This and That

Posted October 13th, 2011 at 5:57 pm (UTC-4)
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Digital Frontiers editor Doug Bernard is away from his screen this week.  In his absence, we invite you to follow some of the following DF-related items.

Malware is certainly making its way to portable devices, and in particular, the Android platform is under attack.  A  fake application is sneaking onto Android devices, with what is purported to be an app from the U.S.-based home movie delivery company, Netflix.  The phony Netflix app looks very much like the real Netflix program, but instead of delivering movies, it takes what it can  — stealing account information from the unfortunate Android users who fall for it.

The Netflix Trojan, however, is capable only of pilfering the Netflix user’s log-in and password information, not credit card information, so industry observers say it appears the phony app may have simply been a test run for some other future scam.

Norton anti-virus software maker Symantec says that they have long warned that an explosion of mobile malware is just around the corner. Beginning in earnest this year, says Symantec in one of its blogs on the topic, they have indeed observed a marked increase in threats targeting mobile devices,but they are unsure if such an expected explosion has in fact yet occurred.  Cyber-criminals may still be in the exploratory phase of figuring out how to exploit the world’s many mobile devices.  In either case, as always, be wary.

DataWind's supercheap 'Aakash' Tablet computers during its launch in New Delhi, India.

India is a technology and information technology leader. But despite a 15-fold rise in the number of Internet users over the last decade, access to the web is limited to a fraction of the Indian population, and is the lowest among emerging markets.  Now, a cheaper solution for would-be tablet owners.

It’s the launch of what is being called “the world’s cheapest tablet computer,” one that could help tens of thousands of low-income Indian students and others connect to cyberspace.  Only three percent of Indians own a computer, but the new $45 device, with its a seven-inch color touchscreen, Wi-Fi connectivity, and two USB ports provides at least some basic hardware.  It’s called “Aakash,” Hindi for “sky,” a product of the Indian government’s putting out an offer for it to be developed.

The tablet and other techno-gadgets are reviewed on the Indian website BGR, and we invite you to check out Anjana Pasricha’s report on our technology page.

As Apple’s new iPhone 4S hits the market to mixed reviews, it’s obvious smartphones are here to stay.  Of course they are much more than phones, and the iPhone’s high definition video (and iPod) will surely eat into your hard drive space.

But even if you are in the habit of backing up your iPhone or other device’s data on a CD-ROM or hard drive, the files should be considered only temporary, according to William LeFurgy, Digital Initiatives Project Manager at the U.S. Library of Congress.  He says digitally stored material may last for as few as five years.

“There is no such thing as a permanent or archival computer storage media,” LeFurgy says. “I don’t know if these devices are designed to fail, but they certainly are not designed to last.”

By some estimates, the world now produces more than 30 million times more information per year than the information contained in all of the books ever published. And digital storage can put it all at risk.  The Library of Congress in Washington regularly moves previously recorded digital material onto new media, continually “re-dubbing” it. The library calls it “active management.” LeFurgy suggests consumers do the same at home.
And while you’re backing up your previously backed-up data from your smartphone, be careful about that allegedly great new application you might be thinking of installing.  Read our full article for more.


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What’s Digital Frontiers?

The Internet, mobile phones, tablet computers and other digital devices are transforming our lives in fundamental and often unpredictable ways. “Digital Frontiers” investigates how real world concepts like privacy, identity, security and freedom are evolving in the virtual world.

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October 2011
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