Tech Roundup / WhatsApp? Now Everybody Can Know

Samsung seeks startups and sells smartwatches, too; Israeli surfers pay more; paying for the bus by phone.

WhatsApp? The world wonders, and knows: So it seems that WhatsApp, the explosively popular mobile chat app, is vulnerable to tapping by experts of cryptology despite being password-protected. Tech Roundup is shocked – who, who could have anticipated that a message you send through the ether to half the world and its hamster could be vulnerable to tapping by The Man? Well, it seems to be, thanks to its use of the identical encryption key on both sides of a conversation, we are informed by people with geeky talents who know – “You should consider all your previous WhatsApp conversations compromised,” warns tech-blogger xnyhps (luv that name). Now you know.

Meanwhile, earlier last week Palestinian hackers broke into the WhatsApp site and planted pro-Palestinian messages. Visitors to the site were treated to a rendition of the Palestinian national anthem, the announcement “mission completed hacked KDMS team plaestinian hackers” [sic] and ungrammatical messages. Their activity didn’t compromise the messaging service.

Samsung buyeth: A Korean incubator in Israel: Samsung seems to have quite the thing for Israeli tech. The South Korean gargantuan invested in another Israeli startup, Mantis Vision – it sounds like a company that helps you see like a bug but it isn't – and it’s also setting up an incubator in Israel, which will give an in to the earliest-stage companies (locally known as “ideas in a briefcase”) before they get popular and pricey. It aims at choosing 10 companies to support and mentor, starting next year. As for Mantis, it’s developing 3-D photographic technology for non-experts (which it calls “3D for the masses”). It has a site under construction showing a decidedly 2-D clip. Patience, reader, patience.

And Samsung selleth, too: So the South Korean conglomerate hopes to take good things from Israeli technological prowess, and meanwhile hopes Israelis will buy its kicky smartwatch, the Samsung Galaxy Gear. What is a smartwatch, you ask. Well, it can tell time – a good thing in a watch – and if you connect it to an appropriate Samsung Galaxy phone, namely the Note 3+, it gets smart too. Which means, you can change the look, if not the feel; get text messages (but to answer them you’ll need your phone); get notifications of calls; record and recall voice memos, and much more. In short, the “cellular watch” is short of a phone but way more than a watch. But note ye well that it isn’t waterproof: drop it in the drink and it’s all over. Also, you have to recharge its battery every night, like a phone.

Israeli surfers pay more: Israel was 26th on the UN ITU list of technological development this year, unchanged from 2012. However, the cost of a basic Internet line (adjusted for purchasing power parity) is $34 a month, or 1.6% of the average income, which is 41st in the world. Ouch. An Internet line in the States averages $15 a month or 0.4% of income; in Britain it’s $20.80 a month or 0.7% of income. The cheapest in the world? Macao - $9.30 a month or 0.2% of average income.

Paying for the bus by phone: Cash is so 2012. The Israeli startup HopOn is conducting a pilot of its novel service – to pay for your bus ride by smartphone, if you have a RavKav bus pass card. In other words you can recharge the RavKav by phone, rather than trek to the nearest site the thing is sold. Parents will be able to charge the kids’ RavKav remotely, too. But sparing yourself the effort will cost you. At this point the service is free – you pay the same as before per bus ride – but in the future, a fee of 10-15 agorot (a few cents) will be added per ride. The pilot encompasses 100 people taking Dan buses 4, 5 and 142 in Tel Aviv. The app will be uploaded to stores in about two weeks.

Reuters