Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: ::

Uber Cast Suspicion Towards Lyft Over Hacking

October 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Eight months after admitting a major data breach, ride service Uber is focusing its legal efforts on obtaining more information about an internet address that it has persuaded a court could lead to identifying the hacker. That address, two sources familiar with the matter say, can be traced to the chief of technology at its main U.S. rival, Lyft.

In February, Uber revealed that as many as 50,000 of its drivers’ names and license numbers had been improperly downloaded, and the company filed a lawsuit in San Francisco federal court in an attempt to unmask the perpetrator.

Uber’s court papers claim that an unidentified person using a Comcast IP address had access to a security key used in the breach. The two sources said the address was assigned to Lyft’s technology chief, Chris Lambert.

The court papers draw no direct connection between the Comcast IP address and the hacker. In fact, the IP address was not the one from which the data breach was launched.

However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler ruled that the information sought by Uber in a subpoena of Comcast records was “reasonably likely” to help reveal the “bad actor” responsible for the hack.

On Monday, Lyft spokesman Brandon McCormick said the company had investigated the matter “long ago” and concluded “there is no evidence that any Lyft employee, including Chris, downloaded the Uber driver information or database, or had anything to do with Uber’s May 2014 data breach.”

McCormick declined to comment on whether the Comcast IP address belongs to Lambert. He also declined to describe the scope of Lyft’s internal investigation or say who directed it.

Lambert declined to comment in person or over email.



Dell Said To Be Pursuing Purchase Of EMC

October 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Dell Inc, the world’s third largest personal computer maker, is holding discussions to acquire data storage company EMC Corp, a person familiar with the matter said, in what could be one of the biggest technology deals ever.

A deal could be an option for EMC, under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management Corp to spin off majority-owned VMware Inc.

The terms being discussed were not known, but if the deal goes through it would top Avago Technologies’ $37 billion offer for Broadcom. EMC has a market value of about $50 billion.

Dell is also in talks with banks to finance an all-cash offer for EMC, the person told Reuters on condition of anonymity as the talks were confidential.

Dell spokesman David Flink and EMC spokesman Dave Farmer declined to comment.

A deal could further strengthen Dell’s presence among corporate clients at a time when founder Michael Dell has been trying to transform the company he founded in 1984 into a complete provider of enterprise computing services such as Hewlett-Packard Co and IBM.

The talks come two years after Michael Dell and private-equity firm Silver Lake took Dell private for $24.9 billion, ending its decades-long run as one of the world’s largest publicly traded PC makers.

In August, Re/code reported that EMC was contemplating a takeover by VMware. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that EMC was exploring options and had held talks with Dell and HP.




Is The Tablet Space Drying Up?

October 9, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Demand for Tablets is getting so weak that more chip suppliers plan to phase out their tablet-IC businesses.

The so-called “game-changing technology” when Apple launched it, is turning out to be just another fad – much like the iPod.

Digitimes reports that its deep throats in Taiwan-based IC design houses are giving up on tablets, which have been killed off by large-size smartphones. Tablet demand worldwide will likely decline 10-20 per cent in 2016 which will probably kill the fad off.

Shipments of tablets running Android OS might be less than 160 million units in 2015, and will fall further to 120-130 million in 2016, the sources predicted.

As a result, international vendors have decided to leave the tablet-IC market because of low prices which will yield them low profits. Meanwhile weak demand, price competition among tablet chip providers remains intense.

The only one to see an increase in sales has been MediaTek. Its shipments for tablets continue to grow and it aims to ship 45 million tablet chips in 2015. It is not sure what black magic the outfit is performing to buck the trend.  We hate to say we told you so, but this was inevitable.



Panasonic Announces World’s Most Powerful Solar Panel

October 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Panasonic’s Eco Solutions division has announced the launch of what it is calling the most powerful photovoltaic panel in the world.

The new prototype solar panel has a solar energy conversion efficiency of 22.5% on a commercial-sized module. The prototype was built using solar cells based on mass-production technology, Panasonic said.

Last year, Panasonic announced it had achieved a photovoltaic cell efficiency rating of 25.6%.

“This new record on module-level efficiency adds to the 25.6% efficiency record achieved last year at cell-level. The new panel efficiency record demonstrates once again Panasonic’s…ongoing commitment to move the needle in advanced solar technology,” Daniel Roca, senior business developer at Panasonic Eco Solutions Europe, said in a statement.

The latest advance, in theory, allows Panasonic to squeak past SolarCity as having the most efficient solar panel in the world. SolarCity announced last week that it had achieved an efficiency rating of 22.04% in panels that it will begin manufacturing this month.

However, Panasonic’s solar panels are based on “thin-layer” solar cells, which are more expensive to produce than the standard solar cells being used by SolarCity.

Panasonic was also unable to give a date for when its panels would be used in commercial solar panels. However, it did say it’s planning for a mid- to late-2016 release time.

The new solar panel test results were confirmed by the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Panasonic said.

The 72-cell, 270-watt prototype solar module incorporates “newly developed enhanced technology” that will eventually be scaled to volume production, Panasonic said.



Sony Says 2016 Is Make-Or-Break Year For Smartphone Unit

October 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sony Corp’s chief executive pegged 2016r as a make-or-break year for its struggling smartphones, saying it could consider other options for the unit if it failed to turn profitable.

After years of losses, Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai has engineered a successful restructuring drive at Sony, with recent results showing improvement thanks to cost cuts, an exit from weak businesses such as PCs, as well as strong sales of image sensors and videogames. But its smartphone business has been slow to turn around.

“We will continue with the business as long as we are on track with the scenario of breaking even next year onwards,” Hirai told a group of reporters on Wednesday. “Otherwise, we haven’t eliminated the consideration of alternative options.”

Sony and other Japanese electronics makers have struggled to compete with cheaper Asian rivals as well as the likes of Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

Sony phones including its Xperia-branded smartphones held only 17.5 percent of the market in Japan and less than 1 percent in the North America, according to company data last year.

The electronics giant in July lowered its forecast for its mobile communications unit to an operating loss of 60 billion yen in the current fiscal year from an earlier estimate of a 39 billion yen loss.

“I do have a feeling that a turnaround in our electronics business has shown progress. The result of three years of restructuring are starting to show,” he said. “But we still need to carry out restructuring in smartphones.”



Samsung Appears To Be Back In The Black

October 8, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung is expected to announce its first annual increase in quarterly profit in two years following a dismal third quarter in 2014, but word on the street is that things are not going well.

Samsung’s July-September operating profit to have risen 64 percent marking the first pickup since a record profit in the third quarter of 2013, but investors are not exactly excited.

Most of Samsung’s problems are its phone business. Though overall phone shipments likely rose, the brokerage says the greater share of lower-end products and price cuts for the Galaxy S6 models weighed heavily on the company’s bottom line.

At the lower end it launched new products targeting markets such as India, while at the high end it switched from plastic to metal, introduced curved screens and cut the price for its flagship Galaxy S6 devices after sales fell short of high expectations in the second quarter.

The smartphone market is saturated and no one is selling that many anymore. Chinese makers have eaten up its lower end market. New hardware features can be quickly matched by rivals. Samsung lacks service or software offerings that can pique consumer interest and not easily be replicated, a problem it hopes its recently launched Samsung Pay service can help address.

None of this has convinced investors that the company is back on track for sustained growth and the sustained growth is likely soon. The company is under pressure to return some of a cash pile of $53 billion through dividends or share buybacks.

Samsung’s semiconductor business probably remained its top earner for the fifth straight quarter as new premium phones came to market.


Verizon Finds New Use For Its ‘Supercookie’

October 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon’s purchase of AOL means that ads for some U.S. mobile users are about to get a whole lot more targeted.

The company has updated its privacy policy, saying that it now shares unique identifying information about users of its mobile phone network with the AOL Advertising Network, which claims as customers 74 of the top 100 websites tracked by ComScore.

The move will allow AOL to target ads at visitors to its sites and others using information from Verizon’s databases as well as its own. According to Verizon’s October 2015 privacy notice, the targeting criteria include visitors address, email address, age range, gender, interests, location, mobile web browsing history and app usage. The company can also track some non-mobile web browsing, to sites carrying AOL ads, it said.

Verizon links all this information together using a patchwork of identifiers, including ad IDs from Apple and Google, browser cookies from AOL, and its own Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) which it adds to mobile data traffic on its network. It’s this last item that ads significantly to AOL’s ad targeting power, as it’s easy to delete or change the other identifiers.

It’s also now possible to opt out of Verizon’s UIDH system too, thanks to reporting by ProPublica, which earlier this year revealed that the company was still using the identifier to track users who had deleted it.

Concern about targeted advertising is rising, with an increasing number of Internet users opting out of advertising altogether through the use of ad-blocking software. Apple recently made it possible to download content blockers for its Safari browser on iOS, prompting a flurry of players to enter the market.

Some see such blockers as a tool to force the online advertising industry to change its ways. One, Eyeo, deliberately lets through certain ads, as long as they are unobtrusive. It introduced has its own iOS content blocker — but also taken steps to win over other developers to its platform by making its process for allowing some ads through the blocker more transparent.



Google Issues Patch For Latest Stagefright Flaw

October 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google has released fixes for two new Stagefright-related vulnerabilities, one of which affects Android versions going back to 2008 and puts millions of users at risk.

The flaws were found by security company Zimperium, which also unearthed the original Stagefright flaws in April.

In an advisory Google said it didn’t appear that attackers have started exploiting the vulnerabilities yet.

The latest flaws are only slightly less dangerous than their predecessors, which allowed a device to be compromised merely by sending a specially crafted multimedia message (MMS). An attacker needed only to know the victim’s phone number.

To exploit the latest flaws, dubbed Stagefright 2.0, an attacker would have to convince a user to visit a website and play a piece of audio or video content.

The vulnerabilities relate to problems with how Android processes metadata within that content, Zimperium said in a blog post.

Google has released an over-the-air update for its Nexus Android devices and had notified its partners of the issues by Sept. 10, the company said.

Zimperium held off releasing proof-of-concept exploit code but will allow some of its partners to see it later this month, it said.

In light of the number of users affected by Stagefright, Google said in August it would begin issuing monthly security patches, mirroring steps taken years ago by companies including Microsoft for desktop software.

Still, fixing software problems on mobile devices is a disjointed affair and users are dependent on device manufacturers and operators for timely patching. After Google’s announcement, major manufacturers including Samsung and LG also committed to monthly patching.



SanDisk Building Industrial Strength Components For IoT

October 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Consumers use flash memory cards in phones, tablets and cameras almost daily. But put those same cards in security cams, cellular base stations or the electrical grid and you’ll have a problem.

Industrial devices need flash that can work harder and withstand more extreme temperatures than consumer gear, and they’ll be operating out in the field years after a typical phone or camera card has been replaced. So SanDisk is introducing a line of components built for the Internet of Things.

IoT is expected to put thousands of sensors, meters, robots and machines into the field with growing needs to process and store data.

The SanDisk Industrial line includes cards for the familiar SD, microSD and eMMC (embedded MultiMediaCard) standards, but built to tougher specifications.

For example, the SanDisk Industrial XT SD Cards and XT iNAND embedded flash drives announced Monday are rated to work in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit), compared with -25 Celsius for a typical consumer SD card.

The industrial cards can also write more data before they have to be replaced: as much as 128TB, far more than is typical for a consumer-grade part, said Martin Booth, director of SanDisk Industrial and SanDisk Automotive. This kind of endurance is what’s needed in IoT devices like remote video cameras that will capture video around the clock for as long as five years, he said. Otherwise they would have to be replaced more frequently, a costly proposition if the owner needs to send out a truck and a technician.

Another feature, Enhanced Power Immunity, will help prevent data loss in case of power failure. It uses special firmware for recovering data if the power is cut off, something ordinary flash cards may not be able to do if, for example, the user pulls a card out of a PC while it’s still transferring data.

The new parts range in size from 4GB or 8GB up to 64GB and will cost more than comparable consumer-grade products, but less than twice as much, Booth said.




Will Cannonlake Leap Intel Past Four Cores?

October 7, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel’s next-generation Cannonlake consumer-targeted processors could be the chip to leap from quad-core designs for the great unwashed.

An Intel engineer has been caught boasting on this Linkedin profile that he had a hand in Cannonlake system-on-chip (SoC) parts which integrated four, six, or eight processing cores with a Converged Coherent Fabric (CCF). He described this as acting like the Northbridge of an old-fashioned chipset setup.

Intel has not used this phrase before but it does explain some rather strange job adverts wanting a ‘Coherent Fabric Architecture Engineer.’ We have not met anyone in the fashion industry who was coherent let alone a fabric maker.

Intel has been making products with lots of processing cores but it seems addicted to four cores on consumer desktops (with or without the HyperThreading technology that extends it to running eight simultaneous threads.)

If the leak is right, then the 10nm Cannonlake family could be offered in hexa- and octa-core varieties.

Boosting the number of CPU cores on its next-generation products would allow the company to continue to tell software developers to concentrate on making the best use of CPU cores rather than looking to HSA and other than the general-purpose GPU  to boost performance.


EU Regulators Sets Focus On ‘Big Data’ Usage

October 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

European banks and insurers could face new regulations to control their use of “big data” to target customers with products after EU watchdogs said they would investigate the area.

Big data refers to companies or other institutions using digital information on consumer behavior from a wide variety of sources, such as their own databases, to make market predictions or spot patterns. The global financial services industry is expected to spend billions of dollars in coming years to improve their analysis capabilities.

But civil liberties campaigners have expressed concerns that use of such data could breach personal privacy. They also say it could be misused to discriminate against certain sections of the population in so-called profiling, for example based on age, gender, health or ethnic background.

The three EU financial regulators – the European Banking Authority, European Securities and Markets Authority, and European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority – will focus on the “opportunities and challenges” related to the use of big data, they said in a joint statement on Monday.

“The topic aims to analyze the adequacy of sectoral regulatory frameworks and identify any regulatory and/or supervisory measures which may need to be taken,” they added.

They will look into the matter in the coming year, but did give further details about the nature of the work or when they would announce findings.

Banks are hoping to use in-house data in better ways to spot fraudulent activities more easily, look at spending patterns to decide where to locate a new branch or personalize financial products.



Retailers Possibly To File Lawsuit Over Chip Cards

October 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. retailers are considering filing lawsuits against banks and credit card companies over the slow implementation of chip-based card technology and the possible financial liability merchants began facing that started Oct. 1.

Retailers that did not install newer chip-enabled point of sale terminals in stores, restaurants and hotels as of Oct. 1 have to pay an extra fee to cover counterfeit fraud. Before banks were liable for consumers’ use of magnetic stripe credit and debit cards. The liability shift deadline on Oct. 1 was set by banks four years ago to prompt the use of more secure chip technology to help lower the cost of fraud.

The passing of the deadline didn’t apparently cause any significant problems for store operations, according to comments from five national retail and credit card officials. That’s partly because consumers can still use magnetic stripe cards and might not even possess the newer chip cards.

For merchants, the situation is often more dire. Many retailers — with the notable exceptions of Walmart and some other big chains — have complained of backlogs of six to nine months in getting card companies to certify their new card terminals for use. Without the certification, retailers can’t use their new chip card payment terminals and face extra costs for fraud insurance.

The backlog is unfair to retailers, and is likely to lead to a lawsuit by one or more of the affected merchants, said Mark Horwedel, CEO of Merchant Advisory Group. MAG has 97 members, including some of the nation’s largest retailers, that collectively represent $2.6 trillion in annual sales.

“We’ve been the leading complainer about how the card brands are implementing [chip] cards in the U.S.,” Horwedel said in an interview. Card providers and banks “picked the Oct. 1 date without providing a blueprint to merchants on how to process debit transactions with chip cards.”




T-Mobile Customer Data Already For Sale on The Dark Web

October 6, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Data hacked from Experian is already on sale on the dark web and is available for grabbing by bad actors, phishers, malware writers and ID thieves.

Security firm Trustev is credited with the dark web discovery, although is it very possible that the underworld got to it first. Trustev and the internet are calling the dump a fullz, which means that it contains a lot of personal information.

T-Mobile customers make up a chunk of the potentially affected 15 million victims. The firm’s CEO, John Legere, went ballistic about what happened.

“We have been notified by Experian, a vendor that processes our credit applications, that they have experienced a data breach,” he said in a statement.

“Obviously I am incredibly angry about this data breach and we will institute a thorough review of our relationship with Experian, but right now my top concern and first focus is assisting any and all consumers affected. I take our customer and prospective customer privacy very seriously.”

Experian has also gone public on this with a statement on its website, and has, perhaps ironically, offered to help victims sort their credit lives out.

“Experian North America today announced that one of its business units, notably not its consumer credit bureau, experienced an unauthorised acquisition of information from a server that contained data on behalf of one of its clients, T-Mobile USA,” the statement said.

“The data included some personally identifiable information for approximately 15 million consumers in the US, including those who applied for T-Mobile USA postpaid services or device financing from 1 September 2013 through 16 September 2015, based on Experian’s investigation to date. This incident did not impact Experian’s consumer credit database.”

The agency said that it acted quickly to fix the problem once it was discovered, and immediately told the authorities and began an investigation into the hows and the whys.

It is the crown jewels of data that has been lost. Experian fessed to a breach of “names, dates of birth, addresses and Social Security numbers and/or an alternative form of ID like a driver’s licence number, as well as additional information used in T-Mobile’s own credit assessment”.

Experian added that no payment card or banking information was lost to the hackers.

Affected punters are being contacted and will be offered credit services, including two years of credit monitoring (although this may have lost some of its shine), and some identity protection services through its own ProtectMyID service.

Experian recommended that these services are embraced. “Although there is no evidence to-date that the data has been used inappropriately, Experian strongly encourages affected consumers to enroll in the complimentary identity resolution services,” the firm said.

Craig Boundy, CEO of Experian North America, took the opportunity to apologise and remind people that the company takes privacy very seriously.


DRAM Prices Appear To Be Falling Fast

October 6, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Beancounters from DRAM Exchange have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that sales of DRAM for notebooks and PCs suffered a downturn in September.

Analyst VP Avril Wu said that notebook shipments in the third quarter didn’t reach expectations, with the Windows 10 free upgrade hitting potential sales of new notebooks.

She added that sales of smartphones and servers were not much chop either and this eroded the margins of DRAM suppliers.

“If the global economy continues to stagnate, the end market will not generate the demand needed to effectively consume the new DRAM chips produced on advanced processes,” she muttered.

After shuffling her Tarot cards and chewing on a laurel leaf she predicted that prices will continue decline in the first half of next year in a way which is even worse than 2015.

Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron rule the DRAM market and they are moving production of the chips to 17 nanometres, meaning higher densities and better power efficiency next year. If the figures are this pants it will make their investment in the technology pretty wasted.


Windows 10 Breaks 100M Device Mark

October 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Windows 10′s user share growth slowed considerably in September, but by the month’s end approximately 110 million customers were running the new OS, data released today signaled.

According to U.S. analytics company Net Applications, Windows 10′s user share — a measure of the fraction of unique users who ran the OS when they went online — grew 1.4 percentage points in September to 6.6%.

Microsoft launched Windows 10 on July 29, making September the second full month that the upgrade for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 devices was available to download and install.

September’s user share increase was substantially smaller than August’s record setting 4.8 percentage points.

Windows 10 accounted for 7.3% of all Windows devices in September, a slightly higher number than its raw user share number because Windows powered “just” 90.5%, not 100%, of all systems tallied by Net Applications. During September, Windows 10′s share of all Windows devices climbed by 1.6 percentage points.

Net Applications’ data represented 110 million Windows 10 PCs, assuming a total of 1.5 billion Windows devices globally, the figure Microsoft typically trumpets.

Microsoft has not publicized a Windows 10 download or installed data point since late August, when it said that 75 million devices worldwide were running the OS.

Net Applications’ Windows 10 user share portrait backed up the findings of another analytics developer, Ireland’s StatCounter, which has also portrayed the OS’s growth as slowing after its first month of availability.

By StatCounter’s measurements, Windows 10 gained 5.9 percentage points ofusage share — more of an activity indicator, as it counts web page views by OS — in the first four weeks after its launch. During the most recent four weeks, or from Aug. 31 to Sept. 27, Windows 10 grew by a much smaller 1.4 points.

Net Applications’ numbers also validate the slowdown in a different way. During the final three weeks of August, an average of 1.8 million devices were added to Windows 10′s rolls daily. But in September, the average daily increase dropped to less than half of that, to about 794,000 devices.

Even so, Windows 10 continued to best Windows 7′s performance during a similar stretch. In 2009, the then-new OS had accumulated a 6.2% share of all Windows personal computers through its second full month, or more than a point under Windows 10 at the same post-launch moment.

With about 110 million devices now running Windows 10, Microsoft is at the 7% mark toward reaching its goal of putting the OS on 1.5 billion systems by mid-2018.