Bytes: What’s new in tech

Smartphone cameras get smarter; Spies peeked at webcams; Apple fixes security flaw

Smartphone cameras get smarter

Get ready for sharper selfies, said Youkyung Lee in the Associated Press. Following similar moves by Sony and Nokia, Samsung announced that it has “beefed up the camera” in its Galaxy S5 smartphone, adding “smarter camera software” meant to greatly improve the quality of Samsung snapshots. Samsung and other manufacturers hope the upgraded cameras will bring smartphone photos “closer in quality to images captured by digital single-lens reflex cameras.” That has long been a big technological challenge in a market that has been focused on selling ever-thinner phones. Now “the gap is getting narrower thanks mainly to improvements in camera software and other technologies.”

Spies peeked at webcams

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You might want to think twice before taking part in a Yahoo webcam chat, said Spencer Ackerman and James Ball in The Guardian (U.K.). According to documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, have “intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of Internet users” since at least 2008. The documents lay out a surveillance program code-named “Optic Nerve” that gathered “still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases.” The program, an effort to improve the intelligence agencies’ facial recognition software, appears to have chosen images randomly. In 2008 alone, GCHQ collected webcam stills from more than 1.8 million Yahoo accounts around the world, “including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications.”

Apple fixes security flaw

Users of Macs, iPhones, and iPads should take a minute to update their software, said Molly Wood in Apple last week issued a security update to its OS X Mavericks operating system for Macs, “patching a bug that could have let hackers eavesdrop on supposedly encrypted connections and steal everything from usernames and passwords to location data.” The update, labeled 10.9.2, was posted just four days after Apple issued an iOS update “to close the same hole” on its mobile devices. “The flaw is extremely serious,” making it impossible for your device to validate a certificate that claims, for instance, that you’re on your bank’s website. Apple users “who haven’t yet updated their OS should do so immediately.”

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