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Thursday, December 01, 2011

UPDATE: Samsung keylogger is false alarm

Part 1 – The Discovery

Security Strategies Alert By M. E. Kabay and Mohamed Hassan Mohamed Hassan, Network World
March 30, 2011 12:07 AM ET 
[UPDATE: After a thorough investigation by Peter Stephenson, it was determined that no keylogger was found and an apology has been issued.]
[UPDATE: Samsung has launched an investigation into the matter and is working with Mich Kabay and Mohamed Hassan in the investigation. Samsung engineers are collaborating with the computer security expert, Mohamed Hassan, MSIA, CISSP, CISA, with faculty at the Norwich University Center for Advanced Computing and Digital Forensics, and with the antivirus vendor whose product identified a possible keylogger (or which may have issued a false positive). The company and the University will post news as fast as possible on Network World. A Samsung executive is personally delivering a randomly selected laptop purchased at a retail store to the Norwich scientists. Prof. Kabay praises Samsung for its immediate, positive and collaborative response to this situation.]
[UPDATE 3/31/11: Samsung has issued a statement saying that the finding is false. The statement says the software used to detect the keylogger, VIPRE, can be fooled by Microsoft's Live Application multi-language support folder. This has been confirmed at F-Secure and two other publications, here and here.The headline on this article has been changed to reflect this new information.]
[UPDATE 3/31/11: GFI Labs, the maker of VIPRE, has issued an explanation and apology for generating the false positives that led to these articles: "We apologize to the author Mohamed Hassan, to Samsung, as well as any users who may have been affected by this false positive."]
[UPDATE 3/31/11: Mich Kabay writes: A Samsung executive personally flew from Newark, N.J., to Burlington, Vt., carrying two unopened boxes containing new R540 laptop computers. These units were immediately put under seal and details recorded for chain-of-custody records. At 17:40, Dr Peter Stephenson, Director of the Norwich University Center for Advanced Computing and Digital Forensics, began the detailed forensic analysis of the disks. We expect results by Monday.]

Android handsets secretly logging keystrokes, SMS messages?

A look at some of the actionable data Carrier IQ collects, including location information of a single device user.
A look at some of the actionable data Carrier IQ collects, including location information of a single device user.
(Credit: Carrier IQ)
Your Android-based smartphone could be watching just about everything you do, Android security researcher Trevor Eckhart argues in a video posted earlier this week.
In the nearly 20-minute video clip, Eckhart shows how software developed by mobile-device tracker Carrier IQ logs each keystroke and then sends them off to locations unknown. In addition, when Eckhart tried placing a call, Carrier IQ's software recorded each number before the call was even made.
Eckhart started making waves across the privacy community earlier this month after he dug into software developed by Carrier IQ that, he said, runs behind the scenes in Android-based devices to track what users are doing. Eckhart called the software a "rootkit," due to its ability to access device data while concealing its presence.
As one might expect, Carrier IQ took offense to Eckhart's claim, saying that its software is a "diagnostic tool" for companies to "improve the quality of the network, understand device issues, and ultimately improve the user experience." The company also sent Eckhart a cease-and-desist letter and demanded he issue an apology for calling its software a rootkit.
Just days later, Carrier IQ did an about face after the Electronic Frontier Foundation responded to its cease-and-desist letter, saying that Eckhart's comments and research are protected under the Copyright Act's fair use provision.
"Our action was misguided and we are deeply sorry for any concern or trouble that our letter may have caused Mr. Eckhart," the company said in response to the EFF's letter. "We sincerely appreciate and respect EFF's work on his behalf, and share their commitment to protecting free speech in a rapidly changing technological world."
However, Carrier IQ also took the opportunity to clarify what its software doesn't do, including record keystrokes, provide tracking tools, or inspect "the content of e-mails and SMSs." The company also argued that its software does not "provide real-time data reporting to any customer."
But Eckhart's new video seems to refute at least some of those claims. In one part of the clip, he shows how an entire SMS message--"hello world"--was recorded by Carrier IQ's software. In another example, he demonstrates how a Google search, his location, and other key information is recorded by Carrier IQ's application, even though he was on Wi-Fi and a page secured by HTTPS.
"The Carrier IQ application is receiving not only HTTP strings directly from browser, but also HTTPs strings," Eckhart wrote in a blog post. "HTTPs data is the only thing protecting much of the 'secure' Internet. Queries of what you search, HTTPs plain text login strings (yuck, but yes), even exact details of objects on page are shown in the JS/CSS/GIF files above--and can be seen going into the Carrier IQ application."
"The Carrier IQ application is embedded so deeply in the device that it can't be fully removed without rebuilding the phone from source code."
--Trevor Eckhart, Android security researcher
Perhaps most troublesome is that users don't know where their information is going or how it's being used. Earlier this month, Sprint told CNET that it's a Carrier IQ customer, but rejected any notion that it's peering into users' personal data.
"Carrier IQ provides information that allows Sprint, and other carriers that use it, to analyze our network performance and identify where we should be improving service," Sprint told CNET. "We also use the data to understand device performance so we can figure out when issues are occurring."
"We collect enough information to understand the customer experience with devices on our network and how to address any connection problems, but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool," Sprint continued.
But for many handset owners, that might not be enough. So, surely they can turn off the software and stop the tracking, right? Think again, says Eckhart.
"The Carrier IQ application is embedded so deeply in the device that it can't be fully removed without rebuilding the phone from source code," he says. "This is only possible for a user with advanced skills and a fully unlocked device. Even where a device is out of contract, there is no off switch to stop the application from gathering data."
Although Eckhart's data comes from Android devices, it's worth noting that Carrier IQ's software is running on over 130 million mobile devices worldwide, including those made by Nokia and Research In Motion.
Carrier IQ declined CNET's request for comment.

'I'm sorry!' Jeremy Clarkson finally apologises for saying all strikers should be SHOT after BBC gets 4,700 complaints (and even the PM says he was 'silly')

'I'm sorry!' Clarkson forced to apologise for saying strikers should be shot in live TV jibe

  • David Cameron tells the Top Gear presenter it was a 'silly thing to say'
  • Ed Miliband says the comments were 'disgraceful and disgusting'
  • Union official says presenter's comments were 'almost like Colonel Gaddafi'
By Daniel Martin

Last updated at 10:37 PM on 1st December 2011

Apology: Jeremy Clarkson at Heathrow today following the outcry over his comments
Apology: Jeremy Clarkson at Heathrow today following the outcry over his comments
Jeremy Clarkson was forced to apologise last night after a joke he made about executing public sector workers for going on strike triggered a political row and thousands of complaints. 
The outspoken TV presenter faced a storm of protest after saying public sector strikers should be ‘executed’ in front of their families.
In a day of extraordinary overreaction to what was clearly meant as a joke, one union official threatened to report him to police, while another said his comments were worthy of Colonel Gaddafi.
Even the Prime Minister, a friend of Mr Clarkson, was dragged into the row, describing the remarks as ‘silly’, while Ed Miliband said they were ‘disgusting’.
By yesterday evening, when Mr Clarkson was finally forced to issue an apology, the BBC had received almost 5,000 complaints about the interview on Wednesday night’s edition of The One Show.
The row erupted after millions saw the Top Gear host asked for his views on the day’s nationwide strikes.
He started by saying he liked the strikers, because the industrial action had meant there was no traffic on the roads.
But after insisting he had to be balanced as he worked for the impartial BBC, he launched into a satirical rant.
He said: ‘Frankly, I would have them shot. I would have them taken outside and executed in front of their families.’
Later in the show, he also complained about people who commit suicide by throwing themselves on railway lines, saying trains should not stop for them.

Scroll down for video

Controversial: Mr Clarkson said he wanted to see strikers shot when he appeared on the One Show last night
Controversial: Mr Clarkson said he wanted to see strikers shot when he appeared on the One Show last night
Awkward: Presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones squirmed as Mr Clarkson made his comments on the live programme
Awkward: Presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones squirmed as Mr Clarkson made his comments on the live programme
Strike storm: Jeremy Clarkson today at Heathrow airport with fellow Top Gear presenter James May (rear) kissing a woman's hand
Strike storm: Jeremy Clarkson today at Heathrow airport with fellow Top Gear presenter James May (rear) kissing a woman's hand
Fury: Union boss Dave Prentis has said Jeremy Clarkson, pictured today at Heathrow, should be sacked from the BBC
Fury: Union boss Dave Prentis has said Jeremy Clarkson, pictured today at Heathrow, should be sacked from the BBC
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, whose ‘Chipping Norton Set’ of friends includes Mr Clarkson, former News of the World and Sun editor Rebekah Brooks and PR man Matthew Freud, was forced to disassociate himself from the comments. 
Asked about them on ITV’s This Morning show, Mr Cameron said it was ‘a silly thing to say – I’m sure he didn’t mean it’.  
Labour leader Mr Miliband said the remark was ‘absolutely disgraceful and disgusting’, adding: ‘He obviously does not understand the lives of the people who were going out on strike yesterday.’
The unions exploded in fury, with Unison calling on the BBC to sack the presenter and even contacting lawyers to consider whether he could be reported to the police for inciting violence.
Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, said: ‘The One Show is broadcast at a time when children are watching: they could have been scared and upset by his aggressive statements.
‘While he is driving round in fast cars for a living, public sector workers are busy holding our society together: they save others’ lives on a daily basis, they care for the sick, the vulnerable, the elderly. 
‘They wipe bottoms, noses, they help children to learn, and empty bins – they deserve all our thanks – certainly not the unbelievable level of abuse he threw at them.’
The union’s health spokesman Karen Jennings went so far as describing the comments as ‘almost like Gaddafi’. 
the controversial exchange

Thousands of public sector workers joined pickets and marches across the country today as they staged a one day strike over pensions and cuts
Thousands of public sector workers joined pickets and marches across the country today as they staged a one day strike over pensions and cuts
Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, said Mr Clarkson was a ‘man who bleeds a fortune out of the licence-payer for poncing around the world driving luxury cars’. 
‘Clarkson’s incitement to violence, and the refusal of David Cameron to roundly condemn it, is grossly offensive to all public sector workers but even more so to our members on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary who were on strike on Wednesday and who risk their lives in trouble spots around the world servicing the Naval fleet,’ he said.
Bert Schouwenburg, of the GMB union, said: ‘Jeremy Clarkson’s vile and offensive comments are insensitive in the extreme.
Chipping Norton Set: David Cameron today said Clarkson, pictured here with near neighbour Alex James, had been 'silly'
Chipping Norton Set: David Cameron today said Clarkson, pictured here with near neighbour Alex James, had been 'silly'
'A silly thing to say': David Cameron condemns Jeremy Clarkson's remarks as he is interviewed on This Morning
'A silly thing to say': David Cameron condemns Jeremy Clarkson's remarks as he is interviewed on This Morning

Awkward: One Show presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones were forced to apologise for Clarkson's comments
Awkward: One Show presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones were forced to apologise for Clarkson's comments


Jeremy Clarkson's remarks about wanting to shoot strikers are the latest in a long line of controversial comments that are likely to add to his ever-increasing list of enemies.
In February 2009, he famously called then Prime Minister Gordon Brown a 'one-eyed Scottish idiot' and in November the previous year, the BBC received almost 2,000 complaints when he joked about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes.
More recently, in October, it emerged he had taken out an injunction to prevent allegations about his private life being published.
Back in September 2005, he had a custard pie thrown in his face by green campaigners after picking up an honorary degree at Oxford Brookes University.
Also that year, he offered some 'handy hints' to cyclists, saying: 'Do not cruise through red lights. Because if I'm coming the other way, I will run you down, for fun.'
In November 2004, conservationists accused him of ruining virgin hillside during an off-road test of a Land Rover for the motoring programme.
And in February 2004, the BBC paid £250 compensation to Churchill Parish Council in Somerset after Clarkson drove a 4x4 Toyota pick-up truck into a 30-year-old horse chestnut tree to test the vehicle's strength.
‘GMB works with trade unions representing employees on banana and pineapple plantations in Latin America where activists have met exactly the fate that Mr Clarkson describes.’
By 5pm yesterday, the presenter had issued an apology.
When Mr Clarkson was asked for his reaction before flying out of the country, he said: ‘See what I actually said and then judge.
'I didn’t for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously – as I believe is clear if they’re seen in context.
'If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I’m quite happy to apologise for it alongside them.’
The BBC said: ‘The One Show is a live topical programme which often reflects the day’s talking points. Usually we get it right, but on this occasion we feel the item wasn’t perfectly judged.
'The BBC and Jeremy would like to apologise for any offence caused.’
Last night Tory MP Douglas Carswell called for a sense of perspective.
‘We shouldn’t rise to the bait on this,’ he said. ‘This is politicians causing mischief.’
Clarkson’s comments have regularly landed him in hot water.
Earlier this year, an item on Top Gear led to a complaint from the Mexican ambassador over ‘vulgar’ insults about Mexicans.
He called the then prime minister Gordon Brown a ‘one-eyed Scottish idiot’ and triggered 2,000 complaints when he joked about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes.

David Owen: If Britain stands firm, it may yet tame Iran The solution lies in selective sanctions – not being sucked into military conflict .

Iranian protesters make their point about Britain, the US and Israel - David Owen: If Britain stands firm, it may yet tame Iran
Iranian protesters make their point about Britain, the US and Israel Photo: REUTERS
In Iran, the hardline Islamists call Britain “the little Satan”. This is in contrast to the United States, which they call “the Great Satan”. To some extent, the attack on our Embassy in Tehran is part of that positioning: they see us as a serious enemy and think we deserve this deliberate action, because the UK along with the US and Canada has recently cut its banking links with Iran.
The European Union yesterday agreed new sanctions to target people and companies selectively, including the freezing of assets and travel bans. But these were not linked to the storming of the British Embassy on Tuesday. They have postponed (until January) decisions aimed at severely affecting the Iranian financial system, and the energy and transport sector. It is very important that they bring forward these decisions more quickly and also take tough diplomatic measures to demonstrate that an EU member state cannot be picked off.
William Hague is right to try to keep open formal relations in international bodies, even though the two countries’ embassies are closed. It is also very important that we find other ways of keeping open the dialogue with the opposition inside Iran: for it is from the people that fundamental changes will stem. That is the lesson from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria.
Some believe that military action can settle the Iranian problem. We know the Israeli government was threatening, a few weeks ago, to act unilaterally and take pre-emptive military action by launching a bombing raid on Iranian nuclear installations. Such an overt action would immediately unite all Iranians, the internal opposition included, against Israel and her allies. It is reassuring that the bombing of Iran was opposed by senior military and intelligence figures in Israel: hopefully they have been listened to, and Israel is instead taking clandestine measures. It is significant that in Isfahan on Monday there was a blast on the edge of the city that struck a uranium enrichment facility, the second such incident in a month. It is possible that Israeli intelligence is involved and it is almost certain that Iranian citizens were.
The Israelis took pre-emptive action in Iraq in 1981 over the Osirak reactor and in Syria in 2008 over a reactor supplied by North Korea. These precedents, however, are not remotely comparable with Iran. Both were taken by Israel safe in the judgment that any reaction to their attack would be containable both politically and militarily. Both actions were taken when Turkey was still Israel’s strategic ally. And that is no longer the case.
Let us assume, however, that the recent IAEA report is broadly accurate and that Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. It is undoubtedly true that if President Ahmadinejad were to control a nuclear weapon, it would pose a serious threat to Israel. But remember this: Israel was not the reason Iran started to pursue a nuclear weapons programme. Key leaders in today’s Iranian opposition supported developing a nuclear deterrent when they were fighting off a pre-emptive Iraqi attack, which lasted for eight years in the 1980s.
The US military has “war-gamed” an Israeli attack on Iran. The conclusion of these exercises is that even attacks that don’t involve flying over Iraq lead inexorably, within a few days, to the involvement of US forces in the air and at sea against Iran to keep the Straits of Hormuz open. This was part of the reasoning behind President Bush’s decision to refuse point blank the Israeli request in 2008 to overfly Iraq and supply equipment to bomb Iran. Bush helpfully made this decision public before President Obama took office.
The UK is now seen as the hardliner on Iran and this gives us the opportunity to make our position clear, preferably publicly, that we do not intend to be sucked into overt military action against Iran by Israel. If the US president eventually were to decide to take pre-emptive military action against an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, that would be a serious option which any UK government would be bound to study with great care; but there should be no presumption that we would act jointly with the US. It will depend on many factors, not least what happens in the UN Security Council and the reaction of key Nato allies, in particular in this case, Turkey. We will also need to gauge the reaction of the elected Iraqi government.
A favourable negotiating opportunity with regards to Iran’s nuclear programme may present itself, particularly when Ahmadinejad’s presidency comes to an end. Until now, President Obama has wisely chosen a combination of dialogue, negotiation and sanctions with Iran. He has had some success with sanctions, mainly by resetting US relations with Russia. Meanwhile Iranian opposition leaders want the US, EU and the UN to be relentless against human rights abuses and to develop tougher but more selective sanctions.
Britain’s strategy must remain one of acting within the UN Security Council and of involving Russia and China in progressive sanctions to stop Iran proceeding to the stage of acquiring nuclear weapons. It is devilishly difficult to deliver, as it means accepting Iran’s right to develop a programme of civil nuclear-powered reactors to produce electricity while seeking to prevent, through tougher sanctions, the simultaneous development of a nuclear weapons programme. Yet this hard-nosed strategy is the one that the UK should not abandon now or in the immediate future.

Kentucky churchgoer tells of deep hurt after interracial marriage ban

Stella Harville not welcome at Gulnare Freewill baptist church after ex-pastor votes to ban couples of different races
Stella Harville, Ticha Chikuni  
Stella Harville and Ticha Chikuni. Harville said she knows the nine people who voted in favour of Thompson's motion. Photograph: AP A small baptist church in eastern Kentucky has voted to ban interracial couples from joining the congregation and from taking part in all church functions other than funerals.
The vote to ostracise couples of different races was held at the Gulnare Freewill baptist church last Sunday. It has prompted a bitter dispute in the local Pike County and thrown up hatreds and antagonisms that had been hidden beneath the surface of the community for years.
The vote was held on a motion brought by the former pastor of the church, Melvin Thompson. He proposed that people in interracial marriages should not be "received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions – with the exception being funerals".
His motion added that it "was not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve".
Thompson's move originated from a church service in June attended by Stella Harville, aged 24, and her black fiance Ticha Chikuni, 29. Harville, a keen pianist, accompanied Chikuni as he sang the hymn I Surrender All at the service.
On 7 August, Thompson, still pastor at that point, approached Stella's father, Dean Harville, who holds office as the secretary and treasurer of the church. "Thompson told me that Stella and her boyfriend were not allowed to sing in the church any more," Dean Harville said.
Stella's mother, Cathy Harville, confronted Thompson and asked him who precisely had a problem with the couple. "I, for one, do," Thompson replied. "The best thing that Stella can do is take her boyfriend back to where he came from."
Chikuni is originally from Zimbabwe. He has lived in the US for 11 years, having come to Kentucky to study, and now works as a student advisor at Georgetown College.
Thompson stepped down as pastor in August, citing health problems, but continued to press his case against the couple. When his motion was put to the vote on Sunday, nine members registered in favour of it and six against, with about 25 parishioners abstaining by leaving the church before the ballot was called.
Stella Harville, who is taking a master's degree in Indiana, said she was in shock. She has been attending the church since she was a baby and knows the nine people who voted for the motion personally.
"They are my church family," she said. She added that she had also been deeply hurt by the 25 who had abstained as they had failed to take a stand against bigotry.
"It's embedded in our culture, especially in certain areas, that interracial marriage is wrong. Some of them have tried to invoke the Bible to support their argument, but anyone who reads the Bible knows there is no scripture saying this," Harville said.
Dean Harville said that the ban had given "a black eye to the church, a black eye to our community and a black eye to God. The way I look at it, it's a slap in God's face to say something like this."
Thompson, who runs a hardware store, was not available for comment. He told a local radio station: "I do not believe in interracial marriages, and I do not believe this will give our church a black eye at all."
Relationships between white and black people, particularly white women and black men, were a running sore in the days of segregation in the US. Interracial marriage was only made fully legal in 1967.
Polls show that disapproval of the practice has faded with every generation, with up to 97% of younger Americans now having no issue with it. But pockets of resistance remain in places like Alabama, where 41% voted against removing a ban on mixed-race marriages from the state constitution as recently as 2000.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center said he was astounded that the Kentucky church had openly moved to bar mixed-race couples. "It shows there are a large number of people who still absolutely oppose these relationships".
Under federal law, discrimination on grounds of race is unlawful, but religious groups are exempt.
A meeting of the regional conference of Free Will Baptists churches has been called for Saturday. It is expected to censure the Gulnare motion, though it has no authority to overturn the ban.
Dean Harville intends to bring the matter to another vote this Sunday in the hope of removing the ban. Even if it is rescinded Stella Harville says the damage has been done.
"Who knows, I might go back to the church, but it will take a while to get over the hurt," she said.

Israel faces legal challenge over block on Palestinians exiting Gaza to sue state

Human rights body says those seeking damages for actions of Israeli military are refused entry to the country to appear in court

Israeli tanks destroy a house in Gaza
Israel says it does not have a legal obligation to allow Gaza residents to cross the border, pictured during the January 2009 war. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
An Israeli human rights organisation has launched a legal challenge to the state's policy of denying Palestinians permission to leave Gaza to pursue claims for damages resulting from military action, which has led to dozens of cases being dismissed by the Israeli courts.
The petition follows a supreme court ruling in 2006 that Palestinians were entitled to sue the state of Israel for compensation for damages caused to civilians by the military outside of "acts of war". Lawsuits were filed for death, injury, house demolitions, torture and cruel or inhumane treatment.
However, plaintiffs and witnesses have been refused permission to enter Israel to appear in court, give evidence and complete necessary legal processes, such as signing affidavits witnessed by their lawyers, for their cases to proceed. Israel tightly restricts entry from Gaza which it says is necessary on security grounds.
Adalah, a human rights and legal action centre, cites a case in 2009 where the judge concluded "there is no option other than to dismiss the lawsuit".
The plaintiffs, he said, "live in Gaza City and are unable to enter Israel. Therefore, they cannot hold meetings with their lawyer or sign various documents in front of him. They cannot stand before the court to give their testimony, to prove their case … The situation cannot be expected to change in the foreseeable future."
The petition, filed by Adalah on behalf of 13 plaintiffs from Gaza plus lawyers and human rights groups, must be heard by the end of February.
The cases include that of Mohammed Asad Mohammed Alloh, disabled after being shot in the head from an Israeli military helicopter at the age of 13 in 2004. He was refused entry to Israel to undergo medical examination by an expert witness, as required by the court. His lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, was forced to withdraw the case in 2010 after a five-year battle.
Hassan Lutfi Saed al-Bishawy was taking his pregnant wife to hospital with her sister and a neighbour in January 2005 when their car came under fire from Israeli soldiers. The neighbour was killed and Bishawy was shot in his thigh and hand. None of the nine plaintiffs and four witnesses in the case have been permitted to enter Israel to testify. The case is still pending.
Kamla Saleh Suliman Abu Said and her niece were shot dead while working in fields near the Gaza-Israel border. The case was dismissed in 2009 after five years of legal battles because three witnesses were not permitted to enter Israel to appear in court. A second case is now pending, but the witnesses are still being refused access to Israel.
"In all these cases, there is a good chance to prove the liability of the state of Israel," said Fatmeh El-Ajou, a lawyer for Adalah. "This is the way the state is trying to avoid accountability. The plaintiffs are banned from exercising their rights. And in this way [the state] is turning the supreme court ruling into a dead letter."
Under Israeli law plaintiffs must also deposit a sum of money‚ "usually around 30,000 shekels (£5,000)‚" to guarantee the costs in case they lose their claim. The sum is forfeited if the case is dismissed. "This is another obstacle to the plaintiffs," said El-Ajou.
Israel's ministry of justice referred the Guardian to a letter it sent to Adalah prior to the petition being filed. The ministry said there was no legal obligation on the state of Israel to allow the entry of residents of Gaza.
It said there was "an armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terror organisations which are active in the Gaza Strip … Since June 2007 [when Hamas took control of Gaza] there exists alongside this conflict a terror government, which, as a result of a violent revolution which it carried out, which had turned the Gaza Strip into a "hostile territory' for the state of Israel". Claimants "have a wide array of methods to establish contact with their lawyers, among others, through telephone calls, faxes, and emails".

Carrier IQ: More privacy alarms, more confusion

Controversy over a mobile data-logger called Carrier IQ escalated today, with a U.S. senator raising an alarm and Apple and Verizon distancing themselves, even though it's still unclear how the software works.
An Android developer, Trevor Eckhart, reported last month that Carrier IQ software phoned home with details about how the phone was being used and where it was. Earlier this week, Eckhart posted a video elaborating on his claims, which was followed by another report that the software has been found on iPhones.
Apple responded today by saying it hasn't used Carrier IQ since it released iOS 5 last month and will remove it entirely from its products "in a future software update," the company said in a statement reported by GigaOm:

We stopped supporting Carrier IQ with iOS 5 in most of our products and will remove it completely in a future software update. With any diagnostic data sent to Apple, customers must actively opt-in to share this information, and if they do, the data is sent in an anonymous and encrypted form and does not include any personal information. We never recorded keystrokes, messages or any other personal information for diagnostic data and have no plans to ever do so.
BlackBerry maker Research in Motion also said it has neither pre-installed Carrier IQ on its devices nor authorized carriers to do so, according to a statement it provided to All Things D.
Smartphone manufacturer HTC went further, saying that Carrier IQ is "required on devices by a number of U.S. carriers," and directed users to the carriers themselves. Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said on Twitter today that "Carrier IQ is *not* on" the company's phones.
For its part, Sprint circulated a statement denying that it uses Carrier IQ to look at the "contents" of communications, a important legal point, but didn't provide specifics of how the software is configured:

Carrier IQ provides information that allows Sprint, and other carriers that use it, to analyze our network performance and identify where we should be improving service. We also use the data to understand device performance so we can figure out when issues are occurring. We collect enough information to understand the customer experience with devices on our network and how to address any connection problems, but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool. The information collected is not sold and we don't provide a direct feed of this data to anyone outside of Sprint.
Al Franken, who heads a U.S. Senate panel on privacy, sent a letter (PDF) today to Carrier IQ asking pointed questions, including what data are logged, what data are transmitted, and whether the company believes its software complies with federal privacy laws that prohibit wiretapping. Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, asked for a response by December 14.
Carrier IQ, based in Mountain View, Calif. has not responded to a series of questions that CNET posed this week. A spokeswoman said today that she is "only one person and have been unable to respond to the thousands of incoming requests."
What remains unclear is exactly what is transmitted, a key point that will determine whether Carrier IQ is a privacy and security threat (and, secondarily, if anyone has been lying).
Security researcher Dan Rosenberg posted a note saying that he's reverse-engineered Carrier IQ and found "no evidence that they are collecting anything more than what they've publicly claimed: anonymized metrics data." There's "no code in CarrierIQ that actually records keystrokes for data collection purposes," he said.
If Rosenberg is correct, it wouldn't be the first time that there was a widespread Internet panic over false or unverified accusations. It happened earlier this year when Samsung was cleared of false allegations lodged by a security specialist in a now-deleted NetworkWorld article that claimed keylogging software was installed on two of the company's laptops.

Hungary outlaws homeless in move condemned by charities

A new legal regulation has come into force in Hungary making homelessness punishable by a fine of around $600 (£384) or prison.
MPs from the ruling conservative party proposed the regulation, on the grounds that Budapest could not cope with the large number of people on the streets.
Critics, including charities for the homeless, say it is unenforceable and that hostels lack sufficient places.
The Hungarian capital is said to have some 10,000 homeless people.
According to an amendment to the local government act, passed by a strong majority in parliament last month, those found sleeping on the streets will first receive a warning.
They can subsequently be imprisoned or ordered to pay the fine.
'Stretched to the limits' The move has provoked widespread criticism, including from Hungary's human rights ombudsman, the BBC's Nick Thorpe reports.
Miklos Vecsei, deputy head of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service, said the law had not been passed on the basis of any rational or professional criteria but because the public were fed up with the homeless.
Budapest's capacity had been stretched to the limits but deep poverty needed to be cured, not banned, he argued.
The author of the law, Mate Kocsis, is an MP from the ruling Fidesz party and a district mayor in the city.
He argues that local councils should take responsibility for tackling homelessness, and points to new schemes and places in homeless hostels.
Homeless charities argue that this will still leave between 1,000 and 3,000 homeless people without shelter.
A series of demonstrations against the new law is planned.

Should animals be stunned before slaughter?

Meat in slaughterhouse
The slaughter of conscious animals was widely abandoned in the 20th Century and is now practised mainly in the Jewish and Muslim communities. Consumers increasingly expect animals to be stunned before death - but would banning other slaughter methods be an unacceptable violation of religious rights?
The sound of pistons and mechanics fills the air as the last calf of the day steps into a holding box.
A device the size of a hand-held drill is brought to the animal's head, a trigger pulled and a four-inch bolt shot into its brain, causing it instantly to collapse. The unconscious calf is hoisted upside down and slaughtered seconds later with a massive cut to its throat, showering the floor with a torrent of crimson blood.
"Killing animals is never friendly," says Paul Meeuwissen, director of the Vitelco abattoir in the central town of s'-Hertogenbosch, "but what we do is done in the most animal-friendly way possible."

Religious slaughter

  • Jewish method called shechita
  • Muslim method called dhabiha
  • Stunning prohibited in Jewish law, which says animals must be healthy and uninjured at the time of slaughter
  • Islamic law also says animals must be uninjured, but some authorities allow a form of stunning (in the UK, dhabiha usually involves stunning)
The plant - the second-biggest veal abattoir in Europe - has used stunning on all its calves - some 300,000 a year - since 2008. Before then it performed some religious slaughter without stunning for the Jewish and Muslim communities, but changing public attitudes towards animal welfare forced a rethink.
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe took the position in 2002 that "the practice of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is unacceptable under any circumstances", and the issue has gradually become more central for animal welfare campaigners, and for politicians.
"We decided to stop 'ritual' killing because the idea didn't fit us," says Mr Meeuwissen. "My customers are very critical on how we produce our meat, and the large supermarket chains no longer want any meat which is produced ritually."
In the Netherlands and elsewhere, most of the remains of an animal slaughtered by the Jewish method (shechita) end up on supermarket shelves as regular meat products, because parts of the carcass are forbidden to Jews under their dietary laws.
Marianne Thieme, Party for Animals: 'If you have humane techniques you should use them'
But if these parts of the animal are not sold, the operation becomes less economically viable.
Later this month, a bill that would effectively ban the slaughter of unstunned animals goes to the upper house of the Dutch parliament.
Sponsored by the Party for the Animals, it has already been approved in the lower house, where it was backed by the anti-Islamic Freedom Party and opposed only by the Christian parties, which took a stand in defence of religious freedom. Most observers expect it to become law.
'Friendly for humans'
Jewish and Muslim leaders see a worrying global trend, with the Netherlands a critical test case.
They are fighting a battle on two fronts - to dispel the idea there is anything inhumane about their traditional methods of slaughter, and to defend their right to live according to their religious beliefs.
Both faiths put great emphasis on animal welfare, and adhere to a one-cut method of slaughter, intended to ensure the animal's rapid death.
Under Jewish and Islamic law, animals for slaughter must be healthy and uninjured at the time of death, which rules out driving a bolt into the brain - though some Muslim authorities accept forms of stunning that can be guaranteed not to kill the animal.
"What I think is that stunning is friendly for the human being and our way of slaughtering is friendly for the animals," says Motti Rosenzweig, Holland's only Jewish slaughterer (shochet).
Under shechita, the animal's neck is cut with a surgically sharp knife, severing its major arteries, causing a massive drop in blood pressure followed by death from loss of blood. Supporters say unconsciousness comes instantaneously - the cut itself stunning the animal. A similar procedure is used in Islamic slaughter, or dhabiha.
"In one second - maybe two if it's a bull - the animal is gone," says Mr Rosenzweig, who trained for years in Israel and now slaughters once a week, under the observation of a state veterinary official, at the Amsterdam Abattoir.
"In my opinion [conventional] stunning is torture. Just because it can't say 'moo' or move anymore, it's very nice for the human eye, but the animal is alive and the scientists don't actually know if it's suffering or not. If I have to make my choice, my choice is clear."
Chief Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs: 'I believe our method of slaughter is friendlier to animals'
A Dutch Muslim umbrella group, the Contact Body for Muslims and the Government (CMO), accused the Party for the Animals of leading an "emotional" campaign based on misleading information which "wrongly created the impression that Muslim and Jewish methods of slaughter are barbaric and outdated".
"They use the words 'ritual slaughter' but there's nothing ritual about it," says Dutch Chief Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs.
"It's not dancing around a cow, it's a method, but by using the word 'ritual' a lot of people are getting very upset."
Scientific dispute
Positions on religious slaughter vary around the world - in the US, for instance, it is specifically defined as a humane method in the Humane Slaughter Act (1958) - but elsewhere several countries have already restricted or banned slaughtering unstunned animals.

Moves on stunning in 2011

  • Dutch lower house passes bill against non-stunning - upper house to vote on issue
  • European Parliament starts considering mandatory labelling of meat from unstunned animals, so consumers know when they are eating it
  • US court rejects suit claiming religious slaughter unconstitutional
  • New Zealand ban on religious slaughter without stunning suspended pending legal challenge
  • Australian agriculture ministers considering removing exemption allowing slaughter without stunning in Victoria
Stunning has been obligatory in the European Union since 1979 in order to spare animals "avoidable pain or suffering", though most member states make exceptions for religious communities.
A study of the issue commissioned by the Dutch government in 2008 concluded that "ritual slaughter has a number of negative aspects for the animals when compared to conventional procedures where a stun is performed prior to slaughter".
Its findings were mirrored in a 2010 report by a consortium of scientists for an EU-funded project, which concluded that "it can be stated with the utmost probability that animals feel pain during the throat cut without prior stunning".
It said research showed most cattle seemed to lose consciousness between five and 90 seconds after the cut, and were sometimes subjected to "potentially painful manipulations", including follow-up cuts, while still conscious.

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There are some scientists who are unconvinced, but they haven't done the research”
Dr Bert Lambooij Wageningen University
Both reports, though, have been dismissed as flawed by Jewish and Muslim groups, who argue that the research was done by scientists opposed to religious slaughter to begin with.
"It is still unproven that slaughtering with stunning is a better method," says CMO chairman Yusuf Altuntas.
In the case of shechita, Jewish authorities say no investigations of the issue in Europe have actually involved the first-hand study of animal slaughter by a trained shochet using a chalef (shochet's knife), which differs from an ordinary abattoir knife in shape, length and sharpness.
"One has to assume that these people have a political agenda and it comes through time and time again in Europe," says Dr Joe Regenstein, an animal slaughter expert at Cornell University in the USA, who is preparing a report for the Dutch Jewish community to challenge the slaughter bill.
"They are going in there with what I'd call a scientific enlightened secular religion that says stunning must be better than unstunned slaughter."

Stunning of livestock

Pig being electrically stunned (credit: Temple Grandin)
  • Introduced in England in 1929 with mechanically operated humane stunner device
  • Mandatory in EU since 1979, but member states can grant exemptions for religious slaughter
  • Method enables abattoirs to process animals more quickly
  • Mis-stuns involving captive bolt occur "relatively frequently", according to 2004 European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) report - which leaves the animal conscious and in pain
  • Animals can also regain consciousness
In contrast, Dr Bert Lambooij of Wageningen University, a co-author of the Dutch report and consultant in the EU-backed project, says the evidence against religious slaughter is clear.
"There are some scientists who are unconvinced, but they haven't done the research," he says.
One scientist who has observed closely the work of trained shochets is Dr Temple Grandin of Colorado University, a renowned expert on the humane treatment and slaughter of livestock.
Her verdict is that conventional slaughter with preliminary stunning, and religious slaughter without stunning, are both acceptable when conducted properly.
"There's good and bad stunning but the research shows very clearly that when you stun an animal properly with a well-maintained captive bolt, unconsciousness is instantaneous - it's like turning off a light switch," she told the BBC.
"Similarly when I've seen shechita on a cow done really right by a really good shochet, the animal seemed to act like it didn't even feel it - if I walked up to that animal and put my hand in its face I would have got a much bigger reaction than I observed from the cut, and that was something which really surprised me."
Religious fears
Animal rights groups see the Dutch bill as a stepping stone towards further bans on religious slaughter.
"The Netherlands is a very important example, but for us it's just a battle, not the war," says Dr Michel Courat of Eurogroup for Animals, a federation of animal protection groups.
"We need to win lots of other battles after this one to make sure more countries stop this practice."
This is the big fear among Europe's Jewish and Muslim communities.

Campaigners' views

"We fully respect everyone's right to practise their religion but this should not extend to permitting the use of slaughter methods assessed as inhumane by scientific research." Peter Stevenson, Compassion in World Farming
"The vast majority of Halal meat in the UK is pre-stunned. In the Jewish community, in a small number of cases, animals are stunned immediately after the cut, which reduces the animal's suffering. We think stunning should take place before the cut, but it is better afterwards than not at all." Julia Wrathall, RSPCA
"We're afraid that other countries in Western Europe will follow the Dutch example," says Mr Altuntas.
"We heard from our Muslim council partners in Germany, Belgium and France that parties there are watching it closely and are preparing to take a position."
If the Dutch bill becomes law, Jewish and Muslim leaders say they will fight it in the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that it is a violation of the right to freedom of religion.
"If the Party for the Animals proposed a law which said there shouldn't be any slaughtering of animals any more and everyone should be vegetarian, I could understand it better," says Rabbi Jacobs.
"But it's a vote against religion. The new religion is anti-religion and people get fanatical about this. What worries me is what might come next."


Policy Country 
Non-stunning allowed only under certain conditions
Australia (Victoria, S Australia)
Non-stunning banned
Australia (bar Victoria, S Australia)
New Zealand (suspended pending legal challenge)
Source: Dialrel; Eurogroup for Animals

Legal row over Carrier IQ 'surveillance' app claims

A hidden application found on millions of smartphones can log almost everything a user does, claims a US security researcher.
Trevor Eckhart unearthed the Carrier IQ application that runs largely unseen on Android, Nokia and Blackberry handsets.
Mr Eckhart said the software could log locations, websites visited, key presses and many other parameters.
Carrier IQ denied its code was spying. It threatened Mr Eckhart with legal action but later backed down.
Advanced skills Mr Eckhart said he found Carrier IQ via work he had done on a security program, called Logging Test, which spotted which apps were running on an Android phone.
His analysis revealed that Carrier IQ could be set up to record almost anything and everything done on a smartphone.
The code has been found on Nokia, Blackberry and Android smartphones and tablets. A cut down version has also been seen running on some Apple phones.
In response, Carrier IQ defended its software, saying it was not spying on users.
It said the code was used by mobile operators as a diagnostic tool to spot what was causing calls to drop, texts to go astray and battery power to be drained.
Mr Eckhart claimed Carrier IQ was buried deep in the core code for a smartphone to prevent it being found and, on some phones, was customised to prevent users changing what it logged. In some cases, he said, only those with "advanced skills" would be able to find it.
He put a video on YouTube which showed Carrier IQ logging button presses, search queries and locations. Much of the data had been grabbed without consent, he said.
Fair use The expose led Carrier IQ to start legal action against Mr Eckhart in the form of a "cease and desist" letter which demanded the removal of its training manuals and product information from his website.
This led to the intervention of digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which agreed to represent Mr Eckhart in the legal spat.

Man using iPhone 
In April 2011, Apple was accused of logging users' locations without their consent.
In its response, the EFF said: "We have now had a chance to review your allegations against our client, and have concluded that they are entirely baseless."
It said Mr Eckhart's work was "sheltered by both the fair use doctrine and the First Amendment".
Soon after, Carrier IQ withdrew its legal action and said it was "deeply sorry for any concern or trouble" it had caused.
"We sincerely appreciate and respect EFF's work on his behalf, and share their commitment to protecting free speech in a rapidly changing technological world," it said in a statement.
It reiterated that its software was used for diagnosis and disputed Mr Eckhart's claim that it had logged keystrokes and had tracked where people went.
It said it looked forward to a "healthy and robust" discussion with EFF and Mr Eckhart about its software and the uses to which it had been put.
Senate hearing The news is the latest in a series of reports by security researchers flagging up different smartphone applications that keep an eye on users.
In April, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden found that Apple iPhones and tablets running iOS4 regularly recorded a phone's location.
Apple denied it was tracking users and said the data was uploaded to phones to help locate nearby wi-fi and cell phone towers.
In addition, Google played down claims that phones running its Android system were logging locations. It said it gave people a clear choice about whether the information should be gathered.
Both firms were summoned to appear before the US Senate to explain their actions.

Action Comics Superman debut copy sells for $2.16m

Action Comics No 1 cover  
Action Comics No 1 sold originally for 10 cents

A copy of the first issue of Action Comics, featuring Superman's debut, has become the world's most expensive comic, fetching $2.16m (£1.4m).
It was auctioned online for a starting bid of just $1, with a reserve price of $900,000.
The buyer or seller's name was not disclosed, but there is speculation it was owned by actor Nicolas Cage.
It is the first time a comic book has broken the $2m barrier. The issue was published in 1938 and cost 10 cents.
About 100 copies of Action Comics No 1 are thought to be in existence, and only a handful of those are in good condition.
Another copy of the same issue sold for a then record-breaking $1.5m in March last year.
But that one was not in as good condition as the copy that sold on Wednesday through New York-based ComicConnect.
It is said to have been stolen in 2000 and was thought lost until recovered in a California storage shed in April this year - just like an issue owned by Nicolas Cage.
The Hollywood star - who has a son called Kal-El, the Man of Steel's birth name - bought his copy of Action Comics No 1 for $150,000 in 1997.
Connoisseurs of the comic world say this type of investment has become popular during troubled economic times because rare collectibles hold their value more reliably than property or shares.


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