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Archive for December, 2011

wifilockThe now widely used Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) standard is apparently not as protected as router makers had hoped. According to a new study, the PIN codes used to lock down the system can be brute forced on many devices by inputting incorrect PIN codes. Millions of routers and access points could be affected.

When a remote client attempts to access the device with a PIN, incorrect entries are met with a EAP-NACK message. This snippet of code can actually reveal the first half of the PIN, and the last digit is always the checksum of the PIN, so the number of possible PINs drops from 10^8 to just 11,000. With an automated system, it’s not impossible to try all the possible permutations in order to gain access.

Also troubling is the fact that many routers do not implement any sort of lockout policy for repeated incorrect PINs. That would allow an attacker to hit the device with a new PIN every second or two until it was cracked. Expect updated firmware on your router to at least patch this last problem.


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webOSA new report from VentureBeat sheds some light on the HP decision making process that ended with webOS being open sourced a few weeks ago. Sources within HP say that the company was asking for a whopping $1.2 billion for its Palm and webOS assets. For those of you keeping score, that is exactly what HP paid for Palm back in April of 2010.

HP wanted desperately not to take a direct financial hit on Palm as negations were on-going in late 2011. Multiple potential suitors were rumored including Amazon, Facebook, and HTC. Perhaps the laughable price is the reason none of those deals got very far. HP seemed oblivious to the fact that Palm lost value since it was purchased, and in the wake of the aborted TouchPad launch. 

Unable to find a company willing to pay the obscene asking price, HP now hopes to use webOS, while investing fewer resources in the newly open project. What do you think would have been a fair price for HP’s Palm assets?


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verizonVerizon Wireless has made a name for itself by being rock-solid and having a huge 3G network. Things have been a bit more rocky since its 4G LTE network started taking off. Today, Big Red is having its third nationwide data outage in the month of December. Customers across the U.S. are reporting no 4G, and often no 3G data either.

It took Verizon a little bit to respond to the avalanche of customer complaints, but it has now started handing out a standard bit of PR. “We are investigating reports of some customers experiencing trouble accessing the 4GLTE network. The network itself continues to operate and all customers continue to be able to make calls, send text messages and utilize data services. 3G devices are operating normally,” the statement reads. We can personally dispute that data services remain accessible. 

Verizon has been working on a big push to get users to upgrade to the 4G network, but perhaps the carrier has over-estimated its back-end capacity. Some users have speculated that the issue is with authentication of devices. In the meantime, sound off in the comments and let us know how your 4G is working. 


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If Japan ever decides to ditch the “Rising Sun” bit, “Land of the Awesome Vending Machines” would be an apt second slogan. A multitude of useful, weird and wacky vending machines litter the landscapes of the country’s major cities, offering up goodies ranging from exotic drinks to delicious noodles and heck, even space gold and hotel rooms (as shown by Tom Edwards in his 24 hour vending machine survival stint in the heart of Tokyo).  Now, those ubiquitous Japanese vending machines are getting even more useful, as one company plans on rolling out units that double as free Wi-Fi hotspots in 2012.

TechCrunch pointed us towards a recent press release by Asahi Soft Drinks, the maker of the Wi-Fi vending machines. Anyone with roughly 160 ft. will be able to tap into the Wi-Fi hotspot – no purchase necessary, no registration needed. Can’t top that! Users will get 30 minutes of free browsing before they get das boot, but they can reconnect immediately if they so desire. Dozens of users can be connected at once. Once logged in, a welcome screen will display the contents of the Wi-Fi-sharing vending machine, along with the names and locations of local stores and interesting places. You also get that free high-speed Internet connection, though we’d recommend not doing any online banking or sensitive browsing through the open connection.

Asahi expects to have 1,000 of this nifty vending machines deployed across five major Japanese cities by the end of 2012. They want to expand that number to 10,000 installed units within five years. Hopefully they decide to bring some of those Stateside!


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capitolThe torrent watching website YouHaveDownloaded.com is still astounding us with its hypocrisy-revealing powers. A new search of the site, which tracks IP addresses pulling copyrighted material from a few public BitTorrent trackers, confirms that the U.S. House of Representatives is quite the hotbed of piracy at the same time it’s working to pass the much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). 

According to TorrentFreak, it’s not just a file here and there, but over 800 copyrighted works being downloaded on U.S House IP addresses. YouHaveDownloaded.com doesn’t even track the vast majority of downloads online, so the actual number could be much higher. The pirated content runs the gamut from self-help books, to TV shows, to porn. Yes, some congressional aids have been busy indeed. 

Experts on the Internet and its architecture have decried SOPA’s DNS-poisoning provisions that could damage the fabric of the Internet while seeking to block supposedly infringing sites. The entertainment lobby asserts that it loses billions to piracy every year, and the the industry needs more powerful tools to stop online copyright infringement. It’s unclear if they will also be seeking to shut off Congress’ net access. 


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