O'Grady's PowerPage » iOS

Apple now hiring Maps Ground Truth managers in seven countries to help clean up iOS 6 Maps application

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Date: Thursday, March 28th, 2013, 05:04
Category: iOS, News, Software

When in doubt, add additional staff to a project.

Per iMore, Apple is increasing its efforts to improve Maps around the world, having recently posted open positions for Maps Ground Truth managers in seven countries. Previously, Apple had only been hiring for these positions in Australia. Among other dutites, managers are expected to be able to do things like provide feedback for their area to enhance maps, according to the company’s job postings web site.
- Testing new releases of map code and data around the U.S.

- Collecting ground truth data to allow for analysis of the impact of potential map code or data changes relative to known truth.

- Utilizing local expertise to provide feedback about U.S.-specific mapping details.

- Evaluating competing products in-region relative to our maps.

Ground truth refers to collecting mapping data locally rather than by satellite imagery or other remote means. We heard about Apple retail employees being asked to help improve Maps back in October. This, however, points to teams of people dedicated to mapping improvements.

Apple has been steadily improving Maps since the launch of iOS 6 in September of last year. Enhancements to Flyover, 3D buildings, and turn-by-turn navigation have been made to locations around the world. There is still a long way to go, but there is no doubt that Apple’s making the effort to fix its mistakes.

Facebook Messenger to receive VOIP upgrade for European versions of the software

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Date: Monday, March 25th, 2013, 08:14
Category: iOS, News, Software

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If you’re across the pond, this’ll come in handy.

Per AppleInsider, Facebook Messenger users on iOS in the U.K. and other parts of Europe will get a software update on Monday enabling Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calling within the app.

The update comes after Facebook already rolled out the feature in the United States and Canada in January. Facebook Messenger users will now be able to call each other directly through the service instead of passing voice messages to each other.

The Messenger VOIP feature in the United States was soon followed up with Facebook bringing the feature to its flagship Facebook app, and this may soon be the case in the UK and Europe.

Facebook Messenger for iPhone is available as a free download on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

If you’re in the United Kingdom and have had a chance to test Facebook Messenger’s new VOIP feature, please let us know how it goes in the comments section.

Apple purchases WifiSLAM, attached “indoor GPS” technology for $20 million

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Date: Monday, March 25th, 2013, 07:12
Category: News, Software

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Well, Apple had to buy SOMETHING…

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple recently closed a deal worth about $20 million to acquire WifiSLAM, a Silicon Valley firm focused on building technology that affords users positioning data while indoors.

The news paper was able to confirm the acquisition with an Apple spokesman, though the company did not give details of the deal or what it plans to do with WifiSLAM’s “indoor GPS” technology.

“[Apple] buys smaller technology companies from time to time,” the spokesman said, declining further comment.

In the report, the publication cited people familiar with the acquisition as saying Apple paid some US$20 million in the recently closed deal.

WifiSLAM is a developer of indoor positioning technologies, which extends location data to the inside of buildings and other structures using Wi-Fi signals. The data can be used by third-party apps to accurately grant handset users positioning data where GPS signals are absent.

The indoor positioning startup is two years old and has already raised funding from angel investors, though the exact amount is unknown. WifiSLAM has a number of ties to Google, including the company’s co-founder Joseph Huang, who was a software engineering intern at the search giant. Current Google employee Don Dodge is also listed as an angel investor.

Apple could implement the positioning assets into its much maligned iOS Maps app as an answer to Google’s Indoor Maps initiative, which leverages crowdsourcing to deliver indoor location information for a number of sites worldwide.

While Apple’s first-party mapping service has seen improvements since stumbling out of the gates in September 2012, many users still prefer to use the Google Maps iOS app, which offers features like Street View and a more robust set of satellite imagery.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple adds two-step verification, other new features to iCloud security

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Date: Friday, March 22nd, 2013, 06:44
Category: News, security, Software

When in doubt, beef up the ol’ security system a bit…

On Thursday, Apple has rolled out a new two-step verification service for iCloud and Apple ID users. This functionality greatly enhances the security of Apple accounts because it requires users to use a trusted device and an extra security code.

Per 9to5Mac, the security code can be sent via SMS or via the Find my iPhone iOS app (if it is installed). Users can now setup two-step authentication on their devices via the Apple ID web site. Users need to access the security tab on this website to conduct the setup process.

During the setup process for two-step verification, users can choose which of their iOS devices they want to be “trusted.” This new service will allow only you to be able to reset your password.

Full details can be located at the Apple ID web site.

New iOS passcode bypass bug discovered one day after iOS 6.1.3 release

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Date: Thursday, March 21st, 2013, 07:32
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, security

Well, this is sort of awkward…

Remember how you JUST installed iOS 6.1.3 to get rid of a passcode bypass bug that would allow an unauthorized person to access the Phone app on a locked iPhone? Per iMore and The Next Web, a new bypass bug has been discovered.

The passcode bypass in the previous versions of iOS 6 required a series of well-timed taps and button presses. The result was full access to the Phone app on a locked device without entering the passcode. This new bug (not quite new, it seems to have existed prior to iOS 6.1.3) requires a sequence that’s a little easier to execute as can be seen in this video. For some reason, this bypass seems to to be more difficult to accomplish on newer, Siri-capable devices.



The bypass can be achieved using the iPhone’s Voice Dial feature. By holding the Home button on a device for a few seconds, the Voice Dial feature will come up. Issue a dial command such as “Dial 303-555-1212”, then as the call is being initiated, eject the SIM card. The iPhone detects the SIM has been removed, cancels the call, and displays an alert saying there is no SIM. Behind the alert you will see the Phone app and after dismissing the alert, you will have full access to the Phone app. As before this means you can access contact information as well as all photos on the device.

Initially thought to only be possible on non-Siri phones, reports are now coming in of this bypass being performed on the iPhone 4S and 5 as well, though it doesn’t seem to be as easily reproducible on these devices. Performing the bypass on these devices devices would also require Siri to be disabled and Voice Dial to be enabled.

Unlike the previous bug, this bypass can also easily be prevented by disabling Voice Dial. This can be done in the iPhone’s Settings app, under General > Passcode Lock, by turning the Voice Dial switch to off. With the way Apple has been handling these so far, it would not be surprising to see this fixed in a 6.1.4 update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV updated to 5.2.1, adds bug fixes, redesigned Hulu interface

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Date: Wednesday, March 20th, 2013, 06:49
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

When in doubt, go for a bit of a redesign.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple released its Apple TV 5.2.1 operating system on Tuesday. The update features bug fixes, security fixes and a redesigned Hulu interface that makes it easier and quicker to access content. Like other Apple TV features, the updated Hulu section now has a top-bar with categories. Users can now jump into each individual category to access content.

Apple TV users on the latest iOS version will receive the new interface automatically. Apple added Hulu to the Apple TV last summer after settling some “political” issues with the content provider. Apple is rumored to be adding HBO Go to the Apple TV later this year.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.3 update

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Date: Tuesday, March 19th, 2013, 12:59
Category: iOS, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, security, Software

I’ll say this for Apple: it’s getting speedier on its iOS updates.

On Tuesday, Apple released iOS 6.1.3, a 107 megabyte download offering the following fixes for its supported iOS devices:

- Fixes a bug that could allow someone to bypass the passcode and access the Phone app.

- Improvements to Maps in Japan.

iOS 6.1.3 is available via iTunes or Over-The-Air updating and requires an iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, iPad 2, third or fourth-gen iPad, iPod Touch 4th Gen or iPad Mini to install and run.

Rumor: ABC working on subscriber-based streaming app to bring network’s live programming to iOS devices

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Date: Tuesday, March 19th, 2013, 07:26
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Rumor, Software

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You can’t knock additional streaming options if they’re offered to you…

The Walt Disney Company, while sorting out the future of the online video Web site Hulu, has an app in the works that may render Hulu passé for some people.

Per the New York Times, the app will live stream ABC programming to the phones and tablets of cable and satellite subscribers. The app could become available to some subscribers this year, according to people briefed on the project, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

With the app, ABC, a subsidiary of Disney, will become the first of the American broadcasters to provide a live Internet stream of national and local programming to people who pay for cable or satellite. The subscriber-only arrangement, sometimes called “TV Everywhere” in industry circles, preserves the cable business model that is crucial to the bottom lines of broadcasters, while giving subscribers more of what they seem to want — mobile access to TV shows. The arrangement could extend the reach of ads that appear on ABC as well.

Disney already distributes similar live streaming and on-demand apps, known as “Watch” apps, for ESPN and the Disney Channel. Special hurdles exist, however, for the ABC app, in part because of contracts between the network and the companies that produce some of its shows that were written before mobile phone video streaming was even possible. Other complexities involve ABC’s local stations, which might — if not courted properly — feel threatened by an app.

But ABC, seeing shifts in consumer behavior, is pressing forward. The network has started to talk with stations about how to include them in the live streaming app. Illustrating the difficult contractual issues, ABC offhandedly first mentioned a forthcoming Watch ABC app in a news release nine months ago, when it signed a deal with Comcast to make several Watch Disney apps available to Comcast subscribers.

But the network live streaming ability is inching closer to fruition, the people briefed on the project said. A spokesman for ABC declined to comment.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Safari 6.0.3 update

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Date: Friday, March 15th, 2013, 07:17
Category: News, security, Software

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Hey, an update’s an update.

Late Thursday, Apple released Safari 6.0.3, an update to its web browser. The new version, a 44.8 megabyte download (via MacUpdate), includes the following fixes and new features:
- Contains updated security content. Download included with OS X 10.8.3 Mountain Lion.

- Improves scrolling on facebook.com.

- Improves scrolling while zoomed in on a webpage.

- Improves performance on webpages with plug-in content.

- A fix for an issue that could cause the inaccurate appearance of an alert that bookmarks can’t be changed.

- A fix for an issue that could cause duplicate bookmarks to appear on an iOS device after editing bookmarks with Safari in OS X.

- A fix for an issue that permitted users to access unfiltered search results when searching from google.com when Parental Controls are enabled.

- A fix for an issue that could prevent Safari from restoring the last position on a webpage a user navigated back to.

Safari 6.0.3 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install and run and can also be located and downloaded via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature. If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Security firm Skycure illustrates possible hacking attacks through iOS’ use of Provisioning Profiles

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Date: Tuesday, March 12th, 2013, 07:41
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, security, Software

In the words of assorted security analysts, Apple may be setting itself up for a malware fall thanks to its Provisioning Profiles.

Per The Next Web, while iOS users have been relatively safe from malware on their devices, researchers from security company Skycure say they’re concerned about a feature of iOS that could be used by malicious actors to read information, passwords and even encrypted data from devices without customers knowledge. They’ve detailed the new vulnerability in a presentation at the Herzliya Conference and a company blog post.

It’s worth noting at the beginning that Skycure’s product, still in development, is a mobile firewall with a cloud component designed to secure devices against attacks just like these. This isn’t all that unusual, though, as many security firms like Sophos and Intego produce research reports along with consulting and security products.

Provisioning Profiles (mobileconfigs) are small files installed with a single tap on iOS devices. They essentially function as instruction lists which can alter many settings, including network configurations and they’re used by thousands of companies around the world including app developers, corporations with IT departments and more.

Their use is officially approved by Apple and there is nothing innately malicious about any given profile. But, if put to the right uses, they do open up the ability to read usernames and passwords right off of a screen, transmit data that would normally be secure (over HTTPS) to a malicious server where it can be read and a lot more.

In a demonstration, Skycure’s CTO Yair Amit and CEO Adi Sharabani sent the author to a website where a link was offered. A provisioning profile was presented, installed and led to a screen that looked a lot like a phishing attempt, which requires an action on the part of a user in order to infect or grant access to a hacker.

After the profile was installed, Sharabani demonstrated that he could not only read exactly which websites the author had visited, but also scrape keystrokes, searches and login data from apps like Facebook and LinkedIn. To be perfectly clear, this is not a vulnerability within iOS, instead it uses standardized frameworks to deliver a profile that has malicious intent.

iOS has typically been far more secure than other platforms because of its heavy use of curation on the App Store, but also because it has been built from the ground up to use sandboxing. This means that apps are cordoned off, unable to reach outside of their data box or to affect any other apps that have not given them explicit permission to do so.

Provisioning Profiles step outside of that protection and can do things like route all of a victim’s traffic through a third-party server, install root certificates allowing for interception and decryption of secure HTTPS traffic and more.

Sharabani provides a couple of scenarios by which people could be convinced to install what seems like a harmless provisioning profile, only to be a victim of a traffic re-routing attack:

- Victims browse to an attacker-controlled website, which promises them free access to popular movies and TV shows. In order to get the free access, “all they have to do” is to install an iOS profile that will “configure” their devices accordingly.

- Victims receive a mail that promises them a “better battery performance” or just “something cool to watch” upon installation.

The attacks, Sharabani stated, can be configured to use a VPN, APN proxy or a wireless proxy (WiFi), so just because you’re not on a WiFi network doesn’t mean that the profile can’t send your traffic to a third-party. This also means that (unlike a VPN, where there is an indicator in your status bar), you could also be affected by the hack without your knowledge. Of course, you would still have had to install a profile in the first place.

For the third attack scenario, Skycure came up with a list of cellular carriers that ask clients to install a special profile that configures their device to work with that network’s data servers. Of course, those sites could end up being compromised to deliver corrupted profiles, but it’s bound to be harder to do if it’s the carrier’s own servers doing the distribution.

As of now, no evidence has been found of a Provisioning Profile attack in the wild. And, to be extremely blunt once again, you are not at risk at all if you don’t install any profiles to your device, period. And if you have to, make sure that those profiles are from a trusted source and are verified. You should also only download and install profiles from ‘secure’ HTTPS links.

The disclosure of the issue, Sharabani says, is really about raising awareness, rather than starting a panic. While the attacks can be powerful and harmful, the Provisioning Profile attack, much like phishing, relies on user ignorance. Just as you wouldn’t type your password into a page provided as a random link, don’t install profiles from websites that you don’t know and avoid them completely if at all possible.

Because of the deep integration of Provisioning Profiles into the workflows of IT departments and other companies, it’s unlikely that they’ll be going away any time soon. So the best defense for now is knowledge and care.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.