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Hackers From China Breach U.S. Hospital Patients Data

August 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Community Health Systems Inc., one of the largest U.S. hospital groups, is reporting that it was the victim of a cyber attack from China, resulting in the theft of Social Security numbers and other personal data belonging to 4.5 million patients.

Security experts said the hacking group, known as “APT 18,” may have links to the Chinese government.

“APT 18″ typically targets companies in the aerospace and defense, construction andengineering, technology, financial services and healthcare industry, said Charles Carmakal, managing director with FireEye Inc’s Mandiant forensics unit, which led the investigation of the attack on Community Health in April and June.

“They have fairly advanced techniques for breaking into organizations as well as maintaining access for fairly long periods of times without getting detected,” he said.

The information stolen from Community Health included patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of people who were referred or received services from doctors affiliated with the hospital group in the last five years, the company said in a regulatory filing.

The stolen data did not include medical or clinical information, credit card numbers, or any intellectual property such as data on medical device development, said Community Health, which has 206 hospitals in 29 states.

The attack is the largest of its type involving patient information since a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website started tracking such breaches in 2009. The previous record, an attack on a Montana Department of Public Health server, was disclosed in June and affected about 1 million people.

Chinese hacking groups are known for seeking intellectual property, such as product design, or information that might be of use in business or political negotiations.

Social Security numbers and other personal data are typically stolen by cybercriminals to sell on underground exchanges for use by others in identity theft.

Over the past six months Mandiant has seen a spike in cyber attacks on healthcare providers, although this was the first case it had seen in which a sophisticated Chinese group has stolen personal data, according to Carmakal. Mandiant monitors about 20 hacking groups in China.

 

 

Is EA Finally Listening To Gamers?

August 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

By his own admission, Andrew Wilson still “geeks out” at EA’s press conferences, despite his position as the company’s CEO demanding that he take centre stage. When we meet after the Gamescom media briefing, he enthuses in great detail and at considerable length about a FIFA 15 video demonstrating the capabilities of the new game’s goalkeepers. What that team has accomplished since he ascended to executive level, Wilson says, never fails to make him smile.

And Wilson has spent his first year in charge identifying the ways to spread that enthusiasm to EA’s customers. That hasn’t always resulted in success, of course: with Battlefield 4 the company stumbled once again on the unpredictable landscape of online gaming, and with EA Access it met with resistance from Sony on the grounds of value. In this interview, Wilson discusses both of these issues, and outlines EA’s renewed dedication to listening to its customers and following wherever that might lead.

Q: The last time we spoke you were still with EA Sports, and you’ve had a promotion since then – quite a big one, in fact. You’re coming up on a year as CEO now. Have we started to see evidence of the mark you wanted to make on the company?

AW: I think…no, I know that I didn’t approach this role thinking about making a mark or leaving a legacy. It wasn’t personal in nature. I took on the role because of how I feel about the company. This company has been very good to me and my family over the years, I loved the people I worked with inside the company and I loved the games we made together.

“Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months”

As I worked in the company in a variety of different roles, it became apparent to me that in some areas we’d lost our way a little bit. When I came in [as CEO] I really wanted to bring to the forefront the things that I thought made the company great, things that had delivered for us over the years. That really meant building this foundation of ‘player first’. I get that there are things we have to think about: we’re a big company, we’re a public company, we have shareholders, we have 8,000 people working for us. But all of that is for nothing unless you deliver for your number one constituency: the players. Without that, it’s for nothing.

Q: So the idea that the CEO is stuck trying to serve two masters, the shareholder and the customer, that isn’t how you see it, then?

AW: Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. Financial return is what happens when you achieve the right objectives. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months. We are engaging with our player-base more regularly, through more platforms to ensure that we’re doing what they want, and to make sure that we’re listening to them when we’re doing something that they don’t want. It’s as much about eliminating what doesn’t inspire or entertain as it is about the stuff that does.

Q: Is that how we should think about the problems that Battlefield 4 faced? You’ve publicly addressed the complaints already, but was that just a consequence of trying to deliver on an ambitious objective?

AW: If I promised you that nothing would ever go wrong [on future projects], that would be very disingenuous of me. The reality is that we come to work every day and challenge ourselves and our teams to do creative and innovative things. What I can say, however, is that living up to that commitment to engagement and action I mentioned before means that we will make tough decisions in service of the player.

Titanfall for Xbox 360 was coming in hot, it needed a few more weeks, and we moved it out of the fiscal year to get a great game. I don’t think we would have done that before. Need for Speed is a franchise we’ve released every year for 17 years – it’s as sure a thing as FIFA. But the team said that they couldn’t do what we challenged them to do in a year. It wasn’t possible, so for the first time in 17 years we decided not to launch a Need For Speed.

More recently, Battlefield: Hardline, moving out of the holiday quarter would traditionally be seen as catastrophic in this industry.

Q: Particularly that franchise. Battlefield 3 and 4 were both holiday releases.

AW: Yes, but it was the feedback. We brought gamers in earlier, we let them play the beta earlier. And the beta was very stable, so we’d solved a bunch of the problems that existed in Battlefield 4. But what people said to us was, ‘This is pretty cool, but we think you should go deeper. We want more out of this.’ So we’ve given the team more time. That’s a tough decision to make, and it has a financial impact in the near-term, but long-term, for the player and the franchise, that’s the right decision.

Q: Do you see EA Access in the same way? You’re the first publisher to pull the trigger on something like this on console. I remember a talk you gave at the Develop conference a few years back, where you held up services like Netflix as a model for the games industry to emulate. Was this idea in your mind all the way back then?

AW: It’s not completely the same, but yes. But, again, I wouldn’t take credit for that programme in its entirety. I’ve been involved in that programme, but we’ve got a great team that’s been looking at challenging the standard by which certain people access products. It’s early days – we launched it yesterday – but for what it’s worth all the positive intent is there. It will evolve, but what we’ve come to understand – and what I believed back then – is that this concept of, ‘I want to give you an amount of money each month that makes sense, and for that I want a bunch of cool stuff’, we want to live up to that.

Does that mean people will stop paying $60 for games? No, but there’s a big part of the population for whom that [EA Access] is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games.

“There’s a big part of the population for whom EA Access is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games”

Q: And potentially it’s a way for people who wouldn’t ordinarily play, say, Madden to get acquainted with the franchise. For a lot of people, FIFA and Battlefield would be enough to justify for the annual fee, and anything else is a bonus.

AW: Yes, but there will be many different types of players. For some people that will be how they want to play all content, for others it will form some part of it. There’ll be others who might use it just to trial games. Again, the price point is low enough that it’s pretty cool as a trial mechanism. We want to build a service that players can use in a way that makes sense to them.

Q: It gives the catalogue longevity, too, which is something that the games industry hasn’t been particularly good at.

AW: EA makes great games. Stuff that we made ten years ago is still good, and so in ten years time the games we’re making now will still be good.

Q: It’s early days, as you point out, but even in the near term are you planning to grow the selection on EA Access, to be additive?

AW: Absolutely. We wanted to launch it at a point where we could put things into the catalogue, into The Vault, and it would have value. We thought that four [games] was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point. Over time, the value will just get better and better and better, in much the same way that Netflix does. When I started subscribing to Netflix, there was no House Of Cards, there was no Orange Is The New Black – there is now.

Q: I have been surprised at my preference for buying games digitally in the generation so far. I thought it would take a bit more time.

AW: Convenience is a wonderful thing.

Q: Is that sort of behaviour behind the decision to get EA Access out there now, this year? Is that transition happening faster than you expected?

AW: No. Listen, we – and certainly myself – have matured in the understanding over the years about how people consume content, irrespective of the industry. One of the stats that I hear frequently is that 40 per cent of music is still bought on CD. Now, I haven’t bought a CD in 14 years. I’ve bought vinyl, by the way, a bunch in the last 14 years, so I consume media in different ways through different business models based on what I’m looking for. The way my view has evolved, I’m a bit like you: I haven’t bought a disc for my PS4 or my Xbox One; I click a button and it turns up, and that’s good for me. But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants it the same way. I’ve moved from a belief that there will be one access model to rule them all, to the belief that our objective as a company is to provide access to our entertainment in ways that make sense to the growing population of players.

 

Q: Services like EA Access to make sense in the context of this generation, which seems to largely about choice, whether that’s variety of games, how you want to buy, how you want communicate with other players. The experience is very open now.

AW: One of the things that we’re learning as we make the digital transformation is that we don’t need to guess what players want any more. For the longest time we had to guess, and the first opportunity to find out whether you got it right or not was when you saw the game on the shelf. Now, we’re getting better at listening. We haven’t always been great listeners, but we’re getting better, and what that’s telling us is that people want choice. They want to be able to choose what’s right for them at a given moment in time. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all any longer. We’ve got to build a core platform, game engines and games that facilitate that.

Q: Are you concerned that Access will alter your customer’s perception of value? FIFA 14 is still a game that can be played all year whether the new one is out or not. That $60 has got to feel like a better decision than before, surely.

“We thought that four games was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point”

AW: It doesn’t matter whether you spend a $1, $10 or $100,000, as long as you’re getting value from what you’ve spent then you’ll feel good about that. EA Access feels like tremendous value, and whether you continue to feel good about paying whatever it is for a frontline product comes down to our ability to to deliver value.

The commitment that we’re making to those frontline products is that they will be bigger, more engaging, service oriented, with new and dynamic content every time you log in. People are now playing FIFA and Battlefield all year round. When I started a game would get played for four weeks, and then it was on to the next one. The value that we deliver today, we have games that can be the only thing you play for an entire year.

Q: Certain products have started to feel out of time to me. I won’t mention the name, but I bought a game digitally that cost the same amount as, for example, FIFA, and it took me six or seven hours to finish and that was it. I felt cheated in a way that I wouldn’t have with the exact same game at this point in the last generation.

AW: That understanding of value is really, really important, and I’m trying to push that into the organisation – irrespective of business model. Back in the day it was all about delivering $60 of value; now, I want to deliver $1 of value if you want to spend $1, I want to deliver $10 of value if you want to spend $10. I want to deliver value on your investment and on your investment of time. As you get older you realise that time is the most important resource. Part of your issue with that other game is that it took six hours, and you didn’t feel the value returned. We should think about the investment of money, but also the investment of time.

Q: You’ve mentioned the value of EA Access several times, and obviously Sony came out and disagreed on that point. For now, at least, Access won’t be available to PlayStation customers. Was that disappointing, particularly with the reason Sony gave?

AW: What I can say is that we launched it yesterday. We believed when we launched it that it was great value, and gamers, for the most part, have fed back that it’s great value. We’re going to continue to put things into that service that make it even better value. It will evolve and go through lots of permutations over time as we listen and learn from players who engage with it. My hope is that we can deliver that kind of service to many millions of players for years to come.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Harvard Developing Self-Organizing Robots

August 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Harvard researchers have developed a process for thousands of robots to coordinate their actions so that they can complete a single task, such as arrange themselves into a star formation.

The work, led by Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ computer science professor Radhika Nagpal, is part of an ongoing effort to investigate ways that machines can mimic biological processes, using AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms.

The researchers built 1,024 small, mobile, three-legged machines that can move and communicate with one another using infrared laser beams.

Humans can issue a command to the robots, such as telling them to form into a sea star or the letter “k,” and the bots will coordinate with each other and arrange themselves into the desired pattern.

The idea is that just as simple organisms can work together to complete a task, so too should machines be able to self-organize to complete a task, without the detailed instructions from a single master controller.

“The beauty of biological systems is that they are elegantly simple — and yet, in large numbers, accomplish the seemingly impossible,” said Nagpal, in a statement. “At some level you no longer even see the individuals; you just see the collective as an entity to itself.”

Such collective coordination can be seen all across nature, the researchers said. A colony of army ants can create rafts and bridges to traverse a body of water. Starlings can join in a flock to travel thousands of miles. Individual cells come together to make larger forms of life, such as plants and animals.

Key to the robots’ collective autonomous behavior is a set of AI algorithms that allow the robots to coordinate their actions with one another without the need for intervention.

Such algorithms could one day be used as the basis of semi-autonomous software and devices that wouldn’t need explicit input for each step.

With this experiment, each robot gets an image of the shape to be formed and they take turns moving into an acceptable position, based on finding the edge of the group and avoiding any traffic jams that may occur. No robot has a bird’s-eye view of the proceedings, which means they must coordinate with one another. Nor do they possess an extraordinary amount of processing power, so they must rely on coordination with other bots.

Watching the robots self-organize is not unlike watching birds assemble into a flock, the researchers note.

The design of the robots, called Kilobot, is available as open source at no charge, for noncommercial use. Robot manufacturer K-Team also offers Kilobots for purchase.

The U.S. National Science Foundation and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering helped fund the work.

 

 

 

Windows ‘Threshold’ To Debut In Coming Weeks

August 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will unveil a preview of “Threshold,” the current code name for Windows 8′s successor, as soon as next month, according to an online report on Monday.

ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, citing unnamed sources, said that Microsoft will deliver a “technical preview” of Threshold late in September or early in October. Previously, Foley had reported that Microsoft would offer a preview of some kind this fall.

Threshold may be officially named “Windows 9″ by Microsoft — the company has said nothing about either the code name or labeled the next iteration of its desktop and tablet OS — although there are arguments for dumping a numerical title because of the possible association with Windows 8, which has widely been pegged as a failure.

“Technical Preview” is a moniker that Microsoft has used in the past for its Office suite. For both Office 2013 and Office 2010, Microsoft used the term to describe an invitation-only sneak peek. Both application suites were later released as public betas prior to their official launch.

Windows, however, has used a different nomenclature. For 2012′s Windows 8, Microsoft called the early looks ”Developer Preview,”"Consumer Preview” and “Release Preview,” all open to everyone. The first was analogous to an alpha, the second to a beta, and the third to a done-but-not-approved release candidate.

Windows 7, however, had used the more traditional “Beta” to describe the first public preview in early 2009. The previous fall, when Microsoft unveiled Windows 7, the firm had seeded an invite-only “pre-alpha” version, also dubbed a Developer Preview, of the OS to programmers and some influential bloggers.

Within hours, the Windows 7 Developer Preview leaked to file-sharing websites. Microsoft may have changed its practices for Windows 8, letting anyone download the first preview, because of the inevitably of leaks.

In an update to her blog of earlier today, Foley added that the “Technical Preview” nameplate notwithstanding, Microsoft would allow anyone to download Threshold/Windows 9 when it becomes available in the next few weeks.

If Microsoft does ship a preview soon and sets its sights on a second-quarter 2015 final release, it will have significantly accelerated the tempo from past practice. With Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft offered its first previews 12 and 13 months, respectively, and the public beta 8 or 9 months, before launching the operating system.

Eight or nine months from September would be May or June 2015; that, however, assumes that the Technical Preview is of beta quality. The name itself hints at something less.

Microsoft appears eager to put Windows 8 behind it. It has stopped beating the drum about the OS and recently announced that it would not issue any additional major updates. Instead, the firm said last week, it will include improvements or new features in small packets using the same Windows Update mechanism that regularly serves security patches.

 

 

 

Apple Changes Policy, Begins Storage Of User Personal Data In China

August 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has started the processing of keeping the personal data of some Chinese users on servers in mainland China, marking the first time the tech giant is storing user data on Chinese soil.

The storage of user data in China represents a departure from the policies of some technology companies, notably Google Inc, which has long refused to build data centers in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.

Apple said the move was part of an effort to improve the speed and reliability of its iCloud service, which lets users store pictures, e-mail and other data. Positioning data centers as close to customers as possible means faster service.

The data will be kept on servers provided by China Telecom Corp Ltd, the country’s third-largest wireless carrier, Apple said in a statement.

“Apple takes user security and privacy very seriously,” it said. “We have added China Telecom to our list of data center providers to increase bandwidth and improve performance for our customers in mainland china. All data stored with our providers is encrypted. China Telecom does not have access to the content.”

A source with knowledge of the situation said the encryption keys for Apple’s data on China Telecom servers would be stored offshore and not made available to China Telecom.

Apple has said it has devised encryption systems for services such as iMessage that even Apple itself cannot unlock. But some experts expressed scepticism that Apple would be able to withhold user data in the event of a government request.

“If they’re making out that the data is protected and secure that’s a little disingenuous because if they want to operate a business here, that’d have to comply with demands from the authorities,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei.com, a research firm focused on Chinese media, internet and consumers.

“On the other hand if they don’t store Chinese user data on a Chinese server they’re basically risking a crackdown from the authorities.”

Goldkorn added that data stored in the United States is subject to similar U.S. regulations where the government can use court orders to demand private data.

A spokesman for China Telecom declined to comment.

 

FCC Extends Deadline For ‘Net Neutrality’ Comments

August 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. Federal Communications Commission has said it would accept public comments on its proposed new “net neutrality” rules through Sept. 15, giving the American public extra time to voice their opinions and concerns on how they think Internet traffic should be regulated.

The FCC has received more than 1 million comments already on new rules for how Internet services providers should be allowed to manage web traffic on their networks.

The FCC had set a deadline of July 15 for the initial comments and then September 10 for replies to those initial comments. However, the surge in submissions overwhelmed the FCC’s website and the agency had delayed the first deadline by three business days.

“To ensure that members of the public have as much time as was initially anticipated to reply to initial comments in these proceedings, the Bureau today is extending the reply comment deadline by three business days,” the FCC said on Friday, delaying the final deadline for comments to September 15.

 

 

 

Are SSD Prices Finally Falling?

August 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

OCZ is launching a brand-new series of solid state drives today, targeted squarely at budget-conscious, mainstream consumers and significantly drops the cost of SSDs.

The move which is seen as being forced on the company by Intel’s own price cuts mean a change in OCZ’s strategy. Last month Intel announced the specs and pricing of its next-generation X25-M drives. Intel will sell a 80GB drive to sell for $225 and the 160GB drive to sell for $440.

The move meant that OCZ, whose cheapest high performance drives would now be more expensive than Intel’s X25-M. Now OCZ has released the ARC 100 range and OCZ remains to be one of the only manufacturers that reports steady-state performance for client drives. The biggest difference to Vector 150 and Vertex 460 is in the NAND department as the ARC 100 uses Toshiba’s second generation 19nm NAND.

OCZ is rating the ARC 100 at the same 20GB of writes per day for three years as the Vertex 460, although the ARC 100 is slightly slower in performance and drops bundled cloning software and 3.5″ adapter. OCZ said that the smaller cell size of the NAND, meant that OCZ is able to price the ARC 100 more aggressively. At higher capacities, OCZ is able to hit the $0.50/GB mark and the ARC 100 is price competitive.

The ARC 100 also ships without any sort of accessory bundle, to bring costs down.

Courtesy-Fud

Lenovo Selling More Mobile Phones Than PCs

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Lenovo’s growing presence in PCs and smartphones boosted the company’s net profit by 23% in the second quarter.

The company reported Thursday that its net profit reached $214 million, while quarterly revenue increased 18 percent year-over-year to $10.4 billion.

Although better known as a PC maker, Lenovo has been making major gains selling mobile handsets in its home market of China. It is now the country’s largest smartphone vendor with a 12.5% share of the market, according to research firm IDC.

The second quarter was the first time Lenovo smartphones outsold its PCs, with 15.8 million units, the company reported on Thursday.

Lenovo’s handsets still aren’t making as much money as PCs. Almost half its revenue came from selling laptops, while its mobile devices division, which includes tablets, accounted for only 15% of its total revenue in the quarter.

The company’s PC business has in the past been helped by its huge presence in its home market of China. But in the second quarter, Lenovo reported that it was also making gains in PC sales to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

In those markets, the company’s revenue reached $2.8 billion, up from $1.9 billion a year ago.

Lenovo, which currently ranks as the number one PC vendor in the world, is trying to expand in servers and mobile devices. Earlier this year, the company announced it would acquire Google’s Motorola Mobility, and IBM’s x86 server business.

Lenovo is still working with regulators to get approval for those deals.

 

nVidia Refreshes Quadro Line

August 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Nvidia has revamped its Quadro professional graphics line-up with a total of five new cards, two of which are based on the company’s latest Maxwell architecture.

The new cards should start shipping in September. Nvidia has not released any pricing info so far.

Maxwell goes Quadro
The first new card is the Quadro K420, a Kepler-based card with 192 CUDA  cores clocked at 780MHz. It features 1GB of DDR3 memory on a 128-bit bus, clocked at 1.8GHz. The card has a TDP of 41W and it churns out 0.3TFLOPs.

The Quadro K620 is a Maxwell design. It has 384 cores clocked at 1GHz, backed by 2GB of DDR3 clocked at 1.8GHz. The TDP stands at just 45W, but the card delivers 0.8TFLOPs, proving once again that Maxwell offers vastly superior efficiency.

The Quadro K2200 is a bit more serious. This mid-range professional solution packs 640 CUDA cores running at up to 1GHz. It uses 5GHz GDDR5 memory on a 128-bit bus and there’s a lot more of it – 4GB to be precise. The TDP is 68W and the card can pump out 1.3TFLOPs (single precision).

Kepler still powers 100W+ Quadro cards

The Quadro K5200 and K4200 are Kepler cards with a beefier 256-bit memory bus. The Quadro K4200 comes equipped with 1344 CUDA cores clocked at 780MHz. It has 4GB of GDDR5 clocked at 5.4GHz effective. The TDP stands at 105W and the card 2.1TFLOPs.

The K5200 packs 2304 CUDA cores and it can deliver 3.1TFLOPs. It has 8GB of GDDR5 clocked 6GHz effective. However, the GPU clock is somewhat lower at 650MHz. Its TDP is 150W.

It looks like an interesting alternative to the mighty Quadro K6000, which is a $5,000 card with 2880 CUDA cores, or a “full GK110″ implementation as some buffs prefer to call it.

Of course, Nvidia is not the only player in this segment. In fact AMD has made great strides in professional graphics and it is going strong. AMD also used Siggraph to announce four professional cards.

Courtesy-Fud

Google Boosts Gmail Spam Filtering Abilities

August 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is shoring up Gmail’s ability to detect and block malicious emails from spammers and scammers that exploit similarities among Unicode characters to trick users into clicking on bad links.

Unicode provides a standard for character encoding for all the writing systems in the world, along with technical symbols, punctuation and other text characters.

Because characters among different scripts are often very similar — such as the Latin and Cyrillic scripts’ characters for the lowercase letter “a” — spam and phishing emails often combine them in website links that otherwise look legitimate to the unsuspecting eye.

Scammers set up a site with the URL of a known business — a large bank or retailer — using a mixture of Unicode characters, making the URL look like the one from that business. Then they include a link to that malicious site in spam and phishing emails, hoping people will click on it.

“The Unicode community has identified suspicious combinations of letters that could be misleading, and Gmail will now begin rejecting email with such combinations,” wrote Google official Mark Risher, from the company’s Spam & Abuse Team.

Google will use the Unicode Consortium’s “Highly Restricted” open standard designation because the company believes it strikes a good balance “between legitimate uses of these new domains and those likely to be abused,” Risher wrote.

The Unicode encoding standard provides the basis for “processing, storage and interchange of text data in any language in all modern software and information technology protocols,” according to the Unicode Consortium.

Unicode is aimed at developers who want their software applications to work in any language in the world.

 

 

Fad Game ‘Candy Crush’ Continues To Fade

August 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Social and mobile game company King Digital Entertainment Plc lowered its 2014 forecast after reporting lower-than-expected second-quarter revenue on Tuesday, as gamers continued to abandon its “Candy Crush Saga” game.

King also announced a $150 million special dividend, or 46.9 cents per share, payable to shareholders of record on Sept. 30. Its shares, however, slipped 22 percent in after-hours trading after closing at $18.20 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company, which went public in March, said it has reduced its 2014 forecast and expects gross bookings in the range of $2.25 billion to $2.35 billion from its previous estimate of $2.55 billion to $2.65 billion.

“We have seen a step down in monetization in the latter part of Q2 and so we have adapted the view forward,” Chief Executive Officer Riccardo Zacconi said in an interview.

Investors have worried that unless King delivers a set of consistent and long-lasting hits, apart from “Candy Crush Saga,” it might suffer the same fate as “Farmville” maker Zynga Inc and “Angry Birds” developer Rovio Corp, which are struggling to retain players.

King’s second quarter gross bookings, an indicator of future revenue, was $611 million, up 27 percent from the year-ago period, but less than the last quarter when it reported gross bookings of $641.1 million.

King has yet to see its other titles such as “Farm Heroes Saga” and “Bubble Witch 2 Saga” fully offset user losses of its “Candy Crush Saga” puzzler game that accounted for about 60 percent of second-quarter gross bookings.

“We expect ‘Candy Crush’ will decline, but have a very strong tail and a long tail,” Chief Financial Officer Hope Cochran said in an interview. “We will be launching the ‘Candy Crush’ sister title in Q4, which will give more longevity to that title.”

 

Amazon Unveils Local Register POS Service

August 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc rolled out a $10 credit-card reader and mobile app for brick-and-mortar businesses on Wednesday, marking the latest step by the U.S. online retailer to expand its presence in the physical world.

The move pits Amazon against a slew of rivals, including startup Square, which popularized a payments dongle that allowed small- and mid-sized businesses like food trucks, coffee shops and personal trainers to quickly accept credit and debit cards.

The new point-of-sale system, called Amazon Local Register, would give Amazon crucial data on how U.S. consumers shop offline. More than 90 percent of U.S. retail sales still take place in physical stores, according to U.S. government data.

Amazon hopes to court small businesses in part by charging lower fees than Square and eBay Inc’s PayPal unit. Those who sign up for Amazon’s program before Oct. 31 will be charged 1.75 percent for each card swiped until January 2016.

For those who sign up after October, Amazon will take a 2.5 percent cut of each card swipe, still less than Square’s 2.75 percent flat transaction rate and PayPal’s 2.7 percent.

 

 

IBM Closes Lighthouse Acquisition

August 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM has completed its acquisition of longtime partner Lighthouse Security Group.

The company, which specializes in security for cloud based data, joins Crossideas that IBM bought at the end of last month. The move is part of an expansion of IBM’s enterprise security services, which will see products from the two firms merged into IBM’s portfolio.

The combined business will include Lighthouse Gateway as well as IBM’s own IAM service to create a suite of identity focused security software. IBM GM of Security Services Kris Lovejoy said, “Business models are rapidly evolving as employees conduct more of their work offsite. Protecting this data and who has access to it has become a challenge, costing our clients time and money.

“With this acquisition, IBM provides a unique identity and access management offering that combines proven software and analytics technology with expert managed services that make it easy for businesses to tackle the complexities of security in this new digital world.”

IBM, which already monitors 15 billion security events per day, according to its figures, has not disclosed financial information regarding the deal.

Lighthouse Security Group’s parent company Lighthouse Computer Services will continue to run as a separate and independent company, working in partnership with IBM. IBM continues to transform its business direction to a cloud heavy future, with the sale of its x86 server division to Lenovo, which has been approved by Chinese authorities.

Courtesy-TheInq

Is Absolute Computrace Spying On You?

August 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Absolute Computrace, which is embedded in the BIOS, of a large chunk of PCs could be a security nightmare according to research from Kaspersky labs. The software allows companies to track and secure all of their PCs from a single cloud-based console, but Kaspersky claims that it runs without user-consent, persistently activates itself at system boot, and can be exploited to perform various attacks and to take complete control of an affected machine.

Vitaly Kamluk and Sergey Belov along with Annibal Sacco of Core Security demonstrated the flaw at the Black Hat 2014 conference. Kamluk said that the software is extremely flexible. It’s a tiny piece of code which is a part of the BIOS. As far as it is a piece of the BIOS, it is not very easy to update the software as often. So they made it was extensible.

“It can do nearly anything. It can run every type of code. You can do to the system whatever you want. Considering that the software is running on these local system privileges, you have full access to the machine. You can wipe the machine, you can monitor it, you can look through the webcam, you can actually copy any files, you can start new processes. You can do absolutely anything”.

What is alarming is that after Kaspersky warned about the problem Computrace is still exploitable and once it has been activated it’s very persistent and difficult to turn off. It also doesn’t enforce encryption when it communicates and doesn’t verify the identity of servers from which it receives commands, so could expose users to attacks.

It is also not clear what is activating Computrace? Kaspersky believe it may be down to manufacturers’ testing of new machines to check for Computrace compatibility.

 

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Wants To Jumpstart iPad Sales, New Production Begins

August 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc’s suppliers have begun churning out new iPad tablets in an attempt to revive flagging sales of the tablet, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Apple, which was at the forefront of creating the tablet market in 2010 with its first iPad, has seen growth plummet from 2012, as larger phones became more popular and people delayed replacing their tablets.

Mass production of the iPad with a 9.7-inch (24.6-cm) screen has already started, and it is likely to be unveiled by the end of current quarter or early next quarter, Bloomberg said, citing two people familiar with the matter.

A new version of the 7.9-inch iPad mini is also entering production and is likely to be available by the end of the year, Bloomberg said.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment on the report.

International Business Machines Corp said in July it would partner exclusively with Apple to sell iPhones and iPads, which could rejuvenate the tablet’s sales by entering into a largely untapped corporate market.

Apple shipped 13.2 million iPads in the June quarter, 8 percent less than a year earlier. Sales of the devices, which accounted for 15 percent of revenue, fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for the second quarter in a row.