VW’s Massive Emissions Cheating Scandal May Now Include Porsche

porscheVolkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal isn’t ending.

The EPA sent out a second notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen to now include VW-owned Audi and Porsche in their investigation. According to the notice, VW installed cheating software on their Porsche and Audi diesel vehicles released between 2014 and 2016 that ended up increasing the car’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions to levels up to nine times the EPA’s standard.

This “defeat device” software is able to sense when cars are being put through federal emissions testing and will automatically put the car into a lower-emissions mode. In that mode, according to the EPA, “the vehicle meets emission standards.” However, one second after the test is completed, the car switches back into normal mode and emits a very high amount of pollutants. VW’s “clean diesel” engines are anything but clean.

This second notice of violation includes 10,000 vehicles sold since 2014, and an “unknown volume of 2016 vehicles.”

“Today we are requiring VW Group to address these issues,” Richard Corey, executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, said in a statement. “This is a very serious public health matter. ARB and EPA will continue to conduct a rigorous investigation that includes testing more vehicles until all of the facts are out in the open.”

NOx can react with other compounds in the air to form tiny particles that can go deep into a person’s lungs and cause or aggravate respiratory diseases such as emphysema. It can also exacerbate heart diseases and cause increased hospital visits and even death. When NOx reacts with heat and sunlight, it forms ozone, which can also be dangerous to human health.

In September, Michael Horn, VW’s U.S. chief stated, “let’s be clear about this: Our company was dishonest with the EPA, and the California Air Resources Board and with all of you. And in my German words: We have totally screwed up. We must fix the cars to prevent this from ever happening again and we have to make this right. This kind of behavior is totally inconsistent with our qualities.”

There are many questions, including the reason why VW chose to install this software in the first place. A criminal investigation into the scandal is being done by the U.S. Justice Department, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“All companies should be playing by the same rules,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator at the EPA, said in a statement. “EPA, with our state, and federal partners, will continue to investigate these serious matters, to secure the benefits of the Clean Air Act, ensure a level playing field for responsible businesses, and to ensure consumers get the environmental performance they expect.”

Is Apple Falsely Claiming Increased Storage Capacity for its Mobile Devices?

A Class action suit over false advertising of the memory in iPhones has Apple scrambling to explain. The newest update for iOS 8 is the root of the problem, as it eats into the memory of the phone, using the memory which is supposed to be available to the phone’s owner for their own storage.

Memory Problems

It’s not just a teensy bit of memory the new operating system is hogging…it’s almost a quarter of total memory on the device. Turns out the upgrade is memory hog and that has iOS users experiencing problems from the minute they start using the phone after it’s been updated.

Last December, a class action lawsuit was brought against the manufacturer, Apple, in California. The suit states that Apple “fails to disclose” to its customers that almost a quarter of the storage space on their devices would be taken over by the operating system, iOS 8.

Not only that, abut the case states that there’s a huge difference between what Apple says their customers will get in terms of storage, and the actual space that ends up being available to them.

To make matters seem worse, Apple pushes device owners to purchase more storage on the iCloud rather than attempting to ameliorate the problem.

So…How Much Memory Does iOS 8 Require?

The operating system, which is used on iPhones, iPads, and iPods, was updated last September. Almost immediately after the update, consumers reported having issues with their devices.

The updated, latest version of iOS 8 uses 1.1 GB of space. It needs 5.8 GB to install wirelessly. A lot of people couldn’t make space on their phones for the new update, and ended up deleting photos, apps, and more.

For users of the older 4S iPhone, matters were even worse. They were even advised not to download the update because the storage capacity on those older phones is even less. A 6 GB or 16 GB phone will probably have trouble with the new operating system.

Apple’s Solution is to Buy a New Phone

Apple will make $3 billion dollars when people with older models or models with less storage space upgrade in order to accommodate the memory-hogging iOS 8 operating system.

It costs an extra $100 to $200 to get an upgraded version of the iPhone 6, to get 64 GB or 128 GB models. The basic model comes with only 16 GB of storage.

Apple issues a new Operating System (OS) every year.

The Class Action Lawsuit

To quote the class action directly,

“In reality, nothing close to the advertised capacity of the Devices is available to end users. Indeed, the discrepancy between advertised and available capacity is substantial and beyond any possible reasonable expectation. For the Devices, the shortfall ranges from 18.1-23.1%”

The case also cites Apple for not disclosing to its consumers that the iOS 8 upgrade would take up so much memory, eating into their storage capacity.

Not only are consumers unable to store as much as they’d previously thought, but they are also reporting sluggish downloads, keyboard issues, and slow-as-molasses performance since the upgrade.

The final insult, of course, was the aggressively-marketed iCloud storage service, offered at a monthly fee to customer with storage issues.


Lenovo and Superfish Are Giving Us Deja-vu

lenova superfishEver since Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s extensive spying program, security has been in the spotlight. Over the past several weeks, the adware known as Superfish has been the hot topic.

Back in 2014, China-based OEM admitted to pre-loading Superfish adware on Lenovo PCs during the second half of 2014. Two new lawsuits were filed on February 23, 2015 against Lenovo and adware maker Superfish in the federal courts of California for putting consumers at risk of information theft and hacker spying.

One plaintiff, David Hunter of NC, claims that both Lenovo and Superfish violated the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act among other laws and has requested that the court demand for the firms to hand back any revenue acquired by selling consumer’s browsing data and also the money earned from the adware advertising.

Another plaintiff, Jessica Bennett, stated that her laptop was damaged as a result of Superfish. She further accuses Lenovo and Superfish of making money at the expense of invading her privacy.

Security researcher Marc Rogers wrote that it’s “quite possibly the single worst thing I have seen a manufacturer do to its customer base…I cannot overstate how evil this is.” The Superfish adware is said to be more than just pesky. It’s the most virulent, evil adware you could find.

By installing a single self-signed root certificate across all of Lenovo’s affected machines, Superfish intentionally pokes a gigantic hole into your browser security and allows anyone on your Wi-Fi network to hijack your browser silently and collect your bank credentials, passwords and anything else you might conceivably type there.

This can be even more of a nightmare for companies who risk their private information, and their employees, from being exposed.

Errata Security’s Robert Graham said, “I can intercept the encrypted communications of Superfish’s victims (people with Lenovo laptops) while hanging out near them at a café wifi hotspot.”

Our deja-vu comes from the Sony DRM rootkit scandal of 2005, in which Sony automatically installed malware onto users’ computers whenever someone loaded certain CDs. That rootkit malware could be hijacked by another hacker and in its greed, Sony did nothing to stop piracy and compromised the security of millions of users.

Lenovo claims it installed Superfish to “enhance our user’s shopping experience.”


Court upholds Privacy Policy Lawsuit Against Google, For Now..

In the tech world, Google may be the 800-pound gorilla that usually gets its way, but that doesn’t mean the federal court system is going to roll over and play dead when it comes to possible privacy concerns about tech behemoth’s actions when it uses personal data across its various platforms and tools.

A federal judge rejected the search engine giant’s request to dismiss a privacy lawsuit in California that alleged Google acted inappropriately when it decided to update different privacy policies from it’s wide range of products into one single unified policy, a policy that would allow Google to to merge user data gathered from multiple different tools, including the Android mobile operating system. The suit accuses Google of making this change without the consent of the users, many of whom had agreed to different privacy policies than the new one. According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, Google not only made this unauthorized change which would expose user’s information potentially to third parties without informed consent, but that Google still continues to provide no way for consumers affected by the change to “opt-out”.

While having one giant database of user data to crunch in an era of “big data” is no doubt appealing to companies like Google, there is getting to be more push back from angry consumers, some of it leading to litigation. Lawyers have had to be creative though, as the current state of the law is still trying to come to terms with how to value a person’s right to privacy when they have willingly engaged with a website. While some suits have had success in making companies like Amazon change their tracking behavior, Plaintiffs still face an uphill battle in getting compensated by the legal system for privacy issues.

Even when these cases are able to be filed in courts and survive summary judgment motions from the big tech companies, there is a perception problem of what actual “harm” they have suffered (especially in some less meritorious cases) when a website the user chose to go to didn’t alert them of cookie tracking, or provide an written Privacy Policy that the vast majority of website visitors will simply never view. Where no financial data is breached, and the “victim” can point towards no monetary loss, lawsuits are unlikely to be costly to these companies, and they have little incentive to change their behavior.

With this resistance by the courts to award more than nominal damages in such suits, privacy advocates are getting increasingly concerned by the courts’ “no harm done” view that arises because it is difficult for the “victims” to point towards actual economic damage when their personally identifiable information is at stake. in a post-Snowden era, consumers (and their attorneys) are showing far more resistance to violations of the privacy policies written by the very same tech companies that are now attempting to skirt them to maximize revenue.