headphones, or have questions about headphones in general, first check out Are Expensive Headphones Worth It?, What Are The Best Headphones?, Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It?, Glossary of Headphone Terms, Best Headphone Test Tracks, Noise Cancelling Vs. Noise Isolating Headphones, and 10 Headphones Better Than Beats.

5) Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2

What are they: Small, lightweight in-ear headphones with a unique and clever way of securing to your head.

Why they’re good: These are the most comfortable in-ear headphones I’ve ever tried, and they’re also some of the best sounding. Rich, full bass that’s not boomy. Clear, open treble that’s not harsh. I loved the originals. These new models I’ve only had a chance to listen to briefly, but they sounded good.

Who else likes them: Sound&Vision liked them. CNET gave them 4/5 stars. PCMag gave them 4.5/5.

Other options: Not everyone finds the C5s comfortable. This is the problem with all in-ear headphones, but perhaps more so given the C5′s unique design. I find them perfect, others not so much. Because everyone’s ears are different, some in-ears fit some people, and not others, even with all the foam and/or rubber tips available. Also check out the gorgeous RHA T10s, or the much cheaper $100 NHT Superbuds which are also great.

4) JH Audio JH16 Pro

What are they: Custom-molded, high-end in-ear monitors

Why they’re good: They fit perfectly because they’re built to fit your actual ears. You get molds made, and the headphones are built from these modes. Multiple drivers supply some of the best sound you’ve ever heard.

Who else likes them: CNET’s Steve Guttenberg’s a fan.

Other options: If the JH16 Pros are too pricy ($1,149 and up), there are models with fewer drivers that don’t sound quite as good, but still offer the custom-molded design. The Shure SE846 are a touch cheaper, and sound incredible.

3) AKG K490 NC  

What are they: Highly-portable on-ear headphones

Why they’re good: Not everyone likes in-ear headphones. Though over-ear headphones offer better sound isolation (i.e., are quieter), they tend to be bulky. The AKG K490s are smaller than over-ear headphones, but still offer excellent sound quality and active noise cancelling.

Who else likes them: Headphone reviewer extraordinaire, Brent Butterworth from Sound and Vision magazine.

Other options: Brent mentions that some might like the similar (but $50 more expensive) K495s, which have a little more bass..

2) PSB M4U 2

What are they: Over-ear noise cancelling headphones from one of the most lauded speaker designers in the industry. Check out Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It? for more info on NC.

Why they’re good: The sound, oh the sound. One reviewer said: “Not only does the M4U 2 sound like a really great speaker, it sounds like a great speaker in a great listening room.”

Who else likes them: Sound and Vision magazine awarded them product of the year last year (I was part of the voting, fwiw).

Other options: Well, the headphones in the #1 spot, if you want better noise cancelling (but not as good sound quality).

1) Bose QC25s

Why they’re good: These are probably the best selling travel headphones on the market, and it turns out, rightly so. They have the best noise cancelling of any headphone I’ve tested, by far. And that’s not just subjective “these sound quieter,” but verified with objective headphone testing gear. They don’t sound nearly as good as the PSBs, but they sound decent enough.

Who else likes them: I did an exhaustive test, where I compared the best noise cancelling headphones on the market.

Other options: The PSBs, for people who want better sound at the “expense” of a little noise cancelling. As I mentioned before, I reviewed the QC20s from Bose and they offer even better noise cancelling, but are nicely small earbuds. Check out Bose QuietComfort 25 Vs QuietComfort 20 for the pros and cons of both.

Apple Ready To Gamble On New iPhone Technology

Not content with the 3D touch interface that was added to the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus screens, Apple looks set to move to a new screen technology in 2017′s iPhone.

There has been a consistent build up of leaks, rumors, and suggestions from the supply chain that a switch away from the LCD technology currently used by Apple for its iPhone screens is on the cards. Moving to OLED screens would allow for more power efficient displays that have a wider viewing angle, better color reproduction, and a more vibrant display. Apple has been reluctant in the past to make this switch because of worries around the lifespan of OLED screens.

Apple must be confident that these issues are now answered (presumably with technology along the lines of that detailed in its patents using photodiodes and varying the anode pitch in OLED screens). Nikkei Asian Review (via Patently Apple) is reporting that Apple has notified its supply chain of the upcoming switch to OLED for iPhones released in the 2017/2018 smartphone season.

This would point to the adoption of OLED screens for the presumptively tilted iPhone 7S. Going with the 7S as the debut handset makes a certain amount of logistical sense. The external design cues of the iPhone are generally updated in even-numbered years with the cardinal numbered iPhone models, while the internal technology and specifications tend to favour the iPhone ‘S’ models.

That is illustrated in the latest models from Cupertino. The iPhone 6 introduced the new design with the curve edges and taper on the screen, the change in size from 4 inches to 4.7 and 5.5 inches, and the thinner design. The hardware changes that included the addition of 3D Touch, increased memory, and a larger camera sensor, were all seen on the iPhone 6S.

Apple’s Gamble Needs Samsung For New iPhone Technology

The latest report from Korea’s ET News is that Samsung’s display division has won the race to be the primary supplier for OLED display panels destined for a next-generation iPhone. Following Samsung’s weak guidance for Q4 2014 earnings, this advance order, likely to be in place for a number of years, will help stabilise the finances of the South Korean company.

Apple is one of the last manufacturers supplying high-end smartphones with LCD screens. While OLED does have some issues, it also offers vivid colors, a deeper black, lower power requirements, and a thinner construction.

The interesting question is less about if Apple will make the switch, but when. Given the quality and visual impact of OLED displays on other handsets Apple will find it harder to match that quality in future iPhones using LCD screens. There may be one or two final hurrahs in place with LCD that we’ll no doubt see on the iPhone 7, but will Apple wait for the iPhone 8 and a 2018 release or will it push to get the OLED screens in place for the iPhone 7S?

The ‘S’ cycle of iPhone handsets is typically when Apple implements a major change to hardware (as opposed to design changes in the even-numbered years). Previous ‘S’ handsets have seen the introduction of 3D Touch and TouchID. The iPhone 7S is the logical time to introduce a brand new screen technology.

To do so, Apple will need to be confident that its OLED supplier can not only supply the volume of displays required, but also reach Apple’s quality threshold. Traditionally OLED displays have had a shorter lifespan and can exhibit features unwanted features such as burn-in of images. Apple will need confidence that the iPhone is not going to suffer these issues.

Capacity also needs to be considered. Apple will be looking for over 200 million OLED displays per year. That is going to require investment, capital, factories and distribution. It’s unlikely that there is a secret OLED factory running just now to supply the iPhone 7. Both Samsung and LG are working on expanding their OLED facilities, presumably in anticipation of higher orders from smartphone manufacturers.

Only Apple switching could provide such a step-up in requirements. Watch for these factories to come online in early 2017 if the iPhone 7S is going to go with the newer display, or if iPhone fans will be waiting into 2018 for the screen technology almost every other manufacturer considers a standard choice.

HP Has Enough Workers to Fill a City—And It Needs Them All

Silicon Valley technology giant HP will lay off as many as 30,000 more people as part of its split into two separate companies, the company told analysts this week. This comes on top of the 55,000 jobs HP has been in the process of shedding in recent years. Even so, HP is still as large as a mid-sized US city. As of May, according to Forbes, the company numbered 302,000. But what in the world do all those people do?

In an era in which WhatsApp can serve 900 million users with just 50 engineers, the massive enterprise tech company feels like an anachronism. In HP’s case, its huge headcount doesn’t even include outsourced labor, such as call center operators or the assembly line workers who actually build all those printers and laptops. But it turns out that the business of selling technology to businesses has long required something old-fashioned: lots and lots of people (at least for now).

The typical consumer probably thinks of HP as a printer and PC company, but it’s much more than that. It’s also a massive information technology consulting operation with a large portfolio of business software and cloud computing offerings. HP’s forthcoming reorganization will create two businesses, one called called HP Enterprise, which will include its consulting and software businesses, and the other called HP Inc., which will continue to sell printers and PCs. The current round of layoffs are aimed at the HP Enterprise side. HP doesn’t break down how many employees work in each of its divisions, but HP Enterprise is likely where the bulk of its employees work, judging in part by the size of other large IT services companies (IBM had 379,592 employees last year; Accenture had 323,000).

Forrester vice president Peter Burris says the reason companies like HP and IBM need so many workers is that selling software to enterprise customers is far different from creating software for consumers.

All 900 million WhatsApp users use the exact same app. You download it an app store, and that’s that. But big companies like banks, insurance companies, and large hospitals need software tailored to their particular needs. Instead of just building the application once and selling it to a client, these companies and their clients have an ongoing relationship.

That’s because IT consultants aren’t just going in and telling a customer what to do. Typically, the consulting firm is involved in planning, building, maintaining, and supporting new software. That means talking with employees about what they need out of a new piece of software, working with other software vendors on integrations between products, training employees, and fielding tech support calls. And that takes a lot of people. Many of those consultants work with customers on an ongoing basis, limiting the number of different customers any one employee can work with. That’s the difference between making a software product like WhatsApp and selling consulting services.

“A product sale has a clear moment where a title is exchanged,” he says. “But with services, the sale happens over time. It’s a process, You’re literally transferring knowledge about how to solve problems.”

Who Needs an Army?

It’s easy to be skeptical about whether customers are really getting their money’s worth from big companies, considering that 68 percent of all large IT projects fail. Surely there are instances of a company overselling its services, or trying to save a doomed project by simply throwing more people at the problem. You can count on large bureaucracies to add inefficiencies and bloat to any project.

That’s starting to change, however. Yes, “cloud computing” is an over-broad term, but cloud-based services like Amazon Web Services and Salesforce have changed the way large companies do business. It’s easier than ever for a business manager to simply buy some software and have their employees start using it immediately.

In the past, even something as simple as an instant messaging application that integrates with your company’s project management system would have been an ordeal to implement. You would have had to negotiate a price for a piece of software like IBM’s Sametime, set up up a new server in your data center, install software on your employees’ desktops, and hire consultants to integrate your project management software with the instant messaging server.

Today, you could just sign up for Slack, a trendy workplace chat app, and start using it over the web immediately without ever having to talk with a salesperson. Slack comes with dozens of integrations with other applications right out of the box. It even has an application programming interface—API for short—that makes it easy for app developers to build support for Slack right into their own products. And Slack is hardly unique amongst new age business apps in offering easy integrations. Tools like Zapier make it easy for even non-programmers to stitch different applications together. The upshot is that, increasingly, you don’t need an army of consultants to get all your software up and running and working together.

Meanwhile, open source technology is making it easier to use freely available components, freeing software developers from building the same common features again and again. Cloud services and open source software were once most associated with small startups looking to save money. But as these startups—Facebook, for example—have grown into large enterprises, they’ve often stuck with these newer tools, and more established organizations are following suit.

IT’s Legacy

Of course not all of a company’s software can be replaced by off-the-shelf apps. And there are plenty of consultants that specialize in customizing cloud applications like Salesforce. But Burris points out that there’s little to no advantage to building custom software for many common business processes, such as financial reporting or accounts payable systems. A custom payroll app probably won’t make your company more competitive. So there’s a strong incentive to simply move over to one-size fits all business applications that can be supported in much the same way WhatsApp is.

The HPs and IBMs of the world have responded to these shifts by offering cloud services and ready-made business applications of their own. That’s a big part of why HP and IBM are shedding jobs right now. “In general software companies are better for owners than services businesses are,” Burris explains. “In a software business, a programmer can write a piece of code that can be used by millions of different customers and users. That intellectual property, that information about a problem, is now made available to a whole pile of people at the same time.”

But the good news for the armies of consultants working for these companies is that most older companies that still have enormous amounts of data stored in old software—what people in the IT business call “legacy” systems. It will take countless hours to modernize all of those legacy systems—and, Burris says the place most of these companies are going to turn are the legacy tech giants—companies like HP and IBM—that helped build a lot of these systems in the first place

Laser technology advances microchip production

A new process for cutting silicon wafers could streamline the production of smaller and more powerful microchips for electronic devices.

Electronic chips are built on small pieces of silicon that are cut from silicon sheets, called wafers, in a process known as dicing. Currently, dicing is performed by mechanical sawing or laser cutting, but these approaches can cause problems. Sawing can cause thin wafers to break or layers of silicon to separate. The heat generated by laser cutting can leave micro cracks in the silicon and produces molten debris. Coolants or protective coatings are then required, adding to the production cost.

A team of researchers at the A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology has developed a new technique that uses laser-induced thermal cracking technology. The silicon expands as a near-infrared laser heats it, then contracts as it cools, leading to stress that causes the silicon to break along the laser line. The result is a crackfree silicon chip with a smooth surface finish. The process creates no debris, cuts 10 to 20 times faster than currently used techniques, and increases productivity because more silicon pieces can be cut from one wafer. Together with the fact that the near-infrared laser is energy-efficient and consumes little power, these improvements over sawing and laser cutting result in a dramatic improvement in efficiency.

According to the research team, the new dicing technology will advance the production of microchips for electronic devices. It will enable the production of chips that are thinner and capable of supporting higher processing speeds, making for smaller and more powerful devices.

How To Be Safe With Neodymium Magnets

There are a lot of things you need to keep in mind when using neodymium magnets. These magnets are the most popular kind of rare earth magnets made from an alloy of neodymium, boron and Iron. They are very strong magnets and find a variety of uses in various fields.

When you buy these magnets, there are several things you need to keep in mind when it comes to the safety of operating these magnets. Since these magnets are powerful, they are also very dangerous when handled by someone who does not know what he or she is doing. Here are a few things to keep in mind with regards to safety.

Before you read up on safety, it would be better to find out all you can about neodymium magnets at www.usneodymiummagnets.com

Swallowing the magnets

Magnets can be very dangerous and should not be treated as toys. Children should not be allowed to play with them. Make sure that these magnets are kept away from children and also pets as they are a swallowing hazard and can get stuck in the intestine. This has some painful consequences.

Conduction of electricity

Magnets are known for conducting electricity. This is something that all engineers and scientists know, but might not be common knowledge for someone who has not read on the subject. Do not put the magnet in contact with an electrical socket as it can lead to a large, potentially fatal surge in electricity.

Make sure your magnets and your electrical sockets are as far away from each other as possible.

Metal objects

These magnets can attract metal objects such as knives and scissors. So, before working on the magnets, clear your work area of any dangerous metal objects.

The larger the magnet, the more powerful it is. Neodymium magnets are made of compressed powder, and so they tend to get into fingernails where they can be very harmful. This problem can cause a lot of damage to the body in the form of contusions or bruises by getting in between the fingernails and so on.

 

Sometimes, mishandling the magnets might lead to bone fractures. So make sure to handle these large magnets with care.

Pacemaker operation

Neodymium magnets interfere with the functioning of pacemakers, which are used to regulate the heart and are absolutely essential to people with cardiac problems.  Pacemakers when brought close to these magnets often go into test mode. This might cause them to stop working and you know that if pacemakers stop working, then it can have some really fatal consequences.

You should also make sure that any defibrillators are not present near the magnets because they often cause interference and this leads them to stop working. Keep all electrical items away from the magnets.

Navigation devices

Strong magnets often create magnetic fields that can interfere with navigational devices in your car or even on an airplane.

The one thing you need to make sure of is the fact that a magnet is not a toy. You should respect that fact and handle the magnet with care. Any form of negligence can lead to a lot of damage and harm being caused. So keep these things in mind before you handle any magnets.

Unlocking Smartphones: PINs, Patterns or Fingerprints?

Losing your smartphone can result in a catastrophic security breach. After all, these devices are potential treasure troves of confidential corporate and personal information waiting to be exploited by anyone who comes across them.

Because of this a mobile device security industry has sprung up over the last few years, offering everything from simple data encryption for mobile apps to complex mobile device management systems.

But the most basic level of security is provided by the devices themselves. Devices lock themselves if they are idle for a few minutes. So if a thief, a hacker or even a foreign government agent wants to access the data on a phone, in most cases he must unlock it first.

This begs a simple question: What’s the best unlock mechanism to choose – and in this context “the best” means one that provides the most appropriate balance of security and convenience.

Perils of the PIN

A common solution used by iOS devices is to require a simple four digit PIN. On the face of it such a PIN should provide an adequate level of security because there are 10,000 possibilities, and mobile operating systems can be set to erase all data on the device after 10 failed PIN entries. So there’s only a one in a thousand chance, or a probability of 0.001, that anyone could access the device by guessing a correct PIN before the data is erased.

That’s not quite the whole story, however. Many people choose predictable PINs like 1212 or ones that make patterns on the keypad, like 2580 (straight down the middle of the keypad) or 1739 (top left, bottom left, top right, bottom right) or 5684 (which spells LOVE).

“That means that the chance of guessing a PIN is more like one in 10, because people tend to choose such predictable PINs,” said Ben Schlabs, an expert at German security collective Security Research Labs.

There’s another reason that a four digit PIN is undesirable, even if you choose a PIN that is not an easily guessed one. Four digit PINs are highly susceptible to shoulder surfing, said Schlabs; someone looking over your shoulder or sitting next to you can easily see the digits you enter when you unlock you phone.

Not only that, but many people choose the same four digit PIN for their phone, ATM card and for other uses such as disarming their security alarm. That means that anyone shoulder surfing a phone PIN could also possibly access your bank account and even your home, Schlabs said.

Most mobile operating systems allow you to choose to unlock your phone by entering a longer password rather than a four digit PIN. These are harder to shoulder surf (because they are longer and more complex) and much harder to guess – as long as you avoid obvious ones – because there are many more possibilities.

That’s important, and here’s why. A foreign government agency that gets access to your phone may have the technical ability and resources to bypass the device’s operating system. That means it can make unlimited attempts to guess your PIN without the data being erased after 10 failed attempts. But it would be much harder to “brute force” a password that was six characters compared to one that was four digits, because of hardware limitations on the rate at which you can make guesses.

“With the hardware limits of one guess every five seconds it would take 50,000 seconds (about 13 hours) to brute force a four digit PIN, compared to a hundred times that (about two months) to brute force a six digit one,” Schlabs said.

Android’s Unlock Patterns

Android phones offer the option to use unlock patterns – tracing a pattern on a grid of nine points or nodes – rather than using a PIN or password to unlock. But using an unlock pattern is not a good idea in terms of security.

Marte Løge, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has shown that many users employ the same predictable patterns – analogous to PIN users choosing 1234 or 5280. She recently gave a presentation entitled “Tell Me Who You Are, and I Will Tell You Your Lock Pattern” at the PasswordsCon conference in Las Vegas.

Her research found that 44 percent of all patterns start in the top left, and most then move to the bottom right. Many people also trace out a letter, often the initial letter of their name.

Unlock patterns are also easy for shoulder surfers to see, but Løge found that patterns that pass over the same node twice or which connect more than four nodes make life significantly more difficult for shoulder surfers. Turning off the “make pattern visible” option in Android, which shows a line connecting the nodes as they are traced, also helps to confound shoulder surfers.

But Schlabs believes unlock patterns should be avoided altogether. “They are really begging for people to shoulder surf them, and no one involved with IT security would use them” he said, adding that in many cases it is possible to work out the unlock pattern on a phone by looking for a tell-tale smear pattern on the screen left after the pattern has been traced numerous times.

Malware and Fingerprints

The best way to avoid the shoulder surfing problem is to avoid using PINs, passwords and unlock patterns. This can be done easily on an iOS or Android device with a fingerprint reader, by using fingerprint recognition to unlock the device.

But there are problems with fingerprint readers that shouldn’t be overlooked. Security Research Laboratories has been at the forefront of showing how these can be spoofed – sometimes by lifting a latent fingerprint from the touchscreen and using that to make a false finger. For many people this is more of a theoretical than a practical concern, because few thieves or people finding your device will have the knowledge or desire to try fingerprint spoofing.

A more realistic concern is posed by malware. In August a team of researchers from security firm FireEye revealed at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas how stored fingerprints can be remotely harvested from some Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One Max.

Most Android device makers don’t make use of Android’s Trust Zone to protect biometric data like fingerprints, and the HTC One Max actually stores fingerprints as unencrypted images that unprivileged processes or applications can read and download from the phone, the researchers found.

This means that an attacker could also conceivably upload an image of their own fingerprint using malware to gain access to a phone.

Fingerprint readers are a special hazard for people traveling internationally, warned Schlabs. Many countries, including the U.S., take high resolution fingerprint scans of foreigners as they cross the border. “They can take a picture that is at least as high resolution as the picture taken on an iPhone, for example, and from that they can make a spoof fingerprint,” he said.

He has this advice for travelers. “If you are an average citizen that never leaves the country and are not a target of foreign agencies, then for most people a fingerprint reader offers good security and convenience. But if you are someone who is crossing border controls then there is no good reason to use the fingerprint reader on your phone.”

Instead he recommends using a good old fashioned lockscreen password or PIN – with the provisos that it is six or more characters, is not an obvious one and, if it is a PIN, doesn’t spell out a simple word on a phone keypad.

Paul Rubens has been covering enterprise technology for over 20 years. In that time he has written for leading UK and international publications including The Economist, The Times, Financial Times, the BBC, Computing and ServerWatch.

The young generation are ‘addicted’ to mobile phones

Young people are now so addicted to their mobile phones it feels like they have lost a limb when they are without them, a study finds.

Some said they feel so bereft without their iPhone or Blackberry that it evokes similar feelings to the “phantom limb” syndrome suffered by amputees.

The findings, by the University of Maryland, show the growing reliance that the younger generation has on technology and how it has become central to their lives.

While phones were the most essential device, other technology such as computers, MP3 players and televisions were also considered essential to get people through their day.

Many young people reported mental and physical symptoms of distress and “employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression,” when reporting their experiences of trying to go unplugged for a full day.

“Students talked about how scary it was, how addicted they were,” said Professor Susan Moeller, who led the project

“They expected the frustration. But they didn’t expect to have the psychological effects, to be lonely, to be panicked, the anxiety, literally heart palpitations.”

The study titled “The World Unplugged project” asked more than 1,000 students from 10 countries around the world, including Britain, to go without any media for 24 hours and monitored their feelings.

Prof Moeller said that more than 50 per cent of students failed to go the full 24 hours and everyone claimed to suffer some kind of withdrawal symptoms.

Ryan Blondino, a student at the University of Maryland who participated, compared the experience of going without digital technology to missing a limb.

“I felt something very similar to a phantom limb, only it would be like phantom cellphone,” he said.

“I still felt like my phone was vibrating and I was receiving messages even though I didn’t have it on me.”

A student from the UK said: “Media is my drug. Without it I was lost. I am an addict.”

The study found few differences in the way students used and relied on digital technology in different countries, despite those countries’ huge differences in economic development, culture and political governance.

It concludes that most college students, whether in developed or developing countries, are strikingly similar in how they use media – and how ‘addicted’ they are to it.

They all used virtually the same words to describe their reactions, including: Fretful, Confused, Anxious, Irritable, Insecure, Nervous, Restless, Crazy, Addicted, Panicked, Jealous, Angry, Lonely, Dependent, Depressed, Jittery and Paranoid.

In effect, cell phones have become this generation’s security blanket.”

The report was published by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda.

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén