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Android Exploit Allows Attackers to Record Screen & Audio

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There’s another bug on Android that has been putting some of the OS’s integrity in question. Since this is another cybersecurity exploit problem, I’ll try to be as tactful and detailed as possible. Android smartphones running Lolipop, Marshmallow, and Nougat, are vulnerable to an attack that exploits the MediaProjection service to capture the user’s screen and record system audio.

The MediaProjection service is an Android service that is capable of capturing screen contents and record system audio. This service has been around since, well, the beginning of Android smartphones as we know it. However, the way to use it is to have Root Access to the device.

Besides that, users had to have the device’s release keys as well. So this wasn’t going to be accessible to just anyone and it limited the use of MediaProjection only to system-level apps deployed by Android OEMs.

Well, it turns out that since Android 5.0, Google decided to remove these safety features and widely opened the service. The problem is that Google didn’t put this service behind a permission that apps could require from users.

No, no, they only need to give a notification to the user through the SystemUI. The popup warned the user when an app wanted to capture their screen and system audio. By knowing when this popup appears, attackers could then trigger an arbitrary popup that showed on top of it and disguised its text with another message.

The technique has been infamously called “Tap Jacking” and has been used by Android Malware developers for years. “The primary cause of this vulnerability is due to the fact that affected Android versions are unable to detect a partially obscured SystemUI pop-ups,” the MWR team explained in a report published last week.

So far the only version of Android that has this issue patched up is the Oreo version (8.0). Every single one of the older Android versions remains vulnerable to this. Don’t worry though, while the attack is concerning, it’s not exactly subtle. The screencast icon will appear in the user’s notification bar whenever an attacker would be recording audio or capturing the screen.

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Android

Pixel 8 Pro runs Google’s generative AI models

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Rick Osterloh, Google’s SVP of devices and services, says the Pixel 8 Pro will be the first hardware to run Google’s generative AI models.

At an event today, Osterloh said the Pixel 8 Pro’s custom-built Tensor G3 chip, which accelerates AI workloads, can run “distilled” versions of Google’s text- and image-generating models to power image editing and other apps.

Osterloh said, “We’ve worked closely with our research teams across Google to take advantage of their most advanced foundation models and distill them into a version efficient enough to run on our flagship Pixel.”

Google improved Magic Eraser, its photo-editing tool, to remove larger objects and people smudge-free using on-device models. Osterloh claims that this improved Magic Eraser creates new pixels to fill in shot gaps, producing a higher-quality image.

Osterloh says a new on-device model will “intelligently” sharpen and enhance photo details, improving zoom.

On-device processing benefits audio recording. The Pixel 8 Pro’s recording app will soon summarize meeting highlights.

Gboard will use a large language model on the Pixel 8 Pro to power smart replies. Osterloh claims that the upgraded Gboard will provide “higher-quality” reply suggestions and better conversational awareness.

Osterloh said an update in December will add on-device generative AI features except for Magic Eraser, which appears on the Pixel 8 Pro at launch.

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Telegram launches a global self-custodial crypto wallet, excluding the US

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Telegram, with 800 million monthly users, is launching a self-custodial crypto wallet. The move will solidify its presence in the vibrant crypto community that has grown from its chat platform and may attract more people to crypto.

Telegram and TON Foundation announced TON Space, a self-custodial wallet, on Wednesday at Singapore’s Token2049 crypto conference, which draws over 10,000 attendees.

Telegram has a complicated blockchain relationship. After the SEC sued Telegram over a massive initial coin offering, the chat app abandoned its Telegram Open Network (TON) blockchain project in 2020. The Open Network Foundation (TON Foundation), founded by open-source developers and blockchain enthusiasts, supports the development of The Open Network (TON), the blockchain powering a growing number of Telegram applications, including the wallet.

The Open Platform (TOP) and TOP Labs, a venture-building division, created the TON-based wallet.

TON Space will be available to Telegram users worldwide without wallet registration in November. The U.S., which has cracked down on the crypto industry and promoted many crypto apps to geofence users, is currently excluded from the feature.

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Google’s massive antitrust trial begins, with bigger implications

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The Justice Department’s landmark antitrust case against Google began in court today, setting off a months-long trial that could upend the tech world.

At issue is Google’s search business. The Justice Department claims that Google has violated antitrust laws to maintain its search title, but the company claims that it does so by providing a superior product.

The Justice Department sued Google for civil antitrust in late 2020 after a year-long investigation.

“If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition, we will lose the next wave of innovation,” said then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “If that happens, Americans may never see the ‘next Google.’”

A large coalition of state attorneys general filed their own parallel suit against Google, but Judge Amit Mehta ruled that the states did not meet the bar to go to trial with their search ranking complaints.

The search business case against Google is separate from a federal antitrust lawsuit filed earlier this year. The Justice Department claims Google used “anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful means” to neutralize threats to its digital advertising empire in that lawsuit.

Justice Department attorney Kenneth Dintzer set the stakes for the first major tech antitrust trial since Microsoft’s late 1990s reckoning on Tuesday. “This case is about the future of the internet, and whether Google’s search engine will ever face meaningful competition,” Dintzer said.

Beginning the trial, the government focused on Google’s deals with phone makers, most notably Apple, that give its search product top billing on new devices. Dintzer claimed that Google maintains and grows its search engine dominance by paying $10 billion annually for those arrangements.

“This feedback loop, this wheel, has been turning for more than 12 years,” he said. “And it always benefits Google.”

Google lawyer John Schmidtlein refuted that claim, hinting at the company’s legal defense in the coming weeks.

“Users today have more search options and more ways to access information online than ever before,” Schmidtlein said. Google will argue that it competes with Amazon, Expedia, and DoorDash, as well as Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Google planted the seeds for this defense. According to internal research, Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan said last year that more young people are using TikTok to search for information than Google Search.

In our studies, almost 40% of young people don’t use Google Maps or Search to find lunch, Raghavan said. “They use TikTok or Instagram.”

Google will be decided by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in the coming months. We’re far from that decision, but the company could be fined heavily or ordered to sell parts of its business.

The trial could change Google’s digital empire if the Justice Department wins. Other tech companies that dominated online markets in the last decade are also watching. If the government fails to hold an iconic Silicon Valley giant accountable, big tech will likely continue its aggressive growth trajectory.

If the Justice Department succeeds, the next decade could be different. The industry-wide reckoning could cripple incumbents and allow upstarts to define the next era of the internet, wresting the future from tech titans.

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