John P. Mello Jr.

About the Author John P. Mello Jr.


Tablets

Main Surface Pro Improvements Are Beneath the Surface

Microsoft on Tuesday announced a refresh of its Surface Pro tablet-laptop computer. Although Microsoft said the fifth generation of the unit has been redesigned from the inside out with more than 800 new custom parts, the Surface Pro looks similar to its predecessor. “If you were looking for a major redesign of Surface, this isn’t it,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

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Social Networking

Leaked Docs Spotlight Complexity of Moderating Facebook Content

The public got a rare view into how Facebook tries to keep offensive and dangerous content offline in a report published Sunday. Leaked confidential documents exposed the secret rules by which Facebook polices postings on issues such as violence, hate speech, terrorism, pornography, racism and self-harm, as well as such subjects as sports fixing and cannibalism.

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Tech Law

Data Watchdog Cautions Google and UK Health Partner

A British data watchdog has raised questions about whether it was appropriate for a healthcare trust to share data on 1.6 million patients with DeepMind Health, an AI company owned by Google. The trust shared the data in connection with the test phase of Streams, an app designed to diagnose acute kidney injuries. However, the sharing reportedly was performed without an appropriate legal basis.

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Home Tech

Amazon Adds Show to Echo’s Tell

Echo isn’t just for sound anymore. Amazon on Tuesday announced Echo Show, a new version of its popular smart speaker that comes with a 7-inch color touchscreen, 5-inch front-facing camera and dual 2-inch Dolby speakers. With its screen, it can show YouTube videos, access home security cameras, display photos and scroll lyrics as you listen to songs from streaming services.

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Chips

Flaw in Intel Chips Could Open Door to Botnet Armies

A 7-year-old flaw in Intel chips could enable hijackers to gain total control of business computers and use them for malicious purposes. The Intel AMT vulnerability is the first of its kind, according to Embedi, which released technical details about it last week. Attackers could exploit the flaw to get full control over business computers, even those turned off but plugged into an outlet.

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Community

Study Finds Gender Bias in Open Source Community

Gender bias affects contributions to the open source community, according to a paper published Monday. Female programmers’ suggestions for code changes in open source projects — called “pull requests” — were accepted more often than those of their male counterparts when gender was unspecified. However, that changed when the gender of a pull request’s author could be identified.

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Internet

Internet Giants Ramp Up Fake News Defenses

Three major Internet brands this week announced initiatives to combat “fake news” online.
Google revealed that it had tweaked its search processes to help bring high-quality content to the top of search result pages. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announced a new online publication that aims to fight fake news by pairing professional journalists with legions of volunteer community contributors.

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Boardroom

Uber Boss Practices Brinksmanship With Apple

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has a reputation of playing fast and loose with rules, but it appears that a maneuver his company performed on iPhones took his ride-hailing outfit to the brink of ruin a couple of years ago. When Apple discovered Uber was planting code on iPhones that persisted on the devices even after the ride-hailing app was removed, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave Kalanick a warning.

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Tech Buzz

Apple May Be Getting Its Innovation Groove Back

Apple reportedly has begun testing a premium iPhone with a revamped display and body, which could be one of three new models the company is expected to launch this fall. The other two likely will be upgrades to the two existing iPhones. The new design will incorporate curved glass and stainless steel. It will increase the surface area of the display without increasing the size of the phone.

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Cybersecurity

Microsoft’s Timely Response to Shadow Brokers Threat Raises Questions

Just as the Shadow Brokers hacker group started crowing about a dump of never-seen-before flaws in Windows, Microsoft announced it already had fixed most of the exploits. “Today, Microsoft triaged a large release of exploits made publicly available by Shadow Brokers,” said Microsoft Principal Security Group Manager Phillip Misner. “Most of the exploits are already patched.”

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Cybersecurity

Spam Czar Nabbed in Spain May Have Link to Election Tampering

An alleged spam kingpin with possible ties to election meddling in the U.S. was arrested in Spain last week under a U.S. international warrant. Pyotr Levashov had been vacationing in Barcelona with his family. Levashov was arrested for interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the Russian news outlet RT reported, but the DoJ said the arrest was not connected to national security.

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Hacking

Hackers Blast Emergency Sirens in Dallas

Screaming sirens serenaded Dallas residents in the early morning hours Saturday after a cyberattack set off the city’s emergency warning system. All of the city’s 156 sirens reportedly were set off more than a dozen times. Officials have not yet identified the perpetrator of the attack, but it likely was someone outside the Dallas area, said Office of Emergency Management Director Rocky Vaz.

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Software

Samsung’s Tizen OS Riddled With Security Holes

There are more than three dozen previously unknown flaws that pose a potential threat to consumers using some Samsung TVs, watches and phones, a security researcher has reported. Hackers could exploit the vulnerabilities found in Samsung’s Tizen operating system to gain remote access and control of a variety of the company’s products, according to Amihai Neiderman, head of research at Equus Software.

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Deals

Imagination’s Picture Bleak After Apple Cuts It Loose

Imagination on Monday announced that Apple would no longer use its intellectual property, and the company’s stock sank faster than a bottomless boat on the news. Apple planned to discontinue its use of the company’s IP in new products in 15 months to two years, ending the companies’ license and royalty agreement, Imagination said. Those royalties account for about half the company’s revenue.

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Tablets

Apple Unveils Budget-Friendly iPad, Dresses iPhone in Red

Apple has announced an iPad update, a red iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and a new video-editing app for iOS. The iPad upgrade has a 9.7-inch, 2048 x 1536-pixel Retina display and Apple’s A9 64-bit processor. The unit will come in silver, gold and space gray with a starting price of $329 for 32 gigabytes of storage and WiFi-only support. It will cost $459 for a 32-GB unit with WiFi and cellular support.

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Tech Buzz

Apple May Alter the AR Competition

Apple is stockpiling resources to make a splash in the augmented reality market. The company reportedly is not only marshaling internal resources behind its AR efforts, but also hiring talented outsiders and acquiring companies with expertise in AR hardware, 3D gaming and virtual reality software. The new outsiders include engineers who worked VR headsets for Google and Microsoft.

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Privacy

Facebook Gets Tough on Spy Apps

Facebook has updated its Facebook and Instagram policies to prohibit developers from using data obtained from those platforms in surveillance tools, according to Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer. Facebook already has taken enforcement actions against devs who created and marketed surveillance tools in violation of the company’s previous policy, he noted.

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Mobile

Malware Found Preinstalled on Dozens of Android Phones

Malware has been discovered preinstalled on 36 Android phones belonging to two companies, security software maker Check Point reported. “In all instances, the malware was not downloaded to the device as a result of the users’ use — it arrived with it,” noted Oren Koriat, a member of Check Point’s Mobile Research Team. The malicious apps were added somewhere along the supply chain.

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Cybersecurity

Tech Companies Weigh Responses to WikiLeaks Exposure

Following WikiLeaks’ publication earlier this week of classified documents stolen from the CIA, major technology companies, including Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Cisco, have been scrambling to assess the risks posed to their customers by the revelations. The so-called “Vault 7” leak includes information about methods and tools the CIA crafted to hack into products produced by those companies.

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Cybersecurity

WikiLeaks Dumps CIA Hacking Docs Online

WikiLeaks on Tuesday dumped thousands of classified documents onto the Internet, exposing hacking programs used by the CIA. The torrent of data is just the first in a series of dumps WikLeaks is calling “Vault 7.” This first installment includes 8,761 documents and files stolen from an isolated high-security network within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.

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Tech Buzz

USB-C Port, Curved Display Top Latest iPhone Rumor List

Apple poked a hornet’s nest when it removed the standard headphone jack from the iPhone 7. It may do it again by replacing the Lightning port with USB-C in the next iPhone. The Lightning port, introduced in 2012, is used to charge and connect accessories to the iPhone, but Apple reportedly plans to swap it for USB-C, which the company has been introducing into its computer lines.

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Wall Street

Snap Sells Itself as Camera Company as IPO Nears

As it approaches its IPO, Snap, maker of the popular Snapchat messaging app, is positioning itself as a camera company. “We feel like we’re really at the beginning of what cameras can do,” said Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. “Before, cameras were the best way to perfectly save or record something that you saw. They sort of helped augment memory — but now, you know, cameras augment the way that we talk.”

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Mobile Apps

Rich Content Makes WhatsApp Look a Lot More Like Snapchat

Facebook has rolled out a WhatsApp update that could threaten Snapchat’s share of the mobile app messaging market. The update allows WhatsApp users to share photos and videos through the app’s status area. Moreover, like WhatsApp text messages, content shared through status updates is protected by end-to-end encryption — a key distinction between WhatsApp and its competitors.

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Cybersecurity

Watson Joins Cybersecurity Warriors’ Ranks

IBM this week announced Watson for Cyber Security, a powerful new ally for organizations that want to protect their data from Net marauders. The new offering bolsters the ability of information security pros to analyze the flood of information from the roughly 200,000 events that pour into their Security Operations Centers, or SOCs, every day. As much as 80 percent of it is unstructured data.

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Mobile Apps

Dozens of iOS Apps Vulnerable to WiFi Snooping

Dozens of applications for Apple’s mobile devices are vulnerable to WiFi snoopers, according to Will Strafach, CEO of the Sudo Security Group. He identified 76 popular iOS apps available at Apple’s App Store that were vulnerable to wireless eavesdroppers, even though the connections were supposed to be protected by encryption. There have been 18 million downloads of the vulnerable apps, he said.

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Hacking

Anonymous Hacker Pulls Plug on Thousands of Dark Net Sites

Twenty percent of the Dark Net was taken offline last week, when a hacker compromised a server hosting some 10,000 websites on the Tor network. Tor, designed to hide the identities of its users, is widely used on the Dark Web, which serves as a hub for illegal online activities. Visitors to the affected pages were greeted with the message, “Hello, Freedom Hosting II, you’ve been hacked.”

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Emerging Tech

3 Teams Qualify for Tube Test in Hyperloop Pod Competition

Elon Musk’s hyperloop dream began to take shape in reality last weekend as 27 teams, including six from outside the U.S., participated in a competition to create the mass transit vehicle of the future. The competition in Hawthorne, California, sponsored by SpaceX, which Musk founded, attracted teams made up mostly of students who created pods designed to run on hyperloop transportation systems.

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Malware

Hackers Targeted DC Police Cams Days Before Inauguration

A ransomware attack darkened the video surveillance system of the District of Columbia’s police department eight days before the presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump. Video storage devices for 70 percent of the CCTV system reportedly were unable to record anything between Jan. 12 and Jan. 15, as police techies scrambled to combat malicious software found on 123 of 187 networked video recorders.

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Cybersecurity

Trump Clings to Personal Phone Despite Security Risks

President Donald J. Trump apparently has continued to use his personal Android smartphone despite security concerns. Trump was concerned about losing access to his personal phone even prior to taking his oath of office, according to a report citing unnamed aides who said he worried about how isolated he could become in the White House without his phone to keep in touch with friends.

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Trends

Apple to Jack Up App Prices in UK

Apple on Tuesday alerted its development community that it will be raising prices on apps sold through its App Store in the United Kingdom. Several factors influence App Store price tiers internationally, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business, Apple said, noting that the factors vary by region and over time. App Store price increases also are ahead for India and Turkey.

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Operating Systems

Microsoft Hardens Latest Windows Version Against Hackers

Microsoft has fortified the latest version of Windows to make it more secure than previous editions, but the strongest protections will be available only to those willing to pay a steep price for them. Windows 10 Anniversary Update has introduced many mitigation techniques in core Windows components and the Microsoft Edge browser, researchers Matt Oh and Elia Florio wrote in a blog post last week.

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