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Acer Warms To Takeover Possibility

August 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Acer Inc founder Stan Shih said he would welcome a takeover of the struggling Taiwanese computer manufacturer after a drastic decline in its stock price, while warning any potential buyer would have to pay a heavy amount.

“Welcome,” Shih told reporters in response to a question about whether Acer would be open to a takeover. He added however that any buyer would get an “empty shell” and would pay dearly.

“U.S. and European management teams usually are concerned about money, their CEOs only work for money. But Taiwanese are more concerned about a sense of mission and emotional factors,” he said.

His remarks were first reported by Taiwanese media on Thursday and were confirmed by a company spokesman.

Acer has reported steep on-year sales falls in recent months, including a 33 percent drop in July.

It suffered a T$2.89 billion ($90 million) loss in the first six months of 2015, versus a slight profit in the same period last year. It booked losses for all of 2011, 2012 and 2013 amid cratering PC sales.

Its stock price has fallen by nearly half since early April.

 

 

Report Reveals Hi-tech Vehicle Systems Are Rarely Used By Owners

August 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Although car makers are spending billions of dollars to install cutting-edge technologies in vehicles, a new report shows many owners don’t use them.

According to J.D. Power’s 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of 33 of the latest technology features.

The 2015 DrIVE Report measures driver experiences with in-vehicle technology features during the first 90 days of ownership.

The five features owners most commonly report that they “never use” are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); heads-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%).

Additionally, there are 14 technology features that 20% or more of owners don’t even  want in their next vehicle. Those features include Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. When narrowed to just Gen Yers, the number of vehicle owners who don’t want entertainment and connectivity systems increases to 23%.

“In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human-machine interface (HMI) research at J.D. Power. “In-vehicle connectivity technology that’s not used results in millions of dollars of lost value for both consumers and the manufacturers.”

About the technology now offered in new cars, vehicle owners said they simply “did not find it useful,” adding that it “came as part of a package on my current vehicle and I did not want it.”

Vehicle owners who said their dealer did not explain a tech feature also had a higher likelihood of never using it, the survey found.

J.D. Power built its report on responses from more than 4,200 vehicle owners and lessees after 90 days of ownership. The report was conducted between April and June 2015.

 

 

 

IBM Thinks Businesses Should Block TOR

August 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM security research has found that people are using the so-called dark net to launch cyber attacks, force ransomware demands on punters and make distributed denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

The dark net, accessed via Tor, is often tagged as a threat. The IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly 3Q 2015 report identifies a spike in bad traffic and leads with a warning.

The report introduces Tor as the network that takes people to the dark net. We might start calling it the ferryman and the passage across the river Styx, but things are complicated enough.

IBM said that Tor is used by “non-malicious government officials, journalists, law enforcement officials” and bad people alike. It is the latter that should concern us.

“This latest report reveals that more than 150,000 malicious events have originated from Tor in the US alone thus far in 2015,” the report said.

“Tor has also played a role in the growing ransomware attack trend. Attackers have evolved the use of encryption to hold data hostage and demand payment/ransom for the decryption code.”

We have been here before, and ransomware has been a feature of many a security alert this year already. We heard, courtesy of Bitdefender, that ransomware charges start at £320, and are a real pain to deal with. We also heard that it is Android mobile users in the UK who get the worst of the hackers’ grabbing-for-money treatment.

Back at the IBM report, and we find IBM X-Force on the issue. X-Force, which is nothing like X-Men, said that hackers push internet users who are easily fooled by flashy online advertisements into installing the new cyber nightmare. Ransomware, it warns, will separate you from your cash.

“A surprising number of users are fooled by fake/rogue antivirus [AV] messages that are nothing more than animated web ads that look like actual products. The fake AV scam tricks users into installing or updating an AV product they may never have had,” it explains, adding that in some cases people pay the money without thinking.

“Afterward, the fake AV keeps popping up fake malware detection notices until the user pays some amount of money, typically something in the range of what an AV product would cost.”

This establishes the subject as a mark, and the hackers will exploit the opportunity. “Do not assume that if you are infected with encryption-based ransomware you can simply pay the ransom and reliably get your data back,” said IBM.

“The best way to avoid loss is to back up your data. Regardless of whether your backup is local or cloud-based, you must ensure that you have at least one copy that is not directly mapped visibly as a drive on your computer.”

Tor nodes in the US spewed out the most bad traffic in the first half of this year, according to the report, adding up to about 180,000 attacks. The Netherlands is second with around 150,000, and Romania is third with about 80,000.

The bulk of this negative attention lands at technology and communications companies. You might have assumed the financial markets, but you were wrong. IBM said that ICT gets over 300,000 Tor thwacks every six months, manufacturing gets about 245,000, and finance gets about 170,000.

IBM said that the old enemy, SQL injection attacks, is the most common Tor-led threat to come at its customers. Vulnerability scanning attacks are also a problem, and IBM said that the use of the network as a means for distributed DoS attacks should “Come as no surprise”. It doesn’t.

“These attacks combine Tor-commanded botnets with a sheaf of Tor exit nodes. In particular, some of the US-based exit nodes provide huge bandwidth,” explained the report.

“Employing a handful of the exit nodes in a distributed DoS orchestrated by the botnet controller and originating at dozens or hundreds of bot hosts can impose a large burden on the targeted system with a small outlay of attacker resources, and generally effective anonymity.”

There is a lot more. The bottom line is that bad things happen on the dark net and that they come to people and businesses through Tor. IBM said that concerned outfits should just block it and move on, which is along the lines of something that Akamai said recently.

“Corporate networks really have little choice but to block communications to these stealthy networks. The networks contain significant amounts of illegal and malicious activity,” said Akamai.

“Allowing access between corporate networks and stealth networks can open the corporation to the risk of theft or compromise, and to legal liability in some cases and jurisdictions.”

That sounds fine to us, but won’t someone give a thought to those non-malicious government officials out there?

Courtesy-TheInq

Facebook Testing ‘M’, Personal Digital Assistant

August 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is testing a personal digital assistant called “M” within its Messenger service that is capable of answering questions with live human help and performing tasks such as buying gifts online and making restaurant reservations.

M is “powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people,” David Marcus, vice president of Messaging products, wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday.

Rival services like Apple Inc’s Siri, Google Inc’s Google Now and Microsoft Corp’s Cortana rely entirely on technology to answer questions.

M is a hybrid backed by a team of Facebook employees with customer service backgrounds, called M trainers, who can also make travel arrangements and appointments, Marcus wrote.

Facebook has introduced several functions inside Messenger, which boasts more than 700 million users, to transform it into a standalone platform. Earlier this year, it rolled out games exclusively on Messenger and launched products for businesses to directly connect with consumers.

 

 

Best Buy To Sell Apple Watch In All Stores By September

August 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Best Buy will offer the Apple Watch in all of its 1,050 retail locations by the end of September, responding to strong consumer demand for the wearable.

By Sept. 4, the Apple Watch will be available in 900 Best Buy stores, and it will appear in the retailer’s remaining locations by the end of the month, CEO Hubert Joly said.

Best Buy began selling the wearable in 100 stores as well as online on Aug. 7. The company had planned to expand availability to 200 additional stores by the Christmas shopping season.

However, “early momentum” from the Apple Watch “triggered” Best Buy to expand and accelerate the rollout, Joly said during a conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings.

Joly didn’t say how many Apple Watches the chain has sold so far. Apple hasn’t shared watch sales data either.

During Apple’s third-quarter earnings conference call, CEO Tim Cook said customers would have more ways to purchase the smartwatch because the company expects it to be a popular Christmas gift. A few days later, Best Buy said it would carry the wearable.

Best Buy is the only major retailer to stock the Apple Watch. The device can also be purchased from Apple’s retail and online stores and from a few high-end clothing and department stores.

Joly also discussed plans to expand Best Buy’s relationship with Apple.

The Apple shop-in-a-shop sections of 740 Best Buy stores are getting a makeover, with new fixtures and larger display tables to show Apple hardware, he said. So far, Best Buy has remodeled 350 of those departments and will revamp another 170 by the holiday shopping season.

 

 

 

 

Amazon Expands Prime Now, Adds Alcohol Delivery

August 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc announced that it will begin delivering wine, beer and spirits to U.S. customers for the first time as part of its speedy delivery service, Prime Now.

The online retailer is expanding Prime Now, its one- and two-hour service, to Seattle, where the company is headquartered, and offering alcohol deliveries there.

Amazon Prime, the company’s $99 per year shopping membership program, offers free two-day delivery on millions of items. It is a key testing ground for the retailer’s new services, ranging from TV and on-demand video to fast delivery.

Amazon has said it has “tens of millions” of Prime subscribers. Analysts estimate the program to have around 40 million users worldwide.

The company has steadily expanded Prime Now since it launched the service in New York City last year. It facilitates integration of the retailer’s grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh, which has been slower to expand to new markets.

On-demand grocery delivery is a growing and competitive market in the United States. Instacart, a grocery delivery company, announced on Tuesday that it had expanded to Indianapolis, its 17th city. Other startups, like Postmates, which focuses on meal delivery, also deliver personal care goods and alcohol for customers using a network of couriers.

Prime Now customers can order using an app available on both iOS and Android devices. Orders are shipped from smaller warehouses, or hubs. An Amazon spokeswoman said the company opened two facilities in Seattle and Kirkland, Washington, to handle Prime Now deliveries.

 

Alibaba Ads Artificial Intelligence To Its Cloud Service

August 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Alibaba’s cloud computing business is attempting to gain enterprise customers with a new artificial intelligence service designed for data mining and analysis.

The Chinese e-commerce giant has announced DT PAI, a platform designed to comb through a client’s data and analyze it for useful information.

The service could help companies find key trends within their customer data, or even recommend goods to users, according to Alibaba. For example, online shoppers could take a picture of an item they like, upload the image and then receive the e-commerce listing about where they can buy the product.

Alibaba had been experimenting with this concept back in 2011 through its own e-commerce search engine.

Alibaba’s DT PAI platform now aims to streamline AI development for the enterprise market, reducing the time and expertise needed. Interested customers can simply “drag-and-drop” what functions they want, before proceeding to application development, the company said.

“What used to take days can be completed in minutes,” said Xiao Wei, senior product expert with Alibaba’s cloud business, in a press release.

Alibaba isn’t exactly known for AI development, but there are other factors to consider. In China, the company dominates as the country’s leading e-commerce player, and its initial public offering in the U.S. was the world’s largest at US$25 billion.

In addition, the company has a fast-growing cloud computing business, which is expanding globally. It has already opened a data center in Silicon Valley, and more are slated for other markets such as Europe and Japan.

In expanding, however, Alibaba will have to contend with better-known cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, according to analysts.

 

 

 

 

LG To Unveil Upgraded G Pad Tablet

August 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Even if the tablet market is in stuck in a rut, vendors aren’t giving up on the product category. LG Electronics will debut the best model of its G Pad tablet series at the IFA trade show in Berlin next week.

LG’s latest tablet, the G Pad II 10.1, is more powerful and has a better screen than its predecessor,  but it also has a slightly smaller battery.

A quad-core 2.26 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor powers the G Pad II and its 10.1-inch screen has a 1200 x 1920 pixel resolution. That’s a big step up from the original G Pad 10.1, which had a Snapdragon 400 processor and an 800 x 1280 pixel screen.

The G Pad II also has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of integrated storage that can be expanded using the tablet’s microSD card slot. There is a 5-megapixel camera on the back and a 2-megapixel camera at the front.

Features that could turn out to be useful include a Reader Mode, which makes reading e-books more comfortable by reducing the blue light of the display backlight, according to LG. On the software side, the tablet comes preloaded with Microsoft Office and an additional 100GB of free OneDrive storage for two years.

LG didn’t reveal when the G Pad II 10.1 will go on sale, but said it will be available in North America, Europe and Asia. Pricing for the LTE and Wi-Fi models will be announced locally at the time of launch, the company said.

 

 

 

Google Including Tweets In Desktop Search

August 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

An earlier agreement between Google and Twitter that has placed tweets in Google search results on mobile devices since earlier this year has now been expanded to the desktop.

Relevant tweets will appear in desktop results for queries performed in English. The search doesn’t need to include the term “twitter” or twitter hashtags — if there are tweets that Google thinks are relevant, it will surface them anyway.

Last Friday, for instance, a search for “President Obama” returned recent tweets from Obama’s Twitter account near the top of the page, below a few news articles.

The tweets that appear will include photos and links that may have been contained in the tweet.

Google has provided links to tweets in its search results for a long time, but showing the actual tweets could potentially give a boost to Twitter at a time when it’s struggling to add new users.

Google noted the expansion on Friday in an update to its earlier announcement around the mobile rollout.

The company has said it will make the feature available in other languages besides English.

 

 

Instagram, Pinterest User Growth Soars

August 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Possibly market saturation or because of waning interest, some of the world’s largest social networks are experiencing sluggish growth.

Facebook, for instance, is the largest social network in the world, with more than 1 billion active monthly users. But it didn’t garner significant growth among U.S. Internet users in the past three years, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

Some 72% of online U.S. adults use Facebook today. That is up only 5 points from 67% in 2012, Pew noted.

By comparison, Pinterest more than doubled its user base, going from 15% of online U.S. adults in 2012 to 31% today. Similarly, Instagram also showed strong momentum, growing from 13% three years ago to 28% now.

Other major players, including Twitter and LinkedIn, also saw growth but not at such a strong pace.

Pew reported that 23% of online adults use Twitter, a 7-point increase from the 16% who used it in 2012. As for LinkedIn, a quarter of online adults use the site, up from 20% in 2012, the survey noted.

“Interesting but not surprising,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “I have six kids under 23 and none of them use Facebook regularly. I think Facebook is almost considered an older person’s social tool now… Much of the growth in the younger population is on Instagram, Vine, etc.”

The Pew study also shows that while younger users are using Instagram and Pinterest, they clearly haven’t abandoned Facebook.

According to Pew, 82% of online U.S. adults between the ages of 18 to 29 use Facebook, along with 79% of those between 30 and 49, 64% of those ages 50 to 64 and 48% of those 65 and older.

 

 

 

Is Samsung Working On An 18 Inch Tablet?

August 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung is working on a huge Android-based tablet that could be used in living rooms, offices, or schools, presumably as a coffee table.

According to Sam Mobile the SM-T670, codenamed ‘Tahoe’, is an Android 5.1 Lollipop-based tablet with an 18.4-inch display.

It will have a TFT LCD screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and be powered by an octa-core 64-bit 1.6GHz Exynos 7580 processor. It will have a rather low 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, a microSD card slot and a 5,700 mAh battery.  Face it though a tablet this big is not going to spend a lot of time being carried about or needing a battery.

Apparently it will have an 8-megapixel primary camera and a 2.1-megapixel secondary camera. It will be 451.8 mm wide, 275.8 mm tall, and 11.9 mm thick.  Strangely no one has mentioned the things weight.

Samsung is also said to be working on a Windows 10-based tablet with a high-resolution 12-inch display, a 13nm Intel Core M chipset, 4GB RAM, and an S Pen.

Courtesy-Fud

Web.com Latest Victim of Credit Card Hacking

August 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hackers gain unauthorized access to the computers of Internet services provider Web.com Group and stole credit card information of 93,000 customers.

According to a website set up by the company to share information about the incident, Web.com discovered the security breach on Aug. 13 as part of its ongoing security monitoring.

Attackers compromised credit card information for around 93,000 accounts, as well as the names and addresses associated with them. No other customer information like social security numbers was affected, the company said.

According to the company, the verification codes for the exposed credit cards were not leaked. However, there are websites on the Internet that don’t require such codes for purchases.

Web.com has notified affected customers via email and will also follow up with letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service. Those users can sign up for a one-year free credit monitoring service.

The company did not specify how the intruders gained access to its systems, but has hired a “nationally recognized” IT security firm to conduct an investigation.

Web.com provides a variety of online services, including website and Facebook page design, e-commerce and marketing solutions, domain registration and Web hosting. The company claims to have over 3.3 million customers and owns two other well known Web services companies: Register.com and Network Solutions.

Register.com and Network Solutions customers were not impacted by this breach unless they also purchased services directly from Web.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft’s Edge Browser Not Winning Over Windows 10 Users

August 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s new Edge browser is being used by a small percentage of those running Windows 10 — between one-sixth and one-third — according to data from a pair of analytics vendors.

The early returns on Edge not only hint at Microsoft’s failure to get the earliest adopters to rely on the new browser, but also question Mozilla’s contention that Windows 10′s setup will result in defections from its own Firefox, or by association, other non-Microsoft browsers.

During July, Edge accounted for just 0.14% of all browsers tracked by California-based Net Applications. With Windows 10′s user share standing at 0.39% for July — and because Edge works only on Windows 10 — the browser was run by about 36% of its potential users (0.14% divided by 0.39%).

Net Applications measures user share using visitor tallies to its customers’ websites. The result is a rough estimate of the percentage of the world’s online users who run a specific browser.

Data from StatCounter, an Irish metrics vendor, also showed that Edge was far from the universal browser of choice among people who have upgraded to Windows 10.

Over the first 16 days of August, Edge’s global average daily usage share was 0.7%, far below the 4.4% average daily share of Windows 10. In other words, StatCounter pegged Edge as accounting for about 16% of the online activity of all Windows 10 owners.

The low percentages of Windows 10 users currently running Edge signaled that Microsoft has not made its case for the new browser, at least among those who have jumped on the OS and its free upgrade. That’s troubling, since Microsoft has positioned Edge as its browser of the future, and put in considerable effort to making it more compliant with standards, while relegating Internet Explorer (IE) in general, IE11 specifically, to a legacy support position.

 

 

 

Google Unveils New Wi-Fi Router For Home

August 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google Inc has unveiled a Wi-Fi router, the latest move in the company’s efforts to get ready for the connected home and draw more users to its services.

The cylinder-shaped router, named OnHub, can be pre-ordered for $199.99 at online retailers including the Google Store, Amazon.com Incand Walmart.com.

The router comes with in-built antennas that will scan the airwaves to spot the fastest connection, Google said in a blog post.

With the router, users will be able to prioritize a device so that they can get the fastest Internet speeds for data-heavy activities such as downloading content or streaming a movie.

The router can be hooked up with Google’s On app, available on Android and iOS, to run network checks and keep track of bandwidth use among other things.

Google said OnHub automatically updates with new features and the latest security upgrades, just like the company’s Android OS and Chrome browser.

The router is being manufactured by network company TP-LINK, Google said, hinting that ASUS could be the second manufacturing partner for the product.

The product launch comes days after Google restructured itself by creating Alphabet Inc, a holding company to pool its many subsidiaries and separate the core web advertising business from newer ventures like driverless cars.

Making products for the smart home is one such venture.

Google last year bought Nest, a smart thermostat maker, for $3.2 billion, aiming to lead the way on how household devices link to each other and to electricity grids.

The global market for “Internet of Things”, the concept of connecting household devices to the Internet, will nearly triple to $1.7 trillion by 2020, research firm International Data Corp said in June.

 

 

Did VW Sit On Megamos Crypto Security Issue?

August 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Volkswagen (VW) has watched as a security vulnerability in a key system on a range of vehicles has been released from the garage and put on the news road.

VW was first notified about the problem two years ago, but has worked to keep it under the bonnet. Well, not all of it, just a single line – not a yellow line – has been contentious. The line is still controversial, and has been redacted from the full, now released, report.

VW secured an injunction in the UK high court two years ago. The firm argued at the time that the information would make it easy to steal vehicles that come from its factories and forecourts. That might be true, but that is often the case with vulnerabilities.

The news that VW has suppressed the report for this amount of time is interesting, but it does remind us that not everyone in the industry appreciates third-party information about weaknesses.

VW has a lot of cars under its hood and, according to the report, a lot of different vehicles are affected. These run from Alfa Romeo through to Volvo, and take in midlife crisis mobility vehicles like the Maserati and Porsche.

The report is entitled Dismantling Megamos Crypto: Wirelessly Lockpicking a Vehicle Immobilizer (PDF), and is authored by Roel Verdult from Radbound university in the Netherlands and Flavio Garcia from the University of Birmingham in the UK.

Megamos Crypto sounds like a sci-fi bad guy, maybe a rogue Transformer, but it is actually designed to be a good thing. The security paper said that it is a widely deployed “electronic vehicle immobiliser” that prevents a car starting without the close association of its key and included RFID tag.

The researchers described how they were able to reverse engineer the system and carry out three attacks on systems wirelessly. They mention several weaknesses in the design of the cipher and in the key-update mechanisms. Attacks, they said, can take as little as 30 minutes to carry out, and recovering a 96-bit encryption key is a relatively simple process.

This could be considered bad news if you are a car driver. It may even be worse news for pedestrians. Concerned car owners should find their keys (try down the back of the sofa cushion) and assess whether they have keyless ignition. The researchers said that they told VW about the findings in 2012, and that they understand that measures have been taken to prevent attacks.

We have asked VW for an official statement on the news, but so far it isn’t coughing. Ready to talk, though, is the security industry, and it is giving the revelation the sort of disapproving look that people give cats when they forget what that sand tray is for.

Nicko Van Someren, CTO at Good Technology, suggested that this is another example of what happens when you go from first gear to fourth while going up a hill (this is our analogy). He described it in terms of the Internet of Things (IoT), and in respect of extending systems before they are ready to be extended.

“This is a great example of what happens when you take an interface that was designed for local access and connect it to the wider internet,” he said.

“Increasingly, in the rush to connect ‘things’ for the IoT, we find devices that were designed with the expectation of physical access control being connected to the internet, the cloud and beyond. If the security of that connection fails, the knock-on effects can be dire and potentially even fatal.”

Courtesy-TheInq