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August, 2019

Sources say China used iPhone hacks to target Uyghur Muslims

A number of malicious websites used to hack into iPhones over a two-year period were targeting Uyghur Muslims, TechCrunch has learned.

Sources familiar with the matter said the websites were part of a state-backed attack — likely China — designed to target the Uyghur community in the country’s Xinjiang state.

It’s part of the latest effort by the Chinese government to crack down on the minority Muslim community in recent history. In the past year, Beijing has detained more than a million Uyghurs in internment camps, according to a United Nations human rights committee.

Google security researchers found and recently disclosed the malicious websites this week, but until now it wasn’t known who they were targeting.

The websites were part of a campaign to target the religious group by infecting an iPhone with malicious code simply by visiting a booby-trapped web page. In gaining unfettered access to the iPhone’s software, an attacker could read a victim’s messages, passwords, and track their location in near-real time.

Apple fixed the vulnerabilities in February in iOS 12.1.4, days after Google privately disclosed the flaws. News of the hacking campaign was first disclosed by this week.

These websites had “thousands of visitors” per week for at least two years, Google said.

Victims were tricked into opening a link, which when opened would load one of the malicious websites used to infect the victim. It’s a common tactic to target phone owners with spyware.

One of the sources told TechCrunch the websites inadvertently infected iPhone users not intended to be targeted, prompting the FBI to alert Google to ask for the site to be removed from its index to prevent infections, they added.

A Google spokesperson would not comment beyond the published research. A FBI spokesperson said they could neither confirm nor deny any investigation, and did not comment further.

Google faced some criticism following its bombshell report for not releasing the websites used in the attacks. The researchers said the attacks were “indiscriminate watering hole attacks” with “no target discrimination,” noting that anyone visiting the site would have their iPhone hacked.

But the company would not say who was behind the attacks.

Apple did not comment. An email requesting comment to the Chinese consulate in New York was unreturned.

Tesla’s Model 3 interior (even the steering wheel) is now 100% leather-free

Tesla said Saturday that its Model 3 interiors are now completely free of leather, fulfilling a promise made by CEO Elon Musk at this year’s annual shareholder meeting.

Tesla has been closing in on a leather-free interior for a couple of years now. But a sticking point was the steering wheel, which Musk made mention of at the company’s shareholder meeting in June in response to a request from PETA activist.

I believe we were close to having a non-heated steering wheel, that’s not leather,” Musk said at the time.There are some challenges when when heat the non-leather material and also how well it wears over time.”

Musk said Model Y and Model 3 would be vegan by 2020. He wasn’t sure if the company would be able to meet that same goal for the Model S and X.

 

 

Activist shareholders made a proposal in 2015 that Tesla no longer use animal-derived leather in the interiors of its electric vehicles by 2019. While stockholders rejected that proposal, Tesla did begin rolling out more “vegan” interior components in its cars.

The company began by offering leather-free seats as an option. Two years ago, Tesla made the synthetic material standard in its Model 3, Model X and Model S vehicles.

Apple products under pricing pressure as new 15% tariffs drop Sunday

A new 15% tariff on Chinese imports will go in effect just after midnight Sunday, placing levies on hundreds of household goods and consumer tech, including a bevy of Apple products.

The tariffs, put in place by President Donald Trump as part of an escalating tit-for-tat trade war with China, were entered into the Federal Register on Friday.

Apple, the largest U.S. technology company by market cap, has its products assembled in China by Foxconn and then ships them to consumers all over the world. The Apple Airpods, Apple Watch and accompanying Apple Watch bands and the Apple Homepod are all products subject to the higher tariffs beginning Sunday. The iPhone doesn’t appear to be impacted this round, but could be subject to tariffs that begin Dec. 15.

Apple is hardly the only electronics company — most of which have final assembly in China — to be affected by the tariffs. TVs, speakers, digital cameras, lithium-ion batteries and flash drives are just a few of consumer electronics that will be subjected to a 15% tariff beginning Sunday. But the higher tariffs do threaten to give rival Samsung an edge.

The new higher tariffs come just a few weeks since Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Trump to argue that such a move would benefit its No. 1 competitor Samsung.

The 15% tariff will affect about $112 billion of Chinese goods, lower than the original list of $300 billion imports. Last week, the U.S. Trade Representative office modified the original list, either delaying tariffs on some products until December 15 or removing some goods altogether.

Despite the lower number, the impact is still expected to pinch companies importing products from China. The complete list of products affected by the 15% tariffs is 122 pages long. And eventually, that pain — aka higher prices — will be passed onto consumers.

Apple has not said whether it will increase prices of its products. Analysts from JP Morgan expect Apple to absorb the costs.

Tariffs have already had a cost, according to the Consumer Tech Association. Since July 2018, Section 301 tariffs on China have cost the consumer tech industry over $10 billion, including $1 billion on 5G-related products, the CTA said.

In total, American taxpayers have paid over $27 billion in extra import tariffs from the beginning of the trade war in 2018 through June of this year, most of which can be attributed to the U.S.-China trade war, according to U.S. Census information provided by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

Another 30% tariff on about $250 billion of goods is expected to begin October 1.