Security

MasterCard Has Finally Realized That Signatures Are Obsolete and Stupid (fastcompany.com) 275

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, credit card companies have relied on an illegible squiggly line as the frontline of defense against credit card fraud. Customers are forced to use a pen (how retro!) to scrawl their signature on bills at restaurants and sign digitally at cash registers -- as if somehow in the age of chips, PINs, biometrics, and online fraud alerts, a line on a page is still a great tool against fraud prevention. Personally, I have been known to sign on the dotted line with a doodle of a piece of tofu and no one has ever stopped me, because signatures mean very little in this digital age. Companies are finally seeing the light. Starting in April 2018, MasterCard cardholders will no longer be required to sign their name when they purchase something using their debit or credit cards. The company has been moving away from requiring signatures for a few years now, with only about 80% of purchases (typically over a certain dollar amount) requiring a signature these days. MasterCard did some digging, though, and per its press release, realized that most of their customers "believe it would be easier to pay and that checkout lines would move faster if they didn't need to sign when making a purchase."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Nears $6,000 For the First Time (bloomberg.com) 105

Bitcoin closed in on another milestone Friday, as the digital currency approached $6,000 for the first time to put its gain in 2017 to above 500 percent. From a report: The push higher comes just three days after bitcoin suffered its biggest one-day drop in a month on rising concern that regulators are increasingly targeting digital currencies. It's added almost $500 in value in the past two days alone.
Google

On the Google Book Scanning Project and the Library We Will Never See (theatlantic.com) 135

For a decade, Google's enormous project to create a massive digital library of books was embroiled in litigation with a group of writers who say it was costing them a lot of money in lost revenue. Even as Google notched a victory when a federal appeals court ruled that the company's project was fair use, the company quietly shut down the project. From an article published in April this year: Despite eventually winning Authors Guild v. Google, and having the courts declare that displaying snippets of copyrighted books was fair use, the company all but shut down its scanning operation. It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It's like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It's there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages -- to do so, they've said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time -- and here we've done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it's 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they're the ones responsible for locking it up. But Google seems to be thinking ways to make use of it, it appears. Last month, it added a new feature to its search function that instantly connects you with eBook data from libraries near you. From a report: Now, every time you search for a book through Google, information about your local library rental options will be easily available. Yeah, that's right. Your local library not only still exists, but it has eBooks, which are things you can totally borrow (for free) online! Before, this perk was hidden somewhere deep within your local library's website -- assuming it had one -- but now these free literary wonders are all yours for the taking.
DRM

Denuvo's DRM Now Being Cracked Within Hours of Release (arstechnica.com) 103

Denuvo, an anti-tamper technology and digital rights management scheme, isn't doing a very good job preventing PC games from being copied. According to Ars Technica, Denuvo releases are being publicly cracked within a day of their launch. From the report: This week's release of South Park: The Fractured but Whole is the latest to see its protections broken less than 24 hours after its release, but it's not alone. Middle Earth: Shadow of War was broken within a day last week, and last month saw cracks for Total War: Warhammer 2 and FIFA 18 the very same day as their public release. Then there's The Evil Within 2, which reportedly used Denuvo in prerelease review copies but then launched without that protection last week, effectively ceding the game to immediate potential piracy. Those nearly instant Denuvo cracks follow summer releases like Sonic Mania, Tekken 7, and Prey, all of which saw DRM protection cracked within four to nine days of release. But even that small difference in the "uncracked" protection window can be important for game publishers, who usually see a large proportion of their legitimate sales in those first few days of availability. The presence of an easy-to-find cracked version in that launch window (or lack thereof) could have a significant effect on the initial sales momentum for a big release. If Denuvo can no longer provide even a single full day of protection from cracks, though, that protection is going to look a lot less valuable to publishers.
Businesses

Amazon's Next Big Bet is Letting You Communicate Without a Smartphone, Says Alexa's Chief Scientist (cnbc.com) 144

An anonymous reader shares a report: The next big function to take off on Amazon's Echo devices will be voice or video calling -- which is a way Alexa can reduce the need to have your smartphone on your at all times, said Rohit Prasad, VP and Head Scientist at Alexa Machine Learning. "If you have not played with calling and the video calls on Echo Show, you should try it because that is revolutionizing how you can communicate," Prasad said in an exclusive interview with CNBC at an Alexa Accelerator event in Seattle Tuesday night. (The event is dedicating to developing new voice-powered technologies.) "When you can drop in on people who have given you access -- so I can drop in and call my mom in her kitchen without her picking any device -- it's just awesome." (Amazon added the ability to call mobile numbers and landlines for free onto Echo devices a few weeks ago.) Amazon doesn't have a smartphone that lets customers bring a digital assistant everywhere -- like Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant -- and communicating through Alexa devices is one way of reducing the need for a personal handset, Prasad said "I can easily drop in and talk to my kids," Prasad says. "They don't have a smartphone so that's my easiest way to talk to them. It's yet another area where Alexa is taking the friction away."
Television

Netflix Adds 5.3 Million Subs In Q3, Beating Forecasts (variety.com) 68

Netflix shows no signs of slowing down. The company announced its third quarter results, adding more subscribers in both the U.S. and abroad than expected. Variety reports: The company gained 850,000 streaming subs in the U.S. and 4.45 million overseas in the period. Analysts had estimated Netflix to add 784,000 net subscribers in the U.S. and 3.62 million internationally for Q3. "We added a Q3-record 5.3 million memberships globally (up 49% year-over-year) as we continued to benefit from strong appetite for our original series and films, as well as the adoption of internet entertainment across the world," the company said in announcing the results, noting that it had under-forecast both U.S. and international subscriber growth. Netflix also indicated that its content spending may be even higher next year than previously projected. The company had said it was targeting programming expenditures of $7 billion in 2018; on Monday, Netflix said it will spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content (on a profit-and-loss basis) next year. For 2017, original content will represent more than 25% of total programming spending, and that "will continue to grow," Netflix said.
Security

Millions of High-Security Crypto Keys Crippled by Newly Discovered Flaw (arstechnica.com) 55

Slovak and Czech researchers have found a vulnerability that leaves government and corporate encryption cards vulnerable to hackers to impersonate key owners, inject malicious code into digitally signed software, and decrypt sensitive data, reports ArsTechnica. From the report: The weakness allows attackers to calculate the private portion of any vulnerable key using nothing more than the corresponding public portion. Hackers can then use the private key to impersonate key owners, decrypt sensitive data, sneak malicious code into digitally signed software, and bypass protections that prevent accessing or tampering with stolen PCs. The five-year-old flaw is also troubling because it's located in code that complies with two internationally recognized security certification standards that are binding on many governments, contractors, and companies around the world. The code library was developed by German chipmaker Infineon and has been generating weak keys since 2012 at the latest. The flaw is the one Estonia's government obliquely referred to last month when it warned that 750,000 digital IDs issued since 2014 were vulnerable to attack. Estonian officials said they were closing the ID card public key database to prevent abuse. On Monday, officials posted this update. Last week, Microsoft, Google, and Infineon all warned how the weakness can impair the protections built into TPM products that ironically enough are designed to give an additional measure of security to high-targeted individuals and organizations.
Data Storage

Microwave Tech Could Produce 40TB Hard Drives In the Near Future (gizmodo.com) 151

Western Digital has announced a potential game changer that promises to expand the limits of traditional HDDs to up to 40TBs using a microwave-based write head, and the company says it will be able to the public in 2019. Gizmodo reports: Western Digital's new approach, microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR), can utilize the company's existing production chain to cram a lot more storage onto a 3.5-inch disk. In a technical overview, Western Digital says it has managed to overcome the biggest issue with traditional HDD drive storage -- the size of the write head. These days, an average hard drive maxes out in the 10-14TB range. But by integrating a new write head, "a spin torque oscillator," microwaves can create the energy levels necessary for copying data within a lower magnetic field than was ever previously possible. There's a more thorough white paper for those who want to dive in. According to Western Digital, MAMR has "the capability to extend areal density gains up to 4 Terabits per square inch." By the year 2025, it hopes to be packing 40TBs into the same size drive it offers today.
Businesses

Woz Wants To Retrain You For a Career in Tech (cnet.com) 66

Steve Wozniak wants you to work in tech, and he's going to help you do it. From a report: The Apple co-founder is launching Woz U, a digital institute aimed at helping folks not only figure out what type of tech job they might be best at, but train for it. "People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can't do it. I know they can, and I want to show them how," Wozniak said in a statement Friday. Woz U starts off as online programs, but there are plans to build campuses in 30 cities around the world. Those cities will be announced within the next 60 days, Shelly Murphy, corporate relations for Woz U told CNET. In a press statement, Wozniak said Woz U will start as an online learning platform focused on both students and companies that will eventually hire those students. Woz U is based out of Arizona, and hopes to launch physical locations for learning in more than 30 cities across the globe. At launch, the curriculum will center around computer support specialists and software developers, with courses on data science, mobile applications and cybersecurity coming in the future.
Google

Google is Essentially Building an Anti-Amazon Alliance, and Target is the Latest To Join (recode.net) 94

Google and the country's biggest brick-and-mortar retailers have one main problem in common: Amazon. Now both sides are acting like they are serious about working together to do something about it. From a report: On Thursday, Target and Google announced that they are expanding what was a years-old delivery partnership from a small experiment in a handful of cities to the entire continental U.S. The expansion will allow Target to become a retail partner in Google's voice-shopping initiative, which lets owners of the Google Home "smart" speaker order items through voice commands like owners of the Echo can do from Amazon. The announcement comes seven weeks after Walmart inked a similar deal with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of products through the service. Other big-box retailers like Home Depot are also on board. Voice commerce was the core of these recent announcements, and it may someday become popular for types of shopping like reordering household staples. But that's not what is most interesting here to me. Instead, it's the promise that Target is also beginning to work with Google "to create innovative digital experiences using ... other cutting-edge technologies to elevate Target's strength in style areas such as home, apparel and beauty."
Bitcoin

This Is the Week Wall Street Went Nuts Over Cryptocurrencies (bloomberg.com) 180

Wall Street banks that weren't already on the bitcoin bandwagon appear to be piling on, or least eyeing seats, after the cryptocurrency surged to all-time highs this week on the way to $6,000. From a report: Analysts are working to keep up with demand from clients for information. UBS and Citigroup published extensive explainers on blockchain technology, while senior executives at JPMorgan Chase warmed to the cryptocurrency during the bank's third-quarter earnings call. The digital currency has risen more than fivefold after trading at less than $1,000 as recently as December, breaking the $5,000 mark this week and already targeting the next thousand-dollar level. Throughout its rise, the cryptocurrency shrugged off tighter regulations, feuding factions and warnings from the likes of JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon of fraud and an eventual price collapse.
Google

Google Announces $1 Billion Job Training and Education Program (axios.com) 47

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was in Pittsburgh Wednesday to announce a new five-year, $1 billion program to help close the global education gap. From a report: Part of the program was a new "Grow with Google" program to work with U.S. cities as well as a $10 million grant to Goodwill that will see Google employees working with the nonprofit to train people in digital skills. Why it matters: Google, along with Apple, Microsoft and other big tech companies, have all launched significant efforts in recent months to demonstrate their commitment to education and U.S. jobs.
Businesses

Hollywood Studios Join Disney To Launch Movies Anywhere Digital Locker Service (theverge.com) 48

There may be a grand unifying service to make accumulating a large digital cinematic library feasible, or so is the hope anyway. From a report: For several years now, Disney has been the only Hollywood studio with a digital movie locker worth using, but a host of other industry heavyweights have now jumped on board to launch an expanded version of the service called Movies Anywhere. It's both a cloud-based digital locker and a one-stop-shop app: customers connect Movies Anywhere to their iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, or Vudu accounts, and all of the eligible movies they've purchased through those retailers appear as part of their Movies Anywhere library. Given that the Movies Anywhere app works across a number of platforms, it basically allows them to take their digital film library with them no matter what device or operating system they're using. [...] The launch of Movies Anywhere should be the merciful, final blow that puts an end to UltraViolet, one of the entertainment industry's first attempts at putting together a comprehensive digital locker service. That service flailed due to a poor customer experience and lack of adoption on the part of big digital retailers like Apple. The team behind Movies Anywhere seems to have learned from UltraViolet's mistakes, however, as well as Disney's previous successes.
Businesses

Legal Online Gambling Could Return To the US (digitaltrends.com) 103

A new report says legal online gambling may be coming back to the U.S., not from an casino magnate such as Steve Wynn or Sheldon Adelson, but rather a headphone industry executive. From a report: Now Monster, the same company that turned the headphone industry upside down with Dr. Dre, plans to revive online gambling in America by enlisting someone with a different kind of notoriety: Fred Khalilian. He's a former telemarketing kingpin, wannabe reality TV personality, two-time FTC loser -- and now, the new COO of Monster. He plans to open the company's gambling site, PokerTribe.com, on or before December 15. And he might just make the company billions. So he might also be a genius. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Gambling is illegal, right? Sort of. How will a headphone maker succeed in online gambling where Trump, Branson, and others have failed? "The roadmap is unbelievable, fraught with laws, certifications, international law, gaming commissions, all that stuff. Very, very complex," Monster CEO Noel Lee exclusively told Digital Trends. "But [Fred] has overcome. He's found his niche, he's worked his way through the government, through the Federal Trade Commission, through all of that, with a strategy that's built around the American Indians."
Facebook

Facebook Announces $199 Oculus Go Standalone VR Headset (variety.com) 86

Facebook is going to ship a standalone VR headset called Oculus Go next year. The headset, which won't require a PC or phone to run, will be available early next year for $199. From a report: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg officially announced the new product during his keynote speech at Facebook's fourth Oculus Connect virtual reality (VR) developer conference in San Jose, Calif. Wednesday, where he framed the device as an important step towards bringing VR to the masses. "We want to get a billion people in virtual reality," Zuckerberg said. Facebook VP of VR Hugo Barra said that the company developed custom lenses for the headset, which allow for a wide field of view. The display is a fast-switch LCD screen with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels, and it comes with integrated headphones. The company will be shipping first headsets to developers in November.
Television

Hulu Lowers Prices After Netflix Raises Theirs (variety.com) 108

Coincidentally, as Netflix raised their prices last week, Hulu decided to lower theirs. The streaming service is now offering a plan, which includes commercials, for $5.99 per month for the first year -- a short-term promotion aimed at luring new subs with the kickoff of the fall television and Hulu's expanded TV library lineup. Variety reports: Hulu's special offer for the limited-commercials plan is available through Jan. 9, 2018, only to new or returning Hulu subs. After one year, the regular $7.99 monthly price will kick in. Hulu offers a commercial-free option for $12 per month, and a live TV service (which includes access to original series like Emmy-winning "The Handmaid's Tale" and on-demand titles) for $40 monthly. A Hulu rep said the company's new promo is intended to draft off the fall 2017 TV season. As it looks for another original series on the order of "Handmaid's Tale" -- so far its only breakout hit -- Hulu has inked deals to bring thousands of current and older TV shows to the platform to armor-up in its battle with rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Businesses

Is Amazon Lowering The Global Rate of Inflation? (businessinsider.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider: Another investment bank analyst has signed on to the idea that the internet is holding down the rate of inflation. Bilal Hafeez, the global head of G10 FX strategy and head of EMEA research at Nomura, published two notes last month on whether the value of the dollar was being held down by Amazon and its ilk. In one note he called it "the Amazonization of inflation"... [O]nline commerce typified by Amazon is making the supply and distribution of goods so cheap that "Amazonisation" itself is now a deflationary force at a macro level, Hafeez argues. He writes: "While globalisation was the meme of the 2000s, this decade's has to be the 'Amazonisation' of commerce. Given the bulk of the cost of goods is distribution costs, Amazon's unique distribution model and widening range of products could impart a new disinflationary impulse on goods prices."

This idea is becoming more popular among analysts as the months roll by. Back in September 2016, we told you about the "Spotify problem," in an interview with HSBC's James Pomeroy. His theory is that the internet allows consumers to shop around and compare prices incredibly easily. It also substitutes cheap digital goods over more expensive physical ones. For instance, people stop paying £20 every month for a CD when they start paying £10 a month for endless music from Spotify. The result is that businesses are aggressively driving down their own prices because consumers simply won't go to the ones that charge more, and are no longer trapped into shopping in their own neighbourhoods. Sweden is so advanced as a digital economy that it may be importing its own deflation via digital shopping, Pomeroy argued.

Portables

Can Cheap Android Tablets Bridge the Digital Divide? (teleread.org) 111

It's now possible to buy a 7-inch Android tablet for under $50 -- for example, the Nook Tablet 7 or Amazon's cheapest Fire tablet. "Since the Fire can now easily install regular Android apps, it has become useful out of all proportion to its price," writes long-time Slashdot reader Robotech_Master, noting that for many applications tablets can replace a desktop or laptop computer. TeleRead.org is even arguing this could be what bridges the digital divide: [N]ot just for reading ebooks and assisting in education, but for more basic tasks. People with low or no incomes could search and apply for better jobs. Students could do homework and term papers on their tablet if their siblings or parents are using the desktop.
Besides the obvious applications like email and web browsing, $50 Android tablets also offer cheap phone calls via Google Hangouts. (You can even get your own phone number through Google Voice.) Calling the tablets "a full-fledged internet terminal... easily within reach of even the lowest-income families," the article concludes "I can hardly wait to see where these tablets go from here."
Communications

A Small But Growing Group Of Silicon Valley Heretics Are Disconnecting Themselves From the Internet (theguardian.com) 142

The Guardian reports: Decades after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an "awesome" button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called "attention economy": an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy. These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. "It is very common," Rosenstein says, "for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences." Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day. There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called "continuous partial attention", severely limiting people's ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity -- even when the device is turned off. "Everyone is distracted," Rosenstein says. "All of the time."
America Online

RIP AIM: AOL Instant Messenger Dies in December (usatoday.com) 117

It's the end of an era: as of December 15, AOL's Instant Messenger will no longer exist. From a report: In a statement from Oath, the new entity formed under Verizon combining AOL with the recently-acquired Yahoo, the service will be discontinued. "AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed," said Michael Albers, VP of Communications Product at Oath. AIM was a staple of personal computers since first launching in 1997, serving as a precursor to popular apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. However, AIM couldn't make the seamless transition to mobile, where most users rely on instant messaging services. Users will be able to manually download any images or files on AIM before the service shuts down. However, users won't be able to export or save their Buddy List, the group of contacts available on AIM.

Slashdot Top Deals