Technology

The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Salvador Rodriguez

Facebook Chat reverses changes made to online friends list

A screenshot of the announcement by Facebook regarding the latest change to the chat system.

Facebook announced yet another change to its chat system that will once again let users see all of their online friends -- a reversal from changes made to Facebook chat last month that only displayed those a user messaged most.

Facebook announced the change in a "status message" on its company profile page, citing "a lot of feedback that people missed seeing all of their online friends" as the reason.

"Today, we made a change so that Chat now shows the friends who you message the most, as well as the rest of your friends who are currently online," the status message read.

While many of the people who commented welcomed the change, just as many called for the chat system to be taken further back.

"If it aint broke, dont fix it," said one user in a comment.

The change comes two days after the social-networking giant announced the release of a new app for Apple's iOS (which runs on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) and Google's Android called Facebook Messenger. The app  lets users send Facebook chat messages to Facebook friends, as well as to people in their smartphone's contact books as text messages.

Over the last couple of months, Facebook has been making changes to its messaging system that seek to blur the lines between text messaging, instant messaging and Facebook messaging.

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-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: A screenshot of the announcement by Facebook regarding the latest change to the chat system. Credit: Facebook

Comcast to offer $10 Internet access

Comcast is offering a $9.95 Internet plan for qualifying, low-income families called Internet Essentials.

Comcast is offering an Internet plan at $9.95 per month for qualifying low-income families.

The media and communications giant's Internet Essentials plan provides Internet access at speeds of 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second) and also offers other qualifying customers a netbook computer for $149.99 when signing up for the service.

To qualify, families must live in an area covered by Comcast and have at least one child who receives free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program.

The $10 Internet plan comes after the Federal Communications Commission ordered Comcast to offer  affordable Internet access for low-income families following its purchase of NBC Universal in January.

Comcast, a company spokesman said Wednesday, had already been working on offering a low-income program prior to approval of the NBC Universal deal. That program has evolved into the Internet Essentials plan, which Comcast began offering in Chicago in late May.

“The Internet has the potential to be a great equalizer and a life-changing technology," said Davi Cohen, Comcast Executive Vice President, in a statement. "Internet Essentials will help level the playing field for low-income families."

Along with the $9.95 low monthly rate and the $149.99 netbook, the plan also offers qualifying families access to free Internet training and promises "No price increases, no activation fees and no equipment rental fees," according to a Comcast Web page.

Customers can stay on the Internet Essentials plan as long as their child continues to receive free lunches.

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-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: A screenshot of a Comcast Web page detailing the Internet Essentials plan. Credit: Comcast

Apple vs. Samsung suit: Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales blocked in Europe

Sales of Samsun's Galaxy Tab 10.1 are set to come to a screeching halt in Europe.

A preliminary injunction granted to Apple Inc. by a court in Dusseldorf, Germany, will stop the sales and marketing of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer across the continent, with the exception of the Netherlands, according to a report by the Telegraph.

GalaxyThe injunction is a significant win for Apple, which in April sued Samsung in a patent dispute alleging the Galaxy tablet and phone lines were rip-offs of the iPad and iPhone.

Samsung was disappointed by the decision and plans to fight the injunction, a spokeswoman for the company said.

The company added that it was not made aware a request for injunction was filed and that they were unable to present evidence before the order was issued.

"We will take all necessary measures to ensure Samsung's innovative mobile communications devices are available to customers in Europe and around the world," the spokeswoman said.

Although Samsung can appeal the injunction, the earliest it could receive a hearing would be in a month, according to the Telegraph report.

The suspension of the Galaxy line in Europe comes a week after the South Korean corporation agreed to stop sales of the line in Australia until the patent battle with Apple is resolved.

In previous court filings, Apple, which did not respond to a request for comment, has argued that the "look and feel" of Galaxy products infringe on 10 of its patents. Samsung, however, has filed its own countersuits in a number of countries.

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-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: People walk past Samsung Electronics' billboard featuring the new tablet Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Seoul, South Korea, on July 20 as the company launches the tablet on the South Korean market. Credit: Lee Jin-man / Associated Press

Local and state agencies are more vulnerable to hacker attacks

U.S. Department of Homeland Security analysts work at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center.
The hacking of more than 70 law enforcement agencies across the nation that resulted in the exposure of 10 gigabytes of information has placed a spotlight on the disadvantages local and state government agencies have when it comes to defending themselves from cyber criminals.

Hackers are increasingly going after high-profile organizations, such as the CIA and FBI, but that doesn't mean small government agencies are immune to intrusions. LulzSec, a hacktivist group, hacked into the email accounts of employees at the Arizona Department of Public Safety in a highly publicized attack in June, but less-known breaches have resulted in hackers obtaining hundreds of thousands of personal records from Alaska to Massachusetts, including one attack in Texas that exposed 3.5 million records.

Small government agencies have not been thought of as targets for hackers and therefore have not invested as much as larger federal agencies and major corporations in their security, said Heather Egen Sussman, the co-chair of McDermott, Will & Emery's global privacy and data protection affinity group.

"Up to this point, these agencies were not viewed as being in particular risk of being targeted by hackers," she said. "The focus has not been on IT security to the same degree that the more visible and the larger entities have paid to it."

Another problem small government organizations face is they often don't have the budget to attract top security experts with high salaries, said retired cyber-crime investigator Steve Edwards.

"It's real competitive out there for these people," he said. "They're very attractive to corporations and businesses that have these same issues."

And even when good security experts are in place, having the budget to give them the right technology to defend against sophisticated attacks can also be a problem, Sussman said.

Sussman said small government organizations can take several steps to make themselves more secure from hackers:

  • Make lawmakers and organization leaders aware of cyber security's important so they receive an appropriate budget.
  • Have or hire competent security experts who are up to date on the latest trends in cyber defense.
  • Update all software and hardware regularly
  • Train all employees with access to the organization's network

"You can have the best IT people in the world, but if you have one employee at work who double-clicks a link and inadvertently downloads malware, the hacker can be off and running," Sussman said.

And if hiring competent people is an issue, agencies should considering outsourcing their cyber security to a third party, Edwards said.

"That's a way they can be competitive in getting the best people to come in to do what has to be done," he said. 

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AntiSec claims to have hacked more than 70 police websites

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Alleged hacker 'Topiary' released on bail, prohibited from using Internet

-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: U.S. Department of Homeland Security analysts work at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Washington. Credit: Hyungwon Kang / Reuters

AntiSec stole thousands of personal records, analysis shows

An analysis of the data dumped by hacktivist group AntiSec over the weekend has revealed the documents posted contained thousands of social security numbers, dates of birth, passwords, telephone numbers and much more personal information.

A massive data cache posted on the Internet by hacker group AntiSec over the weekend contained thousands of Social Security numbers, dates of birth, passwords and telephone numbers, among other personal information, according to an analysis by a developer of identity theft prevention software.

AntiSec, a group made up of members from the hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec, posted 10 gigabytes of data that it said it had obtained after hacking into websites of more than 70 law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

AntiSec's data included nearly 2,000 Social Security numbers, more than 2,000 dates of birth, more than 4,600 passwords, about 17,100 phone numbers and 7,165 postal addresses, according tot Idenity Finder, which makes software for fighting identify theft.

The analysis also found 1.5 million email addresses, but because of the huge volume, the company was unable to distinguish how many of those were unique. Identity Finder Chief Executive Todd Feinman estimated there could be 50,000 to 100,000 unique email addresses.

"This is one of the biggest postings of personal information," he said. "We'll see breaches happen, but you won't typically see 2,000 different Social Security numbers posted."

The analysis also found 53 driver's license numbers, 57 bank account numbers and eight credit card numbers.

"There's a lot of fraud that you can do with a Social Security and a name, and unfortunately, these files had a lot of that information," Feinman said. "These files could lead to the worst kind of identity theft."

AntiSec's posting should remind everyone that if they are going to post sensitive information online, they need to keep it secure, Feinman said.

"Whether it's viruses, Trojan horses, worms, phishing attacks, losing your laptop or if you're targeted by an organization like AntiSec, the only way to make sure they don't get through to your confidential data is make sure your confidential data isn't lying around," he said.

RELATED:

AntiSec claims to have hacked more than 70 police websites 

ACLU digs into mobile location privacy with huge police records request

Alleged hacker 'Topiary' released on bail, prohibited from using Internet

-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: A screen shot of the Identity Finder software's results after scanning AntiSec's data posting. Credit: Identity Finder

News Corp. confirms readers' information stolen in hack attack

The Sun

Hackers broke into the website of News Corp.'s the Sun and stole information about its readers, the British tabloid confirmed.

A spokesperson for News International, the British division of News Corp., declined to say how many of its readers were affected, but Bloomberg News reported that information for about 800 people might have been stolen.

No financial information was taken, the spokesperson said, and the information stolen was personal details entered by users taking part in competitions and surveys sponsored by the tabloid.

"We take customer data extremely seriously and are working with the relevant authorities to resolve this matter," the spokesperson said. "We are directly contacting any customer affected by this."

The tabloid declined to say who may have been behind the attacks, but in mid-July, hackergroups Anonymous and LulzSec claimed they had stolen data from the Sun and its parent News International. The groups also said they defaced the Sun's website with a story about the death of News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch.

In May, LulzSec said it got hold of a database that included personal information of contestants of the Fox show "The X Factor."

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-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: A screen shot of the Sun's website. Credit: The Sun

Cyber attacks on the rise and more costly, study says

A study by the Ponemon Institute found the industries most affected by cyber crimes are the defense, utilities and energy, and the financial services industries.

Not only are more cyber crimes happening, but they are also costing companies more money, a recent study found.

The median cost of cyber crimes rose to $5.9 million, up from $3.8 million in 2010, while the number of attacks rose by 44% with at one successful attack on each of the companies in the study each week, according to a study released Tuesday by the Ponemon Institute, a research group that studies Internet security. Costs to targets include spending on security experts and investigations, loss of productivity, system software upgrades and the value of stolen intellectual property.

"The fact that costs have increased so substantially suggests that cyber crime issues are getting worse," said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the institute.

The study found the most expensive cyber crimes to be denial of service, Web-based attacks, malicious code and malicious insiders. The study found attacks are taking longer to resolve on average, 18 days, up from 14 last year, and are costing more as well, more than $415,000 per attack, up from more than $247,000 in 2010.

"The bad guys are getting stealthier, and their attacks are getting harder to detect," Ponemon said.

The study, which looked at 50 large companies in the U.S., is conducted each year to gauge the economic cost of cyber attacks.

"We believe a better understanding of the cost of cyber crime will assist organizations in determining the appropriate amount of investment and resources needed to prevent or mitigate the devastating consequences of an attack," the study said.

Cyber attacks have been occurring at a record pace in 2011 with the likes of the FBI, the CIA, NATO, News Corp. and Citigroup among their victims. The study found three companies that spent more than $29 million to resolve cyber attacks, and a large attack on Sony earlier this year is expected to cost the company more than $170 million. Last month, the institute reported that cyber crimes in the first half of this year cost U.S. companies nearly as much as they did in all of 2010.

RELATED:

Alleged hacker released on bail

Scotland Yard says alleged hacker is in custody

Anonymous says it hacked NATO, blasts FBI arrests

-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: A study by the Ponemon Institute found the industries most affected by cyber crimes are the defense, utilities and energy, and the financial services industries. Credit: Ponemon Institute

Pottermore launches competition to select beta users

The Chessboard Chamber in Pottermore.

 

 

 

Pottermore, a Harry Potter website, has begun a competition to choose its first million users, who will receive early access ahead of other fans of the book and movie franchise.

Harry Potter fans will have one opportunity each day for the rest of the week to complete the Magical Quill Challenge and gain early access to Pottermore, a website where fans can relive the Harry Potter stories.

Each day the website will feature a new clue from any of the Harry Potter books that, if answered correctly, will direct users to a partner website where he or she must find the Magical Quill. Once found, the user will be able to register for Pottermore, but they must complete the process fast as only a certain number of early access accounts will be available each day. Monday's quota, for example, has already been filled. The competition began Sunday and ends Saturday.

"The Magical Quill has been devised to select a lucky million people who will get in early to the website.  It tells you whether you are 'magical' or not," a press release said.

Pottermore was announced by Potter creator J.K. Rowling last month, who described it as a "unique online reading experience," and it is the first big thing to happen to Harry Potter since the completion of the seven books in 2008 and the final film in the franchise earlier this month. The website will be the first to sell eBook versions of the Harry Potter books.

The full launch of Pottermore will happen in October while the people who succeed in the challenge will gain their beta access anytime between mid-August and the end of September, according to the press release.

The Pottermore beta is complete, but the press release for the competition said the website will use its beta period to test, refine and add any final touches.

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-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: An early image of "The Chessboard Chamber" in Pottermore. Credit: Pottermore

Alleged hacker released on bail, prohibited from using Internet

Topiary

A teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking activities was released by a London court on bail but was prohibited from using the Internet.

Police allege Jake Davis, 18, is the spokesperson for the online hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous, and goes by the alias "Topiary," among others, on the Web.

The man was arrested last week by the Metropolitan Police Service, also known as Scotland Yard, and was charged Sunday with five criminal offenses, according to a press release by the agency. He was released Monday, according to a report by Reuters.

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-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Image: Jake Davis, 18, an alleged hacker, leaves Westminster Magistrates Court on Monday after being granted bail. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Teen 'iOS hacker' says he can access Spotify in unsupported countries

The teenage hacker who unlocked Apple's iOS 5 software just one day after it was released to developers is at it again, and this time he says he's figured out a way to bring the music service Spotify to parts of the world where the service isn't offered yet.

Spotify, which recently launched in the U.S., can be accessed by smartphones. Mert Erdir, 17, of Turkey, tweeted this week that he'd found a way to access the highly sought-after music service in unsupported countries and was willing to share the method with his followers on Twitter.

Spotify is a popular European music service that  recently launched in the U.S. and has so far been well-received.

The service gives users access to a large catalog of music for free with advertising, or with no advertising for $4.99 a month, or for $9.99 a month with no ads and access to music from a smartphone.

But despite the hype and high demand for Spotify, the service is so far available in eight only countries.

Erdir, however, said it wasn't a "big deal" accessing the service from an unsupported country. Using a proxy site to change the access location on the Web, Spotify can be tricked into thinking a user is accessing from one of its supported countries. But an invite is still needed for this method, Erdir said in an email.

"This is by far the best free streaming option!" Erdir said in his tweet.

Spotify said it had no comment regarding Erdir's method to access Spotify, and it has not announced any plans to continue expanding its service to other countries.

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-- Salvador Rodriguez

twitter.com/sal19

Photo: Spotify on a smartphone. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

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