This should come as a suprise to absolutely no one, but underground merchants in China are cashing in on weak Wi-Fi encryption by selling network key cracking kits. What is a little surprising, however, is how brazen the sellers have become. Available both online and at China's electronics bazaars, the kits consist of a Wi-Fi USB adapter with a Linux OS, key-breaking software, and an easy-to-follow user manual. The whole shebang is being marketed as free Internet.
It doesn't take a whole of tech savvy to use one of these kits, nor do they require a hefty investment. Some merchants are selling Wi-Fi cracking kits for as little as US$24, and sellers offer free setup from an associate on the opposite end of the building.
Both WEP and WPA keys are vulnerable, the former by exploiting a long-known weakness in the protocol and the latter by way of a brute-force attack.
"Depending on many factors, WEP keys can be extracted in a matter of minutes," said one of the kit's developers who goes by the name Muts. "I believe the record is around 20 seconds."
Taking a design cue from the popular SideKick, T-Mobile today announced the myTouch 3G Slide smartphone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a touchscreen.
"Many smartphones are increasingly powerful in their features and specifications without continuing to improve the main reason that so many people have mobile phones - the ability to communicate with each other," said Andrew Sherrard, vice president of product development, T-Mobile USA. "The new myTouch 3G Slide is a smart and sleek phone that fits into your pocket, your budget and your family life with exclusive T-Mobile features that put communication with your closest family and friends front and center."
The myTouch 3G Slide comes built around Google's Android 2.1 platform, giving it instant street cred. Other features include a 3.4-inch HVGA touchscreen display with virtual keyboard, 5MP camera, pre-installed 8GB microSD memory card, 3.5mm jack, and a whole bunch of customized apps like the Faves Gallery (social aggregrator for your contacts), myModes (profile manager for changing the phone's themes and settings based on time and location), Swype Keyboard, and more.
T-Mobile will offer the myTouch 3G in black, white, or red starting in June for an as yet undetermined price.
About four years ago, Bryan St. Germain, then 22-year old son of Bob St. Germain, used his Verizon cell phone to connect to the Web. What Bryan didn't know at the time was that the two-year promotional plan his father signed up for -- a plan which allowed for free downloads -- had passed, and he was now being charged per kilobyte.
The result? Little St. Germain racked up a $12,000 phone bill on his father's account, and then another $6,000 to be added to next month's bill. Apparently Bryan had been tethering his cell phone to his laptop because it was quicker than his father's dial-up service, but certainly not less expensive. Now four years later, Bob's debt incurred by his son sits in collections and the dispute between him and Verizon rages on.
"If there's extreme activity on your account, they should let you know," Bob said. "Nobody should get surprised like I did."
Sounds reasonable, but is Verizon really at fault? The wireless telco begs to differ, pointing out that it goes to "great lengths to educate" customers about their products and services so situations like this don't end up happening. But it did happen, and the question is, should Bob be forced to pay off his debt, which Verizon offered to cut in half?
"The wireless industry is extraordinarily competitive and customers have choices," Verizon wrote in a letter to the Boston Globe. "We work to win, and keep, customers every day--and we understand our customers don't like surprises. Neither do we--it's bad business. Which is why we clearly explain service plan details in brochures, during the purchase process, in our customer agreements and again through confirmation letters. We provide access to tons of account information through the MyVerizon Web page, and by dialing #BAL (balance information), #DATA (data usage), and #MIN (available minutes)."
Verizon went on to explain that customers have "numerous tools through the Internet" at their disposal to manage their family's cell phone usage, such as setting voice and messaging allowances and receiving free text alerts when a family member near or reaches their limits, among other things.
Should Bob be forced to pay the four-year-old bill, or should Verizon drop the charges? Hit the jump and sound off!
Increasing its lead in the tablet market before the competition has yet to even release a competing model, Apple sold about 300,000 iPad 3Gs over the weekend, a number which includes 52 days of preorder sales, says Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
That puts the 3G model on par with what the Wi-Fi only model sold during its first day of availability, which included 22 days of preorders. By Sunday afternoon, Munster reports that most of the Apple stores surveyed were sold out of the 3G model, an impressive feat when you consider the pricing premium placed on 3G models compared to their Wi-Fi counterparts.
"As of 3:00PM ET on Sunday afternoon (5/2), 49 of 50 Apple stores we called were completely sold out of the iPad 3G (most were also sold out of Wi-Fi only models," Munster wrote in a Sunday note to clients. "While it is difficult to gauge, we believe this is due to both stronger than expected demand and lower than intended supply on the part of Apple. Near-term, this may put downward pressure on luanch day/weekend statistics, but long-term we see it as positive, as consumers are definitely interested in the iPad as a new category."
Combined with the more 600,000 Wi-Fi models sold at last count, Apple likely has sold over a million iPads in all.
Eye-Fi on Tuesday announced plans to aggressively expand its Wi-Fi networks to its Hotspot Access service, both here and abroad. All told, the company says it will add hundreds of thousands more Wi-Fi networks around the globe by the end of May.
"Digital photography lets us capture the moments of our lives, wherever we are," said Jef Holove, CEO of Eye-Fi. "Now we can enable our users around the world to back-up and share these memories from anywhere, whether they are traveling abroad or out running errands."
The latest expansion efforts follow the addition of more than 21,000 Wi-Fi hotspots last month through a partnership with AT&T. Users can also upload photos through any Starbucks in the U.S., as well as Marriot Hotels, Barnes & Nobles, and more, the company said.
In related news, Eye-Fi also announced the launch of the Eye-Fi Geo X2, a Wi-Fi enabled memory card designed exclusively for those in the Apple camp. The Geo X2 integrates with Macs, iPhone, and MobileMe.
“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to our new X2 line and the improved experience it’s brought our users,” said Jef Holove, CEO of Eye-Fi. “Now we’re bringing the Eye-Fi Geo X2 exclusively to Apple so that their users can effortlessly upload photos and videos for seamless editing and sharing with iPhoto and MobileMe.”
The Class 6 rated Geo X2 will be available in May for $70.
Mvix USA builds an extensive line of home-theater PCs, so when we saw the massive antenna on its Solido USB Wi-Fi adapter, we assumed it would outperform any adapter we’ve tested in Maximum PC Lab North’s media room. As it turned out, performance only equaled the best. Where this device excels is at range.
If you’re looking for an adapter to stream media from the 5GHz radio on your dual-band router, you can quit reading now because the Solido operates on the more common 2.4GHz band only. It is, however, compatible with 802.11b, g, and n routers. If your client PC is located in an entertainment center, you’ll want to be aware that the Solido’s antenna is 6.7 inches tall; but if you’re doing that, you’ve probably left plenty of vertical space for ventilation anyway.
There's a new version of Bluetooth on the way, one that will use less power and could potentially open the door to more functional watches, home sensors, medical equipment, and other gear that typically doesn't have the luxury of frequent battery recharges.
"It's going to enable an entirely new market for Bluetooth and allow it to be used in a category of products that Bluetooth just couldn't be used in before," said Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.
According to the Group, the chips for the low-energy version of Bluetooth will be ready in a just a few months, likely resulting in products being ready in time for the holiday shopping season. Health and fitness products, such as pedometers and glucose monitors, could end up being a big focus of these new Bluetooth chips.
"Today’s news from the Bluetooth SIG is an exciting step forward for technology in mobile health and wellness devices," said Rick Cnossen, president and board chair, Continua Health Alliance. "Our selection of Bluetooth low energy for the Continua Version Two Design Guidelines extends exciting new capabilities to manufacturers and consumers alike, as well as enabling additional use cases within the Continua ecosystem."
According to a Washington Post report, Israel has banned all imports of Apple's popular iPad tablet. It isn't the lack of Flash or pre-iPhone OS 4.0 multitasking that has Israeli officials taking a tough stance on iPad imports, but concerns over Wi-Fi.
Here in the States, the FCC allows Wi-Fi enabled devices to broadcast at higher levels than what's allowed in Europe and Israel. The concern for Israel is that the iPad could interfere with other gadgets. As of late last week, customs officials had confiscated about 10 tablets.
"If you operate equipment in a frequency band which is different from the others that operate on that frequency band, then there will be interference," said Nati Schubert, a senior deputy director for the Communications Ministry. "We don't care where people buy their equipment. ... But without regulation, you would have chaos."
Software developers living in Israel have voiced concerns over the ban.
"There are several hundred people in Israel who make their livelihood develop apps ... and there are going to be companies that suffer, because they can't deliver the services they're supposed to be delivering," said Amnon, a software developer who legally brought an iPad in Israel but asked that his last name be withheld.
The Nook hasn't exactly made the same splash the Kindle has, but it's apparently doing well enough that Barnes and Noble is planning new versions. The always fun "anonymous source" indicates that a "lite" version of the Nook without cell data will be shipping soon. This will shave a bit off the price of the device as the cost of lifetime data is built in. Users would still have data connectivity over Wi-Fi. This version is rumored to be priced at $199, breaking that psychological $200 barrier.
As for the Nook 2, there aren't many details other than Barnes and Noble is working on it. But the Nook Lite will be available by the end of the second quarter. It's not that we aren't appreciative of a $60 price cut, but it may not be enough. The Nook's software has been on the buggy side, and updates have been slow to appear. Though, the 1.4 build is expected soon.
The wireless data is a major selling point on these devices. It's unclear if people will be willing to make the trade off. Would you take the Lite version at that price over the regular Nook?
Since the iPad's release over the weekend, some users have started complaining that the integrated Wi-Fi is busted. Reported problems run the gamut from not being able to connect to their network after bringing the iPad out of sleep mode, to not being able to get a signal unless standing right next to the router. And of course there are the usual complaints of dropped signals that seem to accompany nearly every Wi-Fi enabled device.
According to Apple, there are a couple of things you can try if you're experiencing wonky Wi-Fi support. The problem, says Apple, is that under certain conditions, the iPad may have trouble rejoining a known network after restart or waking from sleep. These specific conditions include using the same network name for each network and/or using different security settings for each network.
If this applies to you, Apple suggests creating separate Wi-Fi network names to identify each band, which you can do by appending characters to the current network name. Failing that, be sure that both networks use the same security type (WEP, WPA, WPA2, etc). Failing both of those, Apple says to try resetting your network settings using Settings > Genera l> Reset > Reset Network Settings.
And if all that fails? Wait for HP's Slate (our advice, not Apple's).