LulzSec Hackers Sentenced to Jail Time
A London judge today sentenced four members of the LulzSec hacktivist group to jail time for their roles in a series of attacks on high-profile firms.
According to the U.K. Crown Prosecution Service, Ryan Cleary, 21, was sentenced to 32 months; Jake Davis, 20, received 24 months in a Young Offenders institution; Ryan Ackroyd, 26, got 30 months; and Mustafa Al-Bassam, 18, got a 20-month sentence, suspended for two years, plus 200 hours of community service.
Cleary, Davis, and Ackroyd will only have to serve half their sentences, however, according to reports.
"The harm they caused was foreseeable, extensive and intended," Andrew Hadik, CPS London reviewing lawyer, said in a statement. "Indeed, they boasted of how clever they were with a complete disregard for the impact their actions had on real people's lives."
He pointed to instances in which companies suffered financial and reputational damage, as well as one American senior executive who lost his job and was forced to move his family because of death threats.
Government targets included the Central Intelligence Agency, Arizona State Police, the U.K.'s Serious Organised Crime Agency, and Britain's National Health Service. The hacking group also went after the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Rupert Murdoch's News International, Nintendo, Sony, and security firm HBGary Inc.
DOJ Secretly Collected AP Journalists’ Phone Records
The Department of Justice secretly obtained the telephone records of Associated Press journalists over a two-month period in early 2012, the AP alleged in a Monday letter to the agency.
The collection came to light last Friday when U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr. sent a letter to the AP's general counsel, Laura Malone, to advise her that "at some unidentified time earlier this year, the Department obtained telephone toll records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to the AP and its journalists," AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder.
The records, which date back to early 2012, cover an AP general phone number in New York City as well as AP bureaus in New York City, Washington, D.C., Hartford, Connecticut, and at the House of Representatives, Pruitt said.
"This action was taken without advance notice to AP or to any of the affected journalists, and even after the fact no notice has been sent to individual journalists whose home phones and cell phone records were seized by the Department," Pruitt wrote.
The records in question include communications with confidential sources "and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know," according to Pruitt, who argued that the data collection was overbroad and likely a violation of the AP's constitutional rights.
Apple’s ‘iRadio’ Streaming Service Reportedly Stalls with Sony Music
Waiting on iRadio, Apple's rumored streaming service that's likely to make executives at Pandora and Spotify, among others, a wee bit nervous?
The latest rumors surrounding Apple's to-be-announced service are a mix of good and bad. Unfortunately, it's the latter that's allegedly keeping the service stalled at the moment, with Apple and music industry representatives still working out the contentious issue of licensing fees.
According to Apple Insider, Apple initially offered the record labels all of 6.5 cents for every one hundred tracks streamed on Apple's service. The labels balked, as that figure is just a tad over half of what Pandora allegedly pays for the right to stream its songs. Apple eventually ended up boosting its offer to 12.5 cents per 100 songs — matching Pandora's alleged rate — which helped the company convince Universal Music to enter into a licensing agreement.
While that's a feather in Apple's cap, given that Universal Music is the world's largest record company, it still leaves Sony Music and Warner Music Group to convince. Apple Insider also reports that Apple's apparently close to getting Warner to sign on board. However, Sony continues to balk at Apple's terms in the hopes that company will sweeten the deal.
FTC Cracks Down on Cell Phone ‘Cramming’
The Federal Trade Commission had filed its first case against phone crammers who added bogus charges to users' mobile phone bills.
The complaint was filed against Wise Media, Brian M. Buckley, and Winston J. Deloney, who randomly signed users up for text-based "premium services" that included horoscopes, flirting, love tips and more for $9.99 per month.
Charges from Wise Media showed up on customers' bills in an abbreviated fashion, so people either didn't notice it or just paid up. Anyone who noticed at a later date found it difficult or impossible to obtain refunds, in part because contact information for Wise was not readily available.
The FTC's complaint asks the court to immediately freeze the defendants' assets and orders them to stop their deceptive and unfair practices. The agency also wants to use the millions earned from this scam to issue refunds.
In a statement, CTIA - the wireless industry trade group - commended the FTC action.
"The overwhelming majority of the premium subscription SMS campaigns, such as Major League Baseball's offerings or presidential campaign donations, comply with the Mobile Marketing Association's Code of Conduct," CTIA said. "These best practices require users to double opt-in to subscribe to premium SMS messages, and these codes are monitored at least once a month to ensure compliance with the MMA. To those companies that are not compliant, they must change their practices, or we will continue to aid the FTC to find and shut down any improper business."
USPTO Rejects Apple’s ‘Bounce Back’ Patent (Again)
The U.S. Patent Office has once again rejected the validity of Apple's "bounce back" patent, but as Apple noted in a follow-up filing, the decision it not yet final.
The outcome of the proceeding could impact the damages that Apple was awarded in its patent fight with Samsung, given that the Korean phone maker was found to have infringed on the patent in question.
With the "bounce back" technology, when you get to the top or bottom of a page on iOS, it will pull down (or up) and then "bounce back" into place.
In October, shortly after a California jury handed down a $1.05 billion verdict against Samsung, the USPTO found that the '381 patent was invalid. Apple appealed that decision, but the USPTO came to the same conclusion last week.
In a filing with the California court, Samsung referred to the USPTO's decision as a "final office action," but in its Tuesday response, Apple argued that the case is far from over.
"A 'final' office action does not signal the end of reexamination at the USPTO, much less the end of consideration of the patentability of the claims under reexamination," Apple lawyers said. "Rather, 'finality' is primarily a procedural construct that limits the right to amend claims and introduce evidence as a matter of right in reexamination."
Apple Apologizes for Warranty, Repair Policies in China
Apple today issued an apology to its Chinese customers for misunderstandings regarding its repair and warranty policy.
In a note posted to the Chinese version of its website, Apple CEO Tim Cook promised to provide easily understood notices on its website that outline its repair and warranty policy, and to provide more comprehensive training to Apple personnel in China.
The company's lack of communication on its policies, Cook said, has led to speculation that Cupertino is arrogant and does not care about customer feedback, but that is not the case, he said.
Meanwhile, the company promised to replace defective gadgets covered by its one-year warranty rather than just the parts that malfunction. Apple said that until now, if someone came in with an iPhone 4S that had a broken camera, for example, the company might replace the camera rather than giving the customer a brand-new iPhone.
"Nearly 90 percent of customers expressed satisfaction with our repair services, and consumer satisfaction is the most important criterion for Apple to measure its own success," Apple said in a translated statement. "But others suggested that the direct replacement of a device will be more beneficial to consumers."
EU Commissioner Calls for Apple Warranty Crackdown
An EU commissioner today argued that Apple is still not adequately informing customers that they are entitled to two-year product warranties, and accused member states of lax enforcement.
In September, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding penned a letter to member state ministers and said that Apple is "prominently" advertising its one-year warranty, but does not appear to be telling customers that EU law requires a minimum two-year warranty. As a result, customers might be buying pricier Apple Care plans rather than taking advantage of free, two-year plans.
She called on these ministers to take action. "I also wanted to be clear that if the same problem is found right across the Union consumers can expect their rights to be upheld in a similar fashion," she said in a Tuesday speech before the European Consumer Summit in Brussels.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Reding argued that approaches to enforcement on the warranty issue are "very diversified and inconsistent" across EU member states.
"In at least 21 EU countries Apple is not informing consumers correctly about the legal warranty rights they have," she said. "This is simply not good enough."
Reding called on the commission "to take a more prominent role in monitoring and coordinating coherent enforcement of EU consumer rules by the Member States."
iPad Hacker Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison
A hacker convicted of improperly accessing the accounts of AT&T iPad owners was sentenced to 41 months in prison today.
As reported by Wired, Andrew Auernheimer will spend the next three years and four months behind bars. The sentence was handed down after Auernheimer reportedly got into a scuffle with court officials over a mobile device he had. The Verge said he was not supposed to be using a computer with a keyboard, and ultimately, the exchange led to him being cuffed.
Auernheimer - known online as Weev - and Daniel Spitler, believed to be members of the Goatse Security coalition of hackers, were arrested in mid-January 2011 on two counts each: one for fraud and the other for conspiring to access an unauthorized server, in this case, AT&T's. In June 2010 the carrier disclosed the theft of 114,000 e-mail addresses and ICC-IDs (identity numbers stored in SIM cards) of Apple iPad 3G owners, including Michael Bloomberg, Harvey Weinstein, and blogger Kara Swisher.
The hackers provided the stolen email addresses to gossip blog Gawker, which posted the data in redacted form, and said a group known as Goatse Security was claiming responsibility.
THX Sues Apple, Claims iPhone, iMac, iPad Speakers Infringe Patent
THX has filed suit against Apple, claiming that the tech giant has infringed on one of THX's patent's for "Narrow profile speaker configurations and systems" within the company's iPhones, iPads, and iMacs.
The result? The violations cause THX "monetary damage and irreparable harm," reports Bloomberg, and the company is seeking monetary damages or royalty payments, as well as a court order that would force Apple to cease its alleged infringement.
According to THX's complaint, filed Thursday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple's infringing the patent on its iPhone 4 (and later models), iPads, and iMacs, "which incorporate narrow-profile speaker units that output sound through a duct or aperture having a narrow dimension."
Here's where it gets interesting. The patent that THX is holding over Apple's head was granted to the company in 2008. U.S. Patent No. 7,433,483 describes, in part, "A narrow profile speaker unit comprises at least one speaker outputting sound towards an internal surface and through a duct with an output terminus, such as a slot, having a narrow dimension, effectively changing the cross-section of the speaker's audio output wave. A pair of speakers may face one another, outputting sound towards a common output slot."
Nintendo Hit With $30M Fine Over 3D Patent
Nintendo found itself on the losing end of a patent infringement case Wednesday, resulting in a $30 million fine.
A federal judge this week ruled that Nintendo's 3DS video-game system infringed on an inventor's 3D display technology patent, Reuters reported. That inventor, Seijiro Tomita, was awarded $30.2 million in compensatory damages.
The suit dates back to June 2011, when Tomita, a former longtime Sony employee, filed a complaint against Nintendo, claiming that the Japanese company stole from his 2008 patent covering glasses-less 3D technology.
Tomita's law firm, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, sent PCMag the following statement in regards to the final verdict: "Mr. Tomita's distinguished career, both with Sony and his own company, is a testamtent to his innovative and pioneering character. It has been a privilege representing him and we are thankful to the jury for their diligence in this case."
Nintendo did not immediatley respond to a request for comment. The company did, however, tell Kotaku that Tomita's patent did not relate to the 3D games available on the Nintendo 3DS. "Nintendo is confident that the result will be set aside," the company told the blog. "The jury's verdict will not impact Nintendo's continued sales in the United States of its highly acclaimed line of video game hardware, software, and accessories, including the Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo has a long history of developing innovative products while respecting the intellectual property rights of others."