Analyzing the top news stories across the web

Jan. 29 2015 2:38 PM

The Best App for Gmail Is Made by ... Microsoft?

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Microsoft just released its new Outlook email app for iPhone, and the first reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

For iPhone users, finding an email app that works well with Gmail isn't easy, and Outlook in many ways represents Microsoft's bid to beat Google at its own game. It might just have pulled it off too, with The Verge's Vlad Savov writing that "the best Gmail app is now made by Microsoft."

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Jan. 28 2015 12:13 PM

This Is What Happens When You Press “Insane Mode” in Tesla’s Dual-Motor Model S

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Tesla introduced its dual-motor Model S late last year, and among the many improvements it has over the original Model S is its incredible acceleration.

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The standard Model S can go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, which is pretty fast, but the new dual-motor Model S can get there in just 3.2 seconds—“roller-coaster stuff,” in other words.

That kind of acceleration is comparable to some of the world's fastest sports cars from Lamborghini and Ferrari, and even the McLaren F1 supercar.

YouTube channel DragTimes, which tests the acceleration and top speeds of some of the fastest cars out there, created a compilation of people's reactions while sitting in the seat of the new Tesla car as it hits “Insane Mode,” which is an actual button on the new digital console.

You can go into Insane Mode by coming to a complete stop and toggling a button on the digital console, which will quickly accelerate the car to 60 to 70 mph in just a few wild seconds.

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YouTube/DragTimes

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YouTube/DragTimes

Most people have the same shocked reaction, as no one is really expecting Insane Mode to actually live up to its promise. The last woman says, “I can do that every day. I need this every single day.”

Check out DragTimes' video below:

Jan. 27 2015 1:42 PM

This Hacker Figured How to Hijack One of the Most Popular Drones

An IT security engineer has discovered a vulnerability in one of the most popular drone brands that leaves thousands of quadcopters open to interference from hackers.

The Register reports that Rahul Sasi has developed software that hijacks drones in midair and kills their engines.

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If a drone is within range of the malware (dubbed “Maldrone”) then it will plummet to earth. But if the drone is up high enough, then the malware can restart the engines before it hits the ground and control the drone, as well as its camera.

Right now, the malware only affects Parrot drones. Security Affairs reports that Sasi reverse-engineered the software on the drones sold by Parrot and found a flaw that allowed him to develop his own malware. 

This isn't the first time that drones have been found to be vulnerable to hacking. Back in 2013, security researcher Samy Kamkar developed a drone of his own that sought out other drones and hijacked them using their wireless signals.

Interestingly, Sasi claims that his malware could work with this older hack to create a network of drones that track down other quadcopters and hijack them, turning them into a fleet of tracker drones.

Jan. 26 2015 11:54 AM

Facebook Launches “Facebook Lite” in Emerging Markets

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Facebook has launched a new simplified version of its mobile app called Facebook Lite, and it's targeted toward Android users in developing countries.

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Google Play via Business Insider

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Designed for older and low-end models of Android phones, Facebook Lite maintains the core functionality of Facebook while only taking up 252 KB of space. The app is also designed to run on slower 2G Internet connections, which will help people in developing countries with aging Internet infrastructures still connect to Facebook.

To minimize the digital footprint required for the app, Facebook has included its messaging service inside Facebook Lite, a feature that exists only as the standalone Messenger app for U.S. smartphone users. Facebook has also allowed push notifications and camera integration, two features that will help the pared-down app feel more like the full experience.

Facebook Lite is a smart move to make Facebook's services easily accessible in developing markets like Africa and Southeast Asia, which are increasingly using Facebook.

Facebook Lite is currently a limited rollout: It's only available in Nepal, Nigeria, Bangladesh, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. The app's already seen decent adoption numbers with more than 10,000 downloads and an average 4.6 rating on Google Play, according to TechCrunch.

If you're in one of the countries where Facebook Lite is live, you can download it right here.

Jan. 16 2015 3:59 PM

As Swiss Franc Soars, Some Foreign-Exchange Brokers Are Facing Bankruptcy

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Casualties from Thursday's astonishing boom in the value of the Swiss franc are rolling in Friday morning.

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Foreign-exchange brokers who had relied on the stability of the Swiss franc, which until Wednesday was pegged to the euro, were taken by surprise when the Swiss National Bank abolished its controls, and millions of dollars were lost at firms around the world. 

The U.K.-based FX broker Alpari just announced it had entered insolvency. Here's what it said:

The recent move on the Swiss franc caused by the Swiss National Bank’s unexpected policy reversal of capping the Swiss franc against the euro has resulted in exceptional volatility and extreme lack of liquidity. This has resulted in the majority of clients sustaining losses which has exceeded their account equity. Where a client cannot cover this loss, it is passed on to us. This has forced Alpari (UK) Limited to confirm today, 16/01/15, that it has entered into insolvency. 

Brokers can go out of business on big moves like this because they give their clients access to leverage. For example, an account holder might have $1,000 with the broker but hold positions worth $10,000 in currency markets. That doesn't matter so long as the holder's losses are covered by the initial amount. But Wednesday, for at least two brokers, that wasn't the case for a lot of those clients.

The New York–based FXCM, one of the world's biggest foreign-exchange brokers, says it may be in breach of rules on capital requirements and that it is owed $225 million by clients who are now in negative equity. FXCM shares are down by an astonishing 90 percent ahead of the U.S. open. 

IG Group, a publicly listed U.K.-based broker said Thursday that its losses would not exceed 30 million pounds ($45.7 million).

This isn't likely to be the last of the fallout from the colossal move, which was almost unheard of among the most widely traded currencies of advanced economies. Here's what Thursday's fluctuation looked like:

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Courtesy of Investing.com/Business Insider

As of 11:30 a.m. GMT (6:30 a.m. ET) the franc is looking more settled, down 3.9 percent at 1.016 against the euro.

Jan. 15 2015 4:15 PM

A Member of Sweden’s Pirate Party Tricked High-Ranking Officials Into Using His Insecure Wi-Fi Network

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

An activist in Sweden has managed to fool top politicians, military officers, and journalists with a clever Wi-Fi trick in protest of government surveillance, Ars Technica reports.

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Gustav Nipe, 26, chairman of the youth wing of the well-known Swedish Pirate Party, is said to have duped people at a security and defence conference into connecting to an insecure network—that he was in control of. Ars Technica says the ploy was in protest of digital surveillance by the state. 

The Local, an English-language paper in the country, writes that around 100 people there logged on to Nipe's Wi-Fi network, cunningly named “Open Guest.” Apparently the users searched for things like “forest hikes” and checked their eBay accounts while they were supposed to be at work. 

The Wi-Fi network wasn't encrypted, and Nipe tells the Local that he was also able to track emails and text messages of the attendees. 

Nipe says that, ironically, the security establishment was at the conference to push through heavier, more invasive data analysis on the public; the leading figures went on to log on to an insecure network and see their personal lives analyzed.

He tells the paper:

It is very embarrassing because the data we collected showed that some people were looking at Skype, eBay and Blocket and stuff like that, or looking for holidays and where you could go and hike the forest. This was during the day when I suppose they were being paid to be at the conference working.

Nipe explains the “scary part” is that insecure networks allow others to gain access to people who may use the same passwords for other sites. He says he could have “got into the government's server or used other information to track people's everyday lives.”

Nipe continues that the data would be stored securely and would be deleted after viewing. The stunt has apparently brought about criticism by some Swedish newspapers. Some have argued Nipe broke Sweden's Personal Data Act.

Jan. 15 2015 3:50 PM

Why the CIA Just Tweeted a Line From Doctor Zhivago in Russian

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

On Thursday the CIA tweeted a cryptic quote by Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, the author of Doctor Zhivago.

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Check it out below:

Translation: “I wrote the novel in order for it to be published and read, and that remains my only desire.”

At first glance this looks like yet another Twitter hack, but there's an incredible story behind this.

The CIA has a history of smuggling subversive books into countries, including the Soviet Union. One of those books was Doctor Zhivago.

After working on the novel on and off over more than 20 years, Pasternak first submitted it for publication in 1956. But the KGB rejected it and characterized it as “malicious libel.”

Pasternak so desperately wanted the book to get out that he gave copies to associates Isaiah Berlin and George Katkov to take to England, Jacqueline de Proyart to take to France, and a young Italian journalist to take to Italy.

The novel ended up spending six months on the top of the New York Times' best-seller list, and it was a huge sensation around the world.

In 1957, less than a month after the book appeared in Italy, a CIA memo “cited an expert's view that it was ‘more important than any other literature which has yet come out of the Soviet Bloc,’ ” reports the New York Review of Books.

But it still wasn't available in the USSR.

So the CIA had a secret plan to get the novel into the country. After many obstacles, it managed to get the novel published en masse and sent copies to be distributed at the Brussels International World Fair. The organization also gave copies to sailors bound for the Soviet Union.

Long story short: It worked.

A CIA memo concluded that “this phase can be considered completed successfully,” according to the New York Review of Books.

Pasternak won the Nobel Prize at the end of 1958 for his work, but he was denounced by the head of the Komsomol as a “pig fouling its own sty.” Pasternak was afraid of being deported, and he rejected the prize.

If you want to read the whole crazy story of the CIA's once-secret involvement, head to the New York Review of Books.

Jan. 14 2015 2:56 PM

This Is Where Most of Disney’s Money Comes From

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

It's an exciting time for Disney. With a flurry of successful superhero movies, the animated juggernaut Frozen, and new Star Wars movies on the horizon, things are looking up. Meanwhile, the company's stock is up around 500 percent since 2009. But where does Disney's money really come from?

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As you'll see in the graphic below, the Walt Disney Studios films actually account for a fairly small percentage of their revenue.

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Chart by Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

Jan. 13 2015 2:57 PM

This Is Where Apple’s Money Comes From

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Where does Apple's money come from? Mostly from iPhones. But the company also gets some money from Macs and iPads. Business Insider's graphics team made this infographic to explain Apple's business.

bi_graphics_applerevenue-4_updated data

Chart by Skye Gould/Business Insider

Jan. 13 2015 12:18 PM

Hate Someone? Send Him or Her Glitter.

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

On Tuesday morning, Twitter exploded when a link to a website called Ship Your Enemies Glitter started getting passed around. 

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We first saw a link to the website posted to Reddit's r/InternetIsBeautiful forum and later on startup discovery website Product Hunt.

Ship Your Enemies Glitter was described by Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover as “the ultimate troll product.”

Quite literally, the expletive-laden Australian website lets you pay $9.99 to send glitter to your enemies. “Hint: the glitter will be mixed in with the note thus increasing maximum spillage,” the website reads.

The website has since crashed, presumably due to the traffic it received.

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Screenshot via Ship Your Enemies Glitter

In addition to including glitter in an envelope for your enemies, the website promises to also include a note explaining why the recipient is receiving the glitter, which is notoriously difficult to clean up.

It doesn't seem to be a joke, though: The form on Ship Your Enemies Glitter's website submitted to a PayPal checkout page. 

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Screenshot via Ship Your Enemies Glitter

The website also had a cursing-heavy FAQ page. 

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Screenshot via Ship Your Enemies Glitter

It's not immediately clear who is behind the website, and the Product Hunt team isn't sure either. The domain owners' information is masked. 

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