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Samsung 28-in 4K Monitor Drops To Less Than $600

April 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The price of Samsung’s latest 28-inch 4K monitor has decreased by $100 to just under $600, which could be a precursor to 4K monitor prices further dropping as the technology goes mainstream.

The price drop comes just under a month after Samsung announced the monitor — the U28D590D — for $699.99. Major retail sites taking orders for the new monitor at $599.99 include Amazon.com, where the product is currently out of stock, and Newegg, which will start shipping the product later this week.

Video with 4K resolution, also known as Ultra HD, displays images at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is four times that of current 1080p high-definition monitors or TVs. TVs and cameras supporting 4K are available, and monitors for computer users are quickly falling in price as more brands become available.

Earlier this year prices for 4K monitors fell from over $1,000 to under $700 when Dell started shipping its 28-inch Ultra HD P2815Q monitor for $699.99. The product was temporarily pulled from the market before Dell made it available again.

Other sub-$800 monitors announced in January include Lenovo’s ThinkVision Pro2840m 4K monitor, which is due to ship this month for $799, and a $699 monitor from Asus, which is not yet available.

PC companies are eager to push 4K monitors to the masses, with Toshiba and Lenovo announcing 4K laptops this year. The new 4K monitors have a range of ports, but the lower-priced monitors typically suffer on refresh rates. The Samsung UD590 refresh rate through an HDMI 1.4 port is 30Hz, and a desirable 60Hz with a DisplayPort 1.2 port.

Dell’s 28-inch Ultra HD P2815Q monitor was criticized for its 30Hz refresh rate. The refresh rate is an important metric in determining how well monitors are able to reduce flickering while coping with fast-moving images.

The price drop on Samsung’s monitor could drive competitors selling larger monitors over $1,000 to drop prices as well. Asus’ 31.5-inch PQ321Q is priced at $2,899 on Amazon.com, and Sharp’s 31.5-inch PN-K321 is priced at $3,595 in Apple’s online store.

 

Espionage Hacking On The Increase, According To Verizon Study

April 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hacking for espionage purposes is drastically rising, with groups or national governments from Eastern Europe playing a growing role, according to one of the most comprehensive annual studies of computer intrusions.

Spying intrusions traced back to any country in 2013 were blamed on residents of China and other East Asian nations 49 percent of the time, but Eastern European countries, especially Russian-speaking nations, were the suspected launching site for 21 percent of breaches, Verizon Communications Inc’s said in its annual Data Breach Investigations Report.

Those were by far the most active areas detected in the sampling, which drew more than half of its data from victims in the United States. About 25 percent of spying incidents could not be attributed to attackers from any country, according to the authors of the report.

Though the overall number of spying incidents studied tripled to 511 from total in the 2013 Verizon report, most of that increase is due to the addition of new data sources. Even looking at just the same contributors as before, however, espionage cases grew, said Verizon investigator Bryan Sartin.

Not all electronic spying was blamed on governments. Investigators from Verizon, Intel Corp’s McAfee, Kaspersky Labs and other private companies and public agencies contributing data ascribed 11 percent of espionage attacks to organized criminals and 87 percent to governments.

In some cases, the criminal gangs were probably looking to sell what they found to governments or competitors of the victims.

“We do see a slight merging between the classic organized criminal and the espionage crook,” Sartin said, adding that he expected that trend to continue.

If the rise of detected Eastern European spying comes as a surprise to those mainly familiar with accusations against China, a bigger surprise might be the study’s findings about attacks on retailers.

Though recent breaches at Target Corp and other retailers through their point-of-sale equipment have dominated the headlines and prompted congressional hearings in the past few months, fewer such intrusions have been reported to the Verizon team than in past years, even as the number of report contributors has multiplied.

“The media frenzy makes quite a splash, but from a frequency standpoint, this largely remains a small-and-medium business issue,” the study says.

 

Amazon Rumored To Launch Smartphone In Time For Christmas Season

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon.com Inc is making plans to unveil its long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people briefed on the company’s plans.

The Internet retailer would jump into a crowded market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The company has recently been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. It intends to announce the device in June and ship to stores around the end of September, the newspaper cited the unidentified sources as saying.

Amazon has made great strides into the hardware arena as it seeks to boost sales of digital content and puts its online store in front of more users. Amazon recently launched its $99 Fire TV video-streaming box and its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets already command respectable U.S. market share after just a few years on the market.

Rumors of an Amazon-designed smartphone have circulated for years, though executives have previously played down ambitions to leap into a heavily competitive and increasingly saturated market.

Apple and Samsung, which once accounted for the lion’s share of the smartphone market, are struggling to maintain margins as new entrants such as Huawei and Lenovo target the lower-income segment.

To stand out from the crowd, Amazon intends to equip its phones with screens that display three-dimensional images without a need for special glasses, the Journal said.

Amazon officials were not immediately available for comment.

 

Amazon Announces Amazon Dash, Gets Into Grocery Delivery

April 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Amazon.com Inc unveiled a new product named Amazon Dash on Friday that allows the user to add groceries and household goods to their shopping lists using the company’s AmazonFresh service.

A black-and-white hand-held wand-shaped remote-control features a microphone, speaker as well as a bar-code reader and links directly to the user’s AmazonFresh account.

The device is available only for users of the AmazonFresh which currently operates exclusively in Southern California, San Francisco and Seattle. The device is free during the trial period, according to the product’s website.

However, signing up for Amazon Dash is by invitation only while the AmazonFresh service is currently available only Southern California, San Francisco and Seattle.

The online retailer has been steadily expanding towards electronics manufacturing businesses, starting with the Kindle e-reader which was first launched in 2007, and the Fire TV streaming set-top box announced earlier this week, even as it seeks new ways to energize a gradually slowing core retail business.

Amazon has been steadily expanding its “Fresh” online grocery business, targeting one of the largest retail sectors yet to be upended by online commerce. The company has plans to launch AmazonFresh, which has operated in Seattle for years, in roughly 20 urban areas in 2014, including some outside the United States.

A successful foray into groceries could also help underwrite the development of a broad-based delivery service employing Amazon trucks to deliver directly to homes, which could have implications for UPS, FedEx and other package delivery companies that currently ship Amazon goods.

Still, groceries have proven to be one of the most difficult sectors for online retailers to manage successfully. One of the most richly-funded start-ups of the dot-com era, Webvan, was a spectacular failure as the cost of developing the warehouse and delivery infrastructure proved overwhelming.

 

Banks Decide To Withdraw Lawsuit Against Target Over Data Breach

April 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Two banks that filed legal action against Target over its recent data breach have decided to withdraw such claims, apparently due to an erroneous allegation against a security vendor also named in the suit.

Green Bank of Houston filed a notice of dismissal Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, effectively saying it will no longer pursue the claim. Trustmark National Bank of New York made a similar filing Monday.

The banks had alleged that Target’s data breach occurred because it failed to meet industry standards to protect payment card data. Also named as a defendant was Trustwave, a security company that specializes in payment card compliance.

Green Bank and Trustmark complained in the suit that U.S. banks have already spent $172 million replacing compromised payment cards. The lawsuit asked for unspecified compensatory and statutory damages.

However, on Saturday Trustwave CEO Robert J. McCullen wrote in a letter that Target had not outsourced its data security or its IT obligations to Trustwave. “Trustwave did not monitor Target’s network, nor did Trustwave process cardholder data for Target,” he wrote.

It’s not clear from the lawsuit why the banks thought Trustwave had provided that service for Target. Their suit alleged that Trustwave had scanned Target’s network on Sept. 30 but found no vulnerabilities.

Lawyers for Trustmark National Bank and Green Bank did not respond to requests for comments.

The lawsuit is just one of dozens filed against Target, which lost 40 million payment card details and 70 million other personal records in one of the largest data breaches in history.

Target executives have been called to testify several times before Congress. The company has said it believes attackers stole the data between Nov. 27, 2013, and Dec. 15, 2013, via malicious software installed on point-of-sale devices.

 

Cloud Computing Rivalry Heats Up As Google Slashes Pricing

March 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Google Inc deeply discounted its cloud computing service prices on Tuesday, seeking to woo customers away from Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp in the fast-growing market of renting computers and data storage to companies.

Price cuts range from 30 to 85 percent. Google’s Cloud Storage will cost 2.6 cents per gigabyte, about 68 percent lower for most customers. Google’s Compute Engine services will cost 32 percent less across all sizes, regions and classes.

“The cost of virtualized hardware should fall in line with the cost of the underlying real hardware,” Google Senior Vice President Urs Holzle said in a post on Google’s official developers blog on Tuesday in conjunction with a cloud event that the company hosted in San Francisco.

Holzle noted that hardware costs have improved by 20 to 30 percent during the past five years but that “public cloud prices fell at just 8 percent per year.”

Cloud services are increasingly popular among tech startups and larger companies, which rely on computers owned and operated by the likes of Amazon and Google, the world’s No. 1 Internet search engine, instead of buying the equipment themselves.

Amazon, one of the largest online retailers, was among the first companies to recognize the opportunity. Amazon Web Services provide the underlying infrastructure for key aspects of popular Web companies such as online movie streaming service Netflix Inc and social network Pinterest.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it would respond to Google’s price cuts.

Earlier this week Cisco Systems Inc announced plans to spend $1 billion over the next two years to build a new cloud services business.

 

Security Vendor Trustwave Being Sued Over Target Data Breach

March 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Trustmark National Bank and Green Bank N.A. have filed a lawsuit against security firm Trustwave for damages suffered from the holiday season data breach at Target Corp, accusing the company of failing to identify security gaps, the American Banker reported.

The two banks are seeking damages of more than $5 million and named Trustwave Holdings and Target as defendants, the American Banker said.

The banks allege that the vulnerabilities in the Target system were either undetected or ignored by Trustwave, giving hackers access to millions of card accounts and personal records, the report said.

Some 40 million payment card records were stolen from the discount retailer, along with 70 million other records with customer information such as addresses and telephone numbers, during the 2013 holiday shopping season.

Target missed multiple opportunities to thwart the hackers responsible for the unprecedented holiday shopping season data breach, U.S. Senate staffers charged in a committee report released on Tuesday.

The report also said Target gave access to its network to a third-party vendor that did not follow accepted information security practices.

Target faces dozens of potential class-action lawsuits and action from banks that could seek reimbursement for millions of dollars in losses due to fraud and the cost of card replacements.

Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder declined to comment on the American Banker report. Trustwave was not available for comment.

 

Cisco Makes Cloud Computing A Top Priority With $1B Pledge

March 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Cisco Systems Inc will offer cloud computing services, pledging to spend $1 billion over the next two years to make a foray into a market currently dominated by the world’s biggest online retailer Amazon.com Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Cisco said it will spend the amount to build data centers to help run the new service called Cisco Cloud Services, the Journal reported.

Cisco, which mainly deals in networking hardware, wants to take advantage of companies’ desire to rent computing services rather than buying and maintaining their own machines.

Enterprise hardware spending is dwindling across the globe as companies cope with shrinking budgets, slowing or uncertain economies and a fundamental migration to cloud computing, which reduces demand for equipment by outsourcing data management and computing needs.

“Everybody is realizing the cloud can be a vehicle for achieving better economics (and) lower cost,” the Journal quoted Rob Lloyd, Cisco’s president of development and sales as saying.

“It does not mean that we’re embarking on a strategy to go head-to-head with Amazon.”

Microsoft Corp last year said it was cutting prices for hosting and processing customers’ online data in an aggressive challenge to Amazon’s lead in the growing business of cloud computing.

 

Cisco could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S.business hours.

 

Sally Beauty Latest Retailer To Confess To Data Breach

March 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Sally Beauty Holdings acknowledge on Monday that it too was a victim of a data breach, an incident that may have occurred alongside a project to update point-of-sale terminals at its U.S. stores, a recent regulatory filing shows.

The Denton, Texas, based company, which has more than half of its 4,669 stores in the U.S., said it found evidence that fewer than 25,000 records containing credit card data were accessed and possibly removed, according to a statement.

That follows its statement on March 5 that it was investigating “rumors” of a breach but had no reason to believe any credit card or consumer data had been lost.

The data it now says was likely stolen is known as “Track 2″ card data. Payment cards have a magnetic stripe on the back that contains three data tracks. Track 2 data contains only the card number and expiration data. Track 1 data contains the card number, expiration data and cardholder’s name, and Track 3 is rarely used.

Forensic investigators from Verizon are working with Sally Beauty along with the U.S. Secret Service.

“As experience has shown in prior data security incidents at other companies, it is difficult to ascertain with certainty the scope of a data security breach/incident prior to the completion of a comprehensive forensic investigation,” the company said.

“As a result, we will not speculate as to the scope or nature of the data security incident,” it said.

A representative of a public relations firm for Sally Beauty said the company could not comment further.

Sally Beauty’s annual report for fiscal 2013 shows the company undertook large IT infrastructure upgrade projects worldwide, including installing a new POS system for 2,450 stores in the U.S.

Target and Neiman Marcus blamed recent data breaches on malicious software that had been installed on POS systems, which are modern, software-driven cash registers that process card payments.

Target’s POS terminals were infected with a type of malware called a “RAM scraper.” The malware recorded payment card details after a card was swiped and the unencrypted data briefly sat in a system’s memory.

Sally Beauty wrote in its annual report that the POS system is expected to provide benefits such as enhanced tracking of customer sales and store inventory reports.

 

Walmart To Allow Video Games To Be Traded In For Shopping

March 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Gaming

Wal-Mart Stores Inc said it will introduce a program that will allow shoppers to trade in used video games for anything from groceries to gadgets across its 3,100 stores, starting on March 26th.

The trade-in service will accept games for popular consoles like the Sony PlayStation3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, and customers can in return buy anything at Walmart and Sam’s Club, both in stores and online, Wal-Mart said.

“Gaming continues to be an important business for us and we’re actively taking aim at the $2 billion pre-owned video game opportunity,” Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

The traded-in games will be refurbished and made available to buyers later this year.

Retailers such as Best Buy Co, Target Corp and GameStop Corp also offer trade-in programs for used video games.

 

 

Target Announces Overhaul Of Information Security Practices

March 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Target Corp announced an overhaul of its information security processes and the departure of its chief information officer as the retailer tries to re-gain customers and investors after a massive data breach late last year.

CIO Beth Jacob is the first high-level executive to leave the company following the breach, which led to the theft of about 40 million credit and debit card records and 70 million other records of customer details.

Jacob, who comes from a sales background and has been CIO since 2008, will be replaced by an external hire, according to sources at Target.

“It’s a decision that should have been made by the CEO on January 1, not through the resignation of an employee that overlooked critical weakness in the operating model,” Belus Capital Advisors CEO Brian Sozzi said.

The breach at Target was the second largest at a U.S. retailer, after the theft of more than 90 million credit cards over about 18 months was uncovered in 2007 at TJX Cos Inc, operator of the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls chains.

Hacking has become a major concern for retailers in the United States. In the latest reported breach, beauty products retailer and distributor Sally Beauty Holdings Inc said on Wednesday its network had been hacked but no card or customer data appeared to have been stolen.

Target Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel said the company would elevate the role of chief information security officer as part of its plan to tighten its security.

The company will also look externally to fill that position as well as the new position of chief compliance officer.

Steinhafel said Target would be advised by security consultant Promontory Financial Group as it evaluates its technology, structure, processes and talent.

“I believe this is definitely a measure in restoring faith and really showing that they are taking the breach seriously,” Heather Bearfield, who runs the cybersecurity practice for accounting firm Marcum LLP, told Reuters.

Target, the third-largest U.S. retailer, said last week customer traffic had started to improve this year after falling significantly toward the end of the holiday shopping season when news of the cyber attack spooked shoppers.

 

Sears May Be Latest Victim Of Data Breach

March 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Sears Holdings Corp acknowledged it has launched an investigation to determine whether it was the victim of a security breach, following Target Corp’s revelation at the end of last year that it had suffered an unprecedented cyber attack.

“There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach,” Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a statement on Friday.

“We have found no information based on our review of our systems to date indicating a breach,” he added.

He did not say when the operator of Sears department stores and Kmart discount stores had begun the investigation or provide other information about the probe.

Sears Holdings Corp operates nearly 2,500 retail stores in the United States and Canada.

Bloomberg News reported on Friday that the U.S. Secret Service was investigating a possible secret breach at Sears, citing a person familiar with the investigation. The report did not identify that source by name.

The Bloomberg report said that its source did not disclose details about the scope or timing of the suspected breach.

A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service declined comment when Reuters asked if the agency was investigating a possible breach at Sears.

The Secret Service is leading the U.S. government’s investigation into last year’s attack on Target, which the company has said led to the theft of some 40 million payment card numbers as well as another 70 million pieces of personal data.

 

Cybersecurity Firm Says It Has Uncovered Over 300M Stolen Credentials

February 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

A cybersecurity firm has stated that it has found stolen credentials from some 360 million accounts that are available for sale on cyber black markets, though it is unsure where they came from or what they can be used to access.

The discovery could represent more of a risk to consumers and companies than stolen credit card data because of the chance the sets of user names and passwords could open the door to online bank accounts, corporate networks, health records and virtually any other type of computer system.

Alex Holden, chief information security officer of Hold Security LLC, said in an interview that his firm obtained the data over the past three weeks, meaning an unprecedented amount of stolen credentials is available for sale underground.

“The sheer volume is overwhelming,” said Holden, whose firm last year helped uncover a major data breach at Adobe Systems Inc in which tens of millions of records were stolen.

Holden said he believes the 360 million records were obtained in separate attacks, including one that yielded some 105 million records, which would make it the largest single credential breaches known to date.

He said he believes the credentials were stolen in breaches that have yet to be publicly reported. The companies attacked may remain unaware until they are notified by third parties who find evidence of the hacking, he said.

“We have staff working around the clock to identify the victims,” he said.

He has not provided any information about the attacks to other cybersecurity firms or authorities but intends to alert the companies involved if his staff can identify them.

The massive trove of credentials includes user names, which are typically email addresses, and passwords that in most cases are in unencrypted text. Holden said that in contrast, the Adobe breach, which he uncovered in October 2013, yielded tens of millions of records that had encrypted passwords, which made it more difficult for hackers to use them.

The email addresses are from major providers such as AOL Inc, Google Inc, Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc and almost all Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations. Holden said he alerted one major email provider that is a client, but he declined to identify the company, citing a nondisclosure agreement.

Heather Bearfield, who runs the cybersecurity practice for accounting firm Marcum LLP, said she had no information about the information that Hold Security uncovered but that it was plausible for hackers to obtain such a large amount of data because these breaches are on the rise.

She said hackers can do far more harm with stolen credentials than with stolen payment cards, particularly when people use the same login and password for multiple accounts.

“They can get access to your actual bank account. That is huge,” Bearfield said. “That is not necessarily recoverable funds.”

After recent payment-card data breaches, including one at U.S. retailer Target, credit card companies stressed that consumers bear little risk because they are refunded rapidly for fraud losses.

Wade Baker, a data breach investigator with Verizon Communications Inc, said that the number of attacks targeting payment cards through point-of-sales systems peaked in 2011. That was partly because banks and retailers have gotten better at identifying that type of breach and quickly moving to prevent crooks from making fraudulent transactions, he said.

In addition to the 360 million credentials, the criminals are selling some 1.25 billion email addresses, which would be of interest to spammers, Hold Security said in a statement on its website.

 

Barnes & Noble Has A Suitor

February 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Investment firm G Asset Management said on Friday that it had offered to acquire a 51 percent stake in either Barnes & Noble Inc or in the bookseller’s Nook digital business.

The little known firm said the proposal for Barnes & Noble as a whole would be for $22 per share, which would value the top U.S. bookstore chain at $1.32 billion. It comes after earlier proposal in November for $20 per share, its second.

G Asset, which not did detail how it would finance a deal, also made an alternative offer to buy Nook for $5 per share, saying spinning off the digital books and device business would create “substantial shareholder value.”

The latest offer for the whole company would value Barnes & Noble at $1.32 billion, while the proposal for Nook would value that unit at about $300 million.

The firm has previously pressed the company to spin off its Nook unit from Barnes & Noble’s bookstore and college units.

Michael Glickstein, G Asset’s Chief Investment Officer, and the only person listed on the firm’s website, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Barnes & Noble shares were up 5.8 percent at $17.75 in afternoon trading after going as high as $19.12 after the news was released, suggesting Wall Street analysts were doubtful a deal would get done.

A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman declined to comment beyond confirming that the company had received G Asset’s offer.

The original Nook device was launched in 2009 to help Barnes & Noble fend off Amazon.com Inc and allowed the retailer to win as much as 27 percent of the U.S. e-books market.

But the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep pace with deep-pocketed rivals such as Amazon, Apple Inc and Google Inc. It has scaled back its Nook business and focusing more on content and software.

Two years ago, Microsoft Corp invested $300 million in the Nook unit for a 17.6 percent stake, valuing the division at $1.7 billion. In late 2012, Pearson PLC took a 5 percent stake in Nook for $89.5 million.

 

 

Bitcoin ATMs Opening Soon in Seattle, Austin

February 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Robocoin announced on Tuesday that later this month it will install the first automated teller machines in the United States that will allow users to buy and sell bitcoin, the latest step into the mainstream for the digital currency.

The kiosks, to be installed in Seattle, and Austin, Texas, are similar to ATMs but have scanners to read government-issued identification such as a driver’s license or a passport to confirm users’ identities.

The ATMs will allow people to swap bitcoin for cash, or deposit cash to buy more bitcoin by transferring funds to or from a virtual wallet on their smartphones.

Bitcoin was launched in 2008 and is traded within a global network of computers. It is not backed by a single company or government and has no assets behind it, but its release is tightly controlled, mimicking a central banking system’s control over the minting of money.

Robocoin, based in Las Vegas, installed its first bitcoin ATM in Vancouver last fall and will also start operating one in Calgary, Alberta, later this month. Robocoin also is planning to install ATMs in Asia and Europe.

A bitcoin is currently worth about $636, but its value has fluctuated widely as the currency’s visibility has increased. Last September, a bitcoin was worth around $150. By late December the value was near the $1,000 mark.

Users can buy products and services online on sites including Overstock.com or in a handful of stores.

The currency’s reputation took a hit last week when two of its best known exchanges suspended withdrawals. One of them, Slovenia-based Bitstamp, said Friday it planned to allow redemptions to resume.