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Consumer Confidential: Gas prices rising, smart phones hacked, Redbox to stream

February 18, 2011 | 10:56 am

Gaspic Here's your fuel-efficient Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- A lot of people will be hitting the road for the holiday weekend. Unfortunately, the news isn't good on the gas-prices front. Average pump prices are about 54 cents higher than a year ago, with prices for a gallon of regular ranging nationally from $2.95 to $3.75. The national average is $3.156, according to AAA. And it looks as if prices will only trend higher as instability in the Middle East pushes oil higher. It's possible we'll be seeing $100 per barrel within a few weeks if things continue as they are. And then the summer driving season hits, pushing gas prices higher still. Not a pleasant thought.

-- As smart phones become more ubiquitous, so too does the threat of viruses and malware. The software security company McAfee says malware attacks directed at mobile devices rose 46% last year and will keep growing as millions more consumers begin using smart phones and tablet computers. Phones using the Android operating system are among the fastest growing segment of smart phones, so it should come as no surprise that much of the hack attacks target the gadgets. What can you do? Make sure you only download apps from known and reputable sources. And when an app seeks permission to do stuff, make sure it's what you expect it to do, not something out of left field.

-- Redbox, the DVD rental kiosk company, says it's getting ready to go toe to toe with Netflix in offering streaming video on the Net. Redbox subscribers will pay a single monthly fee to get access to movies, both as streaming video and on DVDs through kiosks. is also a player in streaming video, but so far the company offers movies and TV programs on a per-showing price. The trick for all concerned is content. Movie studios and TV networks have been reluctant to open the streaming-video spigot until they've allowed DVD sales to peak. I wouldn't be surprised if some studios started their own streaming service to control the flow.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Gas prices are going up as oil prices rise. Credit: Danny Johnston /Associated Press