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The Roundup July 30

Shoestring Venture now on iPhone

Hackers can get total control of your iPhone by sending you 512 text messages. All you have to do wrong is turn on the phone.

Apple, welcome to Microsoft’s nightmare.

Miller and his fellow cybersecurity researcher Collin Mulliner plan to publicize Thursday at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas. Using a flaw they’ve found in the iPhone’s handling of text messages, the researchers say they’ll demonstrate how to send a series of mostly invisible SMS bursts that can give a hacker complete power over any of the smart phone’s functions. That includes dialing the phone, visiting Web sites, turning on the device’s camera and microphone and, most importantly, sending more text messages to further propagate a mass-gadget hijacking. . . .

The new attacks, by contrast, can strike a phone without any action on the part of the user and are virtually unpreventable while the phone is powered on, according to Miller and Mulliner’s research. And unlike the earlier exploits, Apple has inexplicably left them unpatched, Miller says. “I’ve given them more time to patch this than I’ve ever given a company to patch a bug,” he says.

(“How To Hijack ‘Every iPhone In The World’,” Forbes, July 28) The incident really shows you how Apple is a deer in the headlights in unfamiliar territory like hacker attacks and viruses (from which their devices have been immune because their market share is so paltry). We once had our Honda stolen in Northridge, California. While hightailing it out of the parking lot, the thief rammed another car at high speed. He limped along for another couple blocks and then left in someone’s driveway. We made the requisite report and the police told us that stolen cars are never recovered. The next day, the owner of the driveway phone us and told us to get our car out of her driveway. We called the police to inform them, and they said, I kid you not, “Uhhhh. We’ve never recovered a car before. Give us some time to figure out what to do.” The car sat there for a week. Every time we called the Northridge LAPD, they said the same thing (I’m not joking): “We’re trying to figure out what to do.” Miller and Mullner (sounds like a vaudeville act, no?) informed Apple of the security breach a month ago and . . . crickets. It’s still there. Microsoft, which has been fighting this war since the early 90’s, would have had a patch within 24 hours. iPhones are cool, but Apple needs to work on its response time if it really is aiming to dominate the cell phone market — because hackers and virus writers love taking down the giants.

Please return to your seats and buckle your safety belts. The airplane is currently falling apart.

The wing damage that grounded Boeing’s new composite 787 Dreamliner occurred under less stress than previously reported — and is more extensive.

An engineer familiar with the details said the damage happened when the stress on the wings was well below the load the wings must bear to be federally certified to carry passengers.

In addition, information obtained independently and confirmed by a second engineer familiar with the problem shows the damage occurred on both sides of the wing-body join — that is, on the outer wing as well as inside the fuselage.

(“Boeing 787 wing flaw extends inside plane,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 30) No-one in media fantasy land has done a better job of reporting the 787 debacle better than the Seattle P-I. Forbes as recently as two weeks ago reported that all was hunky-dory in Boeing land. The Forbes story was titled — no joke — “Boeing: Not So Bad”; how’s that for a ringing endorsement? Let’s peek at how “not bad” the situation is. The Dreamliner is currently two years overdue with cost overruns totalling nearly $11 billion. Forbes says they’re in good shape because they have 850 firm orders. But at the current cost overruns, Boeing will lose money on the first 500 or 600 planes they sell. The current problem is very serious. It may not mean the plane tears apart, but it will require major reengineering or the airlines will have to pay tons of money maintaining the planes (or they will fall apart in flight). Boeing is opting for door number one, but that will delay delivery until well into next year and probably add billions more — all the while customers are threatening to cancel orders and demanding further price reductions. Add another four or five billion dollars of overage and Boeing will lose money on all 850 orders it currently has. If Boeing opts for door number two, expect airlines to demand steep discounts or for Boeing to shoulder the maintenance costs. Behind that door no profit lies no matter how many planes they sell. I guess that’s not so bad depending on how bad your definition of “bad” is.

A major advertiser joins the rest of us peons on the Internet.

Brown-Forman’s Southern Comfort brand — weary of jostling for notice with other spirits brands during the narrow nightly window when they are permitted to advertise on cable — is taking its entire media buy digital, allowing it access to programs online it couldn’t touch on TV. . . .

Lena DerOhannessian, the brand’s U.S. marketing director, said SoCo’s tight focus on the youngest legal-drinking-age consumers drove the shift. “As we’ve focused more on 21 to 29, TV becomes less and less effective at reaching that audience,” she said. “It was getting harder and harder to hit our target without so much waste.”

The issue, Ms. DerOhannessian said, was the intense crowding of spirits brands within a few nightly cable shows, a result of restrictive rules about where and when spirits companies are permitted to advertise. (National networks still do not accept liquor advertising, although a growing number of affiliates have been breaking with that practice of late.)

(“Southern Comfort Pours Entire Media Budget Into Digital,” Advertising Age, July 29) I like this whole focus on the “lowest” of the legal drinking ages — this invariably means they’re marketing to ages below the lowest, right? Well, when Southern Comfort ads start appearing on Hulu broadcasts of Scooby Doo, then you know they’ve crossed a line somewhere. Anyway, Southern Comfort is the first major brand to go totally digital in its media budget. They have zeroed out their cable TV advertising ($8 million) and their print advertising ($1.5 million). Who cares? You should. First, as more and more major brands devote larger chunks of their media budget to online venues, the cost of Internet advertising will increase — pricing several opportunities right out of your budget. Brown-Forman is devoting a huge part of their budget to venues you can’t afford now, anyway, such as Hulu. But they also targetting social networks such as Facebook, which you can afford . . . and may not in the future if it becomes too crowded with advertisers such as Brown-Forman. Expect this trend to continue, which is bad news for shoestring ventures, startups, and small businesses. Second, the move illustrates a real shift in consumer habits which major brands have been slow to adapt to. Southern Comfort gets most of its revenues from on-premise sales; but consumer habits are moving off-premise, and that includes boozing it up. So Southern Comfort has had seriously declining sales as a result. The off-premise consumption trend is why so many of us have done well by focusing all our efforts on the Internet.

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