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Amazon Echo (2019) Review – CGMagazine

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The Amazon Echo line has come a long way since it was first
introduced in 2014. Back then, smart speakers were at their infancy and Amazon
was at the forefront of the trend. Almost six years later, and Amazon has
released its third-generation Echo, a device that features a greatly improved
speaker with a very attractive price tag to boot.

 Out of the box, there is
little to differentiate the new Echo compared to its previous two generations.
It features a familiar slipcover body, circular progress bar and four-button
layout that has been there since Gen 1. Visually, the Gen 3 is a little shorter
and more circular than previous models, which makes for a cuter and more
pleasant looking device on the whole. Still, there is no drastic re-design and
it’s not entirely exciting to look at as a result.

 Instead, most of the improvements with the new Echo happen inside the actual device. The Echo Gen 3 features a 3-inch woofer with 0.8- inch tweeter that is identical to the one housed in the more premium Echo Plus. Having not reviewed an Echo device since 2018, I was surprised at how crisp sounding and bass-heavy the Echo Gen 3rd Gen is. While playing songs like Rise Up from the Hamilton Soundtrack, there is noticeable base tremble at half volume and at full volume, it’s enough to make small items move. Listening to a song and noticing instruments or themes for the first time is a great feeling and there were several times during my time with the Gen 3 where I experienced this. The Gen 3 isn’t quite loud enough to carry an outdoor get together in the same way that a Bose or Sonos speaker can, but for indoor use or smaller gatherings, it’s more than enough to get the room bumping.

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Amazon Echo (2019) – Photo by CGMagazine

It is a bit mind-boggling that the Echo line isn’t wireless yet,
and it’s a bit frustrating to have to wait between 30 seconds to a minute every
time you move the device or replug it in. The reason could very well be that
Amazon would rather sell multiple Alexa enabled devices to a single consumer,
as opposed to just one device that can be moved around easily. Regardless, the
boot process and lack of wireless capabilities are frustrating, whether you
have one Echo device or many.

Like all Echo devices, you need to install the Alexa app to get
the Gen 3 running. Since 2014, Alexa has been racking up more skills and
functionalities on the regular. It’s important to note that the skills are not
exclusive to the Gen 3 and almost all skills, save for some smart home
integration, are compatible with the original Echo devices. Still, daily news
briefings, appointment reminders, along with full music integration with
Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music makes for a useful smart system. What’s more is
that unlike many other tech companies, the Alexa upgrades still work on the
2014 Echos, and it’s comforting to know that the device will likely be
supported for years to come.

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Amazon Echo (2019) – Photo by CGMagazine

Perhaps the most significant selling feature of the Echo 3rd Gen
is the price. At retail, the Echo costs $129.99 CAD but has been on sale for as
low as $79.99. In comparison, the Echo Plus retails for $199.99 and the only
difference is that the Plus offers Zigbee Integration.

While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the Echo Gen 3 is an attractive
option for those looking for a great indoor speaker and smart device. The
upgraded speaker and consistent array of updated skills, combined with the
price tag make for a worthy addition to the Echo line.

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Google warns of 'hermit spyware' infecting Android and iOS devices – Mashable

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As part of Google’s efforts to track the activities of commercial spyware vendors, the company’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) released a report Thursday on spyware campaigns targeting Android and iOS users.

Google TAG researchers Benoit Sevens and Clement Lecigne go into detail about the use of entrepreneurial grade spyware dubbed “Hermit.” This sophisticated spyware tool allows attackers to steal data, private messages and make phone calls. In their report, TAG researchers attributed Hermit to RCS Labs, a commercial spyware vendor based in Italy.

Hermit poses many significant dangers. Due to its modularity, Hermit is quite customizable, allowing the functions of the spyware to be altered to the will of its user. Once fully situated on a target’s phone, attackers can harvest sensitive information such as call logs, contacts, photos, precise location, and SMS messages.

Sevens and Lecigne’s full report details the ways in which attackers can access both Android and iOS devices through the use of clever tricks and drive-by attacks. Potential targets of this scam will have their data disabled through their ISP carrier before sending a malicious link via text to get them to ‘fix’ the issue. If that doesn’t work, targets will be tricked into downloading malicious apps masqueraded as messaging applications.

Just last week, cybersecurity firm Lookout reported the use of Hermit by agents working in the governments of Kazakhstan, Syria, and Italy. Google has already identified victims in these countries, stating that “TAG is actively tracking more than 30 vendors with varying levels of sophistication and public exposure selling exploits or surveillance capabilities to government-backed actors.”

The Milan-based company claims to provide “law enforcement agencies worldwide with cutting-edge technological solutions and technical support in the field of lawful interception for more than twenty years.” More than 10,000 intercepted targets are purported to be handled daily in Europe alone.

When reached out for comment by The Hacker News, RCS Labs said its “core business is the design, production, and implementation of software platforms dedicated to lawful interception, forensic intelligence, and data analysis” and that it “helps law enforcement prevent and investigate serious crimes such as acts of terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, child abuse, and corruption.”

Still, the news of the spyware being used by state government agents is concerning. Not only does it erode trust in the safety of the internet but it also puts at risk the lives of anyone a government considers an enemy of the state such as dissidents, journalists, human rights workers, and opposition party politicians.

“Tackling the harmful practices of the commercial surveillance industry will require a robust, comprehensive approach that includes cooperation among threat intelligence teams, network defenders, academic researchers, governments, and technology platforms,” Google TAG researchers wrote. “We look forward to continuing our work in this space and advancing the safety and security of our users around the world.”

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iPhone, Android users ALERT! Google warns of Italian spyware out to hack your phone – HT Tech

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An Italian company’s hacking tools were used to spy on Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Android smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan, informs Google. Check details here.

In a shocking development it has been revealed that your iPhone and Android phones are at risk. As per the information a tool has been developed to spy on personal messages and contacts of the targeted devices. Alphabet Inc’s Google has said in a report that an Italian company’s hacking tools were used to spy on Apple Inc and Android smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan. According to the report, Milan-based RCS Lab, whose website claims European law enforcement agencies as clients, developed tools to spy on private messages and contacts of the targeted devices. However, Google said it had taken steps to protect users of its Android operating system and alerted them about the spyware.

“These vendors are enabling the proliferation of dangerous hacking tools and arming governments that would not be able to develop these capabilities in-house,” Google said. According to a report by Reuters, commenting on the issue, an Apple spokesperson said the company had revoked all known accounts and certificates associated with this hacking campaign. RCS Lab said its products and services comply with European rules and help law enforcement agencies investigate crimes.

Also read: Looking for a smartphone? To check mobile finder click here.

Also Read: 5 million Facebook accounts in danger! This phishing scam will steal your money- how it works

Reuters was further informed via an email, “RCS Lab personnel are not exposed, nor participate in any activities conducted by the relevant customers.” RCS Lab further said that it condemned any abuse of its products.

It can be known that the global industry making spyware for governments has been growing, with more companies developing interception tools for law enforcement. Anti-surveillance activists accuse them of aiding governments that in some cases use such tools to crack down on human rights and civil rights, said Reuters in a report.

Also Read: Google Workspace will NOT be Free anymore; here are top 5 alternatives

As per the report, the industry came under a global spotlight when the Israeli surveillance firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware was in recent years found to have been used by multiple governments to spy on journalists, activists, and dissidents.

Though not as stealthy as Pegasus, RCS Lab’s tool can still be used to read messages and view passwords, said Bill Marczak, a security researcher with digital watchdog Citizen Lab. “This shows that even though these devices are ubiquitous, there’s still a long way to go in securing them against these powerful attacks,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

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iQOO Neo 6 VS Poco F4: We compare the specs, both will SURPRISE – HT Tech

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iQOO Neo 6 vs Poco F4: Both these Snapdragon 870 smartphones under Rs. 30000 are tempting, but which is better?

iQOO Neo 6 or Poco F4? Of late, the smartphone space under Rs. 30000 has seen two strong offerings from these fairly young brands. iQOO, which is a subdivision of Vivo, announced the iQOO Neo 6 last month as its most affordable offering with the Snapdragon 870 chipset, promising better gaming experiences and an overall midrange collection of specifications. The iQOO Neo 6 comes with a decent set of cameras too and is currently one of the most exciting phones money can buy at this price.

However, Poco has the same idea and it manages to offer its Poco F4 at a much lower price. Launched just hours ago, the Poco F4 has almost the same kind of spec sheet as the iQOO Neo 6, save for minor differences. In essence, this is a rival to the iQOO Neo 6 and if you are wanting to spend that much money on a performance smartphone for around Rs. 30000, it does add to the confusion. After all, both look good on paper.

Since we have reviewed both of the smartphones lately, we put both of these against each other and here is what we think.

Poco F4 vs iQOO Neo 6 Design

While both the smartphones have distinct designs to flaunt, it is the Poco F4 that pulls the lead with its glass rear panel. The Poco F4 feels better built, especially with its fit and finish. That’s not to say the iQOO Neo 6 is poorly built but the phone’s plastic unibody design is not as desirable. 

Poco F4 vs iQOO Neo 6 Display

Honestly, both these smartphones are equal when it comes to the display specs. Both phones have a 6.67-inch FHD+ E4 AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 120Hz and higher touch sample rates. No in-display fingerprint scanner on either of these.

Poco F4 vs iQOO Neo 6 Performance

The same Snapdragon 870 chip powers both the Poco F4 and iQOO Neo 6. Hence, it is your pick. The Snapdragon 870 is a stable chipset that delivers high on performance, especially in terms of thermal stability and throttling. You will be able to play all the high-end games such as COD Mobile and Apex Legends Mobile at high graphics settings with ease.

Poco F4 vs iQOO Neo 6 Software

This is where your preference matters. Poco uses Xiaomi’s MIUI 13 interface based on Android 12 whereas the iQOO neo 6 uses Vivo’s FunTouch OS 12 based on Android 12. Both custom skins are full of customisation features and pre-loaded apps. Both brands promise three years of OS updates.

Poco F4 vs iQOO Neo 6 Cameras

Both the Poco F4 and iQOO neo 6 feature a triple camera setup on the rear – a 64MP main camera, an 8MP ultrawide camera, and a 2MP macro camera. The Poco F4 has a 16MP selfie camera while the iQOO Neo 6 has a 32MP camera

Poco F4 vs iQOO Neo 6 Battery

The iQOO Neo 6 on paper has a bigger 4700mAh battery compared to the 4500mAh battery on the Poco F4. The iQOO Neo 6 offers a 80W fast charging solution while the Poco F4 has a 67W fast charging. 

Poco F4 vs iQOO Neo 6 Price

This is where the Poco F4 takes a mega lead. Starting at 27,999 for the base 6GB/128GB storage, the F4 is cheaper. The 8GB/128GB variant costs Rs. 29,999 whereas the 12GB/256GB variant comes with a price of Rs. 33,999. The iQOO Neo 6 starts at Rs. 29,999 for the base variant with 8GB/128GB variant.

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