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Apple: 'Court-appointed antitrust regulator is taking advantage of us'

Plus: 'Natwest, RBS, you are sh*t'

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Quotw This was the week when Amazon announced its plans to build a drone army to deliver parcels around the United States... well, to people within a 10-mile radius of a warehouse anyway.

The scheme has a number of issues against it - legality, distance and weight problems, etc - although the drones being shot down by thieves isn't one of them. One thing that could stop the whole thing in its tracks is the ease with which a hacker could take over one of the UAVs though. In no time at all, Samy Kamkar had knocked up a bit of software called Skyjack that could take over radio control of the world's most popular quadcopter:

SkyJack is a perl application which runs off of a Linux machine, runs aircrack-ng in order to get its wifi card into monitor mode, detects all wireless networks and clients around, deactivates any clients connected to Parrot AR.drones, connects to the now free Parrot AR.Drone as its owner, then uses node.js with node-ar-drone to control zombie drones.

And you don't even need your own drone to do it:

The Parrots actually launch their own wireless network which is how the owner of the drone connects. We take over by deauthenticating the owner, then connecting now that the drone is waiting for its owner to connect back in, exploiting the fact that we destroyed their wireless connection temporarily.

So another minor technicality the folks over at Amazon might like to consider working out before they put too much effort into drone delivery systems.

Meanwhile, RBS Banking Group has suffered another major outage, throwing customers of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Natwest and Ulster Bank out of their online accounts, stopping their card payments and keeping them locked out of cash machines. Twitterers were pretty hacked off:

Disappointing & Embarrassing trying to buy groceries for dinner!! and attempting 3 cash machines with complete failure @Natwest_help #RBS.

Particularly since it was Cyber Monday, the frenzied pre-holiday online shopping day:

Millions of rbs and natwest customers couldn't use their credit cards yesterday so cyber monday largely fucked-bet you it's back next week.

And there was another nasty surprise waiting for people when they got back into their accounts to find that money was missing. Since it was the end of the month, lots of people had just been paid, but their salaries were no longer showing up in their accounts, leading to bounced payments and overdraft issues:

@NatWest_Help You are shit. I am out of pocket with bill payments for the month because of you. @RBS_PressOffice @RBSGroup #greasybankers

The banking group was very contrite, promising to make it up to those who were out of pocket and owning up to the fact that their IT was actually pretty damn poor because they hadn't invested enough in it "for decades". CEO Ross McEwan said:

It will take time, but we are investing heavily in building IT systems our customers can rely on. I'm sorry for the inconvenience we caused our customers. We know we have to do better. I will be outlining plans in the New Year for making RBS the bank that our customers and the UK need it to be. This will include an outline of where we intend to invest for the future.

However, although RBS owned up to the poor state of its infrastructure, it wasn't up for coming clean on what exactly had caused this latest outage:

It is too early to speculate on the cause. Our priority and focus has been to fix the problem.

In mobile news, Reg sources have revealed that Apple's secret deals with carriers are ruining it for everyone, squeezing out smaller companies and costing customers money. The fruity firm forces mobile providers that want to carry its iDevices to sign up for a fixed number of the things, which they then have to buy even if they can't sell them. And the deals are often struck before the carriers have even seen the handset.

If things go wrong, it's the carrier that ends up paying, as one source said:

You simply have to buy them.

If the carriers have trouble shifting these stockpiles, it's the smaller manufacturers that suffer. Another source said:

There is a chilling effect on the market, and this is when it comes in, when the volumes aren't being met. Rival manufacturers are told to shove off.

Apple won't let the carriers play favourites either, demanding the same deal for its iStuff as other mobile-makers get:

If you subsidised a Samsung Galaxy for €100 then you were obliged to subsidise Apple for at least €100 per iPhone. You would be penalised for breaching that - either by paying Apple or paying in the equivalent marketing.

Apple has also been back in the courts this week, this time to complain that the court-appointed antitrust regulator it was forced to take on in the wake of the ebook price-fixing trial is too expensive for it.

Michael Bromwich has apparently billed the firm for $138,432 for his first two weeks on the job, including a 15 per cent surcharge because he's taking the business through his consultancy business rather than his day job as a lawyer and the princely hourly sum of $1,100. Apple moaned:

Mr Bromwich appears to be simply taking advantage of the fact that there is no competition here or, in his view, any ability on the part of Apple, the subject of his authority, to push back on his demands.

Also in the courts this week, the accused Google-Glass-wearing driver who was ticketed for having the tech-specs on and for speeding, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Rather appropriately, Cecilia Abadie's lawyer William Concidine posted a video on Google+, arguing that this is a test case:

We're going to be arguing that Miss Abadie's case is unique, it's different, it's the first of its kind. And there is nothing illegal [about] wearing Google Glass while driving your vehicle.

And anyway, as he told reporters, the damn things weren't even on when she was ticketed:

The sub-issue is, is it illegal to even have Google Glass on your head while driving? We feel that that's completely legal to do so because it's not impairing your vision while driving. The issue is going to be whether [the headset] was operating while Miss Abadie was driving the vehicle.

And finally, Dell has told staff that if they don't like its new private status, they're willing to pay them to take a hike. The company has kicked off a "voluntary separation programme":

We hope you share in our passion and enthusiasm for Dell's exciting next chapter. It's going to take everyone's hard work and commitment to become the leading provider of end-to-end scalable solutions and deliver for our customers.

However, for those that believe this is not a good fit, we're offering a Voluntary Separation Programme, where allowed by local law and with ELT [Dell's Executive Leadership Team] approval.

But the firm isn't just looking to whittle out those who don't like the new regime, it wouldn't mind saving a few bucks as well:

A critical element of our strategy to become the leading supplier of end-to-end solutions provider will always be about improving our cost structure and freeing up capital to make the investments in the growth areas that matter most to our customers.

We continuously evaluate and implement opportunities across Dell to improve our operational effectiveness and allocate our resources. When necessary, we’ll continue to make tough decisions to help ensure our long-term success – some of these decisions may affect our workforce.

The VSP is not related to the company going private – it’s part of our overall Productivity initiative to get in a competitive cost position. We won’t have additional comment about the program, the number of Dell team members taking advantage of it (locally or regionally) or the cost involved.

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