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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Smart Chopsticks Function as Food-Safety Sensor

Chinese tech company Baidu is developing smart chopsticks that can act as a sensor telling users whether the food they’re eating is unsafe. The Baidu Kuaisou can detect issues such as the use of unsanitary cooking oil, a prevalent concern when eating Chinese street food. Kuaisou can also measure metrics such as food temperature, food nutrients, and product expiration dates. The device connects to computers that analyze sensor data via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Baidu is still testing the Kuaisou. A price tag for the chopsticks hasn’t yet been announced, and the company said the product isn’t yet ready for release commercially. (BBC)(TIME)(Business Insider)(The Wall Street Journal)

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Daimler Enters the Ride-Service Application Market

Daimler, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, has bought two smartphone applications designed to help users obtain car services. The company’s moovel subsidiary purchased mytaxi, which lets smartphone users hail a cab, track its progress, rate the service, and pay for the ride. moovel also bought RideScout, which helps users find ways to get places using public and private transportation, including car-sharing services. Previously, moovel invested in Blacklane, a limousine-booking service. It also owns car2go and Park2gether, a service that helps users find vacant parking spaces. Daimler, which manufactures cabs, says its new applications will not disrupt the taxi industry. (Reuters)(The Wall Street Journal)

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

China Preparing National Operating System

China is preparing to launch an operating system to end its reliance on imported technologies such as Android, the Mac OS, and Windows. The Chinese Academy of Engineering system should be released in October 2014, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The desktop version is expected to be released first, followed by the mobile OS, according to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The goal is to replace foreign-made desktop OSs within one or two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years. Ni Guangnan, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, heads a government development alliance for the academy and told Xinhua that a lack of research funds and too many independent developers working in different directions have hampered the new design effort and that the government should direct the project. The Chinese government has been pushing the use of domestic technology to avoid what it says are the cybersecurity risks of using foreign technology. In May 2014, it banned the use of Windows 8. (Reuters)(PC Mag)(BBC)(Xinhua News Agency)

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Verizon Settles US Privacy Complaints for $7.4 Million

Verizon Communications is paying the US government a settlement of $7.4 million following an investigation into how the company notifies customers of their privacy rights before using their information for marketing, according to the US Federal Communications Commission. This marks the largest fine relating to phone customers’ privacy in FCC history. The agency’s investigation discovered that beginning in 2006, the company didn’t provide roughly 2 million new landline telephone customers with proper privacy notices—explaining how to opt out of having their personal information provided for marketing offers—in their first bill. Under US law, phone companies cannot use customers’ personal data for marketing without their permission. Under the terms of the settlement, Verizon will send opt-out notices with every telephone bill. Verizon said that it advertently violated FCC rules that it takes the agency’s regulations seriously, and that it has implemented measures to avoid a recurrence. (Reuters)

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Sony Joins AllSeen Alliance

Sony has become the latest member of the Linux Foundation’s AllSeen Alliance, which is working on open standards and a development framework for the Internet of Things, in which everyday objects connect to the Internet and can communicate with people and one another. Sony joins the group, which now has 64 members, as a Premier Member, which means it will contribute $300,000 in the first year and $250,000 annually thereafter. Sony has not indicated what its technical contribution might include. The alliance is building on from Qualcomm’s AllJoyn project. So far, it has released version 14.06 of the AllJoyn framework and is working on targeted interoperability projects such as Internet-connected interior lighting. (Datamation)(AllSeen Alliance)

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

IANA Releases New IPv4 Addresses

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has released new IPv4 address space to the five Regional Internet Registries worldwide. Each was given roughly 1.05 million addresses. The addresses are from a pool of leftover and returned IPv4 address blocks from which IANA can make periodic allocations to the regional registries, which manage IP address allocation and registration in different parts of the world. Despite the release of IPv4 addresses, IANA emphasizes that their overall number is dwindling and that equipment makers, service providers, and others need to adopt IPv6, which provides many more addresses, as soon as possible. (Enterprise Networking Planet)(American Registry for Internet Numbers)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

US Airline Testing Preprinted Luggage Tags

A US-based air carrier is testing a program that would eliminate airport check-in for customers wishing to check baggage. Hawaiian Airlines is testing preprinted luggage tags for flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Oakland International Airport to Honolulu, Kahului, Kona, and Lihue in Hawaii. Tag@Home lets passengers print out their baggage tags at home when they check in online. Once at the airport, they get a plastic tag to hold the printed tag that attaches to the bag, which they drop off at a designated location before moving to security stations. At the end of the 60-day trial, Hawaiian Airlines expects to evaluate the program and determine whether it should be rolled on all of its routes. The company is also testing a baggage weighing and tagging service at self-serve kiosks in nine airports. The airline says the free programs are designed to help customers navigate more rapidly through the airport, but some say it could eliminate jobs if adopted across the industry. Hawaiian said it hasn’t reduced staffing levels. (Geek Wire)(Pacific Business Journal)(Hawaiian Airlines)

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Home Depot Investigates Possible Data Breach

US home-improvement retailer Home Depot is investigating “unusual activity” regarding its customer data, following a report by investigative security journalist Brian Krebs that the company may have suffered a payment-card breach that started in April or May and that may affect all 2,200 US stores. He discovered details about the incident from a posting on a black market forum. Home Depot spokeswoman Paula Drake said if the company confirms that a breach has occurred, it will notify customers immediately. Krebs noted that it appears the hackers responsible “may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers responsible for [earlier] data breaches at Target, Sally Beauty, and P.F. Chang’s, among others.” . If the breach indeed began in late April or early May 2014, he added, “and if even a majority of Home Depot stores were compromised, this breach could be many times larger than [the] Target [incident], which had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen over a three-week period.” (BBC)(Krebs on Security)

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Court Denies Apple’s Request to Bar Samsung’s Infringing Smartphones in US

A US federal judge has rejected Apple’s request asking for her to ban the domestic sale of nine Samsung smartphones—most in the Galaxy line—that Apple claims infringed on its patents. Apple sought a permanent injunction after a US jury found in May that Samsung, which is appealing the finding, infringed on three of its patents and had to pay $120 million of the $2.2 billion in damages sought. In a 42-page ruling, US District Judge Lucy Koh contended that Apple did not prove that “it suffered significant harm in the form of either lost sales or reputational injury.” Additionally she said Apple had not “satisfied its burden of demonstrating irreparable harm and linking that harm to Samsung's exploitation of any of Apple’s three infringed patents.” Earlier this month, the companies agreed to end their patent battles outside the US. (Tech Spot)(The San Jose Mercury-News)(The Wall Street Journal)(Ars Technica)

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

US Comic is Serious about Hybrid Social-Media Promotions

You know the face. He’s got a hit television show in the US——playing Tom Haverford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation—and frequently performs stand-up comedy dates across the country. He’s even sold out Madison Square Garden in New York City. His name is Aziz Ansari, and .he has 4 million Twitter followers, which he is using to his advantage. Ansari employs a mix of social media, posts on his website , and text messages to promote shows in small venues to his fans and give them a chance to buy tickets. He sends a tweet instructing fans to head to his site and enter their cellular-phone numbers for a chance to buy tickets. When Ansari did this in San Francisco, there were 35,000 entries in three days. Winners are notified by phone and given a code to buy tickets free of processing fees. “If I tweet out that ‘I’m doing a show at the Punchline’ (the small club where Ansari appeared in San Francisco)’ it would sell out really fast, like in 30 seconds,” he explained to re/Code. “No one would have a chance to get tickets unless they’re maniacally checking Twitter. And I didn’t want those to be the only people.” A team headed by online publisher David Cho created Ansari’s custom software. (re/Code)(Aziz Ansari)

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Saturday, September 20, 2014 Wearable-Device Toolkit Gains Traction

An application-developer toolkit that cloud-based business-services vendor created is gaining market traction among hardware makers seeking to stake a claim in the nascent wearable-device market. The company’s Salesforce Wear program now counts companies such as Epson, Jawbone, and Oculus among its partners. Developers use the tool to create applications that will work on enterprise market wearables such as Google Glass, Android Wear, and various smartwatches. These applications will provide many capabilities such as real-time multimedia training or clocking in and out of work. Projections for market growth vary widely. (Diginomica)(InfoWorld)(TIME)(Salesforce @ PR NewsWire)

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Designer Ralph Lauren Puts Technology in Iconic Polo Shirt

Ralph Lauren, the fashion house best known for its preppy collared shirts featuring a mallet-wielding rider on a polo pony, is adding a biometric shirt to its offerings. The Polo Tech shirt uses biometric sensors to collect data about the wearer’s motions and direction of movement. It debuted at the US Open tennis tournament, which just began. Some of the ball boys will wear the shirt, which was developed with the assistance of OMsignal, which developed the biometric technology for the shirt. The shirt, made from an antimicrobial smart fabric with sensors embedded in it, will collect data, including heart rate and respiration, based on the wearer’s movements. It transmits   he information to a cloud-based system, which will analyze the data and report its findings. Although designers such as Diane Von Fürstenberg and Tory Burch are collaborating with technology firms – Google and FitBit, respectively -- to make wearable accessories fashionable, observers say this move by a mainstream brand like Ralph Lauren on a smart garment and its use at a major sporting event could signal the greater acceptance of wearable technology. (ZD Net)(Mashable)

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hackers Target Large Banks

Several large US banks were attacked by hackers who appear to have used malware and a zero-day vulnerability to infiltrate networks and obtain corporate and customer data. At least five banks—only JP Morgan Chase was identified—were involved in the attacks, in which cybercriminals stole “gigabytes of customer data,” according to the anonymous sources cited by news outlets. However, it is unclear whether they took credit card or other account information. The fact that there have been no reports of money moved from accounts indicates the attack was politically motivated, according to a US government source. The US FBI, Secret Service, and National Security Agency are investigating the breaches. Initial investigations indicate the attacks were routed through computers in Latin America from servers that Russian hackers are known to use. Security vendor Trend Micro reported an uptick in attacks on US and European banks since 24 July 2014 from computers whose IP addresses appear to be in former Soviet bloc countries. JP Morgan Chase spokesperson Brian Marchiony declined comment on the recent incidents, saying only, “Companies of our size unfortunately experience cyberattacks nearly every day. We have multiple layers of defense to counteract threats and constantly monitor fraud levels.” In April, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said the company was increasing its annual expenditures on security by 25 percent—to $250 million—compared to 2013. (CNN Money)(re/Code)(Bloomberg)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Major US Carrier’s Internet Service Restored after Massive Outage

Time Warner Cable’s Internet service was knocked out across the US for about 90 minutes Wednesday morning. Millions of customers—primarily in key markets of California (including Los Angeles), New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas—were left without service. In a statement, the company explained, “During our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and on-demand services. Industry observers say this incident could bolster arguments made by those opposing the pending merger between Time Warner and Comcast, the country’s largest cable TV provider.  “People are questioning whether this merger will be good for consumers,” Steve Beck, founder of the management consulting firm CG42, told the Los Angeles Times. Service interruptions happen. The world is an imperfect place, but it really comes down to how these companies handle the problem and resolve their customer's complaints.” (re/Code)(The Los Angeles Times)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tricorder X Finalists Announced

Qualcomm announced 10 finalists in a competition to develop a handheld healthcare device inspired by the tricorder medical scanner used in the Star Trek TV series. The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize will award $7 million prize for the best noninvasive wireless device weighing less than five pounds that can diagnose 16 different diseases—such as anemia, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, mononucleosis, and tuberculosis—and accurately measure vital signs. Many tricorder technologies currently exist but not in a single, portable device. Participants in the contest include research teams from Canada, India, Ireland, Slovenia, the UK and the US, from universities, medical-device manufacturers, and tech start-ups, including one funded by NASA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thy have until mid-2015 to develop a working prototype. A total of $10 million in prizes will be awarded. (BBC)(CNET)(Qualcomm)

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Bug Throws Wrench into Google Image Searches

Computer users in many parts of the world trying to find images via Google for eight hours on 26 August 2014 were served up repeated images of a grisly Russian car accident and photos of NBA star Kevin Durant rather than those they sought. The problem affected Google encrypted searches, which are now the default search mode, across multiple Google domains. In a statement sent to ZDNet, the company said only that the issue was caused by an accident. A source familiar with the issue said it was the result of a bug in Google’s software. Google didn’t comment on exactly what precipitated the problem. (TIME)(ZDNet)

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

US-Based eTailers Increasingly Accept Bitcoin

More US-based online retailers—including Dish Network, Expedia, and—are allowing payments via bitcoin. Market analysts say the virtual currency is moving toward mainstream acceptance for online purchases, with full adoption occurring in about five years. Currently, market analysts note, consumers still prefer to use credit cards. Continuing volatility in the bitcoin exchange rate, which is unregulated, is also deterring consumer acceptance. However, merchants like using bitcoin to avoid credit-card fraud and transaction fees paid to credit-card companies. (Reuters)(Mashable)

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cyberattack Compromises Data on US Homeland Security Employees

A cyberattack on USIS, formerly known as US Investigations Services, a company that conducts background checks for federal government employees, compromised the personal data of at least 25,000 of those workers, including undercover investigators. For example, the breach exposed personal information of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees. The compromised information includes Social Security numbers, education and criminal history, birth dates, and personal information about relatives and friends. Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer with cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said hackers “would be collecting this data to identify individuals who might be vulnerable to extortion and recruitment.” USIS disclosed the attack earlier this month—saying it has “all the markings of a state-sponsored attack”—but did not say how many records had been compromised or which agencies were affected. DHS suspended all work with the company and the FBI is investigating the attack. USIS could not be reached for comment. (Reuters)(NBC News)

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Apple Sets Much-Anticipated September New-Product Preview

Apple will take the wraps off new products in a much-anticipated 9 September event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, where Steve Jobs launched the Mac computer. Some reporters are billing it as the most anticipated since Apple launched the iPad in 2010. The company has not released details. Industry observers speculate the firm will show new iPhones as well as its first wearable device. (The Associated Press)(re/Code – 1)(re/Code – 2)

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Device Is a Smartwatch and a Fitness Tracker

Garmin, best known for its GPS-based navigation devices, is releasing a new wearable device combining the functionalities of a smartwatch and an activity tracker. Garmin’s Vivosmart is a redesign of its Vivofit and offers a wide range of alerts and information about a user’s activity including sleep duration, calorie expenditure, and the number of steps taken while walking. This wristband is the latest entry into what is shaping up to be a packed niche wearable-device market for combination smartwatches and fitness trackers. Garmin will sell the $170 Vivosmart initially at Best Buy and by November at other retailers. (Gizmodo)(The Wall Street Journal)(PC Mag)

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Researchers Report Hacker Attack Campaign against US, EU Targets

Security vendor FireEye has uncovered a series of attacks against targets in Europe and the US that occurred between 29 April and 27 May. FireEye says a group of Middle East-based hackers called the Molerats are responsible for the attacks, launched via remote-access tool exploits known as Poison Ivy. The group, which also engages in phishing attacks, is become more active, according to researchers, who traced Molerats attacks to campaigns launched against the BBC, an unnamed US financial institution, and government organizations in Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Turkey, the UK, and the US. Although the attackers typically use free, commonly available malware, FireEye says the group appears to be adapting its attacks to be increasingly difficult to detect. (SlashDot)(eWeek)(FireEye)

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Friday, June 27, 2014

US Secret Service Seeks Sarcasm-Detection Software

The US Secret Service has issued a request for proposals to develop software able to detect and analyze written sarcasm with a goal of fully automating its social-media monitoring in real time. The intent of the software is, in part, to eliminate false positives and wasted time associated with law enforcement officers following erroneous leads that might have been the result of someone posting a joke or flippant message on social message. The goal of the US Secret Service and its social-media monitoring program are to find credible threats from people intending real harm. The call raised privacy concerns that such technology would stifle free expression among people that would fear that their sarcastic comments would bring them to the Secret Service’s attention. Some people expressed doubt that the technology would be effective. (The Washington Times)(Engadget)(TIME)(US General Services Administration)

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

US Hacker Set Free after Helping Authorities

US authorities have freed a computer hacker who helped them prevent numerous cyberattacks on high-profile targets such as the US Congress and NASA after serving seven months in prison. Hector Xavier Monsegur —a member of LulzSec, a splinter group of the hacker organization Anonymous arrested in June 2011—pleaded guilty in August 2011 to 12 criminal counts related to hacking, fraud and identity theft in connection with cyberattacks on organizations including the US Senate, Sony and PayPal. These charges ordinarily carry a sentence of 21 to 26 years in prison. However, because of his cooperation with federal officials—including assistance in detecting and stopping at least 300 attacks and providing information about the inner workings of LulzSec and Anonymous—prosecutors asked that his sentence be reduced to the seven months he had already spent in prison during his pretrial detention. His sentencing was repeatedly delayed to allow him to continue cooperating with the government, according to the New Yorker. Monsegur says he is not the same person he used to be and would like to work as a systems administrator or teacher. He and some family members have been relocated as a result of physical and death threats based on his cooperation with law-enforcement officials. (The Associated Press -- 1)(CNET)(CNET @ Scribd)(The Associated Press -- 2)(The Los Angeles Times)(WIRED)(New Yorker)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

EU Approves Irish Mobile Deal

The European Union has cleared Hutchison Whampoa, a Hong Kong-based telecommunications firm, to move forward with its planned $1 billion purchase of Telefónica’s Irish mobile-communications operation. The EU’s approval was contingent on Hutchison Whampoa selling 30 percent of the newly-formed company’s networking capacity to two mobile virtual-network operators, which are companies that use other firms’ networking infrastructures to offer services. Hutchison Whampoa must also continue to participate in a network-sharing agreement with Irish telecommunications provider Eircom. Hutchison Whampoa, which already operates in six European countries, is expanding its holdings in the region. Regulators have been closely monitoring the European telecommunications market in recent months given ongoing consumer concern about consolidation causing rate increases. The EU’s approval of the Hutchison Whampoa deal could clear the way for Telefónica to enter the German market based on its divestiture of this unit. (Reuters)(Businessweek)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dish Network Begins Accepting Bitcoins for Payments

Satellite-services provider Dish Network has announced that it will let customers pay their bills with bitcoins starting 1 July 2014. It will use the services of bitcoin exchange Coinbase to process payments made via the virtual currency. “We always want to deliver choice and convenience for our customers and that includes the method they use to pay their bills,” said Dish executive vice president and chief operating officer Bernie Han . “Bitcoin is becoming a preferred way for some people to transact, and we want to accommodate those individuals.” Despite concerns from government officials and the financial sector about the virtual currency because of problems such as the recent closure of the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, several online retailers and organizations such as, Zynga, and the Sacramento Kings US professional basketball team are accepting it for payment. (Reuters)(Wall Street Journal)

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Monday, June 23, 2014

UK Government Amending Law, Wants Life Sentence for Malicious Hackers

The UK government wants to amend its current laws to let judges give a life sentence to computer hackers whose misdeeds result in loss of life or threaten national security. The 1990 Computer Misuse Act now gives hackers a maximum sentence of ten years. In the newly introduced Serious Crime Bill, cyberattacks resulting in loss of life, serious illness or injury, or serious damage to national security carry a life sentence while those resulting in serious economic or environmental damage carry a 14-year sentence. “Malicious hackers who risk triggering deadly civil unrest by cutting off food distribution, telephone networks, or energy supplies by sabotaging computer networks could be sentenced to life in prison,” according to the Telegraph. (SlashDot)(

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Intel Unveils Wireless Docking Station

The future of personal computing does not include wires and cables, according to Intel. With this in mind, the company is showing its WiGig docking station that provides power to mobile devices and other technologies. The technology is based on the high-speed WiGig wireless-communications standard, which enables data transmission at speeds up to 7 Gbits per second, and immediately connects to any devices within its short range, confined to a single room.  Intel expects to introduce the technology commercially by 2016. (ValueWalk)(Gizmodo)(CNET)

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Europe’s “Right to be Forgotten” Is Proving Difficult to Execute

Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled that individuals have the “right to be forgotten,” which holds that search-engine operators should delete outdated, inaccurate, or irrelevant information from the results they return. However, search-engine operators are finding this hard to accomplish, particularly because they have received huge volumes of deletion requests from users. . For example, Google says it is fielding an average of 10,000 requests per day. The right to be forgotten has proven to be controversial. Proponents say it is necessary to protect individual privacy. Opponents say that it is a form of censorship, will be too time-consuming and expensive to comply with, and will balkanize search result by creating one set for Europe and one for the rest of the world. Issues surrounding the European Court of Justice’s decision led to two days of meetings by EU data-protection authorities. The group of 28 data authority leaders is scheduled to produce an agreement specifying compliance requirements in September of this year. (TIME)(Reuters)

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Sprint Nearing Purchase of T-Mobile US

Sprint and Deutsche Telecom are concluding a deal that would sell T-Mobile US to its market rival at roughly $40 per share in July. Sprint and T-Mobile are the third- and fourth-largest US wireless carriers, respectively. The companies are working on terms such as the final price, financing, and which of them would pay the termination fee if US regulators block the deal. T-Mobile US is now owned by Deutsche Telekom, which would retain a 15 to 20 percent stake in the new Sprint. This is one of many recently announced mergers within the US telecommunications market. AT&T is courting satellite TV operator DirecTV, and Comcast is trying to buy Time Warner. Market analysts say US government regulators—who rejected a deal between AT&T and T-Mobile US three years ago—may well prevent the Sprint and T-Mobile merger. (Reuters)(Bloomberg)

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Report: Half of US Residents’ Data Stolen this Year

About half of the adults in the US had data stolen within the last 12 months according to a new report by the Ponemon Institute research organization and CNNMoney. About 47 percent of all adults in the US had some piece of personal data taken and 432 million of their accounts were hacked in the last year, according to estimates based on data from the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit consumer-assistance organization. Cyberattacks are growing so numerous, according to CNN, that the US public has grown numb to them. Among the high-profile incidents have been attacks against major companies such as AOL, Adobe, eBay, Michaels, Neiman Marcus, and Target. (Digital Trends)(CNNMoney)(Ponemon Institute)

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yet Another OpenSSL Vulnerability Is Found

A security researcher has discovered a new, remotely exploitable vulnerability in OpenSSL that could let an attacker intercept and decrypt traffic between vulnerable clients and servers. The Heartbleed flaw in the popular OpenSSL Internet security protocol, found earlier this year, forced many website operators to update their software and advise millions of users to change their passwords. The new vulnerability—which Masashi Kikuchi, a researcher with IT consultancy Lepidum Co., found—affects all OpenSSL versions. To exploit the bug, an attacker must first have a man-in-the-middle position on a network. (SlashDot)(Threat Post)(Computerworld)(OpenSSL Security Advisory)(Lepidium Co.)

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Chrome Encryption Extension Promises Better Privacy

Google now offers an extension for its Chrome browser designed to provide easy e-mail encryption to users. The company is touting the End-to-End extension for its simplicity of use compared to similar open source tools such as PGP and GnuPG. Google is basing End-to-End on the OpenPGP standard. The tool is in alpha, meaning the code is available for testing and evaluation now at . Google also is offering bounties for any bugs found in End-to-End through its Vulnerability Reward Program. (Businessweek)(PC Mag)(TIME)(Google Online Security Blog)

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Intel Offers Do-it-Yourself Robot Kits

Intel has announced plans to offer a kit that will let consumers make their own robots. The $1,600 package, which includes a motor and other parts, enables users to customize and print 3D components to create a small robot powered by the Intel Quark chip. Users can program these devices to complete tasks and can share their software with other robot owners via downloadable applications. Intel, which has begun courting do-it-yourself and hobbyist consumers, says it hopes the kit will cost less than $1,000 within five years. (PC World)(Reuters)(Intel)

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bug Leaves Linux, Open Source Users at Risk

Security researchers have discovered a new vulnerability in open source software that attackers could exploit to launch malware attacks. Developers have since released a patch for the bug in the GnuTLS cryptographic code library, which could place Linux and other open source software users at risk for problems such as buffer overflow attacks. GnuTLS is an open-source implementation of Internet encryption protocols including Secure Sockets Layer; Transport Layer Security; and Datagram Transport Layer Security, used in various Linux distributions. An infected server could exploit the vulnerability during the handshake between the Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security, culminating in the crash of vulnerable clients. It could also allow attackers to execute code on the system. The vulnerability was reported by Joonas Kuorilehto, a principal systems engineer at Codenomicon, the same vendor of vulnerability-testing tools responsible for finding the Heartbleed flaw in the OpenSSL Internet-security protocol earlier this year. (Ars Technica)(PC World)(Red Hat Bug Tracker)

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Apple Allowing Virtual-Currency Transactions in Applications

Software developers can now offer virtual-currency transactions in their Apple-based applications for iPhones and iPads. Apple revamped its App Store guidelines to permit applications to process transactions with, according to the Apple developer blog, “approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.” Apple has not yet released a list of “approved” virtual currencies. Apple previously removed applications using virtual cash from its online store. In response, some developers reportedly deleted virtual currency coding from their programs so that they could remain in the store. Google Android currently supports transactions using several different types of virtual currency. (Reuters)(BBC)(Apple)

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Japan’s SoftBank Moves into Consumer Robotics

Japanese telecommunications and Internet company SoftBank plans to sell robots designed for consumer use, to function as babysitters, nurses, emergency medical workers, and companions, said CEO Masayoshi Son. Son recently demonstrated a prototype robot called Pepper, which will cost ¥198,000 ($1,931). It will be sold at Softbank Mobile stores starting in February 2015. The company has not unveiled plans for introducing Pepper outside Japan. (Reuters)(Associated Press @ Washington Post)(ZDNet)

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Google Planning Satellite Constellation for Internet Access

Google is planning a comprehensive satellite network to provide Internet connectivity to areas without such access. The plan calls initially for 180 small, high-capacity satellites in low Earth orbit, with more possibly launched in the future. Previous attempts to launch similar projects were reportedly fraught with both financial and technical problems. Google hired Greg Wyler, founder and former CEO of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks, to lead the venture, estimated to cost between $1 and $3 billion, a price tag that could increase based on factors including the number of satellites ultimately used. (SlashDot)(MarketWatch)

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Acer Enters Cloud Computing with Services Offering

Acer has begun developing and selling cloud-computing software and services. The Taiwan-based firm has long made PCs but has been hurt by that market’s contraction. In fact, the company’s ranking among the world’s PC makers recently fell from second to fourth. By entering the cloud market with its Build Your Own Cloud (BYOC) service, Acer will now compete with Amazon and Google, as well as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard, the latter two of which which recently announced billion-dollar initiatives. “The computer is still our foundation, but BYOC is a new platform for integration, cross-compatibility, and convenience,” stated Acer founder and chair Stan Shih. The company is positioning the service for implementation with the Internet of Things by, for example, enabling users to control home appliances or automobiles via their smartphones. (Reuters)(AFP @ PhysOrg)

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Baked Robots: Hot, Fresh Approach to Self-Assembly

A new approach for self-assembling robots uses heat to help the objects form properly. MIT professor Daniela Rus used materials that change shape when heat is applied. Manufacturers could use heat to make a plastic sheet with carefully located creases and slits fold into a 3D robot’s body. Rus is scheduled to demonstrate her approach during the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation this week in Hong Kong. (SlashDot)(Tech Crunch)(MIT News Office)

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Demand for NoSQL, Big Data Skills Rises

Recent technology-job postings show that employers are increasingly seeking job candidates with -database skills. Posting for NoSQL skills increased 54 percent “year over year,” according to the career website, which provided no specific time frame details. Demand for these skills is increasing because corporations are collecting more data from both internal and external sources, according to the site. Other increases in popular skills were 46 percent for those related to Big Data, 43 percent for those specifically related to Apache Hadoop, 27 percent for those related to cloud computing, 20 percent for those related to software as a service, and 16 percent for those related to Python. Other types of jobs growing in popularity include those using analytics or open-source software. (SlashDot)(

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Autodesk Announces First Hardware Products

Autodesk, a 3D software developer, announced it is launching its first 3D printer. The company is enabling other manufacturers to make their own versions of the printer or use its Spark software at no cost. The printer uses a laser to harden liquid plastic in a process known as stereolithography rather than the extrusion process most low-cost 3D printers rely on. The laser traces the design on a layer of resin, turning it solid. Unused materials are discarded. The process continues iteratively until the object is formed. This particular process will enable users to choose their own materials, allowing them to formulate and experiment with different polymers, says Autodesk. The printer is being targeted at professionals wishing to make small items, namely medical devices or jewelry. Pricing details have not been finalized, but it may cost roughly $5,000. The hardware offering is designed to increase interest in Autodesk’s new Spark software. Analysts have noted 3D printer adoption is growing as hardware prices decline. Most of the purchases are being made by businesses. An estimated 56,000 printers under $100,000 were sold in 2013, according to Gartner analysts. (SlashDot)(BBC)

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Citizen Scientists Sought to Donate Idle Computer Time to Alzheimer’s Researchers

A newly launched project seeks volunteers willing to lend their idle computing power to help researchers with computationally difficult problems. The Compute Against Alzheimer’s Disease project is being developed by George Mason University and Parabon Computation. Participants will download software that works only when the computer is not otherwise in use. The spare computational cycles will be tasked with molecular modeling at the cellular level. This form of distributed computing approach has been used by groups including Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The researchers are trying to find what causes Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. (EurekAlert)(George Mason University)(Compute Against Alzheimer’s Disease)

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Samsung Issues Apologies for Worker Deaths, Illnesses

Samsung issued a public apology in connection with the illnesses and deaths of some workers exposed to chemicals at its facilities in South Korea. The company says it will compensate those former manufacturing plant employees affected by leukemia and other blood-related cancers; however, those parties are also seeking compensation from a government insurance fund. “It is truly sad and heart-breaking for us,” the company said in a statement. “We feel regret that a solution for this delicate matter has not been found in a timely manner, and we would like to use this opportunity to express our sincerest apology to the affected people.”  Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS), an advocacy group, say 26 individuals who worked in Samsung’s Gi-Heung and On-Yang semiconductor plants have reported leukemia and lymphoma and of those, 10 people have died. A third-party investigation commissioned by Samsung in 2011 reportedly found no connection between the manufacturing plants and leukemia. (PC World)(Bloomberg)(The Associated Press)

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Comcast: Data Caps Probable in Five Years

Comcast executive vice president David Cohen predicts bandwidth caps will be in place within five years. Cohen, who made the comments in an investor call, says the company is reportedly determining what the best possible “usage based billing” or cap should be before instituting any changes. Comcast told Ars Technica in 2012 ”98 percent of our customers nationally don’t use 300GB/month,” which the publication speculates may mean an eventual increase of the monthly limit  to 500 GB. The company has established caps in several of its southern US markets, including Atlanta and Memphis. Customers exceeding the limit pay an additional $10/month for 50 GB. As the new caps are rolling out, Comcast is allowing users to exceed the cap for three of 12 months without any additional fees. (SlashDot)(Tech Crunch)(Ars Technica)

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Target CEO Resigns amid Continuing Data Breach Fallout

Department-store chain Target’s board of directors has announced the resignation of CEO Gregg Steinhafel, the latest move to occur in the wake of the huge 2013 data breach from which the company is still recovering. Steinhafel, a 35-year Target employee of the company who also served as its president and a board member, had said that he held himself personally accountable for the data breach. Chief financial officer John Mulligan is acting as interim CEO and president, and board member Roxanne S. Austin will serve as non-executive board chair. Steinhafel remains with Target in an advisory capacity. During the December 2013 breach, hackers stole credit- or debit-card information on up to 110 million people who purchased items at Target. Since then, Target has reported that its revenue during the Christmas 2013 shopping quarter was 5 percent less than in 2012. The company also reported paying $61 million in hacking-related expenses, with insurance covering $17 million. The company plans to use chip-and-pin technology from MasterCard in its new company-branded credit and debit cards, due for release in early 2015. (The Los Angeles Times)(Businessweek)(USA Today)(Target)

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Sony Financial Losses Mount

Sony forecast its losses for the current fiscal year should reach ¥50 billion/ $490 million when it ends March 2015. This is the sixth annual loss for the company in seven years. It expects to remain unprofitable until it finally exits the personal computing market. Although it has undertaken some restructuring in its business units and manufacturing, Sony chief financial officer Kenichiro Yoshida says it is now time for Sony to leave entire businesses behind and it will spend 135 billion yen as it leaves the PC business and on additional restructuring. One of which may be its television products operation, which continues to bleed cash. The announcement took analysts by surprise. The average profit for this fiscal year expected by 19 analysts polled by Bloomberg was ¥57.1 billion. “A lot of additional money-losing businesses remain for Sony to dump, though,” noted Bloomberg Businessweek. “The company hasn’t made a profit on TVs in years, and with stiff competition from South Korea and China, exiting the TV business is probably vital to any Sony turnaround. In its futile attempt to remain a player in TVs, Sony has lost ¥790 billion over the last 10 years, the company revealed today.” Based on its losses,  PC market may see similar fiscal issues if it attempts to shed that portion of its business. It is focusing on products such as smartphones, cameras and game consoles. (BBC)(Bloomberg)(Bloomberg Businessweek)

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

EU Court Backs “Right to Be Forgotten”

The top EU court has ruled that individuals may legally demand the removal of any links or information returned via search-engine results that could jeopardize their privacy. This is commonly referred to as “a right to be forgotten” and applies to “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data returned in search results. The case originated with a Spanish man who sought to have Google Spain delete a 1998 Catalonian newspaper article regarding his home being auctioned for failing to pay taxes. He argued the matter had been resolved and the material should no longer be linked to him. The new European Court of Justice ruling applies to all 28 EU member countries and all search-engine operators. Opponents say the ruling represents censorship. Attorneys practicing in the EU are concerned compliance could prove difficult because of the thousands of individual requests that could potentially be received by search engines and the need to carefully evaluate each of these. Others say the new rule could result in balkanized search results, with search results differing in Europe. Regulators throughout Europe have expressed concern about the way information on search engines, particularly Google, affect privacy. French, Italian, and Spanish officials have fined Google in the past over privacy matters. (Businessweek)(The Guardian)

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Reuters: Memory Issue in Software Causes Problems in US Air Traffic Control System

A vulnerability in the US air traffic control system’s software, triggered by a military aircraft’s complicated flight plan, caused flight delays and could crash the system in the future, according to a new report by Reuters. On 30 April 2014, a US U-2 spy plane flew through the Western US. Its lack of altitude information in the flight plan as well as its complexity—which was circular rather than point-to-point as is typical for commercial flights—caused the Federal Aviation Administration’s En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) air-traffic-control software to register an operational error and cycle on and off. This process used much of the system’s memory, leaving it unavailable for other tasks, causing problems throughout the Western US including the grounding or delaying of flights in Los Angeles. Experts cited by Reuters contend that attackers could use the same vulnerability to crash the system, although doing so would be complicated. The FAA has added memory to ERAM and changed some of its rules in an effort to prevent such problems. Weaknesses in the system will be the subject of two Def Con hacker convention talks in August 2014. (Reuters)(BBC)

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Friday, May 30, 2014

US Bitcoin Hardware Maker Hit with Complaints

Roughly 300 complaints have been filed with the US Federal Trade Commission against a Bitcoin hardware maker that has failed to ship product to customers. Butterfly Labs, a Kansas-based manufacturing company that provides hardware for virtual currency mining operations, has faced numerous accusations of fraud and is in federal court now with a lawsuit, having previously lost a 2013 civil suit. The complaints lodged against the company are from customers around the world, including Argentina, Canada, and Estonia, filed between September 2012 and April 2014 whose orders were never filled or else requested refunds that never materialized, according to Ars Technica. In the court documents it obtained, a Kansas federal judge told the company’s co-founder, Sonny Vleisides, “his company had a ‘strong smell’ of fraud about it during a probation hearing.” (He is on probation after entering a guilty plea in connection with a 2010 lottery scam. The judge extended his probation an additional two years.) Butterfly Labs has claimed it has experienced manufacturing delays. “In light of new details from the recently published transcript of that January 2014 probation hearing,” concluded Ars Technica, “the legitimacy of the Butterfly Labs operation could soon be decided once and for all.” The FTC merely fields complaints, acting on them as warranted, which may include and investigation and possible litigation. It does not guarantee those complaining consumers that they will receive any refund. (Ars Technica – 1)(Ars Technica – 2)

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

HP Announces $1 Billion Investment in Cloud Projects

Hewlett-Packard plans to invest $1 billion within the next two years on cloud-computing products and services. Among its projects is the development of services for the OpenStack open-source platform for public and private clouds, which HP will make available in 20 datacenters within the next 18 months. The company also recently announced a collaboration with contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group on creating servers for cloud-computing service providers. Other companies are also investing in cloud computing. For example, Cisco Systems plans to spend $1 billion on a cloud initiative. And Microsoft is making its cloud storage for businesses 40 times larger than it is now. (Reuters)(ZD Net)

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mozilla Elicits Controversy with Ads in New Firefox Browser Tabs

Mozilla is bucking customer opinion by adding advertisements to newly launched tabs in its Firefox browser. When Mozilla announced in February it would try adding advertisements to its Firefox browser when a new tab opens, users complained about them. Mozilla now says new versions of the browser may include what it calls promotional tiles on a newly launched tab pages featuring ads for Mozilla sites and other sites. Typically, Firefox shows “tiles” or views of pages the user has frequently visited when a new tab is opened.  One of these can be launched when double-clicked. This would change to include advertisements. Currently, Internet Explorer is the only major browser with advertising—for its Bing search engine—on its pages. (Telegraph)(Computerworld)(Gizmodo)

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jury Reaches Verdict in Multimillion-Dollar Samsung-Apple Case

An eight-member federal jury in a trial related to an ongoing patent dispute between leading smartphone makers Apple and Samsung found that each company violated the other’s patented technology. The jury ruled that Samsung violated two Apple patents—the judge had already ruled that it has violated a third—and awarded Apple $120 million—much less than the $2.2 billion it had sought. The jury also found that Apple infringed a Samsung patent and awarded $158,400 in damages, much less than the $6 million Samsung originally sought. Jurors must still decide on a few matters, but experts say they won’t significantly affect the amount awarded. The judge has yet to decide on requests by both companies to ban products with patent-violating technologies. However, she has refused the companies’ requests to do so in the past. The recent trial is the latest salvo in an ongoing, worldwide patent battle between the companies over patents in the lucrative mobile-technology market. In the companies’ first trial in 2012, jurors initially awarded Apple $1.05 billion—less than the $2.75 billion the company asked for—but subsequently reduced the amount to $930 million. (The Associated Press)(San Jose Mercury News)(Tech Times -- 1)(Tech Times -- 2) (Businessweek)

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Appeals Court Refuses to Re-Hear Apple-Samsung Patent Case

A US appeals court upheld the decision of a lower court in a patent infringement suit brought by Samsung against Apple. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit made its decision 14 May 2014 without offering any explanation. The companies have been locked in litigation worldwide regarding their smartphone and mobile device patents. Neither company issued a comment. Earlier this month, Samsung was ordered to pay $119.6 million for infringing three Apple patents, a matter that could also be appealed. (Reuters)

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

AT&T Negotiating DirecTV Purchase

Telecommunications giant AT&T is in discussions to purchase satellite-TV provider DirecTV, in what may be a $50-billion deal, within two weeks, according to Reuters. AT&T is offering roughly $90 per share for DirecTV, although it previously said it would offer $100 share. Details are still being discussed, but DirecTV would reportedly operate as a unit of A&T. This is the latest telecommunications consolidation megadeal. Comcast and Time Warner Cable may also be merging in a deal valued at $45 billion. Together, AT&T and DirecTV would create a pay-television operation similar in size to the combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable company.(Reuters)(Businessweek)

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

US Retailers Form Cyberintelligence Sharing Group

An industry trade group and leading US retailers are forming a center designed to allow them to exchange information about data breaches and cyber threats. The group -- formed by The Retail Industry Leaders Association and companies such as Gap, Nike, Target, and Walgreen -- says its efforts are designed to protect consumers’ personal and financial information. The trade group says it began forming the center long before a series of high-profile retail data breaches occurred in the US in late 2013. (The Associated Press)(The New York Times)

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Internet Provider: ISPs Allowing Network Congestion

A newly released report contends major US ISPs are allowing Internet congestion to occur by not upgrading their peering connections. Level 3 Communications, a communications-services provider, studied 51 of its peer ISPs around the world and found that customers are experiencing delayed or dropped packets throughout the day on congested connections to six ISPs, five of which are in the US. The company also said that rather than ensure that their networks can meet demand, ISPs generally expect payments from either the network middlemen or from content providers to deliver content to consumers. In other words, they save the higher bandwidth connections for those content or intermediate network providers that pay. Level 3 didn’t name specific ISPs engaged in this practice. Level 3 is seeking to change US laws to address this issue. However, said PC World, Level 3 has engaged in similar practices and may be more concerned about business than about customer service or consumer fairness. (PC World)(Ars Technica)(Level 3 Communications Blog)

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

3D-Printed “Liver” Detoxifies Body

University of California at San Diego scientists have used a 3D printer to create a device—inspired by the human liver—that attracts and removes toxins from the body. The biomimetic 3D detoxifier uses 3D-printed hydrogels—which contain nanoparticles that sense, attract, and capture toxins—arranged in a matrix. The researchers’ proof-of-concept device could lead to the creation of other 3D-printed medical devices. They published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. (re/Code)(Nature Communications)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

IBM Watson Goes to School

Computer science students attending seven US universities will be able to work with IBM's Watson cognitive-computing system in classes starting this fall. The participants, primarily seniors and graduate students, will access the supercomputer via the cloud and use it to develop cognitive computing applications, which could include an application for consumer shopping personalization, for one of several possible industries, such as retail, travel or healthcare. These cognitive-computing applications will be built on data students gather, which they will then use with Watson’s existing knowledge base and its learning technologies, such as natural language processing and machine learning. This program is part of IBM’s $1 billion investment in expanding Watson’s profile. Participating schools will include New York University; the University of Michigan; Carnegie Mellon University; Ohio State University; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; the University of Texas at Austin; and the University of California, Berkeley. (The Associated Press)(IBM)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

US Agency Funds New Network Infrastructure Projects

A total of $15 million in grants were awarded by the US National Science Foundation to address the creation and testing of new Internet network architectures and networking concepts. Among the pilot projects being developed with various cities, non-profit organizations, academic institutions and industrial partners include a vehicular network deployment in Pittsburgh, a context-aware weather emergency notification system for Dallas/Fort Worth, and a partnership with Open mHealth in San Francisco. The projects will address issues including security, new service challenges, and scalability. These projects were initially funded in 2010 through the NSF’s Future Internet Architectures program and the new funding should move the projects into the pilot testing stage. (SlashDot)(National Science Foundation)

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Friday, March 21, 2014

DARPA Develops Electronic Component-Authentication System

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced that it will launch a program designed to thwart the use of counterfeit electronic components, particularly those in military electronics systems, which is becoming a widespread problem. DARPA’s Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics Defense (SHIELD) program will develop a 100 × 100 micron component, which it calls a dielet, to authenticate electronic components. This tool, according to DARPA, would let users “verify, without disrupting or harming the system, the trustworthiness of a protected electronic component.” It will consist of an encryption engine and antitampering sensors that could indicate tampering if exposed to light, as well as wireless-communications and power components. It will be small enough to fit on microchips by electronics makers. Consumers would apply an ordinary probe to a component to authenticate it. Although the system has yet to be developed, DARPA says, after such a scan, another device, perhaps a smartphone, should be able to upload a serial number to a central server to check the component. The server would send an unencrypted challenge to the dielet for authentication, which sends back an encrypted answer and data from the sensors. “SHIELD demands a tool that costs less than a penny per unit, yet makes counterfeiting too expensive and technically difficult to do,” DARPA program manager Kerry Bernstein, told Network World. “What SHIELD is seeking is a very advanced piece of hardware that will offer an on-demand authentication method never before available to the supply chain.” (SlashDot)(Network World)(RT)(SHIELD: Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics Defense Proposers’ Day)

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bitcoin Exchange Mt. Gox Closes amid Allegations of Missing Funds

The Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange that was once the largest in the world abruptly closed on 25 February. Its website is offline and its headquarters are empty. The only activity is outside its offices, where protesters are picketing after losing money on their bitcoin investment. reports that the closure is the result of Mt. Gox “losing hundreds of millions of dollars due to a years-long hacking effort that went unnoticed by the company.” The exchange, open since 2010, reportedly lost 744,408 bitcoin, valued at roughly $425 million based on current exchange rates. Mt. Gox’s closure follows a series of events that began 23 February when CEO Mark Karpeles resigned from the Bitcoin Foundation board. The company abruptly suspended trading today citing “unusual activity.” The website was taken down in the following hours. Six other bitcoin exchanges—Coinbase, Kraken, Bitstamp, BTC China, Blockchain and Circle—issued a statement that read in part, “This tragic violation of the trust of users of Mt. Gox was the result of one company's actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of bitcoin and the digital currency industry.” (Reuters)(Associated Press @ San Francisco Chronicle)(WIRED)

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amazon Expands Micropayment System to Android

Amazon announced it will now support its virtual currency on Google Android mobile devices in the US, UK, and Germany. Amazon Coins are a virtual currency introduced by the company in 2013, originally intended for Kindle Fire tablet users to make micropurchases, including applications. Each coin is now worth a penny. The company is reportedly working toward establishing “an end-to-end ecosystem” for developers. Some observers are skeptical about Amazon billing it as a virtual currency since it is linked to a user, unlike Bitcoin, which is anonymous. (SlashDot – 1)(SlashDot – 2)(Tech Crunch)(

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

EU Commissioner: Internet Governance Should Be Global

The European Union is seeking an expanded role in Internet governance. The management and operations of the Internet must be reformed, said EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes upon proposing a new Internet governance policy. One of the keys is globalizing the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which assigns top-level Internet domains. In light of the recent release of information about widespread Internet surveillance by US government agencies, various world leaders have questioned whether the US is a worthy Internet steward. Instead, said Kroes, Internet governance must become more global, transparent, and inclusive. The EU says governance should not be ceded to the United Nations but instead should be handled by all stakeholders, including governments, companies, civil society, and others. (SlashDot)(Network World)(The Wall Street Journal)(EUROPA)

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Google Exploring Expanding Fiber to More US Markets

Google has announced it is talking to officials in 34 different cities in nine US markets to determine whether it can expand its broadband Internet service. Google Fiber fiber-optic networks are now in Kansas City, Mo.; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah. The company is in discussions with officials in Portland, Ore.; San Jose, Calif.; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; San Antonio; Nashville, Tenn.; Atlanta; as well as Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, N.C. Several states have or are considering legislation that would limit public broadband infrastructure growth following intensive lobbying by phone and cable TV company interests. Google Fiber reportedly is able to provide transmission speeds of 1 gigabit per second, which is 20 times faster than the 50 mbps top-end service sold by Verizon Communications and Comcast. Google says it should know by year’s end which areas might be actually receiving Google Fiber. “While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities,” writes Milo Medin, vice president of Google Access Services, “it might not work out for everyone.” (Investor’s Business Daily)(USA Today)(Google Official Blog)

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Facebook Buys Startup WhatsApp for $19 Billion

Facebook announced it will buy mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for US$19 billion in cash and stock. The transaction, notes Reuters, “places the world's largest social network closer to the heart of mobile communications and may bring younger users into the fold.” WhatsApp had 450 million users in five years and is now reportedly adding another million daily. It is billed as an alternative to SMS, allowing users to exchange unlimited text messages at no cost for a year. After a year’s use, a user is required to subscribe to the service, which is now 99 cents for one year. (Reuters)(National Public Radio) 

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gaming Site Offers Reward for Conviction in DDos Attack

An online gaming site operator is offering a reward of €10,000 (roughly US$13,000) for information leading to the conviction of the people responsible for the site being taken down by a distributed denial-of-service attack. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game provider Wurm had its servers taken offline earlier this week as a result of the attack and was forced to move to a new Web hosting provider. Company officials said “We can offer 10,000 Euro for any tips or evidence leading to a conviction of the person responsible for this attack.” The attack is the latest in a series of large DDoS attacks, many of which are using the Network Time Protocol, used properly to sync a computer’s clock, to magnify the attack. Barry Shteiman, with the data security company Imperva, told the BBC attacks on online gaming have changed significantly in the past year. “If we take a look at last year's gaming attacks, we can definitely see that there was a focus on account hijacking rather than service disruption. This is therefore a new trend that should be watched out for.” Meanwhile, Wurm says it plans to compensate its players for any lost time. Its servers are being reconfigured, but, as of 20 February 2014, does not have a specific time that the site can be returned to full operations. (Ars Technica)(BBC)(Wurm Online -- 1)(Wurm Online -- 2)

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Mozilla Provides Gigabit Fiber Grants

The Mozilla Foundation is supporting high-speed Internet access by awarding grants to development projects taking advantage of existing fiber infrastructure that offers data rates of at least 1 Gbit per second. The organization is giving $300,000 in grants of between $5,000 and $30,000 each to software projects based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Kansas City, Kansas, via the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund. The fund is also backed by the US National Science Foundation and US Ignite, an organization that fosters the creation of next-generation Internet applications. Grant recipients must be working on real-life open source applications for gigabit networks that they want to turn into viable pilot projects. Successful projects are expected to support education, learning and/or workforce development in the community. (WIRED)(Mozilla)(National Science Foundation)(Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund) 

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Belkin Home Automation Vulnerability Uncovered

Security researchers asked consumers to stop using Belkin’s WeMo home automation products after finding various vulnerabilities in the items that attackers could use  to gain access to home networks, thermostats, or other connected devices. The line of products enable individuals to use their IOS and Android smartphones and computers to remotely control items including light switches, Web cams, motion sensors, and other home appliances. They were found to be exposing the password and cryptographic signing key used to ensure that firmware updates are valid, stated IOActive, a security firm. The US Computer Emergency Response Team issued a vulnerability note with five identified issues in the products. Belkin, in an 18 February 2014 statement, says it has fixed the vulnerabilities, which include updates to the API server, firmware, and application that could have possibly allowed the devices to be attacked. (Ars Technica)(eWeek)(IO Active)(Belkin) 

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

US Task Force Reports Retailer-Focused Cyberattacks Not Coordinated

A newly-released government report found that the recent cyberattacks against US retailers were not coordinated. According to the report by the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force—an alliance of US law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security—the attacks were not a concerted attempt to harm the US economy. The task force is continuing to track attacks on retailers that use malware that targets payment systems. The report, which didn’t name victims, said retailers could have blocked malware that attacked vulnerable remote network-management software. “It sounds like they’re saying that Target didn’t segment their network properly,” Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at market-research firm Gartner Inc. told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s very difficult to manage all these remote access accounts. It’s very reasonable that Target thought it was properly protected.” (The Associated Press)(Wall Street Journal) 

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Home-Based Wireless Routers Notoriously Insecure

Security experts conclude there are so many potential vulnerabilities in home-based wireless routers that it is best to consider them insecure. The issues came to light following the discovery of problems with Linksys routers, which enabled TheMoon worm to infect and thrive on the home hardware. Security researchers found these types of products are shipped with several other bugs that make them open to infection, according to SANS Institute Internet Storm Center researchers Kyle Lovett and Matt Claunch. This includes home routers from Linksys, Cisco and Netgear. Compounding the problem is most consumers don’t know how to properly protect these networks, through which personal and financial information can be sent. In addition to wireless routers, security experts say home networking devices are particularly vulnerable through the Universal Plug and Play protocol. Independent Security Evaluators, a security firm, identified 55 new and undisclosed vulnerabilities in home routers, which led its analysts to conclude few, if any, home routers could be properly secured. (SlashDot)(Symantec Security Focus)(SANS Institute Internet Storm Center) 

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Monday, March 10, 2014

US Wireless Carriers Wheel and Deal in Advance of Spectrum Auction

A planned large US spectrum auction in 2015 has prompted major wireless carriers to buy, sell, and trade spectrum licenses as they seek to shore up their market positions. The broadcast television spectrum auction, which the Federal Communications Commission is still planning, will sell 600MHz spectrum, traditionally used for TV broadcasts, to wireless carriers. The band has properties similar to the 700 MHz frequency. T-Mobile, for example, announced in January it would be buying some 700MHz spectrum from Verizon in several markets for $3.3 billion, which should help the carrier quickly build out its 4G services. Explosive consumer demand for mobile bandwidth, which Network World expects to increase 11 times in four years, is causing carriers to acquire spectrum and otherwise upgrade their infrastructure. Experts forecast that Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Dish Network will spend about $50 billion on spectrum licenses in the next two years. (SlashDot)(Network World)(Federal Communications Commission)

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Toyota Issues Prius Recall for Faulty Software

Toyota announced that it is recalling 1.9 million third-generation Prius vehicles to repair faulty software in the hybrid gas-electrical system. The software problem is related to control systems for boost converters—designed to increase the voltage in batteries small enough to fit in hybrid vehicles that could cause overheating in some transistors, which would shut down the hybrid system and, in some cases, cause the vehicle to unexpectedly stop. Since May 2011, 451 drivers have reported such problems. However, noted Toyota, no accidents have been attributed to the defect, according to Toyota. About half the recalls— about 1 million vehicles—are in Japan and roughly 700,000 or 37 percentare in North America. This is the third recall for the Prius, first produced in 1997 and now Toyota’s best-selling model. (Wall Street Journal)(Reuters)(Bloomberg)(Toyota)

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Brazil Plans to Augment World Cup Security with Robots

Brazilian law enforcement will get high-tech assistance during the 2014 World Cup soccer games from 30 robots. The national government purchased the machines for $7.2 million. They will be stationed in the 12 host cities during the soccer matches and will primarily be used to help examine any suspicious objects. The small and sturdy robot, which weighs roughly 40 pounds, is designed to fit in a backpack such that a human can deploy it immediately. It is able to reach speeds of up to 9 miles/hour and can navigate uneven and steep terrain, but it is also submersible at depths of up to 2 meters. The PackBot robot is made by Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot. It was first deployed in 2002 in Afghanistan and has since been used by the military in Iraq and several other countries. The PackBot was also the first remote controlled robot to enter the Fukushima nuclear facility after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. (SlashDot)(International Business Times UK)(Robohub) 

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Friday, March 7, 2014

US Agency Charges LA Building Owner for Lights that Interfere with Communications

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has cited a Los Angeles office building owner has been cited by for interfering with local cellular communications. The FCC says fluorescent lights at Ernst & Young Plaza, a 41-story  building near downtown, emit frequencies that interfere with a Verizon Wireless 700-MHz network. The commission thus cited the building’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties, which reportedly has investigated the matter without submitting the findings to the FCC. Verizon previously complained to the FCC about the interference prompting the agency’s investigation. The FCC has requested the results of the building owner’s internal investigation, as well as steps it is taking to resolve the issue, within 60 days. The commission could fine Brookfield as much as $16,000 per day, up to a total of $112,500, and seek criminal sanctions if it keeps using the lighting. The company—which says it is committed to resolving technical issues associated with its properties—has 30 days to challenge the FCC findings. The problem is reportedly a General Electric lighting fixture transformer that emits high-frequency radio signals. Fixture maker General Electric provided information about how consumers can replace bad fixtures, according to the FCC. This is reportedly the same fixture found last year to be interfering with an AT&T 700-MHz Long Term Evolution (LTE) cell site in San Antonio, Texas. (SlashDot)(Fierce Wireless)(PC World)

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hackers Breach Casino Sites

Hackers breached and defaced all the websites of Las Vegas Sands Corp., including the home pages for some of the world’s largest casinos. After the attack, the company down the sites, which includes those for the company, the Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas, and the Sands casinos in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Singapore, and Macau. The attackers also stole and released some Sands employees’ personal information, including Social Security numbers, email addresses, and job titles. Company officials are still assessing the damages. Experts guess the attacks may have been politically motivated, as the hackers placed a photo of Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson posing with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the affected websites with a message condemning the use of weapons of mass destruction on the sites. Adelson, whose personal wealth is estimated to be at least $37 billion, is a vocal supporter of Israel and has met Netanyahu several times. He has also sought to have Internet gambling banned in the US. The Nevada State Gaming Control Board is investigating the breach. (Associated Press)(The Morning Call)

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Report: Young Tech Firms’ Sluggish Growth is a Problem for US Economy

Young technology firms’ sluggish growth rate is a troubling sign for the US economy, according to a newly-released white paper from the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit organization that studies entrepreneurship and provides grants to award educational achievement and entrepreneurial success. The high-tech sector has traditionally sparked economic growth in recent decades. However, the Kauffman report finds the number of technology firms five years old and younger—which typically drive job creation—has fallen from a high of 113,000 in 2001 to about 80,000 now, as it was in the mid-1990s. One factor that may have skewed the number is the acquisition of young firms by established technology companies. The report also finds that technology firms’ job reallocation rate—which basically subtracts the rate at which jobs are lost from the rate at which they are created—has fallen to the lowest rate since the late 1970s “Because young high-tech firms are so disproportionately important for innovation and job creation, a slowdown in this sector calls for a new approach to fostering a stronger entrepreneurial economy,” said Dane Stangler, the Kauffman Foundation’s vice president of research and policy. (Reuters)(Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation)

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Whitelisting Prevents Cyberattacks

With the recent increase in the number of virulent cyberattacks, some security experts are calling for organizations to readily embrace whitelisting as a defense, saying conventional approaches such as intrusion detection aren’t working. Whitelisting lets computers run only files and system components listed as trusted. The practice, according to Forbes magazine, is “not going to sound too sexy to the average end user” but does eliminate many security problems. (SlashDot)(Forbes)

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Researchers Demonstrate Wi-Fi Virus Spread

A team of UK researchers has demonstrated that infected Wi-Fi networks can spread a virus in densely populated areas as efficiently as the common cold moves among humans. They sought to disprove assumptions that developing a virus able to attack Wi-Fi networks is impossible. Scientists from the University of Liverpool, Queen’s University Belfast, and software vendor Traffic Observation via Management in Belfast designed a simulated Wi-Fi virus attack on Belfast and London. In the simulation, their Chameleon virus spread quickly between homes and businesses, while avoiding detection. The virus moved via access points after discovering those least protected by encryption and passwords. The researchers are using their findings to develop a technique to identify when a Wi-Fi virus attack is likely. They published their work in the journal EURASIP Journal on Information Security. (SlashDot)(PhysOrg)(University of Liverpool)(EURASIP Journal on Information Security)

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Massive Denial-of-Service Attack Hits CloudFlare

CloudFlare, a US-based provider of distributed denial-of-service attack-protection services, itself became the target of the world’s largest DoS attack. Hackers struck the company following an attack on one of its customers. CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince said the traffic generated by the attack on CloudFlare was 400 Gbits per second, the largest ever recorded. It also affected other European and US websites and users. The Network Time Protocol reflection attack took advantage of a technology designed to synchronize time settings on computers communicating over the Internet. It used fraudulent synchronization requests that ultimately flooded CloudFlare’s site. (SlashDot)(Ars Technica)(IT News)(Matthew Prince @ Twitter)(CloudFlare)

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Smart Bra Aids Overeaters

Microsoft Research scientists have created a high-tech bra designed to monitor users to curb stress-related overeating. The undergarment is laden with sensors that record heart rate, respiration, skin conductance – the electrical conductance of the skin, which varies with moisture levels and indicates how much a person is perspiring -- and the individual’s movement, which are indicative of stress and other emotions that can lead to overeating. The bra feeds the data to a smartphone application, which sends prompts to users asking them to visit social media sites or write positive e-mails as simple ways of elevating their mood. The researchers say a bra is an ideal garment for such technology because it is close enough to the heart to take meaningful readings; however, the batteries in the undergarment had to be changed every four hours, which they say is prompting them to explore alternatives. They presented their findings at the Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII 2013) held in September. (SlashDot)(Care2)(Mashable)(Discovery News)(Microsoft Research)

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Microsoft Plans Cryptic Operating System Releases

Microsoft is planning a wave of operating system releases in spring of 2015 across all its various platforms, including Windows, Xbox One, and Windows Phone. This is according to new information reported by ZD Net, which obtained information from an internal Microsoft e-mail. “Threshold” is reportedly updating all three OS platforms in such a way that they will share more common elements. This will apparently be through sharing applications. It is unclear precisely how Microsoft plans to move forward or if it intends to take a device-agnostic approach. “If Microsoft is heading toward some sort of unified programming model, that’s going to require possibly years of work,” noted PC World’s Mark Hachman. “But other elements, such as the UI, services, and user data stored in the cloud, can be more easily manipulated.” Microsoft has indicated it will offer “Update 1” to Windows 8.1 in spring of 2014. (ZD Net)(Engadget)(PC World)

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