Researchers from Georgia Tech have discovered an alarming iOS security hole, and even managed to sneak malware past Apple’s App Store review process. Called Jekyll, in a nod to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, the malware was disguised as a Georgia Tech news app. Once installed, it could post tweets, send messages, take photos, retrieve personal information, and even direct Safari to install more malware. The researchers could also control the app remotely, adding more commands and capabilities. It even phoned home, revealing that Apple spent only a few seconds reviewing the app before approval. After testing the app briefly on their own devices, the researchers pulled it from the App Store.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn sent Apple’s stock price soaring after tweeting to his 59,000 followers on 13 August 2013 that he has purchased a “large” stake in the company. (Imagine what Warren Buffet could do, given that he has 570,000 followers, despite having tweeted only three times!) Since the announcement, the stock has risen over 12 percent. Over the past year, Apple’s stock price had dropped by nearly half. While Apple investors are relishing the surge, it remains to be seen what effect the outspoken Icahn will have on the company.
Blogger Shawn Blanc has released his first book, “Delight Is in the Details,” about how to create work that delights your audience, whether you’re a designer, developer, or writer. The $29 package includes an ebook in PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle) formats, an audiobook version, and individual interviews with creators such as Federico Viticci of MacStories, developer Marco Arment, and designer Jory Raphael. After reading it and listening to some of the interviews, I can say that it’s a great source of advice and inspiration for anyone who creates products. You can also purchase the ebook alone for $20, but I recommend spending the extra $9 for the interviews.
Overhauls the search feature and fixes some bugs. (Free, 40.6 MB)
On 9 August 2013, President Obama addressed concerns about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying programs, but stopped far short of promising to curtail them. The president announced that the NSA will be launching a new Web site to better explain the program. While Obama stated that, “it’s right to ask questions about surveillance,” he said that Edward Snowden, who revealed the programs to the world, was not a “patriot.” Meanwhile, Obama has reportedly been in secret talks with technology executives, including Apple’s Tim Cook, to discuss the surveillance programs.
Are you a professional user who feels abandoned by Apple? Ken Segall, a long-time adviser to Apple, argues that Apple isn’t leaving pros behind, but is instead changing its professional tools to be accessible to more users. Segall reveals that, at one point, Steve Jobs considered killing Apple’s professional products due to them requiring a lot of resources for a small, niche market — as opposed to the consumer market, which is larger and less demanding. While Segall acknowledges that Apple will drive away some pros, he believes the company will succeed in advancing the market and empowering more users.
We’re at last seeing the first fruits of Betaworks’ acquisition of Instapaper, the read-it-later service started by Marco Arment. Betaworks has unveiled a redesigned Web site for the service, sporting a new, more modern look. The company is encouraging users to give it a look and offer feedback. One feature that remains notably absent is the capability to sort saved articles into folders.
After almost a month of limited availability, Apple’s developer services are now fully restored.
The secure email service Lavabit has been forced to shut down after ten years. Owner Ladar Levison stated that he was shutting the service down instead of caving to government demands — that he isn’t legally allowed to disclose. Levison said that if he is able to successfully appeal the request, he will be able to reinstate Lavabit. In the meantime, he advises users against trusting their data to any company hosted in the United States.
The first update for Downcast fixes a number of launch bugs. ($9.99 new, free update, 3.6 MB)
Three of the biggest vendors of ebook readers, Amazon, Kobo, and Sony, are petitioning the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a permanent exemption for ebook readers from federal accessibility laws. Federal law requires “advanced communication services” to be fully accessible to the disabled. However, the companies are arguing that ebook readers shouldn’t fall into that category, since they are limited devices specifically designed to display only text. If you’d like to voice your opinion, the FCC is accepting comments on the petition through 3 September 2013.
Many analysts have tried to portray Amazon and Apple as polar opposites, but analyst Horace Dediu argues that they’re more alike than different. Dediu argues that they’re both sought out for similar reasons, including convenience, ease of use, and controlled environments. While Amazon’s business is mostly low-margin, with little to no profit, Apple’s iTunes also makes little profit. Where the perception differs is that Amazon is seen as having few competitors, while Apple is seen as having infinite competitors. However, Dediu says Amazon’s position is more precarious than usually imagined.
Lodsys, who has made a business out of suing iOS app developers, has dismissed its lawsuit against TMSOFT, perhaps most famous for its White Noise apps for iOS and Mac. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that Lodsys can never again sue TMSOFT for patent violations. TMSOFT was assisted by the Public Patent Foundation (PPF), which represents small businesses from patent infringement litigation pro bono. Dan Ravicher of PPF said that he donated about $190,000 of his time to help TMSOFT defend itself, whereas Lodsys had to spend only $450 to file the lawsuit. As part of the settlement, TMSOFT had to agree to never sue Lodsys over patents, dismiss all motions with prejudice — including its motion to recover attorney fees — and donate to a mutually agreeable charity, which Lodsys will match.
Over at the Economist, our own Glenn Fleishman has discovered why certain Xerox copiers were mixing up numbers on copies. The culprit turns out to be the JBIG2 compression algorithm, which is not enabled by default, and copiers display a clear warning if it is enabled. JBIG2 is a form of ultra-high compression that duplicates similar-looking areas. It’s popular among businesses with extreme bandwidth requirements, such as remote oil rigs, but should not be enabled unless absolutely necessary. Xerox is working on a patch that will allow system administrators to disable the feature entirely.
Ever wondered how much technology companies spend on government lobbying? The Washington Post has a graph of just that, and it’s fascinating. Google, once reticent to lobby Washington, now spends $16 million a year — more than any other tech firm. Microsoft, despite heavy cuts to lobbying in recent years, is still a distant second. Facebook, which entered the lobbying game only in 2009, has drastically increased its lobbying spending in recent years. Apple has slowly raised spending, but lags far behind at about $2 million per year, just a bit less than Amazon.