Saturday, October 29, 2016

Popular Smartphone Apps: Positives & Negatives

The World of Apps

The greatest influence of the smartphone has, without a doubt, been the creation of applications, ubiquitously known as "apps." On a larger scale, apps "say something about the nature of consumer culture, particularly in the digital age."¹ But individually, apps have come to define us. Every app is uniquely developed and has its own identity amid the thousands of other apps. From the dumbest to the most ingenious, apps offer the largest wealth of knowledge and entertainment humankind has ever known. 

As much as apps have helped us by making our lives easier, it is important to realize they have negative implications as well, both on the personal and societal level. 

Here are three examples of popular smartphone apps, each with their own positives and negatives.

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Positives: What if you are in the mood to watch a really good movie, but not in the mood to wait for the TV to turn on or for your laptop to boot up? With popular apps like Netflix, smartphone owners now have the luxury of watching their favorite movies and TV shows on-the-go, with minimal hassle. A 2010 study by Forrester Research found that 37 percent of 18- to 30-year-old Americans access the Internet with their mobile phones, and 15 percent use their phones to watch videos, movies, and TV.² More and more people are ditching their TVs and computers for these sleek devices because for consumers, it's all about convenience. It also helps that smartphones have impressive screen resolution.

Negatives: Nobody is saying the movie or TV industry is going to disappear; those aren't going anywhere. Rather, what is changing is the platform through which consumers are choosing to view it. In today's fast-pace world, the smartphone platform for viewing just works better and fits better into our lives because the screen comes to us - we don't have to go to screen.³ Cable companies are already beginning to loose customers like Wayne Fortin, who "prefers his smartphone's simpler applications to browsing the Web."⁴  With the advancement of movie/TV-watching apps, expect to see a future decline in cable services. 

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Pandora Radio

Positives: Like many apps that originate from popular websites, the Pandora app is fully integrated with a user's Web account, meaning any stations you create, any songs you rate, or any artists you bookmark appear on your phone as they do on the Web.⁵ This means people can listen to their favorite music whenever and wherever, without constantly updating their playlists. The Pandora app has also become available through entertainment systems in various car models, such as BMW, Buick, Ford, and GMC - so you can listen on the road too!⁶

Negatives: The smartphone craze is now dictating what features cars will have. Because car companies have realized many people use their smartphones while they are driving (because they rely on them so much), they have opted to create hands-free entertainment systems as a safer alternative. Ford created "App Link," a voice-control system that links apps, like Pandora, from the user's smartphone to the car.⁷ But is this truly safer? There is no research indicating car companies are making things safer by going hands-free.⁷ Many experts agree that more options in these new car systems are just creating more opportunities for drivers to get distracted.⁷ Integrating smartphone-app technology into the physical aspects of our lives, especially driving, may not be the right solution. In the end, we might actually be putting ourselves in greater danger. 

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The New York Times

Positives: Why waste money buying an entire paper and killing trees (did you know it takes about 75,000 trees to print a Sunday Edition of The New York Times!⁸), when you can get the headlines directly on your smartphone? News and smartphones have practically become synonymous in today's world. The ability to catch up on the latest stories without being strapped down by a desk computer or costly newspaper has revolutionized the way readers consume the media. The goal of news apps, such as the app, is to "bring news, games, and features to you in an environment specifically designed for your mobile device."⁹ Reading text on a tiny screen is also easier than most people thought, especially when presented in a narrow, neat column - the newspaper format people have been using for hundreds of years.   

: Where is the newspaper industry headed? Unfortunately, the rise of the Internet has led to the demise of many local newspaper publications; and since smartphones provide only another platform through which people can access the Internet, it seems as though newspapers are gradually on the decline. The truth is, the paper industry cannot keep up with all the media capabilities the Web has to offer. Now, not only are people preferring to view news in an online format, but with smartphones, they are also reading it while they are on the move. 


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The Smartphone Culture

With the iPhone and the App Store, Apple unlocked what I call the anything-anytime-anywhere future, which has far-reaching implications for everything. If we have accessible data everywhere, then the way we learn in classrooms, treat medicine, fight crime, report the news, and do business are all going to have to transform."  
                   - Brian X. Chen, technology writer and author of Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future - And Locked Us In

The Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future

The Apple App Store currently has over 400,000 apps - and the Google Android Market has over 250,000 apps¹. But when exactly is too much, too much? Smartphones and their featured app markets have allowed us to do practically anything - shop online, download music, listen to music, send emails, play games, and banking. Apps are so diverse that they can virtually impact every facet of our lives. In an interview with NPR, Brian X. Chen is able to step back from all the hype and examine the societal implications of what he calls the "anything-anytime-anywhere future" - a future that obsesses over multi-tasking devices, like smartphones¹. Here are some important points Chen makes in his interview:
  • "Data has become so intimately women into our lives that it's enhancing the way we engage with physical reality."¹
  • "The physical and digital worlds are coalescing to turn us into all-knowing, always-connected beings."¹
  • "Soon, manufacturers will no longer be able to sell single-function gadgets lacking an Internet connection because those gadgets will become obsolete."¹
  • Many companies and industries find themselves threatened because an app can easily replace single-use products.¹
  • "Inevitably, the more people immerse their personal lives into digital media, the more privacy we give up. Businesses are already making apps that have more information about our personal lives than ever before."¹
  • The Apple company's single point of control over the digital world is threatening creative freedom and fostering conformity.¹
  • TV makers and car companies are marketing app store features - "all with the common goal of trapping consumers inside their product lines."¹
  • In the future, "smartphones will enable us to do more than they ever have before, but there are consequences, such as censorship, digital conformity, and loss of freedom and privacy."¹

Changing Social Norms


Our obsession with smartphones is altering social norms. Take emails, for example. For the growing American population, "the social expectation is that one is nearly always connected and reachable almost instantly via e-mail" if they own a smartphone.² Analysts say the smartphone "is the instrument of that connectedness - and thus worth the cost, as both a communications tool and a status symbol."² Because of this, the current social norm is that people should reply to emails immediately, or at least within a few hours. Now that one in five Americans own a smartphone, according to a 2010 report by Forrester Research, "gone are the days when you could wait a full day to reply to an e-mail, or respond to a text message on a several-hour delay, without violating new and rapidly evolving social norms."³

Public Venues and Work Holidays
New social norms also include becoming tolerant of disrespectful behaviorJames Thickett, the director of research for Ofcom of the UK, said the high level of smartphone use in venues such as the movies "raises an issue about social etiquette and modern manners and the degree to which we as a society are tolerant of this behavior."⁴ Thickett shares many of his findings regarding the smartphone's impact on society:

  • Teenagers have always been more likely to use mobile phones in cinemas, but what Thickett is finding now is that for smartphone users, it is much, much higher, and the same goes for adult smartphone users as well. "So it is not just about adults and teenagers having different values, it is about technology driving the values towards the way you behave in social situations."⁴ 
  • Smartphones have also altered the work-life balance, with one in four users saying that they would take work-related phone calls while on holiday, compared with just 16 percent of regular mobile phone users.
  • Ofcom's Communications Market Report found that nearly two thirds of teenagers were "highly addicted" to smartphones, with half admitting using them in the bathroom.
  • One third of teenagers said they were likely to use a smartphone during meals, while four in 10 said they answered their phone if it woke them at night.
  • The phones have also significantly affected how people use leisure time. Almost a quarter of teenagers said they watch less television due to having a smartphone, while 15 percent say that they read fewer books because of it.
  • "The rapid growth in the use of smartphones is changing the way that many of us, particularly teenagers, act in social situations."


Surveys also show that smartphones are having a negative effect on marriage and relationships. In a 2010 NPR Facebook query, many couples complained of equal phone overuse from both genders, which marriage therapists also agree to.⁵ Also, because these addictive devices create such a distraction, they are taking couples away from what matters most: trust, intimacy, and simple time spent together. Many couple are now choosing to designate a "technology-free hour, evening or day to make time for old-fashioned conversation" and to remind each other there are other things to do beside stare at a smartphone screen.⁵ 

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Friday, October 28, 2016


HISTORY OF THE BERBERS, A FORGOTTEN MEMORY The historical range of the Berbers extended across North Africa, from the oases west of the Nile Valley to the Canary Islands from north to south, from the Mediterranean to "Black country". Compared to these past vastness, the current "Berber" area is now significantly reduced. Exploded unevenly distributed since some oases of Eastern Sahara to the Atlantic Ocean, however, she known areas of high concentration as well in the mountains of Kabylia in Algeria, or the Rif and Atlas at Morocco. Despite the decline of their historical area of occupancy is estimated that the Berbers are now about sixteen million, nine million in Morocco, in Algeria five million, four hundred thousand in Mauritania, two hundred and fifty thousand in Tunisia and one hundred thousand in Libya. Source:Ksar ait ben haddou - Assfalou The Berbers today Islam in the Berber Africa The romanization of the Berber Africa In North Africa, the Berbers climax is called "Mauritanian" period, which precedes the Roman times and sees be constituted, probably from the fourth century BC, of three major kingdoms. In the northwest of the region, that is to say in the current Morocco, is a federation peoples and strong Berber tribes who gives birth to the kingdom of Mauretania - or the Moorish kingdom - which extends from the Atlantic to Mulucha River (Moulouya). Between Mulucha and Amsaga river - current - Oued el Kebir, stood the kingdom of Masaesyles. Finally, between the river Ampsaga and territories of Carthage takes place that of Massyles. In the third century BC, the last two gathered in the kingdom of Numidia. These three kingdoms are ruled by kings who hold the title of Aguellid: the power of the confederation leaders, who are also warlords having many armies, see generally undermined after their death, lack of rules transmission clearly defined. Among the tribes, jealous of their autonomy, that comprise these kingdoms, the end of each kingdom is the opportunity of political protest movements, which often degenerate into civil war. The climax of the Berbers in North Africa: Mauritanian period In the Neolithic period, the southern limit of the Berber population seems to be the area of 25th to 27th parallel, which separates the Neolithic tradition capsienne with Neolithic the Saharo Sudan: in other words, it forms the border between white and populations blacks. It is also at this time that pressure of Mediterranean whites occurs Tassili, hitherto mainly occupied by the melanoderm populations non-Negroid, probable ancestors of the current Peuls. The movement will only grow in the future. Beyond all its diversity, the Libyan-Berber world provides an ethnic ensemble of which linguistic, cultural and religious unity crosses multiple tribal divisions. Despite this, mapping the establishment of these people is an impossible task, due to their nomadic lifestyle on the one hand, and gaps in the sources on the other hand. The ancestors of today's Berber probably arrive in North Africa there are about nine thousand years. Anthropologists identify them as Proto-Mediterraneans progressing from east to west. This seems also confirmed by the language since, inside the "afrasien" group - the new name for the old "Afro-Asian" Joseph Greenberg - are classified in the same set Berber, Egyptian and Semitic, reflecting an Eastern origin common, where emergence could have been done in the area occupied by the current Eritrea area. Archaeology also notes that newcomers are carriers of a lithic industry of their own and introduced from east to west and is known as the Capsian - Capsa, the ancient name of Gafsa - is maintains the eighth to the fifth millennium. The new arrivals push, remove or absorb the people who preceded them, the Mechtoides - men Mechta el-Arbi - whose lithic industry is ibéromaurusian, contemporary with the Magdalenian and European Azilian. Proto-Mediterraneans from the East... Some Berbers have escaped from Arabization, except those of the Algerian Kabyle and Moroccan Atlas, two mountainous regions. Ultimately, in spite of often fierce resistance - including that of the Kahina, Berber heroine of the Aures - Arab-Muslim conquest seems to have been easy. The main reason may be that sedentary Berbers are no longer, So the masters of their own destiny and this already since centuries. Indeed, their world is prey to anarchy, amplified by vandals conquerors starting from 520, by the devastations of nomads who hunt degradation Sahara climate . Do not forget the theological disputes that deeply divided the Berber Christianity or the opposition to Byzantines, which were rejected by rural Berbers, an just exercise their authority in the cities. Because of all this, "horsemens of Allah", driven by a strong desire to win, do not find opposite them a united front, but successive resistant, that they reduce one after another: troops Byzantine, Berber tribes and confederations, fortified cities... Conquered North Africa Berber rapidly Islamized; Arabization, the other hand is later and slower, to such extent that the "Berber" is still alive in some areas. Ethnically speaking, the Arab contribution is in effect a drop of water in the ocean Berber. the subsequent invasions of Beni Hilal, Beni Beni Solaim Maqil (eleventh to thirteenth centuries) are not strong at all, only two to three hundred thousand people, which is low compared to the millions of indigenous Berber. However, instead of "berbériser" themselves, newcomers arabisent Berbers - cultural and cultic Arabization before ethnic insofar as the faithful Muslim is obliged to pronounce Arabic basic phrases that devoted its adherence to Islam. 148 BC, Masinissa, the chief Massyles becomes an ally of Rome, allowing him to unify Numidia by the annexation of the kingdom of Masaesyles. Further east, the Mauretania kingdom still independent for some time. In 113 BC., Rome engages in a total war against the Numidian king Jugurtha, that's support provides him a domination of a large part of the current Maghreb. Under the reign of Juba II (25 -23 BC.) and in the period of his son Ptolemy ( 23-40BC), Mauretania knows a brilliant development. The capital of the kingdom was then Caesarea - the current Cherchell - while Volubilis is elevated to a royal residence. In 40 AD, the revolts; at 44, the Emperor Claudius, who crushed them, divides the territory into two, creating the Caesarian Mauretania - western part of modern Algeria, Algiers and Oran, that is to say the former masaesyle kingdom - and Mauretania Tingitana corresponding to the current Morocco, Tangier as capital. This Berber Africain part Romanized and the other part Christianized, will soon suffer the Arab-Muslim conquest. The question arises as to how it has become "a few centuries a set of fully Islamic and widely Arabized country, to the point that the majority of the population is said and think of Arab origin.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Importance of Cultural Heritage

Not everyone feels a connection with their cultural heritage, but many people do. What is it about cultural heritage that draws these people to it? Some may think traditions are archaic and no longer relevant, and that they are unnecessary during these modern times. Perhaps for some, they aren’t; but for others, exploring cultural heritage offers a robust variety of benefits.
Culture can give people a connection to certain social values, beliefs, religions and customs. It allows them to identify with others of similar mindsets and backgrounds. Cultural heritage can provide an automatic sense of unity and belonging within a group and allows us to better understand previous generations and the history of where we come from.
Flags of many nations
Understanding our cultural heritage can give a sense of personal identity.
Image: Garry Wilmore via Flickr CC
In large cities especially, it can be easy to feel lost and alone among so many other cultures and backgrounds. New York City, for example, is a huge melting pot of people from all over the country and the world. There are large communities based around certain cultural heritages, including Irish, Italian, Asian, and others.
Another benefit that comes from preserving cultural heritage as a whole is the communal support. Those that identify strongly with a certain heritage are often more likely to help out others in that same community. Real estate mogul Carl Mattone and his family, for example, are often sighted at fundraisers for local Catholic schools. Mattone was raised Catholic and attended Holy Cross High School in New York, where he has also been on the Board of Directors.
Cultural heritage is made up of many things large and small. We can see it in the buildings, townscapes, and even in archaeological remains. Culture can be perceived through natural sources as well: the agriculture and landscapes associated with it. It is preserved through books, artifacts, objects, pictures, photographs, art, and oral tradition. Cultural heritage is in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the religions we follow, and the skills we learn. Sometimes we can touch and see what makes up a culture; other times it is intangible.
Understanding, Valuing, Caring, Enjoying
The Heritage Cycle
Image from
The Heritage Cycle from Simon Thurley helps explain the process of finding and incorporating culture into our lives, if we wish to do so. It begins with understanding the culture. Only then may we begin to value it. From there, we can learn to care for a culture and eventually enjoy it. With more enjoyment, we will want to learn and understand more—and so the circle goes.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

How to Preserve Your Culture

Look at any object in your house, meal you eat, or gesture you use, and you'll find evidence of culture. Cultural traditions and perspectives have shaped who you are. Learn more about them and how you can keep them strong.
1. Participating in Traditions
Learn about religious traditions. Whether or not you share your parents' and grandparents' religion, studying it can help you understand their culture. Religion connects to language, history, and personal behavior. Becoming more familiar with your or your family's religion can help you understand all these other aspects.[1]
  • Sacred texts and ceremonies can seem confusing with no one there to guide you. Find an expert willing to explain their significance. Read a copy of the text with footnote discussions.
  • 2
    Speak your ancestral language. If you know someone who Image titled Preserve Your Culture Step 2
  • shares you culture but has a different native tongue than yourself, ask him to teach you. Many linguists and anthropologists argue that language shapes our whole perception of the world. Plus, if the language is rare in your area, nobody will be able to eavesdrop on your conversations!
    • Thousands of languages are at risk of extinction.[2] If you know one of them, teach it to others. Share examples of the knowledge and perspective that would be lost if it goes away. Record the language spoken and written (if possible), and work on translations to less endangered languages.
    • 3
      Cook family recipes. It's never too late to whip up some recipes from your grandmother's cookbook. Smell and taste have powerful connections to memory.[3]As you knead dough or try to guess the right amount of spices, you might remember meals from you childhood or holidays. Just reading a recipe can teach you how much ingredients and kitchen tools have changed. And even if some of them are unfamiliar, others have most likely become your comfort food or a source of family pride.
      • If you don't have family recipes, look for old cookbooks online or at flea markets.[4]You could even start your own by writing down recipes .
        4 .Share your culture's art and technology. Each culture has its own clothing, music, visual art, storytelling traditions, an many more unique characteristics. Other members of your culture will be overjoyed to teach or talk about their hobbies, their jobs, their crafts, and what they do for fun. This includes traditional artwork you would find in a museum, but material culture goes far beyond that. Even a kitchen spoon or a piece of software is a cultural artifact.
        • People with less sophisticated technology are often considered ignorant or less intelligent. This is completely wrong. Culture passes on tools adapted to a particular environment, and every tool has generations of thinking behind it.[5]Shaping a stone tool is one of the oldest cultural practices there is, and it still takes great skill and knowledge.
        shared orally by your relatives.

      • 5
        Spend time with other members of the community. The best way to preserve your culture is to keep it alive. Gather as a group not just for holidays, but for ordinary meals, events, or just conversation. Many aspects of culture are difficult to learn in books and museums, including etiquette, body language, and humor.
        • Think about the types of conversations you have within your culture, compared to the mainstream culture where you live. (Or compare two different cultures you participate in.) Does one feel more energetic or friendly than another? Would a normal statement in one context be considered rude in another? Why do you think that is? This kind of deep analysis can be tough to figure out, but it gets to the core of the cultural experience.
        Attend or organize major events. Your country, tribe, religious denomination, or immigrant ethnic group almost certainly celebrate major holidays or cultural festivals. Travel to these to get a broader perspective on your culture. If you don't know of any groups in your area, organize your own event.
      Part 2:Recording Your Culture

    • 1
      Choose a focus. You can record anything you've discovered through your research and life, no matter how small it seems. What you can't do is write down everything there is to know about a culture. There's just too much to say. Most people choose one of two directions instead:
      • A personal history of one's own experience, or a family's.
      • A detailed look at one aspect of the culture: cooking, jokes, or any other subtopic.
      Decide on a medium. You can use calligraphy, oral storytelling, or another traditional medium to make the recording a personal cultural experience as well. Or you can put your work on a website, DVD, or another digital form. This lets you share your cultural story with people from all around the world.
    Conduct interviews. Interview the people whose histories you're telling, or experts in the subject you're writing about. Come prepared with a list of questions, but let the interviewee to wander to other topics and stories.[6] You may learn something you would never think to ask about.
    • Keep each interview within one or two hours. If the interviewee is willing, return to conduct additional interviews. This lets you prepare more questions, and lets the interviewee search for documents or objects she wants to share.
    • Use a video or audio recorder if the interviewee agrees to it. These are much more accurate than trying to write everything down or hold it in your head.
    Follow your family tree. Record your family tree with the help of family members, adding to it as you go along. There are probably whole branches of cousins and in-laws you've never met. Track these down through family connections or online searches, and they may offer whole new perspectives on your culture. Government websites and physical record collections may offer additional information dating back centuries.[7]
    • Ask family for scrapbooks, journals, and other records early on. You may discover that someone else has started the work for you.[8]
    Use your records to fight for your culture. Minority cultures often struggle to pass on cultural traditions. Share your stories and records with young people in your culture, who may not know the riches of their cultural background. In the face of political struggles or social challenges, organize people to participate in discussions and cultural activities. Your research can help people understand the core values of their culture, and inspire them to keep it alive and 
  • 6
    Accept change. The dialogue around passing on culture often sounds defeatist. Cultures are "endangered" or need "preserving" before they die out. Real challenges and threats do exist, but don't assume that all change is bad. Culture helps people adapt to the world around them. The world has always been changing, cultures have always been adapting, and it's up to you to choose a direction you can be proud of.[9]
 Source :

Tamazightinou: Moroccan traditional music

Tamazightinou: Moroccan traditional music: Morocco Traditional Moroccan Berber music can be categorised into collective and professional music. [5] In collective music, men an...

Tamazightinou: The Rich Mythology and Megalithic Culture of the A...

Tamazightinou: The Rich Mythology and Megalithic Culture of the A...: The Rich Mythology and Megalithic Culture of the Ancient Berbers, Lords of the Desert The Barbary Coast of North Africa was name...

32GB iPhone 7 significantly slower than more expensive versions, tests show

iphone 7Not all iPhone 7s are born equally, according to new tests, which appear to show the cheapest, 32GB versions are significantly slower than the more expensive 128 or 256GB versions and that some have much poorer 4G reception.
Testing by both GSMArena and Unbox Therapy found that the speed of the storage within the 32GB iPhone 7 is significantly slower than that in the more expensive 128GB iPhone 7. Reading data from the storage of the 32GB version of the iPhone 7 was 200Mbps slower than the 12GB version, 656Mbps and 856Mbps respectively. The difference in read speed over 600Mbps is unlikely to be noticeable in day-to-day usage.
However, writing to the storage – saving data including photos, videos, music, apps or any other type of file – was found to be significantly slower on the 32GB iPhone. The 128GB iPhone 7 wrote to memory at 341Mbps, but the 32GB iPhone 7 was over eight times slower at just 42Mbps.
GSMArena found similar results in its testing of the iPhone 7, with a 32GB iPhone 7 Plus reaching write speeds of only 39.6Mbps compared with a 128GB iPhone 7 writing at speeds of 308Mbps.
Meanwhile, testing of different versions of the iPhone 7 Plus have also apparently revealed discrepancies in their cellular performances. According to New York-based Cellular Insights, which conducted tests using networking equipment, the iPhone 7 Plus smartphones with model numbers A1778 and A1784, including those available in the UK and Europe, performed noticeably poorer than those with model numbers A1660 and A1661, including those available in the US.
A1778 and A1784 iPhone 7 Plus smartphones have an Intel modem chip that connects them to the 4G network, while the A1660 and A1661 models use a modem supplied by Qualcomm, a common supplier of modems and processors to many Android smartphones, including the new Google Pixel.
Milan Milanović from Cellular Insights said: “In all tests, the iPhone 7 Plus with the Qualcomm modem had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem. We are not sure what was the main reason behind Apple’s decision to source two different modem suppliers for the newest iPhone.”The Intel iPhone 7 Plus models showed at least 30% worse network performance, and in some cases as poor as 75% worse, than the Qualcomm iPhone 7 Plus models. This performance gap means that the Intel iPhone 7 Plus models will have poorer 4G reception than the Qualcomm versions and slower download and upload speeds.
In Cellular Insights further testing, it showed that the Intel iPhone 7 Plus models had worse reception than the iPhone 6S in the majority of signal conditions.
Most of the time users blame mobile phone operators when the signal drops out on their smartphone or data speeds are slow, but the testing indicates that depending on smartphone model, it might not always be the fault of the network provider.
 Samuel Gibbs

Feeling smug that your iPhone can't be hacked? Not so fast...

Apple’s smartphone may not attract as much malware as Android, but it is still far from invincible

iPhone owners would be forgiven for having a false sense of security when it comes to the safety of data on their phone. Apple has done a tremendous job of creating a locked-down operating system that keeps malicious software away from its elegant handsets and deters potential attackers.
Android continues to be the most targeted mobile operating system. Cisco’s 2014 Annual Security Report claimed that 99% of mobile malware spotted in 2013 was aimed at Google’s smartphone operating system – the report was swiftly tweeted by Apple’s Phil Schiller as his latest jab at Android.

Yet there remain some alarming facts for iPhone owners to take on board. First, its iOS software is far from flaw-free. In a 2013 report, Symantec claimed that there were 387 documented security holes in iOS in 2012, compared to just 13 for Android.

When Apple released its iOS 7 software in 2013, it patched a whopping 70 flaws. And while vulnerabilities do not always equate to threats, it’s clear from this data that iOS is far from invincible. What’s more, there are a myriad of ways outsiders can try to pilfer data from iOS. Given the popularity of Apple’s devices, attackers will be hungry to exploit them.
Target the apps
If you’ve been reading the Guardian’s coverage of online surveillance by agencies including the NSA and GCHQ, you’ll already know that one way to gather data from smartphones is to exploit vulnerabilities in apps. A variety of techniques can be employed by attackers in this respect.
 One notable problem uncovered by an Israeli start-up, SkyCure, was the insecure use of what’s known as the “301 Moved Permanently” HTTP feature found in many applications on iOS, which lets developers easily switch the Internet addresses apps use to acquire data. It’s often used when services are switching domains.

At least three of the biggest US media outlets had such a flaw in their consumer-facing applications, says Yair Amit, co-founder and chief technology officer of Skycure. “You can persistently and remotely control how the application is working,” he warns.SkyCure found attackers sitting on the same network as a user of a vulnerable app could easily switch those Internet addresses with their own malicious site. Even when users left that network, as iOS cached the malicious URL, when they continued to use the application they would still hit that bad site, which could be used to carry out exploits on the user’s phone.
“It’s possible because most applications are loading information or commands from their server to execute on the client with no indication of the actual source. I’ve been working with many pretty well-known papers as well as other big vendors on other applications, like finance and podcasts, and patches are going out.”
Amit is planning to detail some more “neat techniques” for exploiting iOS at theRSA Conference in San Francisco this month, but cannot reveal more as he works with Apple to mitigate the threat.

Insecure data

Developers, whether producing iOS applications for workers or for the wider public, often rely too heavily on the device to store data too. If done insecurely, this allows attackers sitting on the same network as an iPhone user, such as a public Wi-Fi network, to potentially scoop up information being sent to and from the app.
“It is easy to make mistakes such as storing user data (passwords/usernames) incorrectly on the device, in the vast majority of cases credentials get stored either unencrypted or have been encoded using methods such as base64 encoding (or others) and are rather trivial to reverse,” says Andy Swift, mobile security researcher from penetration testing firm Hut3.

Another common problem in iOS apps, according to Cesar Cerrudo, chief technology officer for security research and consultancy firm IOActive Labs, is improper or lack of validation of data received by the application. This allows attackers to send malicious data to the app and have malicious code executed on the user device to steal information.“This mistake extends to sending data too, if developers rely on the device too much it becomes quite easy to forget altogether about the transmission of the data. Such data can be easily extracted and may include authentication tokens, raw authentication data or personal data. At the end of the day if not investigated, the end user has no idea what data the application is accessing and sending to a server somewhere.”
All of these attacks could easily be executed on public or unprotected Wi-Fi networks, so you should be especially careful when using such services, refraining from sharing sensitive data over them. And they should avoid any untrusted networks.

Using stolen certificates

Apple has been particularly good at defending iPhones and iPads from malware. Yet there are ways to game the system to get rogue apps on iOS devices.
Stolen certificates can be particularly handy. Even though they can be tricky to acquire, some are bought and sold on underground forums, others nabbed during attacks on businesses. These certificates are designed to sign applications, providing validation they were created by legitimate parties.
For iOS, they come in various flavours, the most common one being for developers who want to publish on the official App Store. But there are also certificates for signing in-house applications, where IT teams send out apps and updates via their own infrastructure, rather than using the App Store.
If an attacker can get hold of a valid certificate, they can target specific employees by enticing them into downloading malicious applications, as Michael Shaulov, chief executive of San Francisco-based firm Lacoon Mobile Security demonstrates during a one-on-one presentation over WebEx.
He shows me a mock phishing email, urging a user to download a security update. When the user clicks on the download link, they are asked by the device whether they want to install. If they click yes, as many would do if the email appeared to legitimately come from their employer, the malware downloads on to the iPhone.
In the example Shaulov uses, a fake enterprise email client is downloaded. He uses that fake app to collect information such as calendar, geolocation and contact data, or even switch on recording without any user intervention. “This is all done on a completely fresh iOS 7 non-jailbroken device. You can facilitate such an attack without much effort,” he adds.
“A lot of enterprises are now ahead of the curve with their mobility and are distributing in-house applications in such a way that it becomes a very reasonable phishing target. People are familiar with this way that IT delivers a new application, so they just click that malicious link.”

Bypassing App Store protections

Given Apple doesn’t allow anti-virus to work on its mobile machines, acquiring masses of malware downloads from its official market would be a major coup for a digital criminal.Whilst using stolen certificates is handy for targeted hits where the hackers want to avoid all the code checking that the App Store provides, the holy grail for iOS attackers is getting malware into Apple’s walled garden - the official App Store, which has only ever hosted one rogue app.
There are precedents. Researchers from the Georgia Tech Information SecurityCenter have previously shown off a way of sneaking a bad app into the store. They sent in what appeared to be a legitimate piece of software and Apple accepted it. But once the app was installed on a user device it would rearrange its code to enable more malicious features, such as stealing photos and sending emails.
Others have created nifty pieces of iOS malware. Neal Hindocha, a researcher from security company Trustwave, is planning to demonstrate a keylogger at RSA Conference that can monitor everything on an iPhone, right down to the swipes of a touchscreen. It will only work on a jailbroken device, however, where security protections stopping applications having too much power are removed.

Jailbreaking and jumping out of the sandbox

Another potentially nasty attack vector can come from website attacks that launch a kernel-level exploit, cutting right to the heart of iOS and handing user privileges to a hacker. This is one of the most difficult ways to break iOS, especially when the attacker is doing the work remotely rather than having direct access to the device. 
Apple has covered off all known kernel vulnerabilities in the latest version of iOS, but researchers have theorised on possible future attacks. Tarjei Mandt, senior vulnerability researcher at Azimuth Security, has been probing the ways iOS allocates memory and believes he has found a potential weakness.
It lies in what is known as the new “zone page metadata structure”, which is designed to improve the performance of the operating system’s zone allocator, used for organising memory by size, dividing memory into regions, or zones.
A hypothetical attack would see the hacker trick this metadata structure, information from which is taken by the code doing the memory allocation, into writing remote code into the memory pages of the device.
“If you have a memory corruption vulnerability, the idea [for the attacker] is that you can target this structure to overwrite the information that it contains,” he says. “If you have the ability to corrupt that data structure… you’ll essentially be able to gain an arbitrary right [a privilege allowing an attacker to write to the device], which is pretty much the end goal of any exploit.”
The attacker could direct a target to a website, where a browser vulnerability would be exploited to initiate attack code. The kernel flaw would then be used to jump out of the Apple sandbox, an emulation technology that runs code to see if it’s malicious before executing it. In theory, this chained approach would eventually lead to malicious software being lumped on the iPhone.
Another way of getting root access to a phone is to jailbreak it by physically grabbing it and using known tools like evasi0n, which requires the iPhone be connected to a PC by USB, to gain user privileges. Malware could then be installed for persistent attacks.
Lacoon has data showing that iOS is the favourite target of those running spyphones, buyable software that does what it says on the tin, monitoring jailbroken devices. In an analysis of 650,000 users from a major telecoms partner, Lacoon found 57% of the 650 infected machines were based on iOS.
If all this sounds worrying, there’s one encouraging piece of advice: the best strategy for the average iPhone owner is quite simple: keep your device within your line of sight, and don’t click on any suspicious links.
Tom Brewster