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I am not going to describe in detail APTs in this post. Neither will I analyze them. I just wanted to talk about this name that is appearing in the news recently due to the attacks to RSA, Epsilon and Google last year.

We are all familiar with the vulnerabilities of any kind of Internet-connected device. Nowadays one can be a hacker by downloading some tools from the Internet and start attacking sites. There is tons of amateur hackers, because the tools are of easy access. I actually still remember like if it was yesterday when I downloaded a plug-in for mIRC that allowed me to throw flood attacks to whoever I wanted. So, if somebody was being very rude or annoying to me, I would drop their IRC connection throwing that simple attack. I swear I only did that to people that was REALLY annoying or rude…

Anyhow, working at a security research center, I am learning many things about security and threats. There is hundreds of threats and vulnerabilities, and we all tr to defend ourselves using anti-virus and such tools. And it works.

But lately there is a big concern in the community with APTs. These are extremely elaborated hacking attacks that are performed over a very long time span and involve not only hacking tools, malicious code, hidden rootkits and other complicated things, but also social engineering and patience, a lot of patience. And so far does not really know how to stop them – don’t worry, we are working on it! -. The later examples have been the recent attack on RSA, when attackers where able to steal large quantities of secret data. For the ones who do not know what RSA is, they are the ones who provide those funny key holders with a random number that changes constantly that gives important people access to important information – ok, not very accurate, but this is how I like to think about it… -. The Executive Chairman of RSA wrote an open letter explaining that the data extracted does not put current security systems at risk… but it is still kind of scary that it was precisely RSA the hacked company.

It has been in the news lately another case where a company called Epsilon was victim of one of these attacks and lots of data was extracted. Epsilon seems to be a kind of marketing company that deals with other companies mailing lists. Apparently, the only stolen data was a huge list of email addresses. You might have received an email recently from one of the affected companies – customers of Epsilon – informing you about the hack and trying to calm down. But when a friend of mine got an email from Chase explaining that one of its customers that deals with Chase account holders data had been hacked, he freaked out. Other affected companies were BestBuy, Capital One, Citi Bank… You can read about this hack here.

Google was victim of an APT a couple of years ago too. More info here.

So, make sure you have an anti-virus that is updated and do not ever click on links on emails that claim to come from your bank. And read about these topics, is as interesting as scary.

It seems that, this time for real, everyone – not just Motorola – is trying to get into the tablet battlefield. Motorola already tried to compete with the iPad 2 and, in my opinion, they were badly defeated. Now, when Apple has just released the iPad2, everyone else seems to have decided that it is the right time to come into the game. There might be many strategical and commercial reasons that are out of my engineering-focused and marketing-lacked mind, but I think that one of the main reasons is that Apple’s iPad2 does not offer anything new.

When the iPad 2 comes just as a slightly smaller version that its older brother and with 2 cameras – I will never get tired of wondering why do people want the back-facing camera. Are you really going to carry your iPad around when you travel and use it to take pictures. No, because those memories in the shape of pictures have to be good enough to look good printed on an album. Will you pop out your iPad from your pocket during a concert or when you see something funny on the street to take a quick picture? No, because you already have your phone for that… – it looks “easier” to present “new” things to the market.

A couple of days ago I was presenting the new Asus tablet that, to me, looks really cool and runs on Windows 7 – if I could have my files organized in folders and such in my iPad and install Microsoft Office I would probably buy one… -, and not only that, but one can get that cool keyboard that, attached to the tablet, makes a very portable and light laptop.

Well, today I found out about a new tablet. Lenovo, the Chinese computer manufacturer that, a few years ago, bought IBM’s laptop division, is going to release the LePad in June. It might not be a good tablet, but at least it has an elegant name, huh? Well, let’s see how is this French cousin of the iPad going to be.

From Gotta Be Mobile:

LePad is already currently shipping in China with Lenovo’s customized UI on top of Android 2.2. The company is saying that U.S. availability will come this summer and the tablet will ship Stateside with Android 3.0 Honeycomb on the 10.1-inch 1,280 X 800 display.

One of the unique things about the LePad/Skylight tablet is the optional U1 docking accessory, which is capable of turning the Android tablet into a full Intel Core i5 portable notebook. Once docked into the U1 Hybrid Dock, you get a full Windows 7 notebook complete with keyboard, trackpad, HDD for storage, RAM, and other notebook components–the tablet’s display becomes the notebook’s screen. Unfortunately, though, if docked, the Windows environment will be a notebook-only situation meaning you won’t get inking, touch, or tablet features once docked.

The case of the LePad is a bit odd because, apparently, it is already available in China and, despite it will be released in the US and Europe in June, a new version (LePad 2) will be released next fall. We are lacked of more data about the second model, but Lenovo’s CEO recently announced that it will be slimmer.

This post is becoming a bit strange because I keep learning new things as I write it and I should rewrite it, but I will just leave it this way as a proof of how complicated the LePad situation seems to be. The Lenovo LePad seems to have been renamed for the Western release as Lenovo SkyLight.

Apparently it has officially been already presented at the recent CES 2011:

All in all, a bit confusing, but a new tablet in the market. And this one seems to bet for having a laptop/tablet in the same product…

This February – like it’s been for the past few years, will be next year as well and, hopefully, for many more to come – the Mobile World Congress takes places in the beautiful city of Barcelona. As always, the city is up to capacity in terms of accommodation, it is difficult to find an available taxi and the latest devices, services and advances in mobile communications are being unveiled.

It is been just 3 days, but we found out many interesting thins. I am listing here the ones I found the most interesting:

  • AT&T’s CTO, John Donovan, announced that they are planning to roll over to Voice over LTE services in 2013. The plan is still subject to the readiness of the industry standards for this emerging technology. As of now, it looks like those standards will be ready in 2013 and AT&T will start running its LTE network.
  • European Mobile Carriers are starting to launch multiple data roaming plans that include daily passes, weekly passes and other options. Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile on Tuesday launched a price plan that will include fixed price day passes as well as a €14.95 weekly pass that T-Mobile said would provide “virtually unlimited Internet surfing in the EU this summer.” Meanwhile, France Télécom’s Orange unit, which launched a limited 2MB daily data roaming pass for its customers last year, on Tuesday added a second daily data pass for high volume data users at €15 for 50MB a day.
  • Phone Wars: Nokia is not going to sit and observe how Apple and Google/Android take over a market that was – once upon a time in a far away galaxy – theirs. Stephen Elop, Nokia’s brand new CEO, just announced their plans of bringing 3 more billion online: “Mr. Elop said that 80 percent of the world’s population lives within range of cellphone coverage but that only 20 percent or so is connected to the Internet. Nokia, he said, can bring them online through mobile Internet on cellphones. He said as many as three billion more people around the world could potentially come online through a cellphone.
  • Motorola Atrix
  • AT&T’s iPhone is, indeed, way faster than Verizon’s one (twice as much, to be precise)

As you probably guessed from past posts, I am not specially a big Apple fan – just as a consumer; I do like their products and write often about them, but never owned anything Apple except for my marvelous iPod Nano 2G that still works just fine… and I hope it continues this way because, in my opinion, every single redesign of the nano after 2G has been a huge mistake after another one. Do you remember this insult to portability and visual appearance? And I am not going to talk about the iPod shuffle with a tiny touch screen that now is called iPod Nano 6G – and I do like Google phones a lot.

I got somehow a frustration when, after deciding to change my phone and plan, I wanted to get a Nexus One and… it just stopped being sold. Then I decided I would get the next Google phone as soon as it releases.

As I discussed a few days ago, the new Nexus S has just been released. My problem now is that I have to switch to AT&T – for reasons I will not detail here – and, even though I could get the device unlocked – after getting rid of a lot of money – it appears it will not work under AT&T’s network. Actually, it will. It will be just fine for voice and text messages, but for data, you will be paying a full data plan and it will be just running on GSM/EDGE. The Nexus S will NOT work with AT&T’s 3G network.

As a soccer loving person, I hate when money affects the most beautiful game in the World – and that is one of many reasons why I hate Real Madrid -. As a telecom/wireless geek, I hate when money affects the ability of others to enjoy technology and geekness. I know that the RF and the radio section of a mobile device can often be the most expensive part – I still remember back in my undergrad learning about RF chains and how the Noise Figure of a radio depends mostly on the NF of the very first component and that amplifier/filter is VERY expensive – so it makes sense that it might not be viable for the people signing the checks at the Nexus S team to decide to include many radios in the phone, or to make it able to work on many carrier frequencies. But the Nexus S works fine under every single frequency – Quad-band GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 and Tri-band HSPA: 900, 2100, 1700 – except for AT&T’s 3G’s carrier – HSPA 850, 1900 -. Too bad.

Read more about it here, here and here.

It is still a beautiful Android phone by Google.

Yesterday I was a happy man when I saw a link under the Google big colored letters. The new Nexus S. Google is releasing a new model of its popular phone, this time manufactured by Samsung instead of HTC.

In my opinion, it improves a lot its appearance from the Nexus One. According to Google, it will be available intially startin on Dec. 16th at Best Buy stores as an unlocked device, following the same Google strategy as for the Nexus One. Shortly after, it will be available through T-Mobile as well.

The device runs on an impressive 1GHz Cortex A8 processor by Hummingbird and comes equipped with a bright 4.0″ WVGA (480×800) display with super AMOLED and a back facing 5 Mp (2650×1920) camera. For videoconference, it comes with another front facing camera, this one VGA (640×480). In terms of memory, it comes with a standard 16GB iNAND flash memory.

Among other fancy specs, it is capable of 802.11n – when will we have a smart-phone with Wi-Fi direct? perhaps with the rumored iPhone 5? – and Near Field Communications, a groundbreaking and highly anticipated feature that many smartphones and other devices will probably have soon. Hopefully soon we’ll do like in Japan and purchases and bank operations will be done using our phone.

I am planning to change my phone soon and I was planning to get an AT&T contract with an iPhone, but I love Nexus phones, so now I am very hesitant. It comes unlocked, so I could use it on AT&T’s GSM-based network as well, but the initial price of 550$ seems too much for me. Perhaps should I stay with T-Mobile? Does anyone at Google need any guinea pig to test the device? I volunteer!

I want a Nexus S.

Believe it or not, during 18 hours, an application – Secret SMS Replicator – was available at Android Market. Once the application is installed, it is invisible to the user and it allows other users to access all the text messages – sent, received and saved – of the phone holding the application.

The application is still available for download from other sources, so do not let your friends or specially any stranger install anything on your phone.

The news from La Vanguardia (in Spanish)

Apparently, the new version of the OS for mobile platforms will be released in December and it will be available for tablets as well, such as the Galaxy Tab. This new tablet by Samsung looks so good that I decided to give it a bit of prominence in this post.

At the same time, Google announced that Android 4.0 will be available half way through 2011.

These announcements coincide with the statement made by Steve Jobs, who claims that Google’s mobile OS is very fragmented in terms of market, which will become a problem in the long run and will make Apple’s OS be the winner – always according to Jobs, obviously -. Nevertheless, the economic results that Jobs was presenting were impressive, with an increase of 70% more than the same trimester last year. So, it is clear that things are going well for Apple.

And more about Apple; today, during the highly anticipated – as usual – press conference, they are going to release a new version of Apple’s Mac OS X – rumored to be called Lion – and a new MacBook Air. More about it here (in Spanish). I am also going to guess that Jobs will be wearing a pair of dark jeans and a black long sleeve wool jersey.

By the way, for Mac, iPhone and iPad users, the conference can be streamed live.

A recent survey and data analysis by The Nielsen Company, Android is the the most popular operating system among people who bought a smartphone in the past six months. However, among smartphones, RIM’s Blackberry is still the one with a largest market share – 31% – very close to Apple’s OS with a 28%. Android is growing very quickly because it is currently the most popular OS, but it is still behind with a 19% of the market share.

It is interesting to note that the study does not even mention Widows Mobile, which seems to be already back in the Stone Age. However, last night I attended a Tech Talk hosted by Microsoft at its Manhattan offices and, among other topics, they talked about the new Windows Mobile OS. It did not look very groundbreaking at all, but it is obvious they are trying to gain back part of the marketshare. I did see a very interesting and useful feature by Microsoft that I will discuss later on a short post.

Read the news at Nielsen Wire.

Despite being a big Android fan, I am aware – as many people is – that the keyboard is one of the main drawbacks on phones equipped with this operating system. Google, also aware of it, has recently bought BlindType, a start-up that has different solutions to improve the behavior of touch screen keyboards, to fix the Android’s problems.

Here is a video that shows the amazing improvement with respect to current touch screen keyboards:

News in English. News in Spanish.

About me:

Born in Barcelona, moved to Los Angeles at age 24, ended in NYC, where I enjoy life, tweet about music and work as a geek in security for wireless networks.
All the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and are not related to my employer.
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