The Internal Revenue Service, which confirmed rumors of a breach of 100,000 taxpayer accounts, has been consistently reducing the size of its internal cybersecurity staff as it increases its security spending. This may seem paradoxical, but one observer suggested it could signal a shift to outsourcing.
In 2011, the IRS employed 410 people in its cybersecurity organization, but by 2014 the headcount had fallen by 11% to 363 people, according to annual reports about IRS information technology spending by the U.S. Treasury Department Inspector General.
Despite this staff reduction, the IRS has increased spending in its cybersecurity organization. In 2012, the IRS earmarked $129 million for cybersecurity, which rose to $141.5 million last year, an increase of approximately 9.7%.
This increase in spending, coupled with the reduction in headcount, is an indicator of outsourcing, said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute. Paller sees risks in that strategy.
“Each organization moves at a different pace toward a point at which they have outsourced so much that the insiders do little more than manage contracts, and lose their technical expertise and ability to manage technical contractors effectively,” said Paller.
An IRS spokesman was not able to immediately answer questions about the IRS’s cybersecurity spending.
This breach is drawing congressional scrutiny. On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who heads the Senate Finance Committee, called the breach “unacceptable.”
The IRS’s total IT budget in 2014 was $2.5 billion, an increase from the prior year’s $2.3 billion, with 7,339 employees last year, little change from 7,303 reported in 2013.
The agency’s IT budget has fared better than the agency overall. Congress has been cutting spending at the agency. IRS funding has been reduced by $1.2 billion over the last five years, from $12.1 billion in 2010 to $10.9 billion this year. An IRS official told lawmakers earlier this year that the budget cuts have delayed critical IT investments of more than $200 million, which includes replacing aging IT systems.
The top U.S. telecommunications regulator wants to make it more difficult for telemarketers and other businesses to robocall and text messages consumers under changes to autodialing rules being proposed.
The Federal Communications Commission plans to vote on June 18 on the proposal, which would give legal cover to telephone companies to offer consumers technologies that would block robocalls, regardless of where they originate.
“The FCC wants to make it clear: Telephone companies can – and in fact should – offer consumers robocall-blocking tools,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post.
The wireless carriers have worried that blocking automated calls could be construed as violations of the law that requires them to ensure that all calls placed over their networks reach their intended recipients.
The proposal would also reassert that consumers have to agree to receive automated calls and texts and clarify that they can revoke their consent in any “reasonable” way, including a simple request for calls to stop, without the need to file convoluted paperwork.
Robocalls and robotexts are by far the most common cause of consumer complaints at the FCC, topping 215,000 in the last year alone. Consumer advocates and the majority of U.S. states attorneys general had pressed the FCC to clarify the robocall rules.
Numerous business associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have also pushed for clarifications, facing a growing number of lawsuits prompted by violations such as calling cellphone users whose numbers used to belong to someone else.
The FCC’s proposal would reassert that companies should try to avoid numbers reassigned to consumers who have not agreed to receive their calls. If they do not know that a number has been reassigned, they are allowed one call to find out.
The business community had also complained that some lawsuits unfairly target them for using dialing technologies that could be modified to become autodialers. FCC officials said any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers qualifies as an autodialer, even if it would require modification.
U.S. law prohibits telemarketing calls to both landline and cellphones of consumers who have not given written consent.
It is starting to look Broadcom will get bought out by its rival Avago as deep throats within both outfits think a deal is close.
Avago is in advanced buyout talks to acquire Broadcom, which manufacturers chips for both the smartphone and broadband industries. The two companies are more or less the same size, but at the moment Broadcom is the weaker partner
It has been the subject of previous speculation regarding acquisitions. The company is among the largest maker of chips for mobile systems such as smartphones, tablets and wearables, Internet of things (IoT) devices and automotive technology products.
Such capabilities could give Avago greater traction in fast-growing markets like IoT and mobile devices.
Broadcom announced last year that it was closing its baseband cellular chip business after being unable to gain inroads against such competitors as Qualcomm. The company had $8.4 billion in revenue last year.
It seems everyone wants a lot more consolidation in the chip industry. Intel reportedly resumed buyout talks to acquire Altera earlier this month, with the parties eyeing a potential price that could reach $13 billion. Micron was tipped as a potential buyer of rival SanDisk.
An April report cited a note from Bernstein analyst Mark Newman. According to this report, Newman pointed to SanDisk’s current valuation as making it a prime takeover target for rival NAND chip maker Micron, as well as other players in the market.
A U.S. judge ruled that Yahoo Inc must face a nationwide class-action lawsuit accusing it of illegally intercepting the content of emails sent to Yahoo Mail subscribers from non-Yahoo Mail accounts, and using the information to boost advertising revenue.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California said people who sent emails to or received emails from Yahoo Mail subscribers since Oct. 2, 2011 may sue as a group under the federal Stored Communications Act for alleged privacy violations.
She also said a class of non-Yahoo Mail subscribers in California since Oct. 2, 2012 may sue as a group under that state’s Invasion of Privacy Act.
Holders of non-Yahoo Mail accounts accused Yahoo of copying and then analyzing their emails, including keywords and attachments, with a goal of creating “targeted advertising” for its estimated 275 million Yahoo Mail subscribers, in addition to detecting spam and malware.
They sought an injunction barring the alleged interceptions, as well as damages. Yahoo in 2014 generated 79 percent of its revenue from search and display advertising.
A class action can make it easier to obtain larger damages and more sweeping remedies at lower cost. The plaintiffs estimated that the nationwide class of non-Yahoo Mail subscribers has more than 1 million members.
Rebecca Neufeld, a Yahoo spokeswoman, said the Sunnyvale, California-based company cannot comment on active litigation.
Koh rejected Yahoo’s arguments that some plaintiffs consented to its activity by emailing Yahoo subscribers even after learning how it used the information, and that the alleged injuries were too disparate to justify class certification.
She distinguished the case from her March 2014 refusal to certify a similar class action against Google Inc on behalf of Gmail and non-Gmail subscribers because it was hard to determine which users consented to Google’s activity.
“Yahoo may have to, as a practical matter, adjust its scanning practices on an individual basis,” Koh wrote. “That does not, however, change the fact that plaintiffs seek uniform relief from a common policy that Yahoo applies to all class members.”
The smartphone company in Waterloo, Ontario, said in a statement over the weekend that it had decided to consolidate its device software, hardware and applications business, “impacting a number of employees around the world.”
The company said that as it moves into the next stage of its turnaround, it aims to reallocate resources in ways that will “best enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities while driving toward sustainable profitability across all facets of our business.”
The company had 6,225 full-time employees as of Feb. 28 this year, the end of its last fiscal year.
BlackBerry launched in the fiscal year four new BlackBerry 10 smartphones, including the Classic, Passport, Z3 and the Porsche Design P’9983, but the share of the BlackBerry OS has been on the decline, and was 0.3 percent of the market in the first quarter of this year, according to research firm IDC.
The company is trying to expand in new businesses beyond devices, such as enterprise markets and security. It launched, for example, BES12, a cross-platform enterprise mobility management technology, and announced a partnership with Samsung Electronics to integrate BES12 with Galaxy smartphones and tablets that are embedded with Samsung’s Knox security technology. It also unveiled the BlackBerry IoT Platform, initially targeting the automotive and asset tracking industries, in a bid to get a share of the market for small wirelessly-connected devices.
BlackBerry said in March it was completing its transition to an operating unit organizational structure consisting of the device business, enterprise services, business technology and messaging, as it builds its higher margin businesses.
Red Hat’s community arm, has announced the arrival of Fedora 22, the latest version of its open source Linux OS.
Coming in three editions, Fedora Cloud, Fedora Server and Fedora Workstation, the release, which first appeared in beta a month ago, marks the first biannual release since the major upgrade work that proceeded Fedora 21.
As well as the cross-edition basics of the kernel, RPM, systems and Anaconda, there is an updated package manager, with speedier results for DNF and continued command line compatibility with Yum.
The Cloud edition adds Atomic Command, a centralized hub for containers and hosts, with rp-ostree, Cockpit, Docker and Kubernetes all getting the upgrade treatment.
There are also Vagrant boxes for the Cloud edition and Atomic host, making it easier to spin up Fedora Vagrant boxes for development and testing.
The server edition, with its Rolekit Linux daemon, adds support for Database Server Role based on PostgreSQL. The system now defaults to the more efficient XFS file system which means fewer crashes and better recovery without downtime.
The Workstation version has an enhanced UI, with better bug notification, and desktop theming for Gnome. There’s an improved software finder, and enhancements to the remote machine and visualization apps. Plus there’s Vagrant compatibility with no extra runtimes of software needed.
Matthew Miller, Fedora Project leader, commented: “Fedora 22 continues the great groundwork laid by Fedora 21 and the Fedora.next initiative, delivering three unique editions of Fedora 22 while retaining the commitment to open source innovation for which Fedora is known.
“From the usability and developer enhancements in Fedora 22 Workstation to the expansion of Linux container and Docker support within Fedora 22 Cloud, Fedora remains a leader within the Linux vanguard, answering user needs above and beyond the desktop.”
The OS will be in the spotlight at Google’s massive I/O conference in San Francisco later this week. As well as pushing into home appliances, it could also be extended to play a deeper role in virtual reality, allowing Android developers to build apps for smartphones or VR headsets.
Google hasn’t confirmed any of those plans yet, but as usual, the rumor mill has been in motion. Extending Android to even more devices could help Google draw more people to its online services, and by putting the software in home appliances, Google could gather further valuable insights into people’s behavior.
Google already has its Works with Nest program, which lets appliances talk to its thermostat and smoke alarm for certain energy-related tasks. But according to a report last week in The Information, Google is developing new technology called Brillo that will run on low-powered devices independent of Nest with as little as 64MB or 32MB of memory.
That means just about any appliance around the home — the lights, the air conditioner, a Crock-Pot — could be running Brillo and hooked up to the Web, so you could control them remotely from a smartphone or a PC. It’s a well-worn path that Microsoft and many other vendors also are treading, as they try to provide software and connectivity for tomorrow’s Internet of Things.
At I/O, Google may also push Android deeper into virtual reality. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google was developing a VR version of Android.
There will likely be a version of Android that runs virtual reality applications. Such a system could make it easier for developers to use the sensors and other capabilities in smartphones to create VR apps, or else support multiple displays for an immersive experience. The Google I/O schedule lists some sessions focused on designing and developing VR apps.
For years people have been moaning that Firefox keeps taking their RAM and refusing to give it back, well now it appears that Chrome suffers from a similar problem.
Chrome creates a new process for each tab and instance of the browser opened. This can make the browser sluggish on some machines and a battery life nightmare for mobile users.
However Google is aware of the problem and is coming up with a fix, Speaking during a Reddit AMA session a Chrome for Android engineer said: “We are actively working on reducing battery usage and we are looking into when Chrome is in the foreground and in the background.”
“Since its inception Chrome has been focusing on security and performance of the web across all supported platforms. Performance sometimes has come at the cost of resource usage, but given the importance of the mobile platform this is one of the top things we are looking into.”
On the desktop side, Google is currently trying to fight memory leaks: “We are profiling Chrome to improve our start-up speed and proactively fighting memory bloat and memory leaks. For example, this year the first gesture latency and mean input latency has decreased steadily.”
The Openstack Framework is rapidly maturing into a business IT platform that is ready for enterprise-grade deployment, according to firms involved in the OpenStack community, including Intel which announced a technology called Clear Containers to secure containerized apps.
The OpenStack Foundation lined up a succession of organisations and vendors at the first OpenStack Summit of 2015 that are working to improve the platform or are already successfully operating it.
Some are using it on massive scale. eBay disclosed that its infrastructure already contains over 300,000 processor cores managed by OpenStack.
The message from many of those using and helping to develop OpenStack is that the platform has come a long way since it started as a joint project between Nasa and Rackspace back in 2010, and has become stable and mature enough for production purposes in a wide variety of use cases.
However, there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to areas like setting up and updating an OpenStack cloud, according to Imad Sousou, general manager of Intel’s Open Source Technology Centre.
“At Intel, we believe that software-defined infrastructure is the cornerstone of the modern data centre, and OpenStack is the cornerstone of software-defined infrastructure, but there is lot more work to do on it and a lot of sceptics out there,” he said.
Sousou compared OpenStack with Linux, which has taken 20 years or so to mature to the point where organisations can buy something like Red Hat Enterprise Linux which is easy to install and operate.
“We need to get to that level with OpenStack and software-defined infrastructure, and there is a lot of work going on in the community to get there,” he said.
Intel also detailed at the summit how the company is working to improve the security of containerised applications by using the VT-x extensions in its processors to enforce isolation between containers.
This is called Clear Containers, and is part of Intel’s Clear Linux, a lightweight operating system intended for data centre operations with technologies such as container platforms.
“Intel’s approach with Clear Containers offers enhanced protection using security rooted in hardware. By using virtualisation technology features [VT-x] embedded in the silicon, we can deliver the improved security and isolation advantages of virtualisation technology for a containerised application,” said Sousou.
In addition, Intel’s Clear Linux is able to launch a Clear Container in under 200ms, and able to run thousands of them on a single server node, according to Sousou.
Other firms discussing their involvement with OpenStack at the summit included Yahoo, which powers its online services with “hundreds of thousands” of servers managed by OpenStack.
US retail giant Walmart, meanwhile, disclosed that it has about 140,000 cores managed by OpenStack in the infrastructure used to operate its e-commerce platform.
“As production scenarios go, it doesn’t get much more serious than Walmart on Black Friday,” commented OpenStack Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce.
According to Digitimes, heading into the second quarter of 2015, Taiwan touch panel makers have sudden got conservative outlooks and some are even predicting that their revenues will drop another 15-20 per cent.
he reason is that consumers don’t want game changing tablets and despite the claim that they are moving over to phablets instead the smartphone market is still pretty pants.
While Taiwan’s overall shipments are expected to grow in the second quarter, with makers expected to ship 41.579 million smartphone-use touch panels, increasing 23.5 per cent on quarter but decreasing 22.3 per cent on year. The 8.941 million tablet-use units, are up 7.2 per cent on quarter but down 15 per cent on year.
Tablet makers are hurting the most. Those who focus on the application such as TPK are expected to see a 15-20 per cent decline in revenues during the second quarter before rebounding in the second half of the year when product mixes are adjusted and new orders from customers arrive.
Young Fast Optoelectronics company chairman Pai Chih-chiang said that they were also having to face price competition and this will get worse.
Young Fast aims to reduce spending and cut costs in order to react to this trend, which arose largely due to competition from China. The company will also focus on developing larger-size products in addition to wearable solutions while increasing utilization rates, said Pai, adding it will lower its emphasis on consumer-based products.
Dropbox previously released its cloud storage service on Windows phones and tablets, and on Tuesday the company followed up with a universal app that expands the feature sets for both types of devices.
The update automatically adapts to the user’s screen size and delivers a number of new features, including the ability for Windows Phone users to upload videos directly from their devices.
In the interests of multitasking, Windows Phone users can also now upload multiple files at once. And they can download files straight to their device or SD card, making the information available for offline access; there’s a way to mark files as favorites for offline use as well.
The new update also brings the ability to save and open files to and from Dropbox while working within other apps.
On Windows tablets, Dropbox users can now invite new members to a shared folder from their contacts list and manage folder settings from their device. New keyboard shortcuts for selecting and searching enable a faster workflow.
Now available free for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.0 or 8.1, the software promises better performance as well, according to Dropbox.
Separately Tuesday, Dropbox rolled out new features for its main service that target designers and others who work frequently with images. Specifically, it debuted a new image viewer for better online previews as well as better support for Photoshop, Illustrator and scalable vector graphic files. Users can now also preview PostScript images in their browser rather than having to download them first.
China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, known for its telecom equipment, became the latest tech giant to present its own take on the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), centered on an operating system designed to allow household and business appliances to communicate with each other online.
At an event in Beijing, Huawei executives showcased its “Agile IoT” architecture, including an operating system called LiteOS to control basic devices. This marks the firm’s most significant push into a sector that has lured heavyweights from Google Inc to Intel Corp and IBM into pushing their own standards and communication protocols.
Huawei executives touted Agile architecture as a free and open standard that would allow hardware designers to easily make connectable devices. Aside from its operating system, Huawei also showed off fully customizable wireless equipment that could be installed in business settings.
“Standardizing infrastructure will foster the development of Internet applications, including ‘IoT’ applications,” said Huawei’s chief strategy and marketing officer William Xu.
Huawei’s latest expansion comes at a time when consumer-oriented firms such as Xiaomi Inc and Apple Inc, anticipating an explosion of Internet-connected home appliances and consumer devices, have sought to build ecosystems around their popular handsets.
Last month, Tencent Holdings Ltd unveiled its own operating system for Internet-connected devices such as TVs and watches that is open to all developers, taking on domestic rivals Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, JD.com Inc and Xiaomi Inc in the smart hardware space.
The Openstack Foundation has announced new interoperability testing requirements for OpenStack-branded products and is claiming rapid adoption of the federated identity service introduced in the latest OpenStack release that makes it easier to combine private and public cloud resources.
Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce said at the first OpenStack Summit event of 2015 that the vision for the OpenStack project was to create a “global footprint of interoperable clouds” that would enable users to seamlessly mix and match resources from their own data centre with those of public cloud providers, delivering a so-called hybrid cloud model.
To this end, Bryce announced new interoperability testing requirements for products that are branded as ‘OpenStack Powered’, including public cloud and hosted private cloud services as well as OpenStack distributions.
“This is a big milestone and introduces common code in every distribution that brands itself as OpenStack, and common APIs that have been tested and validated,” he said.
In practice, this means that, along with an OpenStack Powered logo, products will carry a badge to show certification.
This currently applies only to some of the platform’s core modules, such as Nova (compute), Swift (object storage), Keystone (identity service) and the Glance image service.
But it is intended as a guarantee to users that a certified product contains a set of core services consistent with all other OpenStack products that are similarly certified.
Vendors already offering certified products include HP, IBM, Rackspace, Red Hat, Suse and Canonical, but the list is set to expand this year.
“During 2015, this will go across all products that are OpenStack. You will be able to know what you are getting in an OpenStack Powered product, and you will be able to count on those as your solid foundation for cloud,” Bryce said.
Meanwhile, the Kilo release of OpenStack, available since last month, added the Keystone service as a fully integrated module for the first time.
Despite this, OpenStack said that over 30 products and services in the OpenStack application catalogue support federated identify as of today, and that many OpenStack cloud providers have committed to supporting it by the end of this year.
Together, these two announcements are significant for OpenStack’s hybrid cloud proposition, as they will make it much easier to link a customer’s private cloud resources with those of a public cloud provider.
OpenStack Powered certification means that users can count on a consistent environment across the two, while Keystone provides a common authentication system that can integrate with directory services such as LDAP.
One company already taking advantage of this is high-tech post-production firm DigitalFilm Tree which has been working with HP and hosted private cloud firm Bluebox to build a totally cloud-based production system for film and TV content.
The firm demonstrated at the summit how the system enables footage to be captured and uploaded to one cloud, then transferred to another cloud for processing.
Bryce explained that this is just one example of how OpenStack is driving new use cases and expanding what people can do across a variety of industries.
“Interoperability means you can share your cloud footprint. It shows the power of the ‘OpenStack planet’ we are trying to build,” he said.
Analyst at IDC have consulted their tarot cards and are predicting that tablets will survive in the business area.
The overall tablet market in Western Europe remained challenged in the first quarter of 2015, declining 10.5 percent on year with shipments totaling 8.5 million units. The contraction, was the result of consumers realising that tablets were a fad and had no actually use at all.
But IDC sees a feature for the technology in the commercial space with volumes increasing 51.3per cent from the same period in 2014. This is particularly in the area of 2-in-1s which are essentially a re-incarnation of netbooks with a touch screen.
In terms of product category, the share of 2-in-1s, albeit growing, remains in single-digit territory at 5.9 per cent. Nevertheless, the popularity of these devices continued to increase among consumers as well as enterprises, driving shipments up 44.4 per cent.
Chrystelle Labesque, research manager, IDC EMEA Personal Computing said that the fact there were no major product launches, the beginning of 2015 failed to stimulate stronger consumer demand.
“Growth opportunity, however, clearly continues to come from enterprises and professional segments. Vendors have significantly expanded their product portfolio with devices optimized for business usage. Demand for 2-in-1 devices is gathering momentum driven by improved hardware offers as well as adjusted price points that are attracting private users as well as professionals,” she said,
Marta Fiorentini, senior research analyst, IDC EMEA Personal Computing claimed that tablet usage for professional purposes was a reality.
“Deployment is no longer limited to a few early adopting countries or businesses. Adoption is far from being mainstream but we now see companies of all sizes choosing tablets and 2-in-1s to support their normal business activities.
The UK, France, Germany, and Northern Europe countries remain at the forefront of this trend as tablet adoption has become part of mobility and digital strategies in the private as much as public sector.
Windows 10 is likely to resolve most of the infrastructure legacy and integration problems that have so far hindered tablet and 2-in-1 adoption in some existing enterprises. The growth of the commercial segment is therefore expected to continue in the coming quarters, supporting overall market volumes in 2015 and beyond.”
Android devices account for the majority of the market thanks to the large number of vendors offering tablets running on this OS. The largest vendor, Samsung, under-performed the market in the consumer segment in the first quarter of 2015, but showed strong commercial results.
The rest of the market is represented by Windows devices, which posted strong double-digit growth for the third quarter in a row.
AT&T Inc is preparing to bring connected car users exclusive content such as videos and games that can be streamed onto personal mobile devices later this year, AT&T’s senior vice president of emerging devices Chris Penrose said.
“It’s no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle,” Penrose said.
AT&T has signed up eight automaker partners, including General Motors Co, Audi AG and Ford Motor Co, to hook up cars with Internet access. The goal is to offer free or paid content exclusively for connected car users and sell more data, Penrose said in a recent interview.
AT&T is talking to its auto industry partners and content companies to bring new content like “special” shows or gaming levels on phones and tablets in connected cars, Penrose said. This would be in addition to subscription services such as Hulu and Netflix that users can already stream on mobile devices.
Most Americans already own a mobile phone, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. wireless industry is turning to connected cars and devices for growth. Besides being the essential pipes that deliver data, telecom players such as AT&T are looking to extract revenue from content.
GM has begun testing new content on its OnStar in-vehicle service best known for connecting drivers to live operators for directions or emergency help.
The subscription-based service, which also sells data to drivers, has special offers and some exclusive content on apps such as Famigo, an educational app for kids, and TumblebooksTV, a children’s digital books app. It also has retail partnerships with Dunkin’ Donuts and travel booking site Priceline.com for location-based deals.
AT&T is exploring business models that include revenue share for data, content and advertising with automakers, content and retail partners, Penrose said without sharing specific details.
AT&T is working with automakers to design a landing page or a portal for users to log in to access content, get vehicle service updates and buy data, he said.