Ben Lovejoy

@benlovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer who started his career on PC World and has written for dozens of computer and technology magazines, as well as numerous national newspapers, business and in-flight magazines. He has also written two novels.

He is old enough to have owned the original Mac, and still has his Mac Portable in a cupboard as he can’t quite bear to part with it, despite the fact that he has no idea where the power supply is. He is occasionally tempted to turn up to a Genius Bar with it.

He currently owns a rather upgraded MacBook Pro 17, a MacBook Air 11, iPad Air 2, iPhone 6 and Thunderbolt Display 27 – and suspects it might be cheaper to have a cocaine habit than his addiction to all things anodised aluminum.

He thinks wires are evil and had a custom desk made to hide them, known as the OC Desk for obvious reasons.

He considers 1000 miles a good distance for a cycle ride, and Chernobyl a suitable tourist destination. What can we say, he’s that kind of chap.

He speaks fluent English but only broken American, so please forgive any Anglicised spelling in his posts.

If @benlovejoy-ing him on twitter, please follow him first so that he can DM you if appropriate. If you have information you can pass on, you can also email him. If you would like to comment on one of his pieces, please do so in the comments – he does read them all.

Ben Lovejoy's Recommended Gear

April 14

AAPL: 112.10

0.06
Stock Chart

A proposed law that would force Apple and other tech companies to decrypt devices for law enforcement agencies has reached the stage of a draft bill – but one Senator has vowed to filibuster it. A filibuster is when a parliamentarian makes a lengthy, uninterrupted speech which results in running out of time to debate the bill, causing it to fail.

The Senate Intelligence Committee first proposed to introduce the bill in February, and the FBI lent its support by briefing two sponsoring senators. However, many lawmakers oppose the bill, and it has been reported that the White House will not publicly support it.

The Verge now reports that one senator has pledged to filibuster the bill if it gets as far as a Senate debate …

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The FBI has so far been ambivalent about whether or not it will reveal to Apple the method used to access the San Bernardino iPhone, but a Reuters report suggests that the agency may not even know – or have the legal right to disclose it if it does.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that it was freelance hackers, and not Cellebrite, who sold the FBI the tool used to access the phone. But the group may not have revealed the vulnerability on which it was based, and the government process that decides which vulnerabilities to share with companies does not apply in this case …

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April 13

AAPL: 112.04

1.60
Stock Chart

I don’t classify myself as an Apple fanboy. I mostly prefer Apple products over competing ones, and I do find life is easier if I allow myself to be assimilated by a single ecosystem, but my opinion pieces are variously critical and supportive of Apple – and I’m certainly not blind to cool tech offered by Apple competitors.

I was particularly impressed by a feature Google released this morning: automatically and intelligently finding time in your calendar to work on your personal goals.

Most of us these days lead busy lives with packed schedules, and sometimes it can feel hard enough just keeping up with the essentials of work, family and those boring but essential chores – from clearing out the gutters to filing tax returns. When we do get some downtime, it’s all too easy to fill it with Facebook, Netflix and other time-snaffling activities.

This means those personal goals we optimistically come up with in the first enthusiastic days of welcoming in the new year – like writing a novel (gratuitous plug), learning a new language, running a marathon, or practicing a musical instrument – all too often get neglected …

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9to5toys 

Update: Sources close to Apple tell us that, contrary to the original claim, this issue – like the original one – was resolved in iOS 9.3. We also understand that Apple was able to successfully restore the test devices sent to it by the researchers.

While iOS 9.3 fixed a bug that bricked iOS devices when the date was set to January 1, 1970, security researchers have found a variation on the theme that can remotely brick devices as soon as they connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot. The exploit uses a combination of two weaknesses discovered in iOS, reports KrebsonSecurity.

The first is that iOS devices automatically reconnect to known Wi-Fi hotspots, but rely on the SSID to identity them. iPhones and iPads will auto-connect to a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot that spoofs the name of a known one.

Second, iOS devices are programmed to constantly check that their time and date settings are correct by connecting to Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers. All the researchers had to do was create their own Wi-Fi hotspot labelled ‘attwifi’ (as used by Starbucks) and their own NTP server pretending to be time.apple.com to deliver the January 1, 1970 date …

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fbi

Unnamed sources cited by the Washington Post contradict the widely-held belief that it was Israel-based mobile forensics company Cellebrite which helped the FBI hack into the locked San Bernardino iPhone. The report say that the agency was instead approached by a group of freelance hackers who revealed an iPhone passcode vulnerability to the FBI in return for a one-time fee.

The FBI cracked a San Bernardino terrorist’s phone with the help of professional hackers who discovered and brought to the bureau at least one previously unknown software flaw, according to people familiar with the matter […]

The researchers, who typically keep a low profile, specialize in hunting for vulnerabilities in software and then in some cases selling them to the U.S. government. They were paid a one-time flat fee for the solution … 

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9to5google 

April 12

AAPL: 110.44

1.42
Stock Chart

Apple has long been about simplicity and minimalism. Steve Jobs’ philosophy was effectively that usability trumps choice. Sure, you lose the ability to customize your iPhone or iPad in the way you can an Android device without jailbreaking it, but what you gain in return is a device that is both more reliable and a lot more secure.

Jobs applied that same philosophy to Apple’s product range. When he returned to Apple in 1997, one of the first things he did was to rationalize the company’s product lineup, paring it back to the essentials. In 2008, he proudly told Fortune that “Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products.”

Apple has, for the most part, maintained that approach ever since, famously saying ‘no’ to a thousand product ideas for every time it says ‘yes.’ But I still think there’s a little more work to be done in terms of rationalizing the company’s MacBook lineup …

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A proposed bill now in committee in the New York State Senate could give NY police officers the ability to plug smartphones into a ‘textalyzer’ following a motor vehicle accident. The device would read data from the phone to determine whether or not the driver had been texting or otherwise using the phone at the time of the crash.

ArsTechnica reports that Cellebrite, the Israeli company believed to have cracked the San Bernardino iPhone, is developing the technology required for the checks. Such checks without a warrant would normally violate the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, but Cellebrite believes it has a solution to that …

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electrek 

London’s Metropolitan Police service has apparently abandoned plans to issue iPad minis to 15-20,000 frontline officers after spending a total of £6M ($8.58M) on a trial of just 641 devices. This means that the trial ended up costing the taxpayer £9,360 ($13,397) per iPad.

The Inquirer obtained the information using a Freedom of Information request.

The Met spent £1.2m on hardware during that time, including the iPads and supporting servers and accessories, £4.1m on custom software development, which included the databases to support mobile operations, £600,000 on business and management activities and £100,000 on licences. The costs also include the replacement of 12 tablets during the trial period … 

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April 11

AAPL: 109.02

0.36
Stock Chart

Apple is reportedly working with Chinese server vendor Inspur as it seeks to bring the infrastructure for its cloud services in-house.

Apple currently relies on third-party companies to host its cloud content, most of the capacity currently provided by Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, with Google also recently joining the roster. However, the company is said to be working on developing its own data network and infrastructure in a project codenamed McQueen.

While part of the motivation will be cost, it was also recently reported that security is another significant consideration, Apple being concerned that servers received from third-parties may have been tampered with prior to delivery …

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9to5toys 

Cellebrite, the company widely believed to have accessed the San Bernardino iPhone for the FBI, is reportedly ‘optimistic’ that it will also be able to access a locked iPhone 6.

CNN reports that Italian architect Leonardo Fabbretti met with the company last week to see whether it could help gain access to his dead son’s iPhone. Before his death from bone cancer, 13-year-old Dama Fabbretti had added his father’s thumbprint to allow him access – but the phone required the passcode after a restart, and his father doesn’t know the code.

Apple had told him it was impossible to access the iPhone without the passcode, but Fabretti told CNN that Cellebrite has already made progress …

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A KGI investment note seen by 9to5Mac suggests that Apple Watch shipments will fall by more than 25% this year. The note estimates 2015 sales at 10.6M units, and predicts that full-year shipments this year will be below 7.5M units. The fall would be even more dramatic in real terms, as it would be comparing 12 months of sales in 2016 against 8 months of sales last year.

The company cites two reasons for the forecast. First, that the wearable device market is still a fledgling one, not yet mature in terms of behaviour. But KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo also believes the Watch itself falls short …

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April 8

AAPL: 108.66

0.12
Stock Chart
9to5google 

I said in the final part of my iPhone SE diary that perceptions of iDevices are very personal, in part because of the role the product plays within our own personal Apple ecosystem – and that’s equally true here.

For someone who likes to draw, or handwrite, Apple Pencil support makes the upgrade from an earlier iPad a no-brainer. You’re getting a huge amount of additional functionality for your money. You could say that you’re getting an iPad Air 2 plus a sophisticated electronic sketching device, all in one box.

But I can’t draw, and I haven’t handwritten anything for years. So for me, the upgrade from my iPad Air is a less dramatic one. The question is whether the relatively modest enhancements can justify the fairly stiff increase in price … ?

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The WSJ has illustrated the stark contrast in Apple’s attitude to assisting law enforcement to access iPhones before and after the Snowden revelations about mass surveillance of private data. It was already known that Apple had helped access more than 70 pre-iOS 8 iPhones, and the paper today reports that – in the earliest known case – the company went as far as drafting the language for the court order.

Lawyers and investigators involved in the 2008 prosecution of Amanda and Christopher Jansen, a young married couple from Watertown, N.Y., remember it as one of the most horrific cases of child sex abuse they had ever seen.

History may remember it for another reason. It is believed to be the first case of a federal judge ordering Apple to assist the government in unlocking an iPhone—and the technology giant not only complied; it helped prosecutors draft the court order requiring it to do so … 

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Less than a month after a critical Flash vulnerability allowed an attacker to take control of a Mac, Adobe has issued an emergency update for yet another critical flaw. The latest one is already being exploited by ransomware that encrypts Windows PCs, but while there’s no known exploit for OS X as yet, Adobe says that the same vulnerability exists on all platforms, and users should update immediately …

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electrek 

April 7

AAPL: 108.54

-2.42
Stock Chart

It has been widely speculated that the method used by the FBI to access the San Bernardino iPhone might not work with phones that have the Secure Enclave, and this has now been effectively confirmed. FBI director James Comey told CNN that the method doesn’t work with the latest iPhones.

The FBI director also said the purchased tool worked only on a “narrow slice of phones” that does not include the newest Apple models, or the 5S.

This fact also lends support to the main theory about how the hack was performed …

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