Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XZs, Xperia XA1, Xperia XA1 Ultra Smartphones Launched at MWC 2017

As expected, Sony has launched the Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XZs, Xperia XA1, and Xperia XA1 Ultra smartphones at MWC 2017 in Barcelona. The XZ Premium is a high-end variant of the Xperia XZ, while Xperia XZs is essentially a smaller variant. Similarly, the Xpera XA1 and Xperia XA1 Ultra are successors to the Xperia XA and Xperia XA Ultra smartphone launched last year.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XZs, Xperia XA1, Xperia XA1 Ultra Smartphones Launched at MWC 2017

Starting with the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the smartphone sports a 5.5-inch Triluminos HDR display with 4K (2160 x 3840) resolution. It is powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (Gigabit LTE speeds with X16 LTE modem) paired with Adreno 540 GPU and 4GB RAM. The new Xperia XZ Premium offers 64GB of inbuilt storage with the option to expand further via a microSD slot (up to 256GB).

The new Xperia XZ Premium camera on the back has a 19-megapixel sensor with Sony’s new Motion Eye camera system (based its new memory stacked 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor) that provides 5x faster image scanning and data transfer. This means you can create videos by recording in 960 frames per second, providing Super slow motion video playback that is apparently four times slower than other smartphones in the market. There’s also a 13-megapixel front camera with 1/3.06-inch Exmor RS sensor for selfies.

Sony XZ Premium packs a 3230mAh battery, runs on Android 7.0 Nougat, measures at 156x77x7.9mm, and weighs 195 grams. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS + GLONASS, NFC, and USB Type-C (USB 3.1) port.

The new Sony Xperia XZ Premium will be available globally sometime in late Spring in Luminous Chrome and Deepsea Black colours. Sony will also launch a range of accessories including the Quick Charger UCH12Wix which offers hours of battery time by plugging in for just a few minutes and Bluetooth Headset with Speaker SBH56 which enables hands free talking through the loud speaker whilst multi-tasking and has a remote camera shutter.

The Sony Xperia XZs is essentially a smaller variant of last year’s Xperia XZ smartphone with a 5.2-inch (1080×1920 pixels) Triluminos display. It is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with Adreno 510 GPU and 4GB RAM. The new Sony smartphone offers 32GB and 64GB of internal storage options with the option to expand further via microSD slot (up to 256GB).

Sony Xperia XZs battery is capacity is rated at 2900mAh, and the device measures 146x72x8.1 mm, and weighs 161 grams. All of the other Sony Xperia XZs specifications are identical to that of Xperia XZ Premium. The smartphone will be available in select markets from April onwards in Ice Blue, Warm Silver and Black colours.

Design wise, Sony Xperia XA1 and Xperia XA1 Ultra resemble the previously launched Xperia XA smartphone a lot. Starting with the larger Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra, it features a 6-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display, and is powered by a 64-bit MediaTek Helio P20 octa-core (quad core 2.3GHz + quad core 1.6GHz) SoC with Mali T880 MP2 900MHz GPU and 4GB RAM. The smartphone offers 32GB and 64GB of internal storage, which is expandable further via a microSD card slot (up to 256GB).

The big highlight of Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra is the cameras at the back and front. At the rear, there is a 23-megapixel Exmor RS image sensor with hybrid autofocus, 24mm wide-angle lens, f/2.0 aperture, 5x zoom, and HDR mode. The Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra bears a 16-megapixel Exmor RS sensor at the front with front flash, 23mm wide-angle lens, f/2.0 aperture, OIS, and autofocus. The battery is a 2700mAh, and the smartphone runs on Android 7.0 Nougat. Connectivity options include LTE (4G), LTE Cat6/4, GSM GPRS/EDGE (2G), and UMTS HSPA+ (3G).

The smaller Sony Xperia XA1 smartphone features a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) display, packs a 3GB RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and offers a 2300mAh battery. The Sony Xperia XA1 front camera is at 8-megapixel with no front flash or OIS. All the other specification details remain the same as the XXperia A1 Ultra smartphone. Both the smartphones will be made available in Spring in White, Black, Pink, and Gold colours. Sony will also launch matching Style Cover Stands alongside in White and Black colours, along with a range of complementary accessories. Price of all the smartphones will vary depending upon the regions.

Paytm Mall App Launched for Standalone E-commerce Services

Paytm has launched Paytm mall, a standalone e-commerce app. For years, Paytm has run its mobile wallet and e-commerce divisions together, and you use the same app to access both sides of the business. However, the company has been planning to separate the two as the wallet becomes a part of its payments bank, and the launch of Paytm Mall shows that this is now happening. Interestingly, Paytm Mall also evokes the name T-Mall, one of China’s biggest e-commerce players, and a part of the Alibaba Group, which is an investor in Paytm.

Paytm Mall App Launched for Standalone E-commerce Services

Earlier this month, there were reports that Paytm was raising $200 million from Alibaba, for its e-commerce business. Alibaba is also an investor in Snapdeal, and in 2016, was contemplating entering the country as a standalone entity in India. This investment in Paytm would show that it has chosen a way forward in India, at a time when Snapdeal is in trouble, clearly strapped for cash.

The Paytm Mall app was launched on Monday, and has all the expected categories, such as electronics, fashion, furnishings, and so on. As usual for Paytm’s marketplace, there are plenty of cashback offers, which will fill up your Paytm wallet in lieu of a discount. In that sense, the new app seems to simplify the Paytm experience, with shopping and wallet not having to compete for attention, while the features and experience remain otherwise the same.

The main Paytm app was also updated recently – on Friday, according to a blog post. The update promises faster responses and better experience, and has added new uses such as paying loan instalments, and simplifying utility bill payments. There’s also a sample electricity bill feature that’s been added, which lets you see sample bills for different service providers that highlight the different fields, so you can more easily find the relevant information on your own bill.

The Paytm Mall app itself looks and functions a lot like the main Paytm app – tap the mall button on the latter’s navigation pane, and the experience seems largely identical. Does this indicate that the mall is going to go away entirely from the main Paytm app? On Monday, Paytm announced that it has crossed 200 million wallets, so it might feel that it is beneficial to let transactions take the focus on the new app.

ZTE is set to announce its 5G-compatible ‘Gigabit’ LTE smartphone at MWC 2017

While we are still trying to move to 4G network, Chinese network tech giant ZTE has announced that the company will will be unveiling one the first gigabit LTE smartphone. The launch will take place at the Mobile World Congress ( MWC ) in Barcelona later this month.

“The ZTE Gigabit phone will revolutionize connectivity with a new standard of download speeds, 1Gbps, bringing a qualitative leap to a new world of mobile experience by making 360-degree panoramic VR video, instant Cloud storage, entertainment upgrades and fast cache of ultra Hi-Fi music and movies possible,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
The first devices to have the gigabit LTE support were showcased 2016, when Qualcomm joined with Netgear, Telstra, and Ericsson. In the beginning of this year, the widely known chip maker Qualcomm announced that its gigabit LTE supporting X16 modem will be baked in its next flagship chipset Snapdragon 835.
The company has not unveiled any other detail about the upcoming device yet, but it will be interesting to see what comes ahead. No doubt, ZTE will set a milestone by bringing one of the first smartphone with gigabit LTE that supports such insane speed.
Related: ZTE Blade A2 Plus vs ASUS Zenfone 3S Max: Which one should you go for?
ZTE will be showcasing some other devices at the MWC, including a range of devices adding up to company’s well known Blade series. It will also come up with the updated version of the “Axon 7” with Google’s Daydream and latest Android 7.0 Nougat.

WIN! An OMEN by HP Desktop 870-175na worth £1,499

One of the biggest events of the gaming season is happening this weekend, 18-19 February 2017 at Olympia London.

The PC Gamer Weekender – put on by TechRadar’s publishers – is the place to place some of the latest games, get hands on with the best PC gaming kit and watch and listen to the gaming experts.

To celebrate the arrival of the show, headline sponsors OMEN by HP have a fantastic prize to give away.

One lucky winner will get their hands on an OMEN by HP Desktop 870-175na , worth a fantastic £1,499.

This desktop PC is perfect for gaming, offering Nvidia GTX or AMD R9 graphics. The PC is VR ready and its brushed metal chassis and red LED lighting strikes mean it is one that of the best-looking desktops around.

All you have to do to win is visit the PC Gamer Weekender website and follow the instructions.

If you still haven’t got your PC Gamer Weekender tickets then head to the site now – there’s still a limited amount available and you’ll get a free game worth £7.99!

The OMEN by HP desktop will be there and playable at the show.

Hacker takes out dark web hosting service using well-known exploit

A hacker is proving that sites on the dark web, shrouded in anonymity, can easily be compromised.   img 20170203 161836

On Friday, the unnamed hacker began dumping a sizable database stolen from Freedom Hosting II onto the internet, potentially exposing its users.

The hosting service, Freedom Hosting II, was known for operating thousands of sites that were accessible through the Tor browser; the “dark web” is essentially the encrypted network comprising Tor servers and browsers. But on Friday, the service appeared to be down. Its main landing page was replaced with a message saying that it had been hacked.

Allegedly, Freedom Hosting II had been hosting child pornography sites, though its anonymous operator claimed to have a zero-tolerance policy toward such content, according to the hacker behind the breach.

“What we found while searching through your server is more than 50% child porn…” the hacker wrote in the message left on the site. “Moreover, you host many scam sites, some of which are evidently run by yourself to cover hosting expenses.”

In an email to the IDG News Service, the hacker explained how the breach came about. “I just recently read an article about a well-known exploit that some hosting providers fell victims of many years ago,” the person said.

Freedom Hosting II worked as a free service that allowed anyone to sign up and create a site on the dark web. However, starting on Jan. 30, the hacker gained access to its web server, using a 20-step method.

screen shot 2017 02 06 at 9.44.57 amMichael Kan
The method the hacker claims to have used.

The hack essentially involved starting a new site on Freedom Hosting II and creating a link to gain access to the service’s root directory. This allowed the hacker to browse the entire server.

“I was just curious at first,” the person said. “I had reading permissions to everything the web server could get access to just by creating a symlink to.”

After coming across child porn sites, the hacker decided to take over Freedom Hosting II by altering its configuration file to trigger a password reset.

“Once I found out what they were hosting, I just wanted to shut them down,” said the hacker, who’s also been circulating what he stole through a torrent file.

The dump includes 74GB of files and a 2.3GB database from the service, the hacker claims.

“The IP of the server has been leaked, which potentially could reveal the admin’s identity,” the hacker added.

Chris Monteiro, a cybercrime researcher based in the U.K., has been looking through the data dump, which he said appears to be real. The information includes the sites that Freedom Hosting II had been operating, along with the admin credentials to access them.

The dump also appears to contain a client database, meaning that anyone who used Freedom Hosting II might be exposed, Monteiro said.

“We’re going to see emails, usernames, all of which can be used by law enforcement for prosecution of people,” he said.

In addition, the dump contains forum posts from users mentioning sex with minors, the sale of hacked internet accounts, and files that reference botnets and online scamming.

Freedom Hosting II was the largest shared hosting service on the dark web, Monteiro said. It was specifically designed for users who wanted anonymous hosting, but who lacked the know-how to set it up, he said.

However, many of the sites hosted by the service were probably small. “I doubt we’ll find any large sites operating child porn,” he said of the data dump.

According to the hacker’s message, Freedom Hosting II was responsible for 10,613 sites. However, the database dump indicates that a vast majority of those sites had only a few dozen or hundreds of user visits.

Troy Hunt, a data breach expert, said in a tweet that he noticed the database dump contained 381,000 email addresses.

“Law enforcement will absolutely have this data, it’s very public. It also obviously has many real email addresses in it,” he tweeted.

Privacy researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis has also been researching Freedom Hosting II. In October, she wrote that the service had been hosting sites that sold counterfeit documents and stolen credit card numbers, in addition to those that operated as personal blogs and web forums.

Beware! Malware distributors are switching to less suspicious file types

After aggressively using JavaScript email attachments to distribute malware for the past year, attackers are now switching to less suspicious file types to trick users.LNK and SVG file types are abused to distribute malware.

Last week, researchers from the Microsoft Malware Protection Center warned about a new wave of spam emails that carried malicious .LNK files inside ZIP archives. Those files had malicious PowerShell scripts attached to them.

PowerShell is a scripting language for automating Windows system administration tasks. It has been abused to download malware in the past and there are even malware programs written entirely in PowerShell.

In the recent campaign seen by Microsoft, the malicious LNK files contained a PowerShell script that downloaded and installed the Kovter click fraud trojan. The same technique has been used in the past to distribute the Locky ransomware.

On Thursday researchers from Intel Security warned that PowerShell can also be used in so-called fileless attacks, where the malicious code is launched directly into memory and nothing is saved to disk for endpoint security products to detect.

“You may think that you are protected from fileless malware because your PowerShell execution policies are set to ‘Restricted’ so that scripts can’t run,” the Intel Security researchers said in a blog post. “However, attackers can easily bypass these policies.”

Another file type used to distribute malware in recent months has been SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). While many people correctly associate .SVG files with images, it’s a little-known fact that such files can actually contain JavaScript.

Attackers have been using SVG files to execute obfuscated JavaScript when users open what they believe to be images inside their browsers. These obfuscated scripts are used to launch malicious file downloads, incident responders from the SANS Internet Storm Center warned in a recent report.

Google plans to block JavaScript file attachments in Gmail starting February 13, regardless of whether they’re attached directly or within archive files like ZIP. Such restrictions from email providers will likely force cybercriminals to find alternative file formats that allows hiding malicious code.

Banning LNK or JS file attachments is easy, because it’s rare for people to send such files via email. However, banning SVG might prove impractical since it’s a widely used image format.

You can now make smart gadgets and IoT devices that use Bluetooth 5

In a few months, Bluetooth 5 will finally arrive in smartphones and tablets. But you can already test the technology on developer boards being shipped by hardware makers.launchxl cc2640r2 launchxl cc2640r2

Bluetooth 5 is a major step ahead for the venerable technology, which was introduced in 1999 to hook up devices wirelessly. It is two times faster than predecessor Bluetooth 4.2, has four times longer range, and boasts cool new connectivity features.

It can transfer data at speeds of up to 2Mbps (bits per second) and has a realistic range of 120 meters. The range could be even longer in a clear line of sight, the standards setting organization Bluetooth Special Interest Group said.

That’s good news for those who pair mobile devices or PCs to peripherals like wireless speakers. There will be fewer connection drops.

A Bluetooth device will also transmit data from one device to many, a feature that will be beneficial in smart homes. For example, if a surveillance system detects a thief, it could use Bluetooth 5 to simultaneously activate the safety light and the alarm system.

The new wireless standard can also broadcast richer data, like location information and URLs. That could be useful in retail stores or even self-driving cars, which transfer navigation data.

Bluetooth 5 will reach devices in two to six months, the Bluetooth SIG said in December. Some of the first devices could be smartphones and tablets with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chips, which has Bluetooth 5 in the chipset.

But you can start testing Bluetooth 5 with wireless boards now shipping. The boards will be particularly handy for tinkerers prototyping gadgets or developing internet of things devices for automation or industrial settings.

Wireless boards like Particle and Espressif Systems—which primarily use Wi-Fi—are extremely popular, but other boards with Bluetooth 5 functionality are available or are coming soon.

If you’re developing prototype gadgets, Abelon Systems’ Internet of Things Reference Platform will offer a range of wireless connectivity technology, including support for Bluetooth 5. It will also support ZigBee and the emerging low-bandwidth IoT connectivity technologies like SIGFOX or LoRaWAN. On-board sensors include an accelerometer, gyrometer, and magnetometer, but other sensors could be attached through interfaces. It has the popular I2C and UART connector interfaces. It will ship later this year, and the price wasn’t immediately available.

Nordic’s nRF52840 Preview Development Kit, which is priced between US$40 and $50, is a development board on which small electronics can be developed. The board is compatible with Arduino Uno Revision 3, a popular electronics development environment. It has a 64Mhz Cortex-M4F processor, 1MB of integrated flash storage, and 256KB of RAM. It supports ARM Mbed, a cloud-based development platform. It also has an NFC interface and a wide number of connectors. It also has a USB 2.0 interface.

Texas Instruments was one of the first to jump on the Bluetooth 5 bandwagon, and its $29 Launchpad Board wireless development kit is designed to test Bluetooth 5 applications in IoT settings. The board will be upgradeable to Bluetooth 5 when the full firmware stack is released. It has a 48Mhz ARM Cortex-M3 processor and a set of inputs to connect sensors. It is available on TI’s website.

TV maker Vizio pays $2.2M to settle complaint that it spied on users

Popular smart TV maker Vizio will pay US $2.2 million to settle complaints that it violated customers’ privacy by continuously monitoring their viewing habits without their knowledge.TV maker Vizio will pay $2.2 million to resolve a privacy complaint.

Beginning in February 2014, the California TV maker tracked what TV shows customers were watching on 11 million TV sets sold in the U.S., the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General said in a complaint, released Monday.

Vizio smart TVs captured “second-by-second” information about video displayed, including video from consumer cable service, broadband, set-top boxes, DVDs, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices, according to the complaint.

A stipulated federal court order requires Vizio to prominently disclose and obtain consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and it prohibits the company from misrepresenting the privacy and confidentiality of consumer information it collects. The order also requires Vizio to delete data collected before March 1, 2016.

The settlement will set a new standard for “best industry privacy practices” for smart TVs and other home devices, Vizio said in a statement. Vizio’s data collection program “never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information,” Jerry Huang, the company’s general counsel, added in the statement.

The FTC’s complaint “made clear that all smart TV makers should get people’s consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information and Vizio now is leading the way,” Huang added.

Vizio added specific demographic information to the viewing data it collected, including gender, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value, the agencies alleged. Vizio sold this information to third parties, who used it for purposes such as targeting advertising to consumers across devices, according to the complaint.

Vizio touted its “Smart Interactivity” feature that “enables program offers and suggestions,” but the company failed to inform consumers that the settings also enabled the collection of consumers’ viewing data, the agencies alleged. The data collection was unfair and deceptive, in violation of U.S. and New Jersey consumer protection laws, the agencies said.

Abut $1.5 million of the settlement will go to the FTC and $1 million to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, with $300,000 suspended.

Smart TVs from Samsung and LG Electronics have also been accused of monitoring their users in recent years.

This story was updated to include Vizio’s comments in the fifth to seventh paragraphs.

Microsoft’s Email Insights finally adds some useful search smarts to Outlook

Email Insights, a new experimental app from the Microsoft Garage, is the answer to a problem Google’s Gmail solved more than a decade ago: how to search Outlook and find exactly what you want.email insights search

Google’s Gmail gained enormous traction in part because it allowed a quick, convenient way to search emails. Today, you can search Outlook, but it arranges the results in order with no real preference given to what might be most relevant.

Email Insights works with both your Microsoft Outlook desktop application as well as Gmail, and attempts to bring the three most relevant results to the top of your inbox via an “intent pane.” The tool also provides contextual autocomplete, spelling correction and a fuzzy name search that will pull up the name of a contact, even if you’re not entirely sure how to spell it.

email insights intent pane

The “intent pane” within Email Insights brings up relevant search results to the top of your inbox.

Users can open tabs within Email Insights to perform multiple searches. The search box can also be used to fire off a quick, one-line email to a contact, or even set up a quick meeting—functions that are becoming more common in the notifications window within smartphones.

If you’d like, you can even “detach” the Email Insights toolbar from Outlook itself and drag it down to your taskbar, Microsoft said.

 Let’s face it: Gmail is still easier to use than Outlook, at least where everyday email searches are concerned. If Email Insights proves as useful as it sounds, maybe Outlook will incorporate it into a future release. The problem, though, is that this app is being published via Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s online home for app experiments. If you like Email Insights, encourage others to download it, too. Otherwise, Microsoft could kill it, as it recently did with Cache, its erstwhile Google Keep killer.

Final Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview lands, bringing iOS support

As promised last year, Google has released the fifth and final version of the Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview, paving the way for the full release of the wearable OS and urging developers to get their apps ready for next month’s launch.Android Wear

While the release mostly brings bug fixes and general performance improvements, there are a few standout features. Most notably, the new version brings iOS support for the new on-watch Play Store, letting iPhone users enjoy the same standalone application experience as Android users. Additionally, Android Wear apps running on watches paired with iOS devices will be able to perform phone “hand-off flows” for launching web pages on the linked iPhone. The new update also optimizes the available network bandwidth for standalone apps, in an effort to save battery life.

android wear ios
The final release of the Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview brings full iOS support.

Also included is a new navigation drawer feature, which lets you “flip a flag to toggle to the single-page, icon-only action drawer,” providing faster navigation to different views inside apps. Furthermore, the new update brings support for NFC Host Card Emulation to open up Android Pay support on supported watches.

Google has already announced that Android Wear 2.0 will be launching in early February, so developers who want to support it at launch need to submit their apps as soon as possible. As Google explains, “The final developer preview includes an update to the Wearable Support Library. Apps compiled with API level 25 and this support library are considered ready for deployment in the Google Play Store.”

It’s almost here! We’ve been waiting patiently for the release of Android Wear 2.0 since we first laid eyes on it last May at Google I/O, and it’s finally ready to launch in just a few weeks. If you own one of the supported watches, you’ll be able to play with it soon enough (though Android Pay support will be limited to models with NFC chips), and a whole new crop of wearables is sure to take advantage of the new features, starting with Google’s own offering.

This story, “Final Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview lands, bringing iOS support” was originally published by Greenbot.