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Oh Lenovo. See. Let me tell you story, Jason. Lenovo had this idea. It would make a little extra money off consumer models by preinstalling some software called Superfish that would subtly alter ads contextually in browser sessions. Now see they would do it right though. The software was quiet. Kept to itself. It didn’t profile or monitor user behavior. It didn’t record user information. It didn’t even know who the user was.
But then then the neighbors began to notice odd behavior. Popups at all hours of the night. So Lenovo stopped pre-installing it in December turned off Superfish in January. But Chris Palmer wasn’t satisfied. Palmer conducted his own investigation. And he found bodies. Bodies of evidence that Superfish installs its own root certificate, meaning it’s a master of disguise, it can impersonate any site on the Web including your bank and you’d never know the difference. Now, it doesn’t do this. But it’s not careful with its keys. In fact Rob Graham of Errata Security cracked the key on the Superfish’s certificate meaning Rob can now sign any website as legitimate for any Lenovo computer with Superfish still running.
It’s going to take a lot to get Superfish off a computer. You need to uninstall it and then remove the certificate. And even though Lenovo stopped preinstalling it, how do you know the Lenovo you bought didn’t have it? Well thanks to Filippo Valsorda you can go to /filippo.io/Badfish/ and check. Read Dan Goodin’s article at Ars Technica if you want all the gory details. (Lenovo’s chief technology officer, Peter Hortensius told WSJ they’re working a tool that “removes all traces”)
Tech Crunch reports that A company called A123 Systems is suing Apple for allegedly poaching auto engineers in order to build an “advanced battery division.” A123 claims that it had to shut down some of its projects due to talent loss. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. According to Reuters, Apple has also been trying to hire battery engineers from LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Toshiba, as well as hiring engineers from Tesla.
Happy 25th birthday, Photoshop! The Next Web has a nice writeup about how on February 19th, 1990 brothers John and Thomas Knoll launched their small software package meant to be bundled with a scanner. Check out the interview with Photoshop’s senior product manager Zorana Gee, who’s been with the Photoshop team since 1999, and the great illustrations of Photoshop icons and toolbars through the years.
TechCrunch reports on a new direction for IFTT the incredibly useful service that lets you automate online tasks. First of all, IFTT has three new apps that make it dead simple to use pre-made IFTT recipes. Do Camera will do something anytime you take a photo with it. Do Notes will do something any time you take a note. And Do Button lets you basically do anything by just choosing from pre-made recipes. Like “get out of an awkward situation” rings your phone. Each app can store up to three recipes so you can simply tap the right button to do what you want to do.
The Intercept has a report describing how agents of the US NSA and UK’s GCHQ stole encryption keys from Dutch company Gemalto, the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, in order to facilitate spying on cellphone communications. The allegations are based on documents from 2010 leaked by Edward Snowden.
News From You:
Google opposes the US Justice Department’s proposal to ease the requirements for search warrants to know the location of a search when the location of a computer is hidden by something like a VPN. The justice department calls it tweak to protocol for remote searches. Google calls this a “monumental” constitutional concern. 1MoreMatt sent us The National Journal writeup noting Google believes any change in accessing computer data should be decided by the US Congress.
Starfuryzeta sent us the story from Fusion.net that Dropcam says it has received a “limited number of law enforcement requests” for stored video from individual accounts. Dropcam notifies owners of accounts of such requests by email unless prevented by law from doing so. Although Google-owned Dropcam says it is working on a way to report these requests it’s not not clear if such requests will be included in Google’s transparency report in the future.
Discussion Section Links: Apple Car?
Pick of the Day: Tempo.ai
Co-executive producer Charles Silvey wants to recommend an iOS calendar app called Tempo at tempo.ai He writes “the killer features for me is that Tempo looks at all of the people that are in a meeting and gives me one click access to their contact information in the calendar, it also looks at the meeting invite and determines what are the conference call numbers and allows you to dial numbers and pin codes with just one click. The app also looks at the location, and with one click launches Waze to give you directions. You also have the ability to send off quick “i’m late” messages if you are running late, boy does this come in handy sometimes. This is a great app and the current beta offers new features and an enhanced user interface and it is FREE!”
Friday’s guest: Iyaz Akhtar