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TECHNOLOGY

INDIAN (T)

Apple addresses iOS source code leak, says it appears to be tied to three-year-old software

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Earlier this week, iOS source code showed up on GitHub, raising concerns that hackers could find a way to comb the material for vulnerabilities. Apple has confirmed with TechCrunch that the code appears to be real, but adds that it’s tied to old software. 

The material is gone now, courtesy of a DMCA notice Apple sent to GitHub, but the occurrence was certainly notable, given the tight grip the company traditionally has on such material. So, if the code was, indeed, what it purported to be, has the damage already been done?

Motherboard, which was among the first to note the code labeled “iBoot,” reached out to author Jonathan Levin, who confirmed that the code certainly looks real and called it “a huge deal.” While the available code appears to be pretty small, it could certainly offer some unique insight into how Apple works its magic.

“Old source code from three years ago appears to have been leaked,” the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch, “but by design the security of our products doesn’t depend on the secrecy of our source code. There are many layers of hardware and software protections built into our products, and we always encourage customers to update to the newest software releases to benefit from the latest protections.”

Much of the security concern is mitigated by the fact that it appears to be tied to iOS 9, a version of the operating system released three-and-a-half years ago. Apple’s almost certainly tweaked significant portions of the available code since then, and the company’s own numbers show that a large majority of users (93-percent) are running iOS 10 or later. But could the commonalities offer enough insight to pose a serious potential threat to iPhone users?

Security researcher Will Strafach told TechCrunch that the code is compelling for the information it gives hackers into the inner workings of the boot loader. He added that Apple’s probably not thrilled with the leak due to intellectual property concerns (see: the DMCA request referenced above), but this information ultimately won’t have much if any impact on iPhone owners.

“In terms of end users, this doesn’t really mean anything positive or negative,” Strafach said in an email. “Apple does not use security through obscurity, so this does not contain anything risky, just an easier to read format for the boot loader code. It’s all cryptographically signed on end user devices, there is no way to to really use any of the contents here maliciously or otherwise.”

In other words, Apple’s multi-layered approach to keeping iOS secure involves a lot more safeguards than what you’d see in a leak like this, however it may have made its way to GitHub. Of course, as Strafach correctly points out, the company’s still probably not thrilled about the optics around having had this information in the wild — if only for a short while.



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TECHNOLOGY

Apple addresses iOS source code leak, says it appears to be tied to three-year-old software

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Earlier this week, iOS source code showed up on GitHub, raising concerns that hackers could find a way to comb the material for vulnerabilities. Apple has confirmed with TechCrunch that the code appears to be real, but adds that it’s tied to old software. 

The material is gone now, courtesy of a DMCA notice Apple sent to GitHub, but the occurrence was certainly notable, given the tight grip the company traditionally has on such material. So, if the code was, indeed, what it purported to be, has the damage already been done?

Motherboard, which was among the first to note the code labeled “iBoot,” reached out to author Jonathan Levin, who confirmed that the code certainly looks real and called it “a huge deal.” While the available code appears to be pretty small, it could certainly offer some unique insight into how Apple works its magic.

“Old source code from three years ago appears to have been leaked,” the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch, “but by design the security of our products doesn’t depend on the secrecy of our source code. There are many layers of hardware and software protections built into our products, and we always encourage customers to update to the newest software releases to benefit from the latest protections.”

Much of the security concern is mitigated by the fact that it appears to be tied to iOS 9, a version of the operating system released three-and-a-half years ago. Apple’s almost certainly tweaked significant portions of the available code since then, and the company’s own numbers show that a large majority of users (93-percent) are running iOS 10 or later. But could the commonalities offer enough insight to pose a serious potential threat to iPhone users?

Security researcher Will Strafach told TechCrunch that the code is compelling for the information it gives hackers into the inner workings of the boot loader. He added that Apple’s probably not thrilled with the leak due to intellectual property concerns (see: the DMCA request referenced above), but this information ultimately won’t have much if any impact on iPhone owners.

“In terms of end users, this doesn’t really mean anything positive or negative,” Strafach said in an email. “Apple does not use security through obscurity, so this does not contain anything risky, just an easier to read format for the boot loader code. It’s all cryptographically signed on end user devices, there is no way to to really use any of the contents here maliciously or otherwise.”

In other words, Apple’s multi-layered approach to keeping iOS secure involves a lot more safeguards than what you’d see in a leak like this, however it may have made its way to GitHub. Of course, as Strafach correctly points out, the company’s still probably not thrilled about the optics around having had this information in the wild — if only for a short while.



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AFRICAN AMERICAN (T)

Fin24.com | Twitter hits milestone with first-ever profit

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Washington – Twitter on Thursday reported its first-ever quarterly profit, in a key milestone for the social network which has been lagging for years against fast-growing rivals.

San Francisco-based Twitter said it earned $91m in the fourth quarter, the first positive net income since going public in 2013.

Revenue was up 2% from a year ago to a better-than-expected $73m.

The number of monthly active users was 330 million, unchanged from the prior quarter but up 4% from a year earlier.

While Twitter has built a solid core base of celebrities, politicians and journalists, it has failed to achieve the broader appeal of Facebook and other social platforms, hurting its ability to bring in ad revenues.

Twitter shares leapt 26% to $33.86 in pre-market trade on the upbeat news. The shares this month jumped above the 2013 offering price of $26 for the first time since late 2015.

The profitability is an important achievement for Twitter, which has lost money consistently since its public offering, sparking speculation on whether it needed to sell itself to keep operating.

Chief executive Jack Dorsey welcomed “a strong finish to the year”, and added “I’m proud of the steady progress we made in 2017, and confident in our path ahead.”

READ: Internet freedom of speech pioneer dies

The network has stepped up efforts to boost its user base and engagement, adding streaming video partnerships, doubling the character limit on tweets to 280 and making it easier to create “tweetstorms” by stringing messaging together.

Dorsey told a conference call that by relaxing the limits, “it minimises some of the complexities” of using the platform and added, “more importantly it is enabling people to be more expressive about what’s on their minds.”

‘Staying power’ 

Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University communications professor who follows social media, said the results are an important milestone for Twitter.

“It shows that Twitter has staying power,” Grygiel said. “A lot of people have had doubts for several years.”

Despite Twitter’s problems these past few years, “it is unlike any other social media platform”, Grygiel said.

READ: Twitter begins enforcing rules on ‘hateful, abusive’ content

“It really is the fastest newswire service we’ve ever seen,” she said. “Influencers and news junkies come to Twitter because of that microblogging function that we don’t see in other places.”

Earlier this month, BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield raised his outlook for Twitter, saying that “management has refocused the company on its core product [and] pushed their product team to iterate far faster than ever before in the company’s history.”

Greenfield said Twitter’s use of artificial intelligence had “made the Twitter user experience more compelling by showing consumers the tweets they care most”.

Twitter’s monthly user base of 330 million is far behind the two billion of Facebook, but Twitter said its daily active user base – for which it has not offered a specific number – grew in double digits.

Both Twitter and Facebook have stepped up efforts to crack down on “bots” and other efforts to manipulate their platforms to deflect criticism from lawmakers and others concerned about the spread of disinformation.

“We are committed to making Twitter safer, and we are clarifying our policies, improving our enforcement, and communicating more clearly,” the company said in a tweet.

* Sign up to Fin24’s top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER



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INDIAN (T)

WhatsApp has launched person-to-person payments into beta in India

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WhatsApp has begun testing a new payments feature in India that will allow people to send money to other WhatsApp users, excluding merchant accounts. The feature is currently in beta, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans, but hasn’t been publicly announced because it’s not widely available at this time.

The company has been  working on support for a payments feature for some time, which would take advantage of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) and include support by a number of Indian banks, including State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank.

Beta testers have now found that this functionality is live, with a large list of supported banks displayed in the WhatsApp user interface.

Image credit: iPhoneHacks

According to screenshots posted to Twitter and elsewhere, including this post from the blog iPhoneHacks, those who have gained access to the new functionality will see a payments feature appear in their WhatsApp Settings menu.

Users must then configure the feature by first verifying their phone number via SMS and choosing a bank. The option to send a payment is then available from the main WhatsApp interface, in the same area where you can also share a photo, video, file, contact or location into your chat session.

The Facebook-owned company had received approval from the Indian government to integrate UPI into its messaging service last July in order to implement payments, according to The Economic Times.

The addition puts WhatsApp into competition with other messaging services that already support payments, including the recently launched Tez from Google and Tencent-backed Hike, for example, as well as digital wallet platform Paytm, which expanded into messaging in order to take on WhatsApp more directly.

However, WhatsApp’s support for payments is highly anticipated because of the app’s huge popularity among Indian users. India is WhatsApp’s largest market with over 200 million users active daily users. In fact, it’s so heavily used in that country that it’s even led to issues as Indians grapple with the social norms involving daily messaging ranging from phones’ storage filling up with “good morning” messages, to drama over exiting family group chats.

The potential for WhatsApp to dominate Indian P2P payments is strong, given that millions of people have come online in the region thanks to lower-cost data plans and cheap smartphones. The country even surpassed the U.S. for combined iOS and Android downloads for the first time in Q4 2017, according to App Annie, as smartphone adoption is surging.

We understand that WhatsApp will let users know when P2P payments becomes more widely available in India, after the best testing phase completes.

WhatsApp declined to comment on the launch.

Featured Image: Erik Tham/Getty Images



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INDIAN (T)

Twitter’s fourth-quarter results: The TechCrunch Review

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Here at TechCrunch, we cover company earnings on a pretty regular basis. And we promise it’s for a good reason: The success and failure of these publicly-traded companies tends to give us at least one more data point when it comes to calibrating which technologies are exciting to investors, as well as the trajectory of those technologies.

One of our favorite companies to cover, Twitter, reported theirs this morning at an alarmingly early time for West Coast technology writers and reporters. We’ll cut the East Coast a break because it’s only 7 a.m. when they come out. But at the same time we are obsessed with digging through these numbers because it’s such a weird company to follow, where extending an input box from 140 characters to 280 characters is considered an earth-shattering product change.

(To be sure, by Twitter standards, it definitely is. Tweetstorms were always awful and we will never forgive Marc Andreessen for making them a thing.)

So we reviewed the details of that information this morning and listened to them talk about some advertising stuff on the earnings call — a conference call that each company generally holds after each report to allow analysts to answer their questions and are asked to limit themselves to one follow-up (which never happens).

But, since it’s Twitter, we should review the review. The mechanics of a lot of earnings calls are generally pretty meh, unless Elon Musk is on the phone and he talks about how sending a car careening into an asteroid belt is a metaphor for a company’s ability to meet production targets. Twitter really wasn’t that much of an exception, with questions on the earnings call restricted to pretty mechanical elements of the company’s business outside of a question asking about whether they will actually talk about daily active users.

They did, indeed, not talk about daily active users. But we did get this awesome chart about how daily active users have grown year-over-year, which we’ve mentioned a couple times that we probably need more information about this chart to make heads or tails of it. Here’s that very good chart, in all its glory:

There are a couple things about this chart (and some of the other charts, too). The first is that this thing definitely needs a Y-axis label. We’d prefer a grid with some numerical values, but honestly at this point just a label will do. The whole “y/y” text on the top probably dovetails with the company’s zealous approach to cramming as much information into as few characters as possible, but on this slide presentation I feel like the titles can be a little more robust. We’ll give points for the color scheme, though, as it does a good job of staying on brand. As a whole, Twitter’s earnings presentation does have a lot of charts, and those charts do break down the subject matter pretty well, all things considered.

As always, early-morning Earnings Twitter is really good Twitter. Here are some highlights:

The stock exploded after Twitter released the report, as it finally seems to be making some money even though its user growth was basically flat. So seeing a stock chart that has a lot of vertical lines, whether it’s a big jump or a falling off a cliff, is always pretty fun because it shows just how volatile these companies are and how vulnerable they are to momentum swings in their business. Twitter had a big run at the end of 2017 and for now is actually worth more than Snap, which is something we should probably come to expect at this point.

Seriously, just look at the chart. There’s a lot going on in that chart!

The final commentary we’d like to add here is the audio call quality. When you look at Google, which was a pioneer in earnings audio call quality that was not a live-streamed video version of the call, it’s really not acceptable at this point to have the kind of fuzzy sound coming from your web browser that most companies’ calls have. Even Apple has managed to sort it out in such a way that they have good fidelity on their earnings calls, though you have to open Safari for them (if you’re a Chrome user this is kind of annoying).

The main issue, as we always have, is this thing is at 4 a.m. on the West Coast. In the grand scheme of things this is kind of a nitpick but at the same ti-falls asleep on desk.

Things seem to have been all right as a whole. Here’s our final verdict:

 

Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m gonna run to The Creamery for more coffee. Have a good morning, everyone.

Featured Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images



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TECHNOLOGY

Twitter Q1 Earnings: Company Had First Profitable Quarter, But Lost Users Again

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Twitter has announced its fourth quarter and fiscal 2017 financial results and the company has finally made its first-ever profit. Twitter said that it made $91 million during Q4 2017 on $731.6 million of revenue, which is up 2 percent from a year ago.

“Q4 was a strong finish to the year,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said. “We returned to revenue growth, achieved our goal of GAAP profitability, increased our shipping cadence, and reached five consecutive quarters of double digit DAU growth. I’m proud of the steady progress we made in 2017, and confident in our path ahead.”

Although Twitter had a great fourth quarter, the rest of 2017 wasn’t all too great. The company’s revenues for the fiscal year declined by 4 to 8 percent year over year. The Verge speculates that it’s possible that advertisers were reluctant to spend money on Twitter while the company faces major harassment issues.

Monthly users of Twitter also grew by 4 percent year over year. But when compared quarter to quarter, the number of monthly users on Twitter still remained at 330 million total. The most disappointing thing here is that the number of monthly users in the United States also saw a decrease from 69 million down to 68 million. This is the second time in the year that the number of monthly users on Twitter declined in the country.

The company lost a total of 2 million monthly active user for the quarter. Twitter partly blames Apple’s Safari web browser for the reduced tally of users, according to Reuters. Apple made changes to how app integrations were handled in Safari. The company is still having trouble getting new user onboard, while also struggling to convince existing users to stay.

As for average number of daily active users, Twitter says that it grew by 12 percent year over year, which also marks the fifth consecutive quarter of a double-digit growth. Twitter says that user engagement also saw a boost, which has been attributed to the fact that the company increased the character limit from 140 characters to 280.

Twitter says that its objectives include improving core ad offerings, while also delivering improvements to the platform. The company also reported that it live streamed more than 1,140 events during the fourth quarter of 2017 with 60 percent of the views coming from a global audience, according to ZDnet.

Although Twitter appears to be heading in the right direction in terms of profitability and revenue growth, the company now needs to find more ways to make sure to convince its existing users to stay while increasing its number of new users. The company was previously rumored to be planning a new feature in a future app update to make the camera more accessible, like Snapchat.

Twitter Twitter makes first-ever profit during the fourth quarter of 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Thomas White



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