Ongoing DNS hijackings target unpatched consumer routers

Promotional image of a router.

A wave of DNS hijacking attacks that abuse Google’s cloud computing service is causing consumer routers to connect to fraudulent and potentially malicious websites and addresses, a security researcher has warned.

By now, most people know that Domain Name System servers translate human-friendly domain names into the numeric IP addresses that computers need to find other computers on the Internet. Over the past four months, a blog post published Thursday said, attackers have been using Google cloud service to scan the Internet for routers that are vulnerable to remote exploits. When they find susceptible routers, the attackers then use the Google platform to send malicious code that configures the routers to use malicious DNS servers.

Troy Mursch, the independent security researcher who published Thursday’s post, said the first wave hit in late December. The campaign exploited vulnerabilities in four models of D-Link routers, including:

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S&P 500, Dow advance with trade talks in focus

The benchmark S&P 500 stock index edged higher, nearing a six-month high on Thursday, with losses in technology stocks countered by gains in Boeing Co and Facebook Inc as investors waited for more clarity on the U.S.-China trade talks.

By spying on Huawei, U.S. found evidence against the Chinese firm

U.S. authorities gathered information about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd through secret surveillance that they plan to use in a case accusing the Chinese telecom equipment maker of sanctions-busting and bank fraud, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Apple slashes HomePod price and introduces Powerbeats Pro

Image of a HomePod

Apple has lowered the standard suggested retail price of its HomePod smart speaker from $349 to $299. The price drop follows slow and disappointing sales for the product, according to most analysts.

The speaker has seen temporary discounts at certain retailers before, but this appears to be a permanent adjustment to the base price. It is uncommon for Apple to cut a price like this in the middle of a product’s lifespan, but it’s not unprecedented.

Reviews (including our own) praised the HomePod’s strong sound quality and other aspects of its engineering and design, but they commonly lamented the high price and criticized smart-home and voice-assistant features that lagged behind those in Google’s and Amazon’s products. Apple may be hoping this price drop will make the HomePod accessible to new potential buyers and drive more sales.

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Apple Stops Signing iOS 12.1.4 Following Release of iOS 12.2

Following the release of iOS 12.2 on March 25, Apple has stopped signing iOS 12.1.4, the previous version of iOS that was available to consumers.

iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch owners who have upgraded to iOS 12.2 will no longer be able to downgrade to iOS 12.1.4.

iOS 12.2, available on all devices able to run iOS 12, was a major update that brought the Apple News+ service, new Animoji, Safari changes, and much more.

Apple routinely stops signing older versions of software updates after new releases come out in order to encourage customers to keep their operating systems up to date.

iOS 12.2 is now the only version of iOS that can be installed on iPhones and iPads, but developers and public beta testers can download iOS 12.3, another major update that’s currently being beta tested.

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Suspect formally charged in Nipsey Hussle murder, due in court

A 33-year-old Los Angeles man accused of killing Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle was formally charged with murder and attempted murder on Thursday, prosecutors said.

Amazon reportedly readying its Alexa-powered answer to Airpods

Amazon is ready to challenge Apple with a cheaper, Alexa-powered set of wireless earbuds. If successful it would carve out a space for the popular digital assistant, and its deep connections to the rest of Amazon’s ecosystem, in the mobile world Amazon has hitherto largely failed to penetrate. But that’s a big if.

A report from Bloomberg details the upcoming hardware, which sounds a lot like Airpods (and the handful of other wireless sets that have appeared): a pair of small wireless in-ear buds, a case that doubles as a charger, and built-in controls and a mic so you can control your music, talk to friends, and ask Alexa things on the go.

Of course, the obvious question is how exactly this will work, given that Airpods have special privileges as first-party Apple hardware that let them perform tasks others can’t yet do. If your phone is locked, non-Airpod headphones (for instance Galaxy Buds) can’t connect through their associated app to look stuff up or provide services. You can of course set up a “Hey Siri, OK Google” situation, but that’s a bit sad.

Bloomberg’s report says that the Alexa headphones let you “order goods, access music, weather and other information,” but it isn’t clear under what circumstances. If you have to have the phone unlocked and an app open for it to work, the whole thing is a non-starter. And it seems unlikely that Apple would grant Amazon some kind of clearance to do the kind of things only Airpods can do.

It’s conceivable that the headphones will, when possible, connect instead on detection of a command to a compatible Alexa device nearby with an internet connection — and there’s no shortage of those in many a tech-savvy home. But if you’re walking down the street and need to ask directions, you may have to pull the phone out, which rather negates the already somewhat limited convenience of owning a pair of wireless headphones.

These difficulties, plus those associated with simply making such a sophisticated piece of hardware for relatively cheap, explain why the headphones have reportedly had a bit of trouble getting shipped.

A cheaper price tag and potentially better audio quality may not be enough to make this particular endeavor a winner, but we’ll know more if and when Amazon goes official.