LG G6 Revealed in All Its Glory by Qualcomm Ahead of MWC 2017 Launch

LG G6, the new flagship smartphone from LG, is due to be launched in a few minutes from now at MWC 2017 in Barcelona. But there has been no dearth in excitement around the handset as prolific tipster Evan Blass revealed the LG G6 in all its glory in a leaked image showing the handset a day before the launch. Qualcomm didn’t want to be left out it seems, and has managed to leak the LG G6 in all its glory in a now deleted tweet.

LG G6 Revealed in All Its Glory by Qualcomm Ahead of MWC 2017 Launch

The Qualcomm tweet showed the LG G6 in images. Unlike Blass, Qualcomm tweeted out four images of the G6 showing the handset from all angles. The tweet read, “The LG G6 is a movie screen in the palm of your hands, thanks to Dolby Vision and Snapdragon. Coming Soon.” The tweet also included ‘Blog Link’ confirming that the company inadvertently spilled the beans ahead of any official announcement. The images shared by Qualcomm are in line with what we have been reporting for weeks now.

 

As for the LG G6 specifications, we know it will feature a 5.7-inch QHD (1440×2880 pixels) display with an aspect ratio of 18:9 and pixel density of 564ppi. The smartphone is widely rumoured to sport a Snapdragon 821 SoC. LG G6 camera will be a dual rear camera setup featuring 13-megapixel sensors, the company confirmed, with a 125-degree wide-angle view. The LG G6 battery rated to have a capacity larger than 3200mAh. LG G6 is widely rumoured to come in White, Black, and Platinum colour options. The big highlight is rumoured Google Assistant integration, making it the only the smartphone to come with it, apart from the Google Pixel devices launched last year.

LG MWC 2017 event is scheduled to begin at 12pm CET (4:30pm IST) on Sunday, and users worldwide will be able to watch the event live.

LG’s event will be live streamed on its YouTube channel. If you’re watching the stream, we recommend you to be in a strong Wi-Fi connection for seamless broadcast. Gadgets 360 will also be on ground zero covering the event as it happens

Huawei P10 Images Leak Ahead of MWC 2017 Launch, Tipping Features and Design

Huawei P10, P10 Plus are set to be launched by Huawei at MWC 2017 in Barcelona, on Sunday, at an event that starts at 2pm CET (6:30pm IST). A number of leaks have given us an idea of what the Huawei P10 and its sibling, the Huawei P10 Plus, will look like along with their specifications. And now, Huawei P10 has been leaked in massive press images that tell us colour assortment along with last-minute features the device is said to pack-in.

Huawei P10 Images Leak Ahead of MWC 2017 Launch, Tipping Features and Design

The Huawei P10 will feature a fingerprint scanner on the Home button, as leaked earlier in an image render shared by tipster Evan Blass. Now, new leaked images have been spotted by GSMArena on Finnish site Suomi. The images show the device will have a 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom, unlike what other major manufacturers are deciding to forgo these days. Apart from these, the Huawei P10 will have USB Type-C port next to the audio jack. Contrary to what earlier reports said, the fresh press images suggest that the Huawei P10 is tipped to have a 5.1-inch full-HD display with 2.5D contoured edge around. The rear side of the device is said to have a ‘chamfer finish’ and obviously a dual camera setup, manufactured by Leica as the former Huawei P9.

Talking about the colours, the leaked images reveal that Huawei P10 will come in two unreported colours – Greenery and Dazzling Blue – in addition to Mystic Silver, Rose Gold, Graphite Black, and Dazzling Gold, which are already known from the previous leaks. Additionally, it is also reported that Huawei may also launch a new smartwatch called Huawei Watch 2.

Moving to the specifications leaked so far, the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus are likely to sport a Kirin 960 processor, and are expected to come in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB storage variants. The handsets are said to sport a Leica-designed dual 12-megapixel rear camera setup while an 8-megapixel front camera will be present at the front. The Huawei P10 and P10 Plus are said to come with 3100mAh battery and run the Android Nougat-based EMUI 5.1, which is also said to arrive with the new smartphones.

Threats to Online Privacy: What a Trump Administration May Do to Cyberspace

President Trump has been vocal about his fondness for mass online surveillance; “I want surveillance of these people,” he announced in reference to Muslim Americans during his campaign. According to Edgar, it may not be as difficult to implement such surveillance as one might think. In his essay, Edgar explains: “If Trump decides to build a great firewall, he may not need Congress. Section 606 of the Communications Act of 1934 provides emergency powers to seize control of communications facilities if the president declares there is a ‘war or threat of war’ or ‘a state of public peril.’”

In 2010, a Senate report concluded that Section 606 ‘gives the President the authority to take over wire communications in the United States and, if the President so chooses, shut a network down.’ With a signature, the former reality television star could invoke it. Section 606 has never been applied to the internet before, but there is no law stating that it cannot be. Edgar adds, “If Trump wants to ‘close that internet up,’ all he will need is an opinion from his Attorney General that Section 606 gives him authority to do so, and that the threat of terrorism is compelling enough to override any First Amendment concerns.”

Online Freedom

While on the surface it may seem that Trump champions protecting the people with cybersecurity, he doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of online freedom. “We have to talk … about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some way,” he stated at a rally in South Carolina during his campaign. He also warned that “certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country,” such as policies that “were frankly unthinkable a year ago.” It is this kind of minatory rhetoric that seems to show Trump’s true colours, and frighten those who believe that the right to personal privacy from the government should not be limited to the physical.

At least Donald Trump’s stance on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and net neutrality are crystal clear, though it still comes with glaring discrepancies. Net neutrality — the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) should not restrict access to, favour, or block certain content or services delivered online — was brought about in the early 2000s by Columbia University media law professor, Tim Wu. Issues concerning net neutrality had been practically nonexistent until 2014 when FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, proposed a plan that would have allowed internet giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast to create “pay-to-play” fast lanes. But Americans spoke out, causing Wheeler to throw out his original proposal and release new net neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act, which would regulate broadband as a public utility and put internet users’ protection as the number one priority. Still, net neutrality has not come without backlash from Congress, the courts, and now the incoming President.

Obama Legacy

Trump is seeking to reverse the Obama administration’s policies concerning net neutrality and loosen the regulations that govern ISPs and data. He advocates for reclassifying broadband from a public utility like electricity or water to an information service, and charging it as such. Supporters of the previous administration want to prohibit paid prioritisation and blocking because it would be bad for consumers, whereas supporters of the incoming administration believe that this kind of broadly-offered service would benefit business. Trump plans to expedite this process as soon as he takes office, which means we could be witnessing a widely discriminatory internet very soon.

Some of the most pressing items on the conservative President’s to-do list are to replace FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, and to end the FCC’s involvement in the telecommunications market. This decision to replace Wheeler has been supported by The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a nonprofit public policy think tank in Washington D.C., who believe that the FCC overstepped its boundaries when it changed broadband regulations. “A Trump-appointed FCC chair has a chance to fix that mistake,” stated Robert Atkinson, ITIF President.

But by cutting the FCC out of internet regulation altogether, privacy oversight of ISPs would fall to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC); and instead of having the FCC regulate the behaviour of users or determine what is unfair or deceptive, the responsibility falls on trade groups in different industries.  The FCC released rules in October of 2016 that allowed broadband users “increased choice, transparency, and security over their personal data.” These rules would automatically be nullified if the 2015 FCC’s TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order is thrown out. So, with laxer regulations and an FCC that does not oversee internet regulation, results will likely include higher internet and cable bills, worse customer service, and fewer, less varied choices for service. With laxer regulations, it will also easier for cable and phone companies to mine the browsing habits of and other information relating to customers in order to target ads. Many companies have already expressed excitement over Trump’s reduced regulation plan, like Verizon, who has been attempting to build a digital ad-business to compete with Google and Facebook but has been met with recent privacy rules that require them to ask for customers’ permission before using their data.

What’s next

While it remains unseen whether Donald Trump will actually put an end to net neutrality as we know it, the threat still looms over us. Without net neutrality, access to certain web services may be manipulated by local cable and phone companies. Matt Wood, policy director for the public-interest group Free Press, stated that “Internet providers could use subtle tactics and behind-the-scenes manoeuvres to change people’s behaviour and make more money,” and many consumers could see a decline in the number and variety of services offered, and an increase in prices. While these kinds of alterations could lead to a censored internet where information is not so free, network encryption apps provide the best way to combat this.

While Trump does not seem to have a very firm grasp on modern technology, he has promised tech leaders that his administration will continue to support the furthering of new technologies and support their innovations every step of the way. As President-elect, Trump met with various tech leaders to discuss job creation, innovation, free trade, and cybersecurity. Representatives from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Oracle, and Cisco were in attendance, however, one innovator was notably missing. Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, did not receive an invitation to meet with Trump, a snub which struck many as odd considering the conservative’s frequent and controversial use of the micro-blogging platform.

Despite the threats to online privacy and internet freedom that have been made apparent in Donald Trump’s rhetoric, it’s been proven time and time again that he cannot always be held at his word. We can only hope that the new administration puts the right policies and practices in place that will protect the integrity of our online environment and put an end to privacy threats before they even begin. Even with hope, it is imperative that the American people do not take the issues of online privacy lightly.  What matters most now, is that President Donald J. Trump’s powers to survey and control the internet do exist. The people of America must prepare themselves for “turnkey tyranny,” as Snowden put it in his first interview — and the fact that some new leader, someday, may “find the switch.”

Best VPN for Mac: Our 5 top choices

Mac users can get somewhat complacent about security, but they shouldn’t – Apple’s desktop computers are being increasingly targeted by cybercriminals , and it never pays to let your guard down.

Certainly, as well as competent antivirus, folks with a Mac need a quality Virtual Private Network just as much as anyone on Windows – although not every VPNservice provides a client or satisfactory support for macOS users. However, if you’re stuck as to which provider to go with, help is at hand…

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How to choose the best VPN for Mac

It’s not always easy to find a Mac-friendly VPN service. Obviously enough, it’s important to choose a provider that offers a pre-configured client for its service. Having a good Mac client is a huge boon in terms of simply making things as easy as possible. Solid iOS support is also a welcome feature if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem and have an iPhone as well as a Mac.

  • The 5 best VPN services of 2017

Next, you need powerful security with strong encryption, which goes without saying, and an easily understandable privacy policy that makes it perfectly clear what data is kept by the provider. Good performance levels obviously don’t hurt, either. Below are the five best VPN services for Mac that we’ve picked out for you.

  • We’ve also highlighted the best antivirus software for your Mac

ExpressVPN is our top choice for the best all-round VPN service on the Mac. Their dedicated app is intuitive and very user-friendly, which features a one-click option for connecting, as well as some advanced options. It uses 256-bit OpenVPN encryption both over UDP and TCP protocols and comes with a kill switch.

There’s also a very good iOS app so you get a complete Apple VPN experience. Great speeds, a favourable privacy policy and 24/7 customer support rounds off an excellent Mac VPN experience.

Nevertheless, the pricing slightly tarnishes things. The service is a tad pricier than most other VPN providers, with no free trial – but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. ExpressVPN offers three price plans, with the 12-month plan offering the best value. The packages available are:

  • [$12.95 a month] 1-month
  • [$9.99 a month] 6-months – $59.95
  • [$8.32 a month] 12-months – $99.95

When it comes to security, NordVPN does it like no other. Its own ‘Double VPN’ technology encrypts data twice – in other words, it passes your data through two separate VPN servers to make things even more secure – while there are additional security extras such as encrypted chat, web proxy extensions and so on.

NordVPN’s clients for both macOS and iOS are rather basic compared to others, but keeping things simple can be advantageous for novices. This provider is also P2P-friendly and has a strict zero logs policy, which makes it perfect for those seeking an ultra-secure and private experience. The performance was slightly above average in our testing, too.

There’s a free 3-day trial (hidden away in the FAQ), and NordVPN is a relatively affordable service. There are three plans available with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The 1-year plan is the most popular choice (although currently, there’s a limited time offer for a 2-year plan that boasts the best savings). The packages available are:

  • [$11.95 a month] 1-month
  • [$7.00 a month] 6-months – $42.00
  • [$5.75 a month] 1-year – $69.00
  • [$3.29 a month] 2-years – $79.00

IPVanish’s Mac app features a nifty design and a few welcome options like a kill switch and automatic IP switching. The service is blazingly fast, and it’ll automatically hook you up to the fastest server available, a nice touch on the convenience front. Not only are download speeds fast with this VPN, it allows P2P.

OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP protocols are supported, and there’s also decent iOS support and a wide coverage of servers, with no logging of the user’s activities.

However, you pay for the performance you get here. IPVanish doesn’t have a free trial, although there is a 7-day money-back guarantee with all three available plans. The 1-year subscription is clearly the best choice. The packages available are:

  • [$10.00 a month] 1-month
  • [$8.99 a month] 3-months – $26.99
  • [$6.49 a month] 1-year – $77.90

KeepSolid VPN Unlimited has all the right ingredients in optimal quantities. Its native Mac client is well-designed, and you can pick up nifty extras like a personal server or a personal static IP. The service also offers solid iOS support and doesn’t store any user information on the privacy front.

Performance varied a bit during testing, but overall it was solid enough, doing well on downloads but with things slowing up a bit more on uploads. And the choice of servers isn’t as extensive as some VPNs.

The pricing plans are a story of their own. There’s six of them and they all represent good value for money, ranging from a weekly plan to a permanent ‘forever’ subscription. The 3-year plan offers the best savings – and don’t forget you can avail yourself of a 7-day free trial to test the service out. The packages available are:

  • [$1.99 a week] 1-week
  • [$4.99 a month] 1-month
  • [$3.00 a month] 3-months – $9
  • [$2.08 a month] 1-year – $24.95
  • [$1.94 a month] 3-years – $69.85
  • Forever – $129.99

Our best balanced option for the Mac is Hotspot Shield. First and foremost, it boasts speedy performance levels, actually increasing both our upload and download speeds once connected (although your mileage may vary). The client is pretty straightforward to use, although don’t expect much in the way of more advanced configuration options.

There aren’t a huge range of options in terms of server coverage, either, but the service comes with benefits like cloud-based malware protection, and a favourable privacy policy (any information which might be recorded is deleted when your VPN session closes).

Another strong point of Hotspot Shield is the pricing. It currently offers five subscription plans, including a ‘forever’ option. Unless you want to commit to the latter, the overall best bet is the 2-year plan which is extremely affordable. The packages available are:

  • [$11.95 a month] 1-month
  • [$3.33 a month] 6-months – $19.00
  • [$2.50 a month] 1-year – $29.95
  • [$2.08 a month] 2-years – $49.95
  • Forever – $99.95

Tech groups gear up for FISA surveillance fight

A controversial provision in U.S. law that gives the National Security Agency broad authority to spy on people overseas expires at the end of the year, and six major tech trade groups are gearing up for a fight over an extension.NSA headquarters

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act expires on Dec. 31, and Congress almost certain to extend it in some form.

The tech trade groups, including BSA, the Consumer Technology Association, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, are asking lawmakers to build in new privacy protections for internet users.

“It is critical that Congress takes a balanced yet focused approach with respect to Section 702,” the groups said in a letter sent to top lawmakers Wednesday. “We urge your committees to ensure that any reauthorization includes meaningful safeguards for internet users’ privacy and civil liberties.”

Section 702 of FISA allows the NSA to spy on the communications, including internet traffic, of people living outside the U.S. and, in some cases, their communications to people living inside the country. FISA served as the authority for the NSA’s Prism internet surveillance and other programs revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The trade groups didn’t offer specific recommendations for privacy and civil liberties protections, although they called on Congress to hold a public debate on an extension of the provision.

The position of the tech trade groups differs from many digital rights groups, who want Congress to either make major changes to the provision or scrap it.

“Section 702 of FISA has allowed for mass surveillance programs … that have been used by the U.S. government to warrantlessly collect and search the Internet communications of people all over the world,” the End 207 coalition said. “Absent a full reform,” Section 702 should be allowed to expire.

The NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have defended FISA as essential to protect the U.S. from terrorism and other security threats. NSA surveillance has helped to thwart dozens of terrorism plots, Matthew Olsen, an executive with IronNet Cybersecurity and former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said during a hearing last May.

The surveillance programs are “vital to our security,” Olsen said then. The programs allow the U.S. government to “obtain critical intelligence about terrorists and other targets that it simply could not obtain by other means.”

Halo Wars 2 PC impressions: This console-fied RTS has some PC-specific problems

It’s the week of unfinished reviews, eh? After trialing For Honor earlier this week, I’m back with some impressions on Halo Wars 2. Again, initial impressions, not a full review. Given that the Windows 10 version only went live on Monday and that its multiplayer servers have been entirely dead, I just haven’t spent enough time with it to feel comfortable slapping on a score yet.

And I almost passed up writing about it today, but there don’t seem to be many PC-centric impressions published and there’s stuff worth talking about.

Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2

 This article is going to slant mostly negative because I’m specifically talking about the problems I’ve encountered. Despite those problems, I’m having a fairly decent time with the game’s campaign so far and looking forward to playing more of the fast-paced Blitz mode now that the multiplayer servers are populated. Those are aspects I plan to talk about more in my full review. But with the game officially released today (to “Ultimate Edition” purchasers) it’s worth a quick post on the game’s myriad issues. There’s plenty of time to focus on the positives later.

We can start with performance, which (with Nvidia’s latest driver update) is mostly good on my Core i7-5820K and GeForce GTX 980 Ti. I’m pretty shocked I need a “mostly” qualifier on there though, because it’s a damn real-time strategy game, and not even a particularly strenuous one like Ashes of the Singularity. There are never that many units on-screen, nor are the maps any larger than what you might expect from StarCraft or Grey Goo. And yet I’ve had numerous instances where performance stuttered mid-mission. It’s particularly noticeable when coming back from any in-engine cutscene, with hitching motions and weird visual glitches (partially-loaded geometry, vanishing units, et cetera) as the game relinquishes control back to the player.

It works most of the time though, and honestly isn’t the biggest concern I’ve had.

For that, we’ve got to delve into how Halo Wars 2 plays moment-to-moment. The most frustrating issue I’ve noticed concerns the AI of your own units. It’s just so, so stupid sometimes.

Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2

Here’s the most reproducible error I’ve seen: 1) Take a large and varied group of units—some infantry, a few Warthogs, and maybe a captured Wraith. 2) Order them to attack a structure. 3) Notice that your Wraith, despite being ordered to attack, gets stuck behind your other units, just barely out of range of the thing you’re attacking, and thus decides not to fire on the enemy whatsoever. 4) All your soldiers get shredded apart while your Wraith driver sits and watches.

Units also—not always, but just often enough to make you irate—have a tendency to ignore enemies who they should maybe be paying attention to. This is particularly painful when a rogue group of Banshees flies in to raid your HQ and the anti-air units ten feet away on the other side of the base just hang out and do nothing. Or when enemy snipers have a fog of war advantage, attack, and since your units “can’t see” the enemy they do nothing. I’ve lost entire squads to a single sniper when I thought a battle was in-hand and didn’t think to check back on them until too late.

And then there are the control issues. Despite having full mouse-and-keyboard controls, I have some real issues with a few commands. For instance, to zoom in and out you need to hold the Alt key first. Result: You’ll never remember this, and thus never zoom in and out.

Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2

Why not just the mouse wheel? Because that’s used to select units within a group, of course! I only found this out maybe seven or eight hours in, seeing as the game never explained it. It’s the only way to select a certain type of unit inside a control group, since clicking on the pictures of the units in the bottom-left corner does nothing—probably because there’s no way to replicate that behavior on consoles, so it just wasn’t included.

A few units have special abilities, but all the abilities are triggered with the same key (“R”) so if you have mixed unit types in a control group you can’t use any of their abilities unless you highlight one type in particular. It’ll also use the ability for all those units at once, if you have multiple of the same type selected. This is particularly infuriating in cases where three Warthogs ram a target that would’ve died with one hit.

Special abilities are also very temperamental, sometimes deciding not to work even if you only have one unit selected. And you don’t actually select which unit to use an ability on—it just fires at whatever unit you happen to be mousing over at the time.

These are my major complaints so far, but there are other smaller problems. None of my Logitech G502’s extra buttons are recognized as valid inputs, for instance—not even the two thumb buttons, which are fairly standard for mouse mapping. There’s also no quicksave or quickload, which is both bizarre and annoying.

Oh, and the menus. This is a weird one, but the settings menus are so slow, i.e. display/keybindings/audio/et cetera. Most of these are multi-page affairs, but each page takes a second or two to display, which makes (for instance) adjusting controls a frustrating affair of “Scroll down, wait for settings to load in, scan names, scroll down, wait, scan, and repeat ad nauseum across nine or ten pages.”

Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2

Again, these are the problems I’ve experienced after three days with the PC version.  The campaign’s structure is about as generic as I’d feared after our hands-on last month, but it’s carried by some decent voice acting and beautiful cutscenes. Blitz mode still seems great. And hey, the whole endeavor still scores novelty points because “It’s Halo, but from a different perspective.” Never underestimate the power of a brand.

We’ll have a full review focused on those aspects soon—hopefully by the “official” launch day next week, once I’ve had more time to test out its multiplayer and finish up the last few campaign missions. But with the game technically released today to a subset of the public, I just wanted to bring to light some PC-specific issues for anyone who’s thinking of buying that version. It could use some polish.

Steam faces European investigation for region-locked game keys

European Union antitrust authorities are concerned that some video game publishers aren’t playing by the rules of the EU’s single market, charging customers in different countries different prices for access to what is essentially the same game.origin steam

The European Commission opened investigations into five companies distributing their games online through the Steam network operated by Valve.

The companies—Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax—are suspected of placing geographical restrictions on the use of Steam activation keys so that they can’t be used by buyers in some parts of the EU to play their video games. This could allow them to sell activation keys at a higher price in some countries, and prevent players in those countries from activating the game with cheaper keys purchased elsewhere in the EU.

This may breach competition rules by restricting so-called ‘parallel trade’ within the EU, preventing consumers from buying cheaper games that may be available in other member states, the Commission said Thursday.

“We are looking into whether these companies are breaking EU competition rules by unfairly restricting retail prices or by excluding customers from certain offers because of their nationality or location,” said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Bandai Namco games on Steam include Pac-man 256, Project Cars and Dark Souls, while Capcom’s include Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. Titles from the other publishers targeted by the investigation include The Elder Scrolls Online, Cities XXL, and Railroad X.

The Commission began the investigation on its own initiative, it said, meaning that the companies’ activities had not been the subject of complaints.

It opened two other investigations on Thursday, into online sales of hi-fi equipment and domestic appliances, and online hotel bookings.

The Commission has similar concern about hotel bookings as it does about video games: it suspects tour operators including Kuoni, REWE, Thomas Cook and TUI of working with hoteliers such as Meliá Hotels to show different prices or room availability to customers depending on their nationality or country of residence.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association welcomed the investigations, and said it hoped the Commission would go on to investigate manufacturers that prevented sales of their products through online marketplaces altogether. “These restrictions are equally harmful in that they prevent greater consumer choice and price transparency in day-to-day, mass-market products,” said the CCIA’s European director, Jakob Kucharczyk.

Google is killing its bold Hands Free payment experiment

When Google launched Android Pay at its I/O conference back in 2015, it also teased a program that let you keep your phone in your pocket and still go through the normal checkout process. Called Hands Free, the limited pilot used the phrase, “I’ll pay with Google,” to alert the cashier that you wouldn’t actually be using a physical form of payment.google hands free

Google has announced that it is shutting down the service on Feb. 8, which launched last spring on iOS and Android. Available only at select locations like McDonalds and Papa Johns in the Bay Area, the program required users to upload a photo in the Hands Free app and utilized Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location services in your phone to identify when you were at one of the participating locations.

According to Google’s description of the service, “Then, if you purchase from a store that uses a Hands Free camera, Google will confirm your identity automatically by detecting specific patterns from the template created during signup. The cashier will initiate the charge and you’ll get a notification on your phone after the charge is complete.” During the transaction, the cashier would only see the user’s initials, first name, and photo, keeping payment information and credit card numbers hidden.

Contactless payments have been rapidly spreading across country, and Google’s idea with Hands Free was to “explore what the future of mobile payments could look like.” While it’s not entirely clear why Google is stopping the program, it writes on the Hands Free website that “we’re now working to bring the best of the Hands Free technology to even more people and stores.”

Unfortunately, Hands Free never made it out of pilot mode and was extremely limited, so there’s a good change you’ve never used or even heard of the program. However, the concept of being able to pay quickly and securely without pulling out your phone or reaching for your wallet is certainly intriguing, and it’s likely that Google will take what it learned and apply it to Android Pay down the road, perhaps tapping Google Assistant as it works to bring the service nationwide.

This story, “Google is killing its bold Hands Free payment experiment ” was originally published by Greenbot.

Outlook for iOS speeds up work with third-party add ins

Users of Microsoft’s Outlook app for iPhone and iPad can now get work done quicker using third-party integrations.outlook ios add ins

As of Thursday, Outlook for iOS supports add-ins, which let software companies build extensions to their own products that interact with emails in Outlook on a user’s smartphone and tablet. At launch, the app supports add-ins from Evernote, GIPHY, Nimble, Trello and Smartsheet, in addition to those that Microsoft has created.

For example, users will be able to translate emails using a Microsoft Translator add-in, add cards to a Trello board straight from their email and quickly reply to an email thread with a funny animated GIF.

The add-in system is aimed at solving one of the key problems with handling email on a smartphone. Messages often require users to take action in one way or another, which can often require information from a different application or service. These add-ins are supposed to help users be more productive by letting them stay inside Outlook.

Here’s how it works: users go into the Outlook for iOS settings panel and tap the Add-Ins menu. After that, they’ll see a list of potential add-ins for the app, and can tap the plus symbol to add them. After that, users will be able to invoke the add-ins when reading email by tapping the symbol that appears in the upper-right-hand corner of the messages they read, underneath the reply button.

Each add-in has its own behavior, specific to the service that built it. For example, Nimble’s add-in will show users information about the sender and recipients of an email. At this point, however, add-ins can only be invoked when users are reading email. Javier Soltero, the corporate vice president of Outlook at Microsoft, said that the company is working on making it possible to use add-ins in other contexts, such as writing emails.

When asked about his company’s process of developing an Outlook add-in for iOS, Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader said that Microsoft’s developer tools were “best in class.” But beyond that, the tech titan provided additional help and input with add-in development.

Apple already introduced an Extensions feature in iOS 8, but Soltero said it’s not right for Microsoft’s purposes. In his view, Apple’s design is based on a series of events that users don’t typically follow. To email a picture, users find the photo in their Photos app, then open the share sheet and send the photo to Outlook for inclusion in an email.

Microsoft’s add-ins work differently.

“You know what you’re going to do, you’re going to send a message, and what you include in that message is the other consideration,” he said. “Similarly, you receive the email, and then [can] act on it with these add-ins.”

There’s also a question of user demand. While Smartsheet has existing apps for the iPhone and iPad, the company hasn’t seen much interest in iOS extensions from enterprises.

Another advantage for Microsoft to using these add-ins instead of Apple’s built-in functionality is that they interoperate with Outlook on other platforms, including Outlook 2013 and 2016 for Windows. Soltero said that add-in support is coming soon to Outlook 2016 for MacOS, too.

Mader said that Smartsheet has found good add-in design works well across both desktop and mobile, but that user experience should be tailored for each platform.

Right now, the add-ins are available for Office 365 commercial customers using Outlook for iOS. The functionality is also slowly rolling out to Outlook.com users. Microsoft said that similar functionality for Outlook on Android will be available “soon.”

Cisco patches critical flaw in Prime Home device management server

Cisco Systems has fixed a critical vulnerability that could allow hackers to take over servers used by telecommunications providers to remotely manage customer equipment such as routers.20151005 cisco hq sign 100620823 orig

The vulnerability affects Cisco Prime Home, an automated configuration server (ACS) that communicates with subscriber devices using the TR-069 protocol. In addition to remotely managing customer equipment, it can also “automatically activate and configure subscribers and deliver advanced services via service packages” over mobile, fiber, cable, and other ISP networks.

“A vulnerability in the web-based GUI of Cisco Prime Home could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to bypass authentication and execute actions with administrator privileges,” Cisco said in its advisory.

Attackers could exploit the vulnerability by sending API commands over HTTP to a particular URL without requiring authentication. The flaw is caused by a processing error in the role-based access control of URLs, Cisco explained.

In the past, security researchers found vulnerabilities in the TR-069 implementation of many routers that could have allowed hackers to remotely take over those devices. However, a vulnerability in an ACS like Cisco Prime Home is much worse, because it can be used to take control of entire groups of subscriber devices at once.

According to Cisco’s documentation, the admin role on the Cisco Prime Home has access to the server’s customer support, administration, and audit functions, as well as the ability to perform bulk operations and access utilities and reports.

The vulnerability affects Cisco Prime Home versions 6.3.0.0 and above. Customers are advised to migrate to the latest, fixed version: 6.5.0.1.

The company has also warned customers of a medium-risk URL redirect vulnerability in the Cisco Prime Service Catalog, a product that allows companies to set up self-service portals, provide IT service catalogs for data center and application services, and manage service requests.

An attacker could exploit the vulnerability to redirect a user logged into the Cisco Prime Service Catalog to a phishing site in order to steal their credentials.