U.S. Department of Justice Investigating Claims AT&T, Verizon and GSMA Colluded to Prevent Customers From Easily Switching Carriers [Updated]

The United States Department of Justice today launched an antitrust investigation to determine whether U.S. carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, have coordinated to prevent consumers from easily switching wireless carriers, reports The New York Times.

AT&T, Verizon, and GSMA, an industry group that sets mobile standards, were asked in February for documents related to their efforts to hinder the implementation of eSIMs. An embedded SIM, or eSIM, is a standardized chip that’s designed to replace a physical SIM card.

A physical SIM card slot in an iPhone, via iFixit


With eSIM technology, there is no need to swap out SIM cards when switching carriers, making it easier to make a switch from one carrier to another. eSIMs are designed to be compatible with all major carriers, regardless of network type.

eSIMs are a major change from physical SIM cards, which require customers who wish to switch carriers to obtain a new SIM card when changing providers. eSIMs make it simpler for customers to swap carriers while traveling, and, of interest to device makers, they free up space currently taken up by a SIM card.

AT&T and Verizon are accused of colluding with the GSMA to create standards that would allow devices with eSIM technology to be locked to their networks. Representatives from the two carriers attended a meeting for a private task force called GSMA North America earlier this year and advocated for the ability to keep eSIM devices tied to a single carrier.

Verizon reportedly claimed that phones needed to be locked to its network in order to prevent theft and fraud.

At the heart of the investigation is whether the nation’s biggest wireless carriers, working with the G.S.M.A., secretly tried to influence mobile technology to unfairly maintain their dominance, in a way that hurt competition and consumers and hindered innovation in the wider mobile industry.

AT&T and Verizon together control about 70 percent of all wireless subscriptions in the United States. A technology that made it easy to switch carriers could lead to more churn and fewer subscribers for them.

The Department of Justice launched began the probe several months ago following formal complaints from at least one device maker and one wireless carrier. The investigation may include other carriers beyond Verizon and AT&T.

AT&T, Verizon, and other U.S. carriers have long resisted features that would make it easier for customers to switch carriers at will without being tied to a specific network. Verizon, for example, refused to allow Apple to offer Verizon service through the Apple SIM built into newer iPads. The Apple SIM, a multi-carrier SIM card, is designed to make it easier for customers to choose a carrier after an iPad purchase and switch to a new carrier when traveling.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other wireless carriers in the United States are proponents of the eSIM. Apple, for example, is said to want to use eSIM technology in its 2018 iPhones, but may instead opt for dual-SIM technology because “some carriers are resistant to the idea.”

Apple has already implemented eSIM technology in the Apple Watch Series 3 models equipped with LTE connectivity. The eSIM is also a feature of the Google Pixel 2 smartphone and the Microsoft Surface.

Update: According to CNBC, all four major U.S. carriers received requests from the U.S. Justice Department.

Update 2: Apple is one of the companies that submitted a complaint to the Department of Justice, according to Bloomberg.
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Greenpeace Criticizes Apple’s ‘Daisy’ Recycling Robot, Says Focus Should be on ‘Repairable and Upgradeable Product Design’

As part of its 2018 environmental report, Apple today unveiled the latest iteration of its recycling robot, named Daisy. Daisy is an upgraded version of Liam, the recycling robot Apple debuted in 2016. Daisy is smaller, faster, and more efficient than Liam, able to disassemble 200 iPhones per hour and obtain their component parts for recycling.

In response to Apple’s environmental report and details about the new robot, Greenpeace has released a statement suggesting Apple’s focus should be on product longevity rather than recycling robots.

Daisy, Apple’s newest recycling robot.


In a statement, Greenpeace Senior analyst Gary Cook said Apple needs to work on product designs that better accommodate upgrades and repairs, allowing for devices to be used for a longer period of time. Cook says customers clearly want to keep their devices for longer, citing demand for battery replacements under Apple’s discounted battery program.

“Rather than another recycling robot, what is most needed from Apple is an indication that the company is embracing one of its greatest opportunities to reduce its environmental impact: repairable and upgradeable product design. This would keep its devices in use far longer, delaying the day when they’d need to be disassembled by Daisy.

Customers want to keep their devices longer, as evidenced by a 3 to 4 week wait for a battery replacement at Apple retail stores earlier this year, when Apple was compelled to dramatically reduce the replacement cost.

Greenpeace often champions device repairability and longevity, especially in regard to Apple products. Last summer, for example, Greenpeace teamed up with iFixit to rate the repairability of Apple devices, accusing Apple of shortening device lifespan with difficult, proprietary repair processes and components, ultimately leading to more electronic waste.

For its part, Apple in its environmental report says that device durability and longevity is one of its goals, citing its efforts to provide parts and repairs for five years after a product is no longer manufactured. “When products can be used longer, fewer resources need to be extracted from the earth to make new ones,” reads the report.

While Greenpeace criticized Apple’s lack of focus on repairability, it did laud Apple’s efforts to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to Apple competitors. Samsung, for example, operates on 1 percent renewable energy, a sharp contrast to Apple’s operations that now run on 100 percent renewable energy.

“Apple’s latest environment report highlights the company’s continued leadership in aggressively deploying renewable energy to tackle the greenhouse gas footprint of not only its own operations, but also its suppliers who are responsible for the vast majority of its emissions. Apple’s leadership on climate change contrasts sharply with its main competitor, Samsung Electronics, who currently operates on only 1% renewable energy.

Greenpeace regularly gives Apple high marks for the company’s dedication to environmental improvements, which is close to unparalleled in the tech world. Apple received a B- in Greenpeace’s latest Guide to Greener Electronics, beating out Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Lenovo, Huawei, HP, LG, and more.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.
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Dropbox gets full-screen iPad navigation and drag-and-drop for iOS

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Apple Maps Lane Guidance Expands to Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland and Poland

Introduced in iOS 11, lane guidance in Apple Maps is designed to let Maps users know which lane they should be in to avoid missing an upcoming turn or exit.

The lane guidance feature was initially limited to the United States and China when iOS 11 was first released in September, but Apple has been working to expand it to additional countries. Recently, the feature was introduced in Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, and Czech Republic.



With the addition of these five countries, lane guidance is available in a total of 19 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the United States.

The other major iOS 11 Maps feature, which adds speed limit information to the Maps app, remains limited to the United States and the UK at the current time.

A full list of Apple Maps feature availability by country can be found on Apple’s website.
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iPhone Cracking Methods Like GrayKey Box Can Guess a Six-Digit Password in 11 Hours on Average

Law enforcement agencies have a new iPhone cracking tool that works with all modern iPhones and the newest versions of iOS 11, the GrayKey, designed by a company called Grayshift.

Previous reports have suggested the GrayKey can crack 4-digit passcodes in a matter of hours and 6-digit passcodes in days, but as highlighted by VICE‘s Motherboard, cracking times for the GrayKey and other similar iPhone unlocking methods can potentially be even faster and 6-digit passcodes no longer offer adequate protection.

GrayKey iPhone cracking box, via MalwareBytes


Matthew Green, assistant professor and cryptographer at John Hopkins Information Security Institute, said this morning on Twitter that with an exploit that disables Apple’s passcode-guessing protections, a 4-digit passcode is crackable in 6.5 minutes on average, while a 6-digit passcode can be calculated in 11 hours.



Apple does have built-in options to erase an iPhone after 10 incorrect passcode guessing attempts and there are automatic delays after a wrong passcode has been entered more than five times, but GrayKey appears to bypass these protections.

It’s not clear if the GrayKey can reach the fastest unlocking times outlined by Green, but even at slower unlocking speeds, it only takes days to get into an iPhone with a 6-digit passcode. Comparatively, it takes over a month to crack an iPhone with an 8-digit passcode, or more than 13 years to get into an iPhone with a 10-digit passcode.

With the release of iOS 9 in 2015, Apple switched from a four digit passcode to a 6-digit passcode as the default, making iOS devices more secure, but for those concerned about their iPhones being accessed either by law enforcement with the GrayKey or by a hacker with a similar cracking tool, a 6-digit passcode is no longer good enough.

Several security experts who spoke to Motherboard said people should use an alphanumeric passcode that’s at least seven characters long and uses numbers, letters, and symbols.

“People should use an alphanumeric passcode that isn’t susceptible to a dictionary attack and that is at least 7 characters long and has a mix of at least uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and numbers,” Ryan Duff, a researcher who’s studied iOS and the Director of Cyber Solutions for Point3 Security, told me in an online chat. “Adding symbols is recommended and the more complicated and longer the passcode, the better.”

To change your iPhone’s passcode from a simple numeric 6-digit passcode to something more secure, you’ll need to use the Settings app. Go to “Face ID & Passcodes” in the Settings app, enter your current passcode, scroll down, and then choose “Change Passcode.”

You’ll be asked to enter your new passcode on this screen, but you’ll actually want to tap on the blue “Passcode Options” text towards the middle of the display. Choose “Custom Alphanumeric Code” to enter a passcode that consists of letters, numbers, and symbols.



With an alphanumeric passcode in place, you’ll no longer be presented with a numeric keyboard when unlocking your iPhone, and instead, you’ll see a full keyboard available to type in your passcode.

There’s a definite compromise between easy device accessibility and security when using a longer alphanumeric passcode like this. It’s a lot easier to type six numbers than it is to type a mixed character alphanumeric passcode into an iOS device, but for complete security, longer and more complex is the way to go.
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Leaked Apple Memo Warns Employees About Leaking Info to Media

Apple recently posted a “lengthy” cautionary memo on its internal website that uses aggressive scare tactics to warn employees against leaking details about future products to the media, reports Bloomberg.

In 2017, Apple said it caught 29 leakers and that 12 of those people were arrested. “These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere,” the company said in the memo.

Images of iPhone X components that leaked well ahead of the device’s launch


The memo details several instances where sensitive data had been leaked to the media, such as the leaked iOS 11 GM, which divulged details on the iPhone X, and meetings where Craig Federighi detailed delays to planned functionality in iOS 12 to focus on improving existing features. The employees who leaked this info were caught and fired, said Apple.

It also warns Apple employees against befriending members of the press, analysts, and bloggers and “getting played.”

Apple told employees that leaking information about an unreleased product can impact sales of current models, lead to fewer sales when the product is released, and give competitors more time to mimic product features. “We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else,” Apple’s Greg Joswiak said in the memo, the full text of which is below, courtesy of Bloomberg:

Last month, Apple caught and fired the employee responsible for leaking details from an internal, confidential meeting about Apple’s software roadmap. Hundreds of software engineers were in attendance, and thousands more within the organization received details of its proceedings. One person betrayed their trust.

The employee who leaked the meeting to a reporter later told Apple investigators that he did it because he thought he wouldn’t be discovered. But people who leak — whether they’re Apple employees, contractors or suppliers — do get caught and they’re getting caught faster than ever.

In many cases, leakers don’t set out to leak. Instead, people who work for Apple are often targeted by press, analysts and bloggers who befriend them on professional and social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and begin to pry for information. While it may seem flattering to be approached, it’s important to remember that you’re getting played. The success of these outsiders is measured by obtaining Apple’s secrets from you and making them public. A scoop about an unreleased Apple product can generate massive traffic for a publication and financially benefit the blogger or reporter who broke it. But the Apple employee who leaks has everything to lose.

The impact of a leak goes far beyond the people who work on a project.

Leaking Apple’s work undermines everyone at Apple and the years they’ve invested in creating Apple products. “Thousands of people work tirelessly for months to deliver each major software release,” says UIKit lead Josh Shaffer, whose team’s work was part of the iOS 11 leak last fall. “Seeing it leak is devastating for all of us.”

The impact of a leak goes beyond the people who work on a particular project — it’s felt throughout the company. Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of the current model; give rival companies more time to begin on a competitive response; and lead to fewer sales of that new product when it arrives. “We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else,” says Greg Joswiak of Product Marketing.

Investments by Apple have had an enormous impact on the company’s ability to identify and catch leakers. Just before last September’s special event, an employee leaked a link to the gold master of iOS 11 to the press, again believing he wouldn’t be caught. The unreleased OS detailed soon-to-be-announced software and hardware including iPhone X. Within days, the leaker was identified through an internal investigation and fired. Global Security’s digital forensics also helped catch several employees who were feeding confidential details about new products including iPhone X, iPad Pro and AirPods to a blogger at 9to5Mac.

Last year Apple caught 29 leakers.

Leakers in the supply chain are getting caught, too. Global Security has worked hand-in-hand with suppliers to prevent theft of Apple’s intellectual property as well as to identify individuals who try to exceed their access. They’ve also partnered with suppliers to identify vulnerabilities — both physical and technological — and ensure their security levels meet or exceed Apple’s expectations. These programs have nearly eliminated the theft of prototypes and products from factories, caught leakers and prevented many others from leaking in the first place.

Leakers do not simply lose their jobs at Apple. In some cases, they face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes. In 2017, Apple caught 29 leakers. 12 of those were arrested. Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain. These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere. “The potential criminal consequences of leaking are real,” says Tom Moyer of Global Security, “and that can become part of your personal and professional identity forever.”

While they carry serious consequences, leaks are completely avoidable. They are the result of a decision by someone who may not have considered the impact of their actions. “Everyone comes to Apple to do the best work of their lives — work that matters and contributes to what all 135,000 people in this company are doing together,” says Joswiak. “The best way to honor those contributions is by not leaking.”

Apple has always been an intensely private and secretive company, but as it has grown, leaks have become harder to contain, both among its own corporate employees and from its supplier partners. In 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple was going to “double down on secrecy on products,” but each and every year, details on new products manage to leak out ahead of launch.
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Mastercard, Discover and Amex Ending Signature Requirement for Purchases Tomorrow, Visa to Follow Later This Month

Starting tomorrow, the major credit card companies in the United States are officially eliminating the signature requirement for purchases, marking an end to a long running but increasingly unnecessary policy.

American Express, Visa, Discover, and Mastercard first announced plans to end credit card signatures late last year, but have now confirmed to The Verge that the policy change will go into effect starting on April 13. American Express, Mastercard, and Discover all plan to stop requiring signatures tomorrow, while Visa plans to follow later in the month.

Credit and debit card companies have long required signatures for purchases as an added security measure, but with technology improvements that include contactless payments and the adoption of EMV chip technology, signatures are an outdated authentication method.

Officially eliminating signatures when making a purchase will allow for a more consistent, streamlined, and speedy checkout experience for both merchants and cardholders. It should also streamline the Apple Pay experience in the United States, as a signature can on occasion be required for purchases over $50 when using Apple Pay, a step that will be eliminated when the signature changes become official.

American Express plans to end the signature requirement in the United States and other countries around the world, while Mastercard will eliminate it in the United States and Canada. Discover plans to end signatures in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and Visa is making signatures optional in North America for companies that offer chip systems.

All merchants continue to be able to collect signatures if required to do so by an applicable law in a particular jurisdiction.
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