The UpStream

Cellphone Kill-Switch Engaged by Senate of California

posted Saturday May 17, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Cellphone Kill-Switch Engaged by Senate of California

Back in February, Scott talked about the possible wireless kill switch that was heading to Congress. On our show we weighed out the pros and cons, with the conclusion being that it was probably just a way for the government to have more control in our lives. Either way, the state of California Senate has approved such a measure in a smartphone kill-switch bill.

The bill, SB962, would require that smartphones sold in the state would come installed with some kind of theft detection software. This would apply to any smartphones manufactured after July 1st, 2015 and would not apply to tablets or any other electronic devices.

Interestingly enough, this same bill was rejected on April 24th but is now approved. All that's left is for the California Assembly and California's Governor Jerry Brown to approve it. Both parties have previously said they'd OK the proposal. The bill cleared the Senate 26-8 and only needed 21 of the 40 members to vote "yes."

The decision to push forward with the bill comes after a reported rise in smartphone theft, especially in California. However as we've mentioned before, it will still be a difficult feat to recover GSM devices, even after a kill-switch would be installed, due to the inability to tie a device down to a SIM card.

As far as penalties and liabilities are concerned, that filled up most of the conversation on the senate floor during the voting process. It was concluded that retailers would be at fault for selling devices without the software installed and that the fine would range somewhere between $500 and $2,500. Senator Mark Wyland opposed this pointing of the finger, citing simple shipping errors as reason. "It's a big burden on a retailer of anything, that they have complete control over everything they sell," he said.

All of this really doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, but it does seem perfectly fitting for the state of California, considering the long list of unusual legislation in the state. What do you make of all of this? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

*In accordance with California Proposition 65, this post may contain traces of lead, which is known to the state of California to cause birth defects or reproductive toxicity.

Yahoo Picks Up Messaging App Blink, Will Make it Vanish

posted Saturday May 17, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Yahoo Picks Up Messaging App Blink, Will Make it Vanish

Billions of dollars have been spent and hundreds of employees have been placed under Yahoo's umbrella ever since CEO Marissa Mayer took over last year. In this acquisition spree, Mayer has picked up everything from social browsers and media rights to spending a billion dollars on Tumblr, Yahoo has now added to that list a messaging app acquisition.

Yahoo announced that it has acquired Blink, a self-destruction messaging app similar to Snapchat and Confide. Popular outside of the US but gaining traction in the States too, Blink's userbase has grown to over 500,000 worldwide. However in the next few weeks, the Android and iOS-based app will be shutting down.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Blink posted the announcement on its app website.

Blink is now a part of Yahoo!

We're excited to announce that as of May 13, 2014, Blink is joining Yahoo! We built Blink because we believe everyone should be free to show the same honesty and spontaneity in their online conversations as they can in person. We look forward to the possibilities that will come from bringing the Blink vision to Yahoo.

We can't begin to express how grateful we are for your support throughout this journey. We hope you stick with us through the next chapter.

Since the app is being shut down, obviously the acquisition here is the talent coming over to Yahoo. All seven Blink employees, which includes the founders, one being an ex-Google employee, will have a new home in the Yahoo community. The makers of Blink were also involved in the creation of other apps such as Kismet, a location-based app. The team of seven must have resonated with someone inside Yahoo for the company to buyout all of them, so hopefully we'll see some creative enhancements or new developments to Yahoo's services in the near future.

Xbox Music to Rival Amazon and Google with OneDrive-like Music Storage

posted Saturday May 17, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Xbox Music to Rival Amazon and Google with OneDrive-like Music Storage

For those of you familiar with our show, you'll know that we talk a lot about Xbox Music, the popular Microsoft music-streaming service that was introduced with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. It's a great service, with a lot of incredible features and the largest music catalog in the industry. Now, Xbox Music could be ready to take on its competitors by introducing cloud-based music storage.

Think of it like OneDrive but for music. LiveSino has found some source code hidden in OneDrive's site that leads to a possibility of a OneDrive Music folder. It would make sense to add this feature to a service that already exists and lives between all your connected devices.

In the source code there's also a small description of the service.

Meet your OneDrive Music folder. Upload your music files to this folder, so that you can play them via Xbox Music from any of your devices. You can also add files to this folder using the OneDrive app for your computer.

Something like being able to automatically upload unmatched songs to OneDrive for play across all your devices would certain put Google and Amazon's lockers to shame. I'd just hope that we would see the space you fill up not come out of your existing OneDrive storage, even if you did take advantage of the extra 100GB, because that was only available to US users.

It finally feels like Xbox Music is almost on pace with what the Zune Music Pass used to be. What's good about this is that Xbox Music features a lot of today's technology while embracing what brought Microsoft to the dance in the first place, which was Zune. Say what you will about the media player, which I still hold the Zune HD as hands-down the best MP3 player, but the software, Smart DJ and Music Pass were unmatched in the space and surely ahead of the times. Plus, let's not forget, you can get Xbox Music on Windows, Android, iOS and the Web, so it doesn't matter where you are or what you have; you can use experience your music library however you want. Xbox Music does not discriminate based on age, color, creed or mobile platform.

Xbox One Drops Kinect and Price, Changes to Xbox Live Gold for All Owners

posted Saturday May 17, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Xbox One Drops Kinect and Price, Changes to Xbox Live Gold for All Owners

Since June, the console war battle has gone on and when the PS4 and Xbox One both launched this past holiday season, we knew we'd be in for additions, changes and key decisions that would spell out success or defeat for Sony and Microsoft for the coming years. As far as changes are concerned, the Xbox One is a completely different device than it was initially set out to be, with Microsoft backing down from a lot of innovative features that would have set the gaming system apart from anything else. Starting June 9th, Microsoft announced it will be removing the requirement to purchase a Kinect with the Xbox One, and the console will now be $100 cheaper. On the plus side, we're going to see some changes concerning Xbox Live Gold as well.

A totally different "next-gen" console

As we could have predicted with the path of changes we've seen, in the summer we'll now see the Xbox One sold without Kinect for $399, putting it right at the same price as the PlayStation 4. Glazing over the fact that this now takes the Xbox One away from even remotely resembling the vision at inception, Microsoft said in the announcement that you can still do all the great gaming and entertainment features you'd expect with the Xbox One. This, of course, no longer includes voice and gesture commands, search and interactivity. And you won't be able to tell the One to "Snap" your game with your Skype app while playing the game with both of your hands.

This change won't affect current Kinect users on the Xbox One, as the framework is staying the same, but it certainly affects some Kinect game developers. If a large number of people purchase the console without the motion and voice accessory, I could see the publishers shifting away from focusing resources on Kinect titles and interactivity. Many also think that the Kinect wasn't as widely accepted as Microsoft had hoped, which may be true, considering that Titanfall does not include any Kinectable actions at all within the game's context.

More free games and free video-streaming

So while dreams of new and exciting things with the Kinect are placed into the same pile of ashes as discless gaming and constant-connected environments, at least we still have Microsoft's cloud servers and Azure technology, which currently are in use for over 75 percent of Xbox One's games. Speaking of games, we weren't sure if Xbox 360's very popular free Games with Gold program would carry over to the Xbox One and now we're being told that it will. Starting in June, Games with Gold will arrive on the next-gen console starting with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault. June will also see the 360 getting an upgrade with three games being offered each month instead of two. On the list are Dark Souls, Charlie Murder and a bonus game of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Oh, and for those wondering, you'll still only need one Xbox Live Gold subscription to take advantage of five free games each month. If that's not winning I don't know what is.

There's even more positives coming to Gold members with an Xbox One, and that's in the form of discounts. Those not currently in possession of Forza 5 or Ryse, among others, will see a 50-75 percent discount on those titles beginning in June. Microsoft will also be introducing a VIP room on the One that will feature free games, exclusive deals and other perks and bonuses.

And we can't forget about the fact that the Xbox One and the 360 are both still committed to being the center of entertainment in the home, not just gaming. This was further proven this week when, in the same announcement, Microsoft said that many popular entertainment options will no longer require Xbox Live Gold. Services like Machinima, Twitch, Upload, Netflix, HBO Go, NFL, MLB.TV and NHL Game Center will be offered up to Silver members as well. This was a big gripe with a lot of 360 owners, as some wanted to use the inexpensive $200 arcade version merely as a streaming device, and had to fork up another $60 a year on top of the premium subscription services they wanted to use and were already paying for. This should really attract more customers to the Xbox platform as a whole, as 360s are getting cheaper by the day and can now be used for entertainment without requiring Gold.

So, what do you think about all of these changes? All of the Gold perks and free entertainment options are really a plus but I'm extremely bummed about the lost vision of the Xbox One. Are you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Microsoft to Bring Halo Series to Showtime Before Xbox [Rumor]

posted Sunday May 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft to Bring <i>Halo</i> Series to Showtime Before Xbox [Rumor]

I think everyone knows that Halo is Microsoft's big franchise, dating back to the original Xbox console. Because of that, we have seen Master Chief and crew appear on everything Microsoft related, from games on the consoles, to the Windows Store and Windows Phone titles. This is why it is a bit of a surprise to find out that the Halo series we saw at E3 might not be a Microsoft exclusive.

By this I mean that the new series, being produced by Steven Spielberg, might premiere on Showtime before on the Xbox Video platform itself. Now, this could all just be speculation, which seems likely as the entire reason they are producing original content is to prove that the traditional appointment television model is coming to an end. By premiering on appointment television they would simply be proving the model - the opposite of their goal.

On the other hand, with original series like Game of Thrones on HBO having such financial success, it could make some sense to run on Showtime, just maybe not as a premiere. If they were to premiere on both Xbox Video and Showtime together, those of us without subscription television channels could still enjoy the new show without the annoyance of having to wait, while people without an Xbox One could also enjoy the show, creating a better revenue model for Microsoft and the production team.

If they were to have a major win with a partnership here, it could definitely open the doors to rumored projects for Gears of War, Fable and Forza, which could all get their own programming treatments. This is in addition to the in-progress documentary series being produced for Xbox Video, with the first being about Atari, ironically. All of these projects succeeding would definitely push Microsoft's vision of upending appointment television for good.

Security Alert - OAuth and OpenID Vulnerable

posted Sunday May 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Security Alert - OAuth and OpenID Vulnerable

Right on the heels of the disaster that was Heartbleed comes another pair of security issues. This time, rather than coming from OpenSSL, our security issue comes to us care of OpenID and OAuth, another pair of open technologies used by a lot of websites.

OpenID is an authentication system which allows you to login to a large number of websites with a single set of credentials. OAuth allows you to authorize an application or website to use your information from another system, such as Facebook or Twitter.

The new issue, dubbed Covert Redirect, was discovered by Wang Jing, a doctoral student at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The idea behind the exploit is that, when you click a link that asks for your information from Facebook, the exploiter can gain access to said information as well, without your knowledge or permission. This is because there is no registration for acceptable redirects on success.

So, how can this be fixed? Facebook told Jing that it is a huge problem and that it won't be fixed anytime soon. Jing says,

The patch of this vulnerability is easier said than done. If all the third-party applications strictly adhere to using a whitelist. Then there would be no room for attacks. However, in the real world, a large number of third-party applications do not do this due to various reasons. This makes the systems based on OAuth 2.0 or OpenID highly vulnerable.

These paired vulnerability instances are going to start a conversation that I feel should have started years ago: is having the source code for software available to the public an inherent security issue? The open source community has always maintained that it is not an issue, but anyone who has ever run a WordPress website would disagree with that notion. WordPress is possibly the biggest, most popular open source software in the world, and it is constantly under attack from bot comments who exploit vulnerabilities in the software through code research.

Whether you believe in the value of open source as a concept or not, you can't deny that the easy access to vulnerabilities is a good thing. Take, for example, the recent discovery of an exploit in Internet Explorer, which has been there for many years, but not discovered until recently. There has never been an exploit in WordPress that has existed that long without attack, because it is so easy to find said issues.

Do you have an opinion on either these security issues or the concept of open source security in general? We'd love to hear from you - feel free to comment below.

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