30 Dec 2014

Data Breaches on the Rise

With security breaches on the rise, new research shows businesses aren’t doing everything they can to keep their customers’ personal information safe.

A study by Experian Data Breach Resolution and the Ponemon Institutefound that only half of the surveyed businesses feel their organization makes the best possible effort to protect customer and consumer information.

Specifically, 60 percent of the businesses reported that customer data – including credit card information and social security numbers – that had been lost or stolen was not encrypted.

Not all breached data is the result of a malicious attack by cybercriminals, however. The research shows that breaches most often are the result of a negligent insider or the result of outsourcing data to a third party.

“The responsibility of keeping customers’ information secure cannot lie solely on the shoulders of IT; rather, every executive in the organization should be aware, since the reverberation of a breach will be felt by everyone,” said Ozzie Fonseca, senior director at Experian Data Breach Resolution.

After experiencing the damage that can be done from a security breach, estimated at $214 per record, 61 percent of businesses increased their security budget and 28 percent hired additional IT security professionals.

To avoid the repercussions of a breach, Experian Data Breach Resolution offers several pieces of advice, including:

  • Educate. Since negligent employees or contractors make organizations the most vulnerable to future breaches, conducting training and awareness programs and enforcing security policies should be a priority for organizations.
  • Support. With increased privacy and data protection comes the need for larger security budgets. It doesn’t just take time; it takes monetary support, as well.
  • Hire. The top three actions believed to reduce the negative consequences of a data breach are: hiring legal counsel, assessing the harm to victims and employing forensic experts.
  • Learn. Lessons to be taken away from a data breach include: limiting the amount of personal data collected, limiting sharing with third parties and limiting the amount of personal data stored.

The study was based on surveys of more than 500 IT professionals who have experienced a data breach at their company.

23 Dec 2014

Evolution of Nintendo Controllers

 

The folks at GadgetLove have put together an impressive GIF that shows off the evolution of Nintendo gaming controllers over the years. It’s really mesmerizing–I definitely watched it loop a few times.

One reason the GIF is so captivating, as GadgetLove points out, is that Nintendo controllers throughout the years have varied substantially in terms of design compared to iterations of PlayStation and Xbox controllers.

An interactive version of the Nintendo GIF is also available through GadgetLove here, allowing you to scroll through the designs at your own pace. The site has also done the same for PlayStation and Xboxcontrollers.

This GIF’s arrival also comes not long after Nintendo confirmed it had begun work on new hardware to follow up the Wii U, which features a tablet-style GamePad controller.

What was your favorite Nintendo controller?

22 Dec 2014

Amazon’s Listening Speaker in Your Home

What’s in your home, always on, ready to listen to you and constantly adapting to the way you talk? Why, it’sAmazon’s Echo speaker. Think a less portable Siri or Google Now, but hands-free.

Are you ready to bring an eavesdropping device that’s connected to the cloud into the privacy of your abode?

Here’s how Amazon describes Echo on its site:

“Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, ‘Alexa.’ It’s also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.”

According to the demo video, Echo answers trivia questions (Alexa, how tall is Mount Everest?), it tells jokes, helps the kids with homework and plays music on demand. You can ask it for a “flash news briefing” with the latest headlines. (The demo video features news from NPR.) And it keeps a running shopping list for you — it is from Amazon, after all.

You can put the 9 1/4-inch-tall device anywhere in the room (as long as it’s near an electric plug), and something called “far-field recognition” — seven microphones using “beam-forming technology” — can hear you from any direction, Amazon says.

In a post titled “Amazon’s new Echo device marries Sonos with Siri,” Gigaom notes that Echo isn’t the first device of its kind:

“There have been efforts to build these kinds of smart assistants for your home before. The Ubi aims to be a kind of intercom for the smart home, and the Aether speaker aims to combine cloud music streaming with voice input. However, Amazon’s strength is that it could combine Echo with its other devices and services to make it a lot more valuable out of the box.”

There’s a button to turn off Echo’s microphone, but as you can imagine, some people might be uneasy with a listening device planted squarely in their living room or bedroom.

As a commenter named Hicham Bouabdallah wrote on TechChrunch:

“NSA, CIA and FBI would like to personally thank Amazon for installing spy mics in every home. Having said that, love the idea of an always on personal assistant.”

Echo also works away from home using a free app on Amazon’s Fire OS and Android as well as desktop and iOS browsers. It’s selling for $199, invitation only, though Amazon Prime members are eligible to get it for $99.

22 Dec 2014

Google’s Lollipop on Your Android Device

If you’re an Android user, there’s a chance that earlier this week your phone or tablet alerted you about a new update to its operating system. Yearly system updates are a part of the modern smartphone experience, and, like clockwork, Apple and Google typically issue them every fall.

The newest version of Google’s Android OS, codenamed Lollipop, is something a little different. Lollipop isn’t just an update; it’s Google’s vision of how we should interact with the Web on our phones, tablets and computers.

In 2007, Google and other members of the Open Handset Alliance unveiled Android. Unlike Apple’s iOS, Android was “open source,” meaning that any cellphone manufacturer participating in the program could put Android onto its devices. Companies like Samsung, HTC and Motorola added their own customizations to the OS that often left no two phones looking or functioning exactly the same way.

Over the years, Google has incrementally refined Android, adding standard features like copy/paste and Google Now, one dessert-themed codename at a time.

Unlike its recent predecessors Jelly Bean and KitKat, Lollipop represents a major shift in Google’s priorities. Android, for the first time, feels like something that anyone (nerds and non-nerds alike) would want to use.

The way Lollipop looks is the most immediate change you’ll see after updating your phone or tablet. Similar to Apple’s major redesign with iOS 7, Lollipop is lighter, brighter and more whimsical.

Where Apple’s new look focuses on transparency and layers, Google is betting on a style metaphor it’s calling Material Design. Material Design is built around the idea of treating the virtual space within your smartphone as if it were a physical object.

“What if pixels didn’t just have color, but also depth,” Google’s Vice President of Design Matías Duarte asked at Google’s 2014 developers conference. “What if there was an intelligent material that was as simple as paper, but could transform and change shape in response to touch?”

android gif

Android Lollipop slides and shifts as if it were built out of a stack of digital cards. While there is space and movement to Lollipop’s animations, they’re built around a set of physics meant to reflect how you’re interacting with your device. Transitions on the screen are restrained and designed to remind you of where things are coming from within the phone. More so than any other version of Android, Lollipop is built to be as simple as it is customizable.

Lollipop’s design sensibilities also come with a definite shift in how Google is letting manufacturers customize Android. While Android is technically still an “open” platform, Google has become more specific about what changes can be made to the OS. Heavy skins, as they are traditionally called, are being toned down in favor of an Android created in Google’s image.

Google has designed Lollipop so that every time you pick up your phone, you’re getting the exact information you’re looking for. Intelligent algorithms prioritize your notifications based on your behavior, for example. Rather than present your texts, emails and missed calls as a uniform block of alerts in chronological order, Lollipop organizes them based on how you’ve responded to those people in the past.

Lollipop is immersive, but it isn’t meant to suck you in to your device’s screen. While its playful colors and fluid motion may be a delight to the eye, the system’s top priority is getting you in and out of your device as quickly as possible and giving you the information you were looking for.

The most interesting aspect of Lollipop, though, isn’t on your phone. Google’s commitment to Material Design spans across its entire array of products. Google Drive and Google Docs have been purposely updated with Material Design to look and feel similar to Lollipop. Android Wear watches like the Moto 360 and the Asus Zen feature miniaturized versions of Lollipop’s signature card interface. Polymer, Google’s set of Web tools built using Material Design, work on mobile devices as well as desktops.

Lollipop on your phone isn’t just a new coat of paint; it’s an introduction to the future of Google’s Web.

17 Dec 2014

Cyber criminals targeting smartphones

A new mobile trojan dubbed “DeathRing” is being pre-loaded on to smartphones somewhere in the supply chain, warn researchers at mobile security firm Lookout.

DeathRing is a Trojan believed to be of Chinese origin that masquerades as a ringtone app, but can download SMS and browser content from its command and control server to the victim’s phone.

mobile_malware_290x230_thinkstock.jpg

DeathRing could use SMS content to phish a victim’s personal information, for example, using fake text messages requesting the data.

The malware could also use browser content to prompt victims to download further Android application packages (APKs), which may include more malware.

Lookout researchers say the malicious app is impossible to remove because it is pre-installed in the system directory.

DEVICES PRE-LOADED WITH DEATHRING

  • Counterfeit Samsung GS4/Note II
  • Various TECNO devices
  • Gionee Gpad G1
  • Gionee GN708W
  • Gionee GN800
  • Polytron Rocket S2350
  • Hi-Tech Amaze Tab
  • Karbonn TA-FONE A34/A37
  • Jiayu G4S – Galaxy S4 Clone
  • Haier H7

No manufacturer specified i9502+ Samsung Clone

This is of concern to original equipment makers (OEMs) and retailers because the compromise of mobiles in the supply chain could have a significant impact on customer loyalty and trust in the brand.

Mainly affecting lower-tier smartphones bought in Asian and African countries, this is the second significant example of pre-installed mobile malware that Lookout has found on phones in 2014.

The devices pre-loaded with DeathRing are so far mostly from third-tier manufacturers. The main countries affected are Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Taiwan and China.

Researchers said this signals a potential shift in cyber-criminal strategy towards distributing mobile malware through the supply chain.

Earlier this year, Lookout detected another pre-loaded piece of malware called Mouabad. Like DeathRing, Mouabad was also pre-installed somewhere in the supply chain and affected predominantly Asian countries, but researchers did see some cases in Spain.

Although it is impossible to remove DeathRing and Mouabad because they are pre-installed in the phone’s system directory, Lookout researchers recommend that mobile users:

  • Be aware of the origins of the device they are buying.
  • Download a mobile security app to protect against malware.
  • Check phone accounts regular for any unusual charges.

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