Archive for August, 2010

Phone Tapped

Chris Paget made a name for himself back in 2009 when he exposed security vulnerabilities in RFID that allowed him to wirelessly download the contents of US passports from a parked car and he’s making headlines again by exposing serious problems in the GSM cellphone network. Using nothing more than an off the shelf laptop, and a pair of RF antennas he was able to successfully imitate an AT&T cellphone tower which allowed him to intercept and record phone calls. “As far as your cell phones are concerned, I’m now indistinguishable from AT&T,” he told a crowd at this year’s DefCon security conference.

The demonstration was supposed to highlight a major flaw in the 2G GSM system which automatically directs phones to the tower with the strongest signal, apparently without proper authentication. So far the system only works on outgoing calls, but is a pretty critical flaw in the most commonly used wireless technology in the world. “GSM is broken,” Paget said, “The primary solution is to turn it off altogether.” I’m willing to bet carriers will take his recommendation “under advisement”, but hopefully a more reasonable fix is possible with the existing hardware.

It is unknown at this point if similar vulnerabilities exist in CDMA, but for the time being anyway, it will be the last refuge for tin foil hat wearing propeller heads who need to keep their calls private at any cost. 

 

PS3

Sony has a history of en-forcing policy changes with harsh firmware updates, but the recently released 3.41 patch for the Playstation 3 appears to be having the unintended side effect of preventing users from upgrading their hard drives. We have applauded Sony in the past for allowing users to easily upgrade their storage by swapping out the stock 2.5” SATA disk, but hundreds of angry forum posters claim the “no applicable data” error has essentially bricked consoles that ran the update on a new drive.

Computer and Video Games claims the issue might have something to do with a new feature that allow for incremental patches, and would also explain why the problem only arises on PS3’s where the firmware is stored on the hard drive rather than the system memory. Sony has not offered any explanation or fixes yet, so we recommend not updating the drive on your PS3 until we know more.

  

 

Infineon

If Intel had its way every single device on the planet would be powered by one of its processors, but one thing is holding them back from world domination, namely their dependence on x86 architectures. ARM Processors have proven to be the faster and more power efficient design for mobile up until now, leaving Intel to spectate jealously from the sidelines. So how will Intel find its way inside some of the most coveted consumer devices on the planet? Well, if recent rumors are true than a few billion out of the war chest to buy Germany-based Infineon might just do the trick.

Infineon chips show up in mobile products from Nokia, Samsung, and even Apple which power everything from the 3G radios to the interface chips for high resolution cameras. These critical pieces of hardware don’t get the same level of press as the A4, but are just as important to the final package. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story is that Intel is more or less buying back technology that they invented and sold off to Marvell back in 2006.

Intel has a fair bit of work to do before it can become entrenched in mobile platforms, but an acquisition of Infineon would be a positive first step buying them a valuable chunk of PCB real estate inside the iPad and iPhone 4.   

 

Starcraft II

We don’t typically report on the release of beta video card drivers, but ATI has slipped in an awesome new feature that is probably worth it if you’re playing Starcraft II. Catalyst 10.7a brings driver level Anti-Alliasing support that can be enabled through the Catalyst Control Center and helps to smooth out all the jagged edges for those who like to zoom in on the action.

Driver level forced AA support comes with a bit of a performance hit over a native implementation that could have been done by Blizzard, but if you’re rocking a relatively modern 5xxx series card you have more than enough spare horsepower to make this work.

Admittedly Nvidia has had support for this feature from day one, but ATI was curiously silent on the issue leading us to believe Radeon owners would have to do without. We are glad to hear this isn’t the case, and its certainly worth checking out if you have ATI hardware. 

(Image Credit PCper.com)

Hell, it’s about time. Wait, wrong game. Still though, Battlefield 2 came out before Twitter or Facebook hit it big, the iPhone became the tech toy everyone loves to hate but still owns anyway, and even before this snazzy, updated-on-a-regular-basis version of MPC.com came to be. So, for obvious reasons, it feels like we’ve torn an eternity’s worth of pages from our media-centric calendars while waiting to catch a glimpse of DICE’s next non-spinoff Battlefield sequel. Fortunately, the finish line’s finally in sight.

Via an announcement about Medal of Honor’s Limited Edition, EA gave its first official confirmation of Battlefield 3 – and with it, the Battlefield 3 beta. So, how does one nab a spot in the highly anticipated test? Yes  – you, in the back. With the shirt that has “Captain Obvious” written all over it. Buy the Medal of Honor Limited Edition, you say? Why yes, you are correct!

Oddly, the Limited Edition will make the same attack on your warchest – $60 – that the standard edition will, and as a result, seems to be the only version listed by many retailers. Aside from the Battlefield 3 beta key, it also packs a little extra heat in the form of a few bonus weapons.  

Really though, if a slightly shinier virtual pistol is a deal-breaker for you over Battlefield 3 beta access, you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror, because you do not exist.

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