CCleaner malware targeted networks at Google, Microsoft, Samsung

The malware attack on Windows utility CCleaner may have been more targeted and sophisticated than it seemed. In the days since the attack was announced, researchers have been poring through data from a seized command and control center, finding evidence that the attackers were using the compromise to target some of the world’s most powerful tech companies.

New posts from Avast and Cisco’s Talos research group detail the findings, as first reported by Wired. At the time the server was seized, the attackers were targeting a string of internal domains with a second-stage payload, designed to collect data and provide persistent access to any infected device.

The list of domains, published by Talos, reveals a number of major tech companies. “Ntdev.corp.microsoft.com” is an internal domain for Windows developers, while hq.gmail.com appears to be the internal Gmail instance for Google employees. Other targets include Sony, Samsung, Intel, and Akamai. The domains also include a German slot machine company and major telecoms in Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The list only includes domains that were targeted during the four days before the server was seized, so it’s entirely possible other companies were targeted earlier in the campaign. Still, the nature of the two-stage payload suggests the attack was targeted, aiming to break into specific companies rather than compromise millions of computers at once. “This was a typical watering hole attack where the vast majority of users were uninteresting for the attacker, but select ones were,” Avast researchers wrote. Researchers now estimate only 700,000 computers were exposed by the attack, down from earlier estimates of 2.2 million.

It’s still unclear which companies were successfully compromised. Talos registered at least 20 computers that were targeted by the payload, but researchers have not disclosed which companies were involved. It’s also unclear what the attackers were looking for, although Talos notes that the domains targeted “would suggest a very focused actor after valuable intellectual property.”

Neither group has made an official attribution, but Kaspersky researchers have noted significant overlapping code between the CCleaner attack and previous attacks by the Axiom threat group, a finding that Talos confirmed. Previous research has tied the Axiom group to Chinese intelligence services with moderate to high confidence.

Still, researchers are likely to learn more about the campaign in the weeks to come. Data from the initial command server has revealed several other servers used in the attack, which law enforcement is currently working to locate and seize.

Android 8. Oreo could quickly be coming to a Samsung Galaxy S8 near you

Android 8. Oreo may well quickly be on its way to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, as examination firmware for Samsung smartphones has popped up. 

Oreo firmware updates spotted by SamMobile contain the latter ‘Z’ in their model names, which has earlier been employed to denote that the firmware is for Samsung phones, as very last year’s Android 7. Nougat updates for the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge also contained the same letter in the firmware.

As these types of, Android Oreo firmware versions labelled G950FXXE1ZQI7 and G955FXXU1ZQI7 are predicted for the Galaxy S8 and its bigger sibling respectively.

A beta model of the Samsung-flavoured Oreo firmware is predicted to be rolled out very quickly, but neither Samsung or Google have unveiled when specifically the mobile functioning procedure will come across its way on to Samsung handsets, or without a doubt which of the South Korean company’s array of smartphones and tablets will get the Oreo cure.

However, Samsung is very likely to push Oreo out to both of the Galaxy S8s and its Galaxy Be aware 8, give the phones are at the prime of its smartphone pile very last-technology handsets like the Galaxy S7 will probably get Android 8. pushed out to them, but there’s a possibility that older phones like the Galaxy S6 might be remaining to tick alongside with Android Nougat.

Google has supplied Oreo a complete nip and tuck to make it less complicated for smartphone makers to up grade to when they are making use of their have tailor made user interfaces on prime of Android. But Samsung’s TouchWiz UI has its electronic claws significantly deep in Android, including all method of tailor made factors, which can in transform make it challenging to up grade the core OS with out creating other apps and tailor made functions to malfunction or basically glance a very little weird.

Android Oreo provides in a far more robust protection centre, which means Android lovers with considerations about hackers and privateness will want to up grade to Oreo as quickly as probable, so we can think about that if Samsung takes substantially longer in pushing out its Oreo update consumers of its flagship phones could get a very little disgruntled.

Connected: Not interested in Android? Check out our iOS 11 critique

Have you experienced a style of Android Oreo yet? Permit us know on Fb or tweet @TrustedReviews. 

Apple Inc.’s Samsung Problem — The Motley Fool

Based on numerous reliable press and analyst reports, it’s generally accepted that the 5.8-inch organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, display found on Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) recently announced iPhone X is manufactured exclusively by Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) Display.

The fact that Samsung appears to be the only display manufacturer capable of providing displays good enough for the iPhone X is reportedly driving up Apple’s display costs. For this reason alone, Apple needs to cultivate alternative sources for OLED displays as quickly as possible, particularly as Apple reportedly aims to proliferate OLED displays, which it markets as “Super Retina Displays,” more broadly across its iPhone portfolio.

Apple's iPhone X.

Image source: Apple.

However, there’s another big reason that Apple needs to shift its display purchases as far away from Samsung as possible.

A massive conflict of interest

It’s clear that display technology is going to become an increasingly significant differentiator in the premium smartphone market over time. With the iPhone X, Apple appears to have something of a unique OLED display.

Indeed, Apple made sure to highlight in its iPhone X marketing materials that the display on the iPhone X is “the first screen that rises to the standards of iPhone.” During its launch event, Apple fleshed that claim out, asserting that previous OLED displays fell short of the one used in the iPhone X in the areas of color accuracy, brightness, and support for wide color.

That’s all well and good, but even if the display on the iPhone X turns out to be the best-performing smartphone display ever put in a smartphone — something, I might add, I wouldn’t be surprised to see given the insanely high-quality displays that Apple put in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus — how long can it hold that crown?

Remember that Apple’s highest-profile rival in the premium smartphone market is Samsung Mobile, which is part of the broader Samsung Electronics. Samsung Display, as you might’ve guessed, is also part of Samsung Electronics.

Now, about two years ago, Bloomberg reported that Samsung Display formed a special team of approximately 200 individuals to work “exclusively” on displays for Apple. Moreover, that report claimed that this team isn’t allowed to share business details with third parties, even other groups within Samsung.

On paper, this suggests that Apple, which counts a significant number of display technologists among its staff, can work with Samsung to develop “unique and differentiating” display technologies, helping to give it a competitive edge.

However, if Apple’s collaboration with Samsung Display leads Samsung Mobile to glean important insights into Apple’s future display technology plans and adjust its plans in response, then Apple should work to sever its ties with Samsung Display as quickly as possible.

Given that Samsung’s logic chip manufacturing division has been accused of appropriating trade secrets from a rival to accelerate the development of its logic chip technologies, I’m not entirely convinced that Apple-specific display technology won’t find its way into displays found on next-generation Samsung Mobile smartphones. 

Unfortunately, given Samsung’s pole position in the manufacture of OLED displays, Apple probably won’t have much choice but to use Samsung Display to manufacture most, if not all, its OLED displays for at least a few more years.

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

New public safety software and services shown at Motorola Solutions’ London Innovation Centre

Phil Jefferson, vice president for Western Europe and North Africa, and country manager UK and Ireland at ‎Motorola Solutions; said that the company had spent $553 million on R&D in 2016 and in the same year had spent a further $1.5 billion on acquisitions associated with new technology.

Eduardo Conrado, Motorola Solutions’ EVP – chief strategy and innovation officer (pictured below), added that the company invests in roughly 10-15 start-ups each year and looks for research that could be applied to the world of public safety. He drew attention to the increasing use of voice to access the internet (as seen in the growing use of Alexa and Google Home).

He added that one of the company’s design goals is providing consistency across platforms, both in terms of interface and the data that can be accessed by the user. Conrado also noted that a typical police officer’s time is split as follows:

  • • 60 per cent – proactive policing
  • • 15 per cent – dealing with incidents
  • • 25 per cent – post-incident (filling out forms and other paperwork)

He explained that Motorola is seeking to digitise as much of the post-incident work as possible, so that police officers are free to spend more of their time on proactive policing.

In addition, “We’re working on a full set of applications that enable communication and information sharing across [narrowband] radio and LTE networks and then on the backend [there’s] a lot of emphasis with our data scientists on looking at how we use artificial intelligence and machine learning, not only to improve efficiency, but in some cases to predict where crime will happen.”

He expects there will be greater use of video analytics with it being used to trigger specific actions. Motorola expects that in the near future police officers will be equipped with 360-degree body-worn cameras, augmented reality visors, biometrics and an audio “virtual partner”.

To illustrate the latter, Conrado showed a video in which a policeman had to question a member of the public who only spoke Mandarin and cloud-based real-time translation software allowed him to ask her questions in the same language and hear her translated responses. Conrado said that the company is looking to bring this feature to market next year.

He also discussed another use case in which video analytics can be used in combination with body-worn video to search for a missing person, in this case a child with brown hair and a blue t-shirt, through using the camera’s own processing abilities (intelligence at the network edge). Only when one of the body-worn video cameras in the field detects a match, is data sent back to the control room. Conrado adds that while it might be possible for the officer wearing that camera to initially miss the child, it narrows down their location and it could be possible to use voice/audio prompts to quickly tell the officer where to look. However, Motorola’s current focus is on optimising the processing taking place on the camera rather than the work flows associated with this feature.

He added that one of the issues associated with facial recognition is that it requires that the camera and the face(s) being analysed to be a particular angle to each other, and there are also certain lighting requirements.

Olatunde Williams, head of field & solutions marketing – Europe & Africa at Motorola Solutions (pictured above left) and his colleague, Adrian Parsons (above, right), senior technical architect, demonstrated a use case for AI combined with natural language processing software. It involved an officer (played by Parsons) in a police car pulling a suspect vehicle over for inspection, with the car’s radio system logging the switching

on of the warning lights and other actions. The officer can vocally request data on the vehicle using commands such as “vehicle check required on licence plate”, “Tell me more about [the vehicle’s registered owner]” and “Any active cases on that vehicle?” and then asking for more information on that case, so that the officer can best assess whether the occupant poses a threat.

Parsons later explained that the system could be configured to suit an organisations’ business processes and preferences. He also highlighted the current regulations that require police officers to have valid reasons for stopping vehicles and retrieving information about them and their owners, which have to be considered when drawing up these processes.

Parsons wore a radio in the form factor of a jacket (shown above right) and its man-down functionality by dropping it on the ground.

David Parry, Motorola Solutions’ director EMEA marketing, and one of his colleagues demonstrated a future fire incident command concept, that uses augmented/mixed reality. In it the incident commander wears an AR headset to see a 3D map of the building in which the fire is taking place (shown below), track the progress of a search within the building (searched areas turn green), view video feeds from cameras worn by the firefighters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying above the incident and 360-degree cameras mounted on fire engines. The commander can via the same AR interface, view the status and movement of the vehicles as they approach the scene, while the status and health of firefighters within the building is shown using different icons.

Parry added that the system automatically tracks oxygen consumption, so that should a firefighter be close to running out of air, the icon will change, alerting the commander to the need to order them to withdraw. He notes that currently such timings are measured manually with stopwatches and that the in-building layout functionality requires 3D plans of the building where the incident is taking place to be available.

Martyn Parker, Lincolnshire Police’s IT Futures programme director (shown left), said that the force spent £2.8 million on a four year Pronto solution supported by 775 mobile devices (the Samsung Note 4). He added that the force is currently looking to upgrade to more modern devices. The force’s use of Pronto is typically saving an hour per shift and has reduced the time required to process road traffic collisions from 30 minutes per booklet to 10 and eliminated the need for paper booklets.

“We have to report on several annual data returns to the Home Office to make sure that our crime compliance, our management and handling of domestic [abuse cases] are accurate and Pronto gives us that security and ability to be able to put and mandate processes in place to make sure that we get compliance from our [frontline] staff,” Parker said. “They’re not always thinking about legislation and policy changes, we push those onto the mobile application…

“When an officer takes a photograph of someone who has been assaulted, a bruised eye or whatever the injury is and they take that picture, the Pronto application will produce that in a format that’s an exhibit, produce it into our records management system (RMS), which can seamless go through to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), ensuring that it has all the correct naming conventions, all the detail and accuracy which is required… without another human being needing to interact within the process – it’s really positive time saver for us.”

He said that the application also prompts users to take personal statements from victims of crime, “so they don’t have to continually remember the data they need to capture – the system is helping them do that.”

Parker added that the number of instances in which high risk referrals to the force’s partners for domestic abuse, stalking and harassment cases have been missed have dropped to zero since the process started to be managed by the Pronto mobile data application because of the automated process it used. Prior to its introduction, the force used to miss 7-8 per week.

He also said that City of London Police is deploying an instance of Pronto based on Lincolnshire’s solution. Motorola Solutions is developing a fingerprint solution to search the new Home Office Biometrics Gateway and introducing a mobile mapping and messaging solution integrated with Pronto.

Ian Williams, chief inspector and digital policing lead for West Yorkshire Police (shown above) said that his force is using Pronto for 28 processes, across 5,500 devices and has started using Bluetooth enabled folding keyboards so that officers can more easily enter data onto the system while on the move – they spend around 10,000 hours every month inputting data). He added that West Yorkshire Police wants its officers to be inputting data in locations where they are visible to the public such as a local Macdonald’s, regardless of how this might be portrayed by the tabloids.

He notes that Pronto is “much more timely. For example, someone gets arrested, they get brought back into custody, you’ve got a certain amount of statements and evidence, but you might want a little bit more – you might have missed something. So, you can dispatch an officer to take a statement, upload it and within a minute that can be disclosed to the defence, sent to CPS to get a decision… And we shouldn’t underestimate officers’ access to data [via Pronto], with that integration, you’ve got that full array of data that enables them to make really good decisions and look after the safety of themselves, the public and vulnerable victims.”

Williams also discussed West Yorkshire Police’s use of Pronto Forensics. “CSI integration is a really big one for us, on the back of what we’ve done [with Pronto] for the frontline, we’ve delivered [similar functionality to] crime scene investigators [across] the whole region, there are four forces in our region. Investigators now integrate with several systems, some of them local, some of them national… [allowing] them to collect all their evidence at the scene, bag it up, put it up on the systems and get results coming back before they’ve even left the scene…

“We have investigators who within an hour of [the] initial examination [of a crime scene] are identifying suspects to go out and arrest. We’ve had a murder where a gentleman was badly burnt and the only thing that was recognisable was his hand. We took the fingerprint from that and the result from that enabled us to identify him and subsequently a suspect, in that timescale….,” Williams concluded.

Both Williams and Parker highlighted the advantages of getting involved with suppliers to ensure that their products and services are best suited to forces’ requirements as possible.

Motorola Solutions’ innovations span cellular phones and systems in the mid-80s, to introducing the world’s first TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) nationwide digital radio network, which is the basis for Airwave – the network went live in 2005 based on Motorola Solutions´ TETRA technology and currently powers public safety communications in the country. Motorola Solutions completed its acquisition of Airwave in February 2016.

In 1994, Motorola Solutions developed radio, cable and antenna systems for the newly opened Channel Tunnel between England and France, and in 1998 CityLink Telecommunications consortium, which included Motorola, was selected to replace and manage the radio transmission services for the entire London Underground Tube network.

Meanwhile, in 2004, Motorola Solutions was selected to provide more than 30,000 MTH800 digital radios for Metropolitan Police Service officers to use on the Airwave nationwide TETRA communications network. London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s command and control system went live in May that year and Motorola Solutions supplied and implemented the system.

In 2015, Motorola Solutions was chosen to provide user services, system integration and critical functionality for the UK’s next generation LTE Emergency Services Network (ESN).

Motorola Solutions moved its Europe, Middle East and Africa regional headquarters to London in 2017.

CCleaner malware operators targeted tech firms including Cisco, Microsoft, Samsung

pd6.jpg

File Photo

The threat actors behind the use of malware embedded in CCleaner have targeted large tech firms for their intellectual property.

According to the security team at Cisco Systems, Cisco was only one of many companies that hackers attempted to compromise. Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, Sony, and Intel, among others, were potentially also at risk.

The CCleaner breach, disclosed earlier this week, involved cyberattackers modifying legitimate versions of the software to contain malware. It is estimated that the tainted version of the popular Android and Windows PC cleaner has been downloaded roughly 2.27 million times, or by up to three percent of overall users.

Piriform, the makers of CCleaner, was snapped up by Avast in July this year. Avast believes the platform was targeted before the buyout was complete.

The affected version is 5.33.6162, designed for 32-bit Windows machines, released on 15 August, as well as a version of CCleaner Cloud, released on 24 August.

“The compromised version of CCleaner was released on August 15 and went undetected by any security company for four weeks, underscoring the sophistication of the attack,” Avast said earlier this week. “In our view, it was a well-prepared operation and the fact that it didn’t cause harm to users is a very good outcome.”

The malware’s command-and-control (C&C) server was taken down once the threat was detected; however, Cisco said late on Wednesday that this is not the end of the story.

According to the Cisco Talos security team, the C&C record shows a payload deployment list which includes a list of organizations “specifically targeted through delivery of a second-stage loader.”

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Cisco

Based on a review of the C&C’s tracking database — which covers only four days in September — at least 20 victim machines from these companies were in line to be served secondary payloads.

“This would suggest a very focused actor after valuable intellectual property,” the team says. “These new findings raise our level of concern about these events, as elements of our research point towards a possible unknown, sophisticated actor.”

The C&C server contained PHP files responsible for handling communication between infected PCs and threat actors. The server would implement a series of checks in order to avoid the efforts of security researchers as well as gather information from infected systems, such as OS version, architecture, and whether admin rights were in play. This information was then stored in an SQL database.

If a system met the malware’s requirements, the second payload would be deployed to create a backdoor and potentially pave the way for attackers to steal information and spy on the target companies.

“The web server also contains a second PHP file (init.php) that defines core variables and operations used,” Cisco says. “Interestingly, this configuration specifies “PRC” as the time zone, which corresponds with People’s Republic of China (PRC). It’s important to note that this cannot be relied on for attribution.”

No damage may have been detected as of yet, but the addition of these C&C instructions does suggest the breach is more serious than first believed. Targeting high-profile targets with a seemingly innocuous and innocent piece of software is a clever method, but seeking information from these groups suggests that the general public is not the true focus of the campaign.

While Avast has recommended that consumers update to a clean version of the software and remove the tainted version, Cisco has gone further in recommendations to companies which may have been involved.

“Those impacted by this supply chain attack should not simply remove the affected version of CCleaner or update to the latest version, but should restore from backups or reimage systems to ensure that they completely remove not only the backdoored version of CCleaner but also any other malware that may be resident on the system,” the company said.

Update 11.56BST:

Avast has published additional findings on the situation.

In a blog post, the security firm said 20 machines in a total of eight companies were targeted, “but given that the logs were only collected for little over three days, the actual number of computers that received the 2nd stage payload was likely at least in the order of hundreds.”

“This is a change from our previous statement, in which we said that to the best of our knowledge, the 2nd stage payload never delivered,” Avast added.

In addition, the security firm says that the attack was a “typical” watering hole attack, which deployed malicious DLLs designed to inject malicious functionality into legitimate DLL systems.

Previous and related coverage

[Humor] The Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8 Violate Android’s Compatibility Requirements

Over the years, hundreds of Android devices have been released. Among the dozens of manufacturers building Android phones, Samsung is one of the more prolific of the bunch. But Samsung is best known their two flagship smartphone series: the Samsung Galaxy S and the Galaxy Note line. The latest flagship offerings from Samsung include the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. These devices launched with Android 7.0 Nougat and 7.1 Nougat respectively, but while these smartphones are claimed to be Android Certified, they actually violate a key prerequisite of what allows them to pre-install Google apps on their devices: the Android Compatibility Definition Document.

The following post is meant to be humerous. Don’t take this seriously. Just enjoy the ride.


The Necessity of Android Compatibility

With every new release of an Android version, Google publishes a set of requirements that devices must meet in order to be considered compatible with that version of Android.

This document enumerates the requirements that must be met in order for devices to be compatible with the latest version of Android. To be considered compatible with Android, device implementations MUST meet the requirements presented in this Compatibility Definition, including any documents incorporated via reference.

The above lines preface all links to the Android Compatibility Definition Document, and clearly state that, while the Document does not include every requirement needed for a device to be considered Android-compatible, it does state that manufacturers must stay within the guidelines of the document. Furthermore, meeting these requirements is a prerequisite for any manufacturer to license Google Mobile Services (GMS).

After building an Android compatible device, consider licensing Google Mobile Services (GMS), Google’s proprietary suite of apps (Google Play, YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, and more ) that run on top of Android. GMS is not part of the Android Open Source Project and is available only through a license with Google.

This is a huge incentive to make Android device manufacturers follow Google’s strict requirements listed in their Compatibility program. Without meeting Google’s requirements, a manufacturer cannot pre-install the Google Play Store (among many other Google applications).

Amazon is one of the few manufacturers that intentionally does not license GMS as they favor their own app ecosystem, but for every other manufacturer it’s crucial to ensure that their customers have access to the millions of apps on the Google Play Store. Hence, you can understand why it’s so important for Samsung to meet the requirements in the CDD so they can license out Google Mobile Services.


Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8 – Are they Truly Android Certified?

At XDA, we’ve been digging into the Compatibility Definition Document with every new release of the document. We poured through the document released for Android 6.0 Marshmallow and Android 7.0 Nougat, though we skipped the document for 7.1 as the changes were so minute that they weren’t worth mentioning.

For Android 8.0 Oreo, we’ve already talked about some of the changes introduced in the latest update to the Compatibility Definition Document. Some of the things we found include requirements on implementing Android Oreo’s background app limitations, optional WiFi Passpoint support, required Data Saver support, and consistent dumpsys command behavior.

Daydream View VR Headset

Daydream View VR Headset by Google

But there was one change we noticed that, at the time, didn’t seem very significant. It was a change regarding Android’s requirements to support high-performance virtual reality mode. Adding support for this feature is a requirement in order for a device to support Google’s Daydream VR. It’s actually possible to force Daydream VR compatibility on any rooted Android device if you add a few lines in the right place.

In order for a device to support Daydream VR officially, though, they have to meet the requirements laid out in the Virtual Reality section of the CDD. With the release of Android 8.0’s CDD, Google updated the document to allow for larger (up to 6.3″ screen size diagonally) devices to support high-performance VR in Android.

Source: PhoneArena’s Size Comparison Tool.

We were wondering why Google made this change, and why they went with 6.3″ specifically as their upper limit. We linked this CDD change with the recent Daydream View 2017 leak, but then something more obvious, and hilarious, came up.

We realized that the Samsung Galaxy S8+ with its 6.2″ screen and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with its 6.3″ screen perfectly explain why Google decided to up the screen size limit in the Android 8.0 Compatibility Definition Document. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate any smartphones from their major partners to get that large initially, but the might of Samsung forced their hand so they updated the document to accommodate their biggest partner.

But there’s a problem with the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 supporting VR high performance mode (and yes, we verified that it does by pulling /system/etc/permissions/android.hardware.vr.high_performance.xml from the phones). While the Galaxy Note 8 launched with Daydream VR support on board, it took a software update to bring compatibility to the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+. However, both devices did not launch with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Instead, they must meet the requirements listed in Android 7.0/7.1 Nougat’s Compatibility Definition Document in order to be considered compatible with Android and thus license Google Mobile Services (GMS). But the requirement listed in the previous release of the CDD explicitly states that the display MUST measure between 4.7″ and 6.0″ diagonal. Clearly, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 are outside of these bounds, and thus they violate the terms of the CDD!


What should be done about this?

As these two devices violate the CDD, they cannot ship with the Google Play Store pre-installed. Google should protect the integrity of their Compatibility program by stripping the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8 of all Google apps. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is cool though. You should have bought that one if you wanted to have a truly Android Certified device. Don’t blame me for your poor choice.

Best Wireless Headphones for Samsung Gear Sport, S3, or S2

Listen to your favorite tunes with your Samsung Gear with these great headphones!

Your Samsung Gear Sport, S3, or S2 are great for on-the-go productivity and pleasure. Whether you want to listen to your favorite tunes on your weekly jog, conduct phone calls using your smartwatch on the subway, or taking in a new audiobook while your significant other is sleeping next to you, a great pair of wireless headphones are essential to enjoying sound through your Samsung Gear.

Here are our favorite wireless headphones to use with your Samsung Gear Sport, S3, or S2.

Jaybird X3

Jaybird has been making quality headphones for quite some time and the Jaybird X3s are no exception.

You can get a full week of workouts on a single charge and a quick 15 minutes of charging will get you a full hour at least. If you rely on your tunes to get you through a workout, check out the Jaybird X3 wireless earbuds and enjoy.

PC Mag was more than satisfied with the overall quality of the headphones:

“Powerful audio performance with strong, rich bass and well-defined, bright highs. The gym-friendly Jaybird X3 wireless earphones deliver high-quality audio in a comfortable, secure-fitting design.”

These headphones come in Blackout or Sparta (white) colors, and they’re sweat- and rain-proof, so you can pour your heart and soul into every workout without worrying about frying them. Pricing starts around $100.

See at Amazon

Bose QuietComfort 35

The Bose brand has been the gold standard for active noise-canceling headphones for years, and it’s Bluetooth QuietComfort 35 (QC35) over-ear model that carries the torch.

Though other brands have come close to matching Bose’s quality, I still think Bose is the headphone manufacturer to beat, and I’m not the only one.

The Wirecutter has selected the Bose Q35 as its best wireless noise-canceling pair of headphones.

I know battery life is of extreme concern when it comes to anything that runs on Bluetooth, but the QC 35 has a 20-hour battery life. Plus, even if you do run out of power, you can use the included AUX cable to still listen to the audio. The noise-canceling feature, however, will not function if the battery is dead.

You can get a pair of the Bose QC35 in black or silver and they will cost you around $349.

See at Amazon

V-Moda Crossfade 2

If you’re looking for a unique design in a pair of headphones, the V-Moda Crossfade 2 definitely sticks out from the crowd.

Coming with a compact carrying case, the V-Moda Crossfade 2 can be used both wirelessly and with a wired connection, making it perfect for toting around.

CNET was pleasantly impressed with the improvements V-Moda made from the previous model.

“The sturdily built, well-designed V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless delivers better battery life and improved sound over its predecessor, with more sculpted bass and better detail. The new larger earpads provide a more comfortable fit.”

A pair of the V-Moda Crossfade 2 will set you back about $350 and comes in matte black, white, or rose gold trimmings.

See at Amazon

Bose SoundSport Wireless

If you’re hoping to get the signature Bose sound in a much smaller and workout-friendly package, look no further than the Bose SoundSport Wireless.

The SoundSport Wireless earbuds are sweat- and weather-resistant, and the gel tips are wholly designed with comfort and stability in mind. Though battery life isn’t the greatest in these (about 6 hours on a single charge), they still pack an aural wallop and the mic and music controls are handy.

Comes in Aqua, Black, and Citron for about $149. You can also pick up a pair of Bose SoundSport in Power Red, which has a heart monitor, for $199.

See at Amazon

Jabra Move

Although the Jabra Move is a couple of years old, it’s still a great option for people looking to dip their toes into the wireless world without spending a ton of money.

They don’t offer noise cancellation, but still, provide impressively good sound quality for their construction costs — and an 8-hour battery to get you through most any workday.

At only a fraction of the price of high-end headphones — about $99 — you’ll keep a lot more money in your wallet and still have a very capable pair of cans to enjoy your favorite sounds.

See at Amazon

Which headphones do you use with your Samsung smartwatch?

Let us know in the comments below!

Google’s HTC deal: Can Google learn from its Motorola miscues?

Google is serious about manufacturing its own hardware…again.

Google will reportedly buy HTC’s smartphone operations and intellectual property in a move that foreshadows that it is serious about integrating software and hardware and selling premium devices on multiple fronts.

The purchase of HTC’s division isn’t likely amount to much–HTC is valued at $1.9 billion–but Google would acquire a supply chain, research and development and skills that would be hard to create in-house. HTC has already halted shares pending an announcement.

HTC suspends trading, Google acquisition rumors blaze to life

If this HTC deal sounds vaguely familiar that’s because it was only a few years ago that Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion and then offloaded it to Lenovo for $2.91 billion. The Motorola purchase had a lot to do with hardware knowhow, but more to do with defending patent lawsuits.

What’s different this time? Frankly, I’m not so sure. Google probably realizes hardware is a conduit for its artificial intelligence, ads and Android. Cue the Amazon Alexa envy. But that reality doesn’t mean Google can integrate HTC well or even keep the talent.

HTC and Google have been strong partners. HTC is a supplier for Google’s Pixel line. What’s unclear is whether HTC can continuously offer premium hardware that can serve as a showcase for Google’s services. HTC’s sales have crumbled since peaking in 2010.

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Add it up and Google will face its challenges with HTC. Then again, Google is throwing a financial lifeline to one of its key hardware partners.

Here’s how the ledger looks:

Why buy HTC

  • HTC provides a supply chain and manufacturing expertise. HTC, which has roots as a third party contract manufacturer, would know how to ramp up other product lines such as Google Home and may even play a role for Nest down the line.
  • The price isn’t that bad. You could argue that Google would have had to spend what HTC was worth anyway just to come close to being a hardware player.
  • Google can have a tighter hold on Android. Sure, Lenovo, Nokia and HTC promise that they will keep up with Android and refrain from customizing the mobile OS too much. But the biggest player–Samsung–won’t play that game.

Why HTC is a dumb purchase

  • HTC isn’t selling out to Google from a position of strength. HTC’s wearable strategy hasn’t panned out. HTC Vive is promising on the virtual reality front, but is massive. And HTC hasn’t been a smartphone leader of late.
  • Google likely hasn’t learned from its Motorola experience. To make HTC truly work, Google will have to bridge cultural divides. Google couldn’t make Motorola work so it’s unclear whether it’ll have any more luck with HTC.
  • It’s unclear how much innovation HTC will really bring to Google, which counts ads, artificial intelligence and computing scale as its core competencies. Google may be limiting its Pixel designs by limiting its partner choices to HTC.

Samsung’s $3,500 QLED TV Almost Feels Like It’s Worth It

All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Huge, detailed, brightly colored images flickered across the screen, illuminating the whole room like the lights off one of those laser light disco balls at the skating rink. My brother’s eyes bulged. “It’s too much,” he gasped as I scrambled for the remote just to pause the vivid assault on our eyeballs. He’d just come over to help me set up the enormous 65-inch Q9 television from Samsung, and after adding on the feet—which required laying it across my entire bed, and then wrestling it onto the stand (it weighs over 60 pounds), we sat down to watch one of my favorite test shows Sense8. The show is great for testing TVs because it’s bright and colorful with a wide array of skintones that can end up looking orange or muddy on a cheaper TV. I wanted to know if a super expensive set like the Q9 was ever worth it when it’s totally possible to get great TVs for $1,000 or less. As soon as I hit play I had my answer—a pricey TV can be a real game changer.

Samsung’s Q9 television made waves at CES earlier this year. The vibrant edge-lit display is about as thin as you can get without going OLED. Edge-lit LED displays produce light from the sides of the set, while OLED controls light on a pixel by pixel basis. Edge-lit tends to be thicker—you need all that room for the LEDs. To mitigate that thickness most of the guts of the Q9 have been moved off the back of the TV and into a box that connects via a single super thin cord. All four HDMI inputs move through a single cable that’s about as thick as the brake cable on your bicycle.

Those are the only two things coming out of this TV.

It feels like a remarkable feat of engineering, and Samsung clearly thinks so too, as the One Connect box, which handles all the inputs, is now employed by the company’s design-focused Frame TV as well. The cable is crazy thin, but the OneConnect box demands a second power outlet, which is a little frustrating if you’re like me and have a router, PC, two consoles, a set top box, and a smart home box plugged in already. In many homes plug space is at a premium, and demanding two for a single TV seems positively extravagant—even if you’re already pretty extravagant by dropping $3,500 on a TV to begin with.

The extravagance of the Q9 is not just limited to the OneConnect box or that $3,500 price tag. This is easily one of the best sounding televisions available today. Normally when I recommend a TV to someone I insist they budget in a soundbar as well. The thinner a television gets, usually, the worse it sounds. Some TV makers, like Sony and TCL, get around the bad sound problem by slapping huge speakers on the side. Samsung has the speakers hidden away, but that doesn’t stop them from being surprisingly powerful and tossing sound around the room as capably as any soundbar. Explosions while playing Destiny 2 boom with surprising bass and when lasers and raccoons with rocket packs zoom by in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 the audio seems to really whizz by my head.

This thing isn’t the thinnest TV ever made, but strong angles, and a tiny bezel make it feel prettier than competitors.

A dedicated soundbar like the Samsung Sound+ or Sonos Playbar still sounds better than these TV speakers. There’s a lot more bass in $700 soundbar. Yet I didn’t feel the inescapable urge to plug in the soundbar as quickly as possible as I would with a cheaper set like the $1,000 Vizio P-Series or our favorite cheap set, the $650 TCL P-Series. But when you’re paying $3,500 for a TV set you should hope, at least, that you don’t need to invest in a soundbar just to enjoy the TV. For $4,000 the TV should melt your eyeballs and pound your ears more than the sub-$1,000 TVs we like to recommend.

And by all accounts and experiences, watching this TV is much nicer than watching a cheap set. There’s a noted vividness to the picture, and a sharpness to images that I just don’t find in less expensive TVs, but it’s also not quite the holy shit breathtaking experience of that $8,000 OLED from LG. That TV forced me to reconsider how I consume my shows. This one just reminds me that yes, more money means nicer TV.

It’s when things go dark that the Q9 makes me shy away from telling you to drop a few months rent on a cool TV. See, Samsung made a big change from its last high-priced, high-end display, the KS9800. That TV was a full-array local dimming set, which means there were tons of little lights just behind the screen and they would light up, region by region, depending on what was on display. The Q9 is edge-lit, which means the only light comes from the sides of the TV. This allows for the TV to be thinner, and, theoretically, cheaper. But you don’t get nearly as much control of light when the only source of light is coming from the edge of the TV.

Consequently the Q9 suffers if you’re watching anything set in space. A ship zooms over a field of stars in Destiny 2, and there’s a distinct halo around the ship. The screen goes black and the white text of credits at the end of a movie appear, and there’s that telltale glow around the text. It’s not going to ruin whatever you’re watching, by any means, but it feels like a frustrating occurrence, particularly as cheaper sets (including a whole array of super cheap $1,500 OLED TVs from LG) don’t have the same issue.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t an OLED out there that can get as bright as the Samsung Q9. Whether I was watching the TV at midnight or at noon, and whether I had the lights all off or on, this TV looks gorgeous. Even the reflective glare is kept at a minimum

So should you chuck your $1,000 (or cheaper) TV to the curb? Probably not. Have you seen the economy lately? You should be saving that scratch so you can buy a bunker to wait out the nuclear winter in. But if you’ve already invested in the bunker and you want to outfit it with a really nice TV, then the Samsung Q9 might be a great choice, and as we go into the holiday season it will drop further in price (it’s already dropped $500 since it launched in July). The cheaper the Q9 gets the better the buy. With it’s bright display, vibrant colors, and surprisingly great sound, this is a TV so good you might forget it’s edge lit.

README

  • It’s $3,500, which is a lot for a TV. We have plenty we like for cheaper.
  • This thing is bright enough that when you open the Tizen menu you won’t need any lights on in the room.
  • Colors pop and the picture is so sharp you might be alarmed.
  • Edge lit display means the dreaded halo effect when bright objects appear on a black background.
  • Audio is surprisingly good.

Motorola redux? Google appears set to buy HTC

Enlarge / The all-glass back of the HTC U11.

Ron Amadeo

Evidence is mounting that Google is going to buy HTC. Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan is reporting HTC shares will halt trading tomorrow pending a “major announcement” from the company. The speculation is that the struggling smartphone and VR headset company is going to be sold, and further speculation suggests the buyer is Google.

The “Google to buy HTC” rumors have been churning for some time. The local Taiwan media has been reporting whispers of talks between the two companies since the beginning of September, and one site, Apple Daily, is reporting that the sale is already a done deal.

So what would Google want with HTC? Any tech watchers’ mind should immediately jump to the last time Google bought a failing Android OEM: its acquisition of Motorola. Along with a ton of patents, Google got a bunch of factories dedicated to producing smartphones and other products. It sold off the parts it didn’t want, like the cable modem business, and then it set about whipping Motorola into shape. After clearing the 18-month product pipeline the old Motorola execs left in place, Motorola turned into one of the better Android OEMs out there, offering stock Android, fast updates, and a simple lineup of about three main phones across the pricing spectrum. Google eventually got rid of Motorola, though, probably as a result of negotiations with other Android OEMs.

Google’s HTC acquisition would again result in the company owning a bunch of factories. So does it just bring Pixel production in-house? Google now has a formal “Hardware” division, run by former Motorola CEO Rick Osterloh, and the company has been pumping out hardware like the Pixel, Google Home, Google Wifi, Chromecast, and the Daydream VR viewer. If it bought HTC, the group would actually have its own factories. The “Vive” team is now a wholly owned subsidiary of HTC and seems gift-wrapped for a potential buyer.

Currently, Google’s Pixel line brings great software to the table, with things like a highly optimized version of stock Android and the Google Assistant, but there’s not much of a focus on hardware. The 2016 Pixel was built by HTC and looks just like an HTC phone. The 2017 Google Pixel 2 XL is being built by LG and looks a lot like an LG V30. Other than the glass window on the back, there isn’t much focus on making hardware that stands out. If Google does acquire HTC’s factories, it could start more deeply customizing what its phones look like, because right now Pixel phones look like they are made from off-the-shelf parts from other manufacturers.

While we haven’t seen the results hit the market yet, Google has seemed more interested in hardware lately. Rumors have also suggested Google is interested in creating its own SoCs, and the company now has a position called “Lead SoC Architect,” filled by Manu Gulati, a former chip architect at Apple. On stage at I/O, Google suggested future phones would come with special processors dedicated to machine learning. Without an HTC purchase, Google would have to get a third party to use these new chips, but if it buys HTC, it can quietly work on integrating these new chips into an actual product.

HTC’s struggles have been well documented and ongoing. The company peaked in 2011 with a mix of Android and Windows Mobile phones but never managed to recover once Windows Mobile died and Samsung swallowed up much of the high-end Android market. HTC spent several years making boring flagships with little design growth and botched marketing. The company eventually tried to transition away from the smartphone market, investing in a fitness band (which never actually launched) and a weird, viewfinder-less camera.

HTC’s only real success has come from partnering with other companies. With Valve, it created the HTC Vive VR headset, one of the first good VR headsets on the market (along with the Oculus Rift). It also partnered with Google to create the Google Pixel smartphone, which has consistently been hailed, at Ars and other places, as the best Android phone on the market. While these products were critical successes, they sold in low volumes and are not the kind of successes that can keep HTC afloat. HTC doesn’t even have much to do with the success of either product. Valve owns all technology that makes the Vive work. The Pixel is only good because of Google’s software optimizations, and this year it added LG, a competing hardware company, to the program. Google and Valve both seem like they just needed a manufacturer, and HTC was desperate enough to make other companies’ products.

This all seems like something Google has done before, but, remember, that’s kind of Google’s thing. It wanted to sell smartphones directly with the Nexus One program, then it didn’t. Then it bought Motorola and started making its own smartphones, then it decided it didn’t want to do that anymore. Now it’s starting up again with the Pixel program, and maybe it wants to get even more involved with hardware.

Whatever HTC’s announcement is, it’s coming sometime Thursday, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled.