FBI Says Hackers Have Had Access to Government Systems Since 2011

While trying to gain access to iPhones and emails, the FBI are having to deal with a wholly different threat. Their own systems have been compromised and a group of hackers has had access to governments systems since 2011.

The report that has been raised shows that a group that security experts believe to be APT6 has managed to hack and steal government secrets for years without being noticed. The alert lists a range of websites used in order to launch phishing attacks against the networks and dates the activities as far back as 2011.

APT6 (Advanced Persistent Threat 6) is a codename that has been given to a group of hackers believed to work for the Chinese government and are known for their consistently advanced techniques and the results they provide.

While the controlled by the hackers were “suspended” in December last year, this doesn’t mean that the hackers have been removed from the network, or that they don’t have other ways to access the system after 5 years of unauthorised activity within it.

Michael Adams, an information security expert, spoke with Motherboard and seemed less than impressed with the latest report, going on to say that it “looks like they were in for years before they were caught, god knows where they are. Anyone who’s been in that network all this long, they could be anywhere and everywhere”. Adams showed disbelief that this could happen, even asking the question “how many times can this keep happening before finally realize we’re screwed?”

State sponsored or not, hackers in a secure network is a bad thing, unknown hackers in a secure network is beyond worrying about because of the kinds of systems that rely on and act as if the network should be secure.

NVIDIA Pascal to Enter Mass Shipments in July

Yesterday, we reported on AMD’s plans to supposedly launch their next graphics architecture, codenamed ‘Polaris’ in June. The details surrounding NVIDIA’s response with Pascal aimed at consumers was unknown but it seemed likely the range would arrive at a similar date. According to new information sourced by Digitimes, Pascal will be unveiled during Computex and enter mass shipments in July:

“The graphics card players will begin mass shipping their Pascal graphics cards in July and they expect the new-generation graphics card to increase their shipments and profits in the third quarter.”

Interestingly, the report claims that AMD might only unveil the Polaris range in June, and shipments could occur at a later date. Apparently, NVIDIA will have the advantage and be the first company to release their new line-up to the public:

“Meanwhile, AMD has prepared Polaris-based GPUs to compete against Nvidia’s Pascal; however, the GPUs will be released later than Nvidia’s Pascal and therefore the graphics card players’ third-quarter performance will mainly be driven by demand for their Nvidia products.”

Thankfully, both graphics card manufacturers look set to release brand new products and I cannot wait to see the performance improvements and pricing across various tiers. AMD appears to be focussing on performance per watt on Polaris and the demonstrations thus far have been impressive. Sadly, we haven’t really seen anything from NVIDIA’s new consumer line-up, so it will be fascinating when the samples finally arrive. It’s still unknown which products will opt for HBM2, if any. It’s clear that the majority of models from both companies are set to utilize GDDR5X. While this isn’t a patch on HBM2, it’s a good improvement from the older GDDR5 standard.

Recently, there were some murmurings about NVIDIA delaying mainstream Pascal under 2017. This doesn’t look like the case at all, and if anything, reports suggest they will be the first to market.

DDoS Attacks Increase by 148.85 Percent

DDoS attacks are becoming more prevalent each year, and a real nuisance for service providers trying to effectively run a network. The idea behind these attacks is to overwhelm a website or network service with traffic to cause temporary disruption. It’s unclear why people engage in these measures, but perhaps it’s some sort of protest against a website’s content or anger towards society. Whatever the case, DDoS attacks are a major problem and the latest State of the Internet report makes for some alarming reading. According to the data, DDoS attacks increased by a whopping 148.85 percent in Q4 2015 compared to Q4 2014.

Furthermore, there was a 168.82 percent increase in infrastructure layer 3 and 4 attacks. Interestingly, the quantity of DDoS attacks increased by 39.89 percent versus the last quarter which shows their rapid rise. There’s a lot of quick attacks being made and the average duration decreased from 29.33 hours to 14.95 hours. This is a reduction of 49.03 percent compared to Q4 2014. The report goes onto say:

“In other words, while the average gigabits per second per attack increased, the average number of packets per second decreased,”

“In fact, only three attacks exceeded 30 million packets per second in Q4, a statistic that has steadily decreased for several quarters.”

“Sites offering booter tools are purportedly set up to allow administrators to load test their own sites. However, many of the sites are used as DoS-for-hire tools, relying on reflection attacks to generate traffic.”

Other data shows DNS-based traffic rose by 92 percent, chargen traffic went up by 52 percent and udp grew by 20 percent. There was even one attack which reached 309Gbps, and five instances of attacks over 100GBps. This is down though from Q4 2014’s figure of five. As you can see, DDoS attacks are really becoming problematic especially from the Chinese region. It looks like this trend will continue and increase at a scary pace.

New 4-Inch iPhone is Apparently Much Cheaper

There’s been a deluge of rumours regarding Apple’s upcoming 4-inch handset, and its purpose in the current market place. Theoretically, the “iPhone SE” is designed to be a replacement for the iPhone 5s launched in 2013. It’s not a major change, but a basic revamp to offer more options to consumers who prefer a smaller model. Sources indicate that the new device will sport an almost identical aesthetic design to the iPhone 5s with slightly curved edges. However, the internals have been enhanced and should include an A9 processor, Apple Pay and Live Photos functionality.

According to KGI Securities, the iPhone SE incorporates an impressive 12-megapixel camera, and targets the $400-$500 price point. This is a surprisingly affordable price and suggests Apple is trying to forge a position in the mid-range sector. This would greatly broaden the device’s appeal and allow consumers with a smaller budget to own a brand new iPhone. Apple also intends to drop the iPhone 5s price by a whopping 50 percent to help shift units. KGI estimates 131 percent growth in 4-inch iPhone shipments to around 37 million units in 2016. Although, they predict most of these sales stem from the iPhone 5S after large discounts. Apple is expected to launch the iPhone SE at an event on March 16th as well as a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Apple devices always have a price premium and their previous attempt to offer a budget-orientated model with the iPhone 5c was flawed. This is because the 5c’s price wasn’t significantly cheaper and evoked a poor feel. To be successful, Apple needed to create a large pricing gap between the two handsets. On the other hand, the iPhone SE looks very interesting and suggests a change in attitude from Apple. Despite this, there’s a huge amount of competition from Samsung, HTC, LG and other Chinese manufacturers. Although, Apple has this knack of enticing large numbers of people to purchase their products.

Seagate Targeted by Ridiculous Class-Action Lawsuit

It is always great to wake up to some news that makes one laugh and today is one of those days as Seagate is targeted with a ridiculous lawsuit. The Plaintiff Cristopher A. Nelson claims that Seagate has an inability to deliver non-defective hard drives that conform to their express and implied warranties, its breach of consumer protection, unfair competition and false advertising laws as well as its unjust enrichment. So far all sounds good in the sense of the lawsuit and not so good for consumers that might have been misled. However, the plaintiff solely bases his accusations on the misleading Backblaze reports that no one in the industry with respect for themselves take seriously as well as his own failed drive.

BackBlaze is a large-scale data hosting company, but it is one that takes alternate routes in order to provide their customers with cheap storage and that is where the problem lies. They will use any kind of hard disk drive in their large scale servers as long as it’s cheap, but it is far from every drive that suited for this kind of usage. A desktop drive is rated for 6-8 hours usage a day in systems with 1-4 drives installed, yet BackBlaze is using desktop drives in large scale servers that hold up to and above 50 drives while they run 24/7. Not only this, they also purchase the drives from any place they can find, including supermarkets where they most likely haven’t been handled properly before being sold.

So it isn’t really any surprise that BackBlaze is experiencing a lot of failures with these drives. As a farmer you wouldn’t go out and purchase an Opel Corsa or similar car to plow your fields with just because it is cheaper than a tractor. A good farmer knows that and a good hoster should also know what drives to pick. Yet they still use Seagate as they still provide them with cheaper storage than competition despite the failure rate.

Now you might ask yourself, why is it only Seagate that is affected by this and not the other companies that make hard disk drives used by BackBlaze? That is actually a very simple, BackBlaze only seems to purchase consumer drives from Seagate. WD drives in use by BackBlaze, for example, are WD RED drives and while they only are certified for 1-4 drive bays, they are manufactured for 24/7 usage and thereby will hold up better than equivalent desktop drives. In return, this means that the Seagate drives will look worse on their yearly reports.

But let us get back to the class-action lawsuit in question. The plaintiff apparently purchased a Seagate Backup Plus 3TB drive at BestBuy, an external storage drive, which then failed 2 years later. He then got a replacement on warranty which apparently failed about a year after receiving it. This is where the first red flag should pop up, actual multiple ones. But the main one is that he’s basing his lawsuit on two different products, internal and external storage, where the one even is being used wide outside their intended region of operation. I’d also like to question just how he handled that external drive, most people don’t treat external HDDs with as much care as they should.

I don’t expect this lawsuit to make it past any judge with just a little bit of respect for themselves and that it will be thrown out as soon as the judge finished reading the transcript. The lesson here is, buy products suited for the operation you need them for and treat them properly. Nothing more, nothing less.

Only 99 Xbox One Units Were Sold in Japan Last Week

Microsoft has been trying to infiltrate the Japanese gaming market for some time and made an ambitious push with the Xbox One to attract a new audience. However, since the start of this endeavour, console sales figures can only be described as abysmal and even resulted in Xbox Japan’s CEO, Takashi Sensui’s resignation. The figures released for last week by Media Create are embarrassing and illustrates why Microsoft has almost given up on appealing to Japanese gamers.

In the period between January 11th to 17th, Microsoft only sold a measly 99 units! This is the first instance of the company’s sales slipping into double digits. To put these numbers into some context, the PlayStation 4 sold 25,292 units in the same period, and the Wii U managed 15,398 sales. This is astonishing when you consider the Wii U’s worldwide performance is terrible and there’s a huge amount of speculation regarding Nintendo’s upcoming NX console.

Here we can see the top 8 system sales in full:

1. New Nintendo 3DS XL: 30,172 units

2. PlayStation 4: 25,592

3. PlayStation Vita: 18,202

4. Wii U: 15,398

5. New Nintendo 3DS: 6,241

6. Nintendo 3DS: 4,797

7. PlayStation 3: 1,939

8. Nintendo 3DS XL: 1,162

Notice how even the PlayStation 3 is outselling Microsoft’s latest console by a significant margin. Furthermore, the rise of mobile gaming in Japan cannot be underestimated as portable puzzle games prove to be a very popular pastime. It seems Microsoft is realizing the scale of their problem and major difficulties in trying to encourage Japanese citizens to move away from long-standing Japanese brands. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything Microsoft can do to change their reputation, and they’ve probably already given up on the Japan project. This is a shame, because it’s always beneficial for the consumer to have more choice and experience different games. Personally, I often feel Microsoft focuses too much on certain territories and needs to appeal more to smaller markets.

Image courtesy of JapanTimes.

ASUS Motherboards Have The Lowest RMA Rate According to Independent Analysis

Hardware.fr is part of LDLC, the largest seller of computer components in France and periodically releases statistics about customer returns. This allows us to gauge quite accurately each manufacturer’s RMA rate as a percentage and overall reliability. The RMA rates relate to models sold between October 1st, 2014 and April 1st, 2015, for returns created before October 2015. During the hardware survey, ASUS attained first position with a very impressive RMA rate of 1.89%. In comparison to the competition, Gigabyte reported returns of 2.05%, while ASRock managed 2.08% and finally, MSI finished with 2.55%.

Joe Hsieh, ASUS Corporate Vice President and General Manager, Motherboard and Desktop System Business Unit, said about the results:

“We are immensely proud of the latest Hardware.fr reliability report. The achievement is a result of our dedication to perfection and tireless efforts, leading to the development of advanced such as 5X Protection II,”

“We strive always to deliver the best motherboard defenses by combining the finest components, thoughtful circuit design, and exacting standards to guarantee quality and long-term durability all-round protection — resulting in exceptional motherboard reliability”

Interestingly, ASUS’ RMA rate dropped by 2.49% from the previous Hardware.fr report and showcases the improvements ASUS have made in the testing phase. Also, the motherboard section is extremely reliable and the lowest return rate in the industry. Although, the gap compared to other manufacturers isn’t massive. Nevertheless, it’s a great achievement and illustrates the durability of ASUS products.

9 in 10 Websites Leak User Data to Third Parties According to Research

The huge amount of personal data stored by major companies often feels insecure and makes internet users very suspicious when handing out sensitive information. According to Tim Libert, a privacy researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, 9 out of 10 websites leak sensitive information to third parties without user consent.  The peer-reviewed research utilized a piece of software called webXray which analyzes trackers on health and pornographic websites. In this startling piece of work, Libert said:

“Sites that leak user data contact an average of nine external domains, indicating that users may be tracked by multiple entities in tandem,”

“If you visit any of the top one million sites there is a 90 percent chance largely hidden parties will get information about your browsing,”

Libert also told Brian Merchant, Senior Editor at Motherboard:

“Most troubling is that if you use your browser setting to say ‘Do Not Track’ me, the explicitly stated policy of nearly all the companies is to flat-out ignore you,” 

“The worst perpetrator is Google, which tracks people on nearly 80 percent of sites, and does not respect DNT [Do Not Track]  signals,”

The IOCTA reported the prevalence of cyber breaches throughout Europe, which often occur on a large scale. As you can see, the amount of data compromised is very concerning and raises questions about security. The data collaborates with Libert’s research if you take into account the large amount of data breaches. Perhaps, data breaches are becoming more common because cyber-security isn’t good enough and companies are leaking data without any hesitation.

Microsoft Details Takedown Requests in Expanded Transparency Report

 

Microsoft launch their new transparency website yesterday, bringing together all their existing transparency reports, including the Law Enforcement Requests Report and U.S. National Security Orders Report. The website also includes a new transparency report that details the requests that Microsoft received from a variety of parties seeking the removal of online content. The company’s reports break down requests into three categories, takedown requests based on alleged violations of local laws and Microsoft’s terms of service, copyright takedowns and takedowns performed as the result of “right to be forgotten” requests in Europe.

With it being no secret about the European court being all over Google like a bad rash regarding “the right to be forgotten,” it comes as no surprise that Bing has become the main focus of these reports. That’s not to mention users Windows 10 privacy concerns alongside Cortana also using Bing as its default search engine. It appears as a result of this combination and users being more aware of their rights to be forgotten, that data removal requests are on the rise. Copyright takedown requests were by far the most common worldwide with Microsoft receiving more than 1 million total requests to remove links from Bing that people claimed infringed on their copyrights.

That leads us quite nicely to the next section of this article, are you ready to put your tin foil hat on? The government data requests section might be the one section that most people will be interested in. As the report shows requests for user data from government agencies are on the rise when compared to last year’s requests. Although the number is still relatively low, from the second half of 2014 it is up from 31,002 to 35,228. Furthermore, Microsoft appears to have become stricter on how it deals with those requests rejecting 4,383 of them for not meeting its legal requirements. That’s nearly twice as many rejected as it did in the last half of 2014. Microsoft goes on to state that just 3 percent of requests from law enforcement agencies resulted in the disclosure of customer content.

Microsoft is currently involved in a lawsuit regarding the U.S. government requesting that they hand over data from a data centre in Ireland. This doesn’t mean Government agencies are not obtaining our data in other ways right?. A quick side note, I found it entertaining that China filed 165 takedown requests for content it did not want consumers to see. To put that into perspective, that is almost eight times as many as all other countries requests combined.

It seems clear that Microsoft appears to be taking their responsibility of user data seriously. Are you worried about the Government getting hold of all your searches? Let us know in the comments below

Thank you Microsoft for providing us with this information

Autonomous Car Accident Reports Finally Released

We love looking to the future of car technology, be it how the car is powered or how the car is controlled. We now have a pretty consistent means of powering the vehicles thanks to Tesla and the impressive battery system, but controlling the car is still under scrutiny. Companies such as Google are pioneering the push for autonomous vehicles (AV), but what about the safety of said vehicles?

Californian DMV has now released accident reports from the collisions that involved Google’s autonomous vehicles. I can safely say, on behalf of the human race, that we fail.

In all scenarios, the AV was either stationary or slowing to a stop due to traffic or pedestrian conditions and the accident occurred due to another driver not paying attention. There were three recorded accidents that happened when the vehicle was being controlled by the human driver, but that was due to bad judgement and taking control from the autonomous mode.

It has already been acknowledged that AV’s are too safe for public roads and this is just further proof that humans aren’t ready to share the road with perfect drivers just yet.

Personally I can’t see AV’s integrating in human driving society for a long time yet. They would likely work best in closed circuits or where safety is key, so airports or even densely populated city centre areas.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think we are ready to share the road with AV’s? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

Over 44% of Streamed Videos Are on a Mobile Device

A report conducted by research firm Ooyala has charted the dramatic growth of mobile video playback which accounted for over 44% in Q2 2015. According to current trends, more than half of videos played will be on mobile devices by the end of this year. This marks a staggering 74% increase year-on-year and illustrates the changing nature of consumer viewing habits. However, Ooyala admitted that the growth rate will hit a peak point and progress at a much-reduced rate. The research paper specifically said:

“The second quarter saw mobile video plays exceed 44%, up 74% from a year ago and up a whopping 844% since Q2 2012. By the end of 2015, we expect mobile to account for more than 50% of all video plays.”

Additionally, the company divulged intriguing statistics regarding video lengths. Videos lasting 10 minutes or more was viewed most on tablets with a figure of 57%. Connected TVs achieved a similar rate of 53% and desktop viewing trailed behind with 40%. Unsurprisingly, mobile handsets are mainly used to watch short-format videos and access quick forms of entertainment.

The rise of community video and YouTube has dramatically altered what we watch and how we watch certain programming. Tablets can easily connect to apps and stream content in up to 4K video on Amazon Instant Video. Furthermore, consumers can now leisurely browse a huge library of programming without having to leave the armchair. Clearly, media is changing, and the desktop is not longer the optimal way to watch online videos.

Thank you Marketing Land for providing us with this information.

Toshiba Reports $318m Net Loss

Toshiba’s fiscal performance from the year start to March has finally been revealed and recorded a net loss of $318 million. The delayed result was caused by the sale of its investment in Finnish firm, Kone to try to recoup financial confidence after senior management figures overstated profits by an estimated $1.22 billion. Despite the rather worrying financials, Toshiba is bullish about the future and released a statement which said:

“While the US economy had lost some momentum in the second half of FY2014, the UK had witnessed a strong performance and the Eurozone had sustained a gradual recovery”.

Despite a slowdown in China, the emerging economies as a whole saw a continued gradual recovery, reflecting solid growth in South-east Asia and India”.

Consumer confidence in Toshiba is quite low after the profits scandal and the company looks to the long-term to restore faith in their management and product line. It’s too early to say what the future holds, but there’s no reason to begin writing Toshiba off just yet. It’s extremely possible that this downturn could be reversed but then again, investors are always concerned about losses or mismanagement. Hopefully, the company can work towards a prosperous future through innovation and products which offer customers real value-for-money.

Do you own a Toshiba product?

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Treason Investigation For Netzpolitik.org Paused In Germany

Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister taking part in Sundays demonstration in Berlin

Secrecy and news. These things are against odds in recent years with the public being aware of just how much we do not know courtesy of the Snowden leaks. In Germany, there is an investigation into the digital rights news site Netzpolitik.org, or rather two journalists, who are charged with treason.

Earlier this year Netzpolitik published two leaked documents detailing the plans by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to expand surveillance of social networks. The head of the German intelligence services, Hans-Georg Massen, has defended the idea of bringing criminal charges to the sites writers. It should be noted that he is also the president fo the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

The investigation began with just those responsible for the leaks but was expanded to include Netzpolitik journalists. The idea of journalists being under investigation for treason caught wind and ended with a lot of people expressing their dislike of the matter, including Correctiv.rog who not only republished the leaked documents but then reported themselves to Germany’s prosecutor general.

With politicians such as Renate Künast (leading Green MP) calling the investigation a “humiliation of the rule of law”, the matter will only continue to gather favour and the public opinion and action will impact on the government’s decisions.

The trial is currently halted courtesy of the Prosecutor general, Harald range, who has stated that he will “await the results of an internal investigation into whether the journalists from the news platform netzpolitik.org had quoted from a classified intelligence report before deciding how to proceed.”

Thank you Ars Technica for the information.

Image courtesy of Sebaso.

 

SSD-Z Utility Tool Version 15.7.11b Update Released

SSD-Z isn’t yet as well-known as other information apps such as GPU-Z and CPU-Z, but it is a great little tool and it just got another update, the first since March. SSD-Z might look like an advanced and long-living app based on its version number, but that is built on the simple numbering of the date when the version was released. It is still in beta and needs more work, but it’s a great start and worth to check out.

SSD-Z is an information tool for Solid State Drives and other disk devices, it will show information about your SSD using a database such as the SSD controller, the processing tech, the NAND type, and more. Other useful information related to disk drives are also shown, such as S.M.A.R.T. status and partition layout. A benchmark function is in the works, but it is still deemed for testing purposes only and not reliable.

This update brings along a newer database that features more drives and information as well as a lot of fixes and improvements. A lot of keyboard shortcuts have been added, but one of the most important features is probably the Submit function. Should some of your drives information be false or it isn’t in the database yet, then you can help out the author and everyone else by submitting your information and help make the next version even better.

If you’d like to try it out yourself, you can find it here.

Changelog for version 15.7.11b

  • The keyboard shortcut modifier to change tabs, was changed from Alt to Control. E.g. [Ctrl + 3].
  • Added keyboard shortcuts to resize the window. Using [Alt + 1, 2, 3, 4] will resize the window to 100%, 150%, 250% or 300%. Last two are width only.
  • New Tab: “Config”. This tab allows for customization of SSD-Z. The Config tab can be opened by pressing [F2] or from the system menu.
  • Settings are now stored in an INI file, in the same folder as the EXE. What’s saved: last active tab, last active device, window position, temperature unit, plus a few other things.
  • The mousewheel can now scroll the visible tabs, if there are too many to fit at once.
  • Partition Tab: The volume list now shows the percentage of free space left.
  • Improved interpretation for certain SMART attributes.
  • Improved several tooltips to be more clear about what the specific field show.
  • Benchmark Tab: Improved the IOPS benchmark by using queue depth.
  • More SSDs have been added to the database.
  • Added support for a few more vendors and their associated logo.
  • Fixed clicking on the temperature field on the device tab to swap unit. This will now properly update the displayed temperature, instead of turning into “n/a”.
  • Partition Tab: Added a column showing if a partition is aligned on a 4k boundry.
  • DevSlp is now listed in the capabilities, for devices that support it.
  • Removed the “-expand” command line parameter. It has been made useless now that the window size is remembered between sessions.
  • Benchmark Tab: Replaced the specific benchmark selection buttons with a drop-down list.
  • Benchmark Tab: The benchmark data is now remembered, even if another benchmark is activated or another device is selected. Only doing a full refresh, [Ctrl + F5] or bottom left button, will clear benchmark data.
  • Benchmark Tab: Some benchmarks can now be aborted when running. This is just a temporary fix until the benchmarks are properly threaded.
  • Added a keyboard shortcut [F4] to activate the previously selected tab.
  • SMART Tab: The attribute name of the selected item can now be copied to the clipboard using [Ctrl + C] or by double clicking the attribute.
  • Added “system.stay_on_top” option to make SSD-Z stay on top.
  • Identify Tab: Many words now displays a description of what each individual bit means.
  • Added debugging option “system.enum_scsi_debug”. When enabled, “\\.\ScsiX:” devices will be enumerated.
  • New Tab: “Submit”. Here you can submit your SSD to the TechPowerUp database. Having access to the submitted information of many SSDs will help improve future versions.
  • Increased the default window width, to accommodate the increased number of tabs.

Ubisoft Financial Reports Shows What Platform Takes Centre Stage When It Comes to Gaming

This year’s Q1 financial report coming from Ubisoft reveals what platform gamers are more interested in. If you thought that the battle was between Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, you are bound to be amazed. The report shows that the company sold twice as many PS4 games compared to Xbox One titles, having Microsoft’s console plunge down even below PC sales figures. In other words, PS4 games account for 27% of software sales, PC for 23% and Xbox One for just 11%.

The results also show how PC gaming has risen 14% compared to last year’s financial report, showing that the PC has been getting a lot more attention and is moving close to surpassing even the PS4 next year. In contrast, the Xbox One sales fell down 14% compared to last year, showing that gamers are more likely to drop Microsoft’s console in favour of Sony or the PC. Even Nintendo’s Wii and Wii U saw an extremely slow sales figure, coming in with only 3%. However, the figure was expected to be low, since Ubisoft did not release any new Wii U title.

But enough about reports and statistics. What do you think? Are you a PS4 gamer or more inclined to switch to Sony’s console, or are you happy with the PC or other platforms? Let us know in the comments below.

Thank you arstechnica for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Sys@dmin Tutorials

Who Has Your Digital Back: 24 Major Tech Companies Analysed

Ever since the NSA clothed assassin Edward Snowden released a cache of documents, (I am not an all government sympathizer and I admire the steps which Mr Snowden took to place this information into the public domain) there has been a greater emphasis on how companies handle your private data. Tech companies are brilliant at telling you how your data is “important to them” and how they safeguard a user’s digital life, but how do we know this? After all, you won’t be receiving a phone call from Tim Cook to offer any assurances anytime soon.

Here’s where a non-profit organisation by the name of the Electronic Frontier Foundation swings into the picture, as you may know, every year this organization publishes an annual report which details how tech companies handle your data or who they may hand it to. The 2015 report has been submitted and is split into the following five categories

  • Follows Industry accepted best practice
  • Tells users about government data demands
  • Discloses policies on data retention
  • Discloses government content removal requests
  • Pro-user public policy opposes backdoors

As you can see, each category is defined with the aim of requesting transparency from each of the 24 individual tech companies who were analysed. The aim of this study is to detail how each company deals with requests from government sources for your data.

So who has kept their word? Well, Tim Cook, you have seemingly kept yours as Apple earned itself a score of 5/5, there were other companies who also earned top marks, I know! These were as follows;

  • Adobe
  • Apple,
  • Yahoo
  • Dropbox
  • WordPress,
  • Wickr,
  • Credo Mobile,
  • Sonic
  • Wikimedia.

A question mark may arise over Dropbox with the controversial appointment of Condoleezza Rice to the board in April 2014. There is no evidence of a policy shift between Dropbox and the US government after Mrs Rice’s appointment, but never the less, its noteworthy.

Now for the worst, open golden envelope, drum roll please, ok metaphorical drum roll, the three worst companies are… I mean I really should win an award for suspense, Get on with it! ok, goes to;

  • AT&T
  • WhatsApp
  • Verizon

AT&T and Verizon failed in every category except “Follows Industry accepted best practice” Although which industry of what universe is anyone’s guess, with WhatsApp failing in every category except “opposes backdoors” But then again, who needs a backdoor when you place all your users details into a post stamped addressed envelope to any government who asks for it. Maybe an exaggeration, but if WhatsApp won’t tell you who demands a section of data, then it’s anyone’s guess..

These reports are well worth reading as it gives you a snapshot of how transparent tech companies are willing to be, after all, we as a society should demand information into what exactly is happening with our data.

Thank You to Electronic Frontier Foundation for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of Electronic Frontier Foundation

Machine That ‘Uncooks Eggs’ Used to Improve Cancer Treatment

A machine invented by an Australian scientist that can “unboil an egg” by unfolding the proteins in egg whites back to their natural state has been hailed as a potential game-changer for the targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment.

The machine, the vortex fluidic device was invented by Professor Colin Raston from Flinders University works by using mechanical energy by spinning molecules at a phenomenal speed (up to 5000 rpm!) to control chemical processes. So far it has been used to “unboil” an egg by uncoiling the albumen proteins and returning them to their natural state, making them active again in a clear liquid.

The device may be able to assist in the delivery of chemotherapy drugs according to a report published by Nature.

“The machine dramatically improves the attachment of the platinum-based cancer drug carboplatin to nano-sized delivery tubes called vesicles. Carboplatin works by binding to cancer cells, inhibiting their DNA synthesis and cell division. The authors of the paper expect that the use of nano-tubes for delivery will allow for a more targeted release of the chemotherapy drug.”

“The hope is that by releasing carboplatin faster at lower pH levels, patients will be able to receive lower doses for more effective treatment.”

It also minimises drug waste. Up to half a tonne of manufacturing waste can be generated by the production of just one kilogramme of anti-cancer drugs.

“Much of the drugs end up in the sewerage system and [could] create superbugs in our environment,” Dr Raston said.

Thank you to TheAge for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Parade

Samsung Has Quite the Lead in the World of SSDs

Samsung isn’t always the first company that comes to mind when thinking of SSDs, but they are doing more than great in this area. The market research firm IHS recently released the report for the global SSD market in 2014 where Samsung takes a strong lead over the competition.

There isn’t much doubt that this was started with the 840 EVO series that brought a high-capacity drive with good performance and an unbeatable price for the time. Samsung hasn’t been sitting still since then and launched several successful drives and the new NVMe-based SM951 SSD will no doubt help to continue that trend and strengthen Samsung’s foothold.

Samsung claimed the first place with a 34% market share and a full year revenue of $ 3,996,000,000, that is about the same as Intel and Sandisk put together who come in on a second and third place respectively with around $1.9 billion revenue and a market share of 17%.

Micron comes in on a fourth place with a 8% market share, Toshiba grabs the fifth with 7% and Lite-On comes in on a sixth place with just 6% market share. What surprised me most was Kingston’s place 8th place and just a market share of 3%, they have a lot of amazing drives on the market.

IHS’s future predictions don’t look like they change a lot and that Samsung will continue down the road to even more market share. The total SSD market revenue of 2014 was an impressive 11.5 billion and it is expected to raise close to 2 billion this year.

Teen Driver Technology Aims to Keep Teenagers and Parents’ Worries at Bay

Parents are always worried to give the keys of their first car to teenagers, given all the accidents teens are involved nowadays. But a new technology aims to help keep parents’ worries at bay when teenagers are out cruising in their new car.

General Motors seems to have introduced a new system dubbed ‘Teen Driver’ at the New York auto show, having it been added in the new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. It is said that the system aims in encouraging safe driving habits for kids. The company states that their system is aimed at helping parents teach their teens the valuable rules of driving safely in their new car.

“It’s a programmable feature that encourages safe driving habits in a number of ways,” GM safety engineer MaryAnn Beebe.

The technology is said to include trip monitoring that parents can review, giving information about the maximum speeds, distance driven and the number of times active safety features were enabled. The ‘Teen Driver’ is also said to allow parents to set a maximum speed anywhere between 72 to 120 KM/h, which in turn will set a visual and audio chime in the car if exceeded.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXsgcP2dexE

Other safety features includes the car radio being disabled until the seatbelts are buckled and smartphones connected to the car’s stereo system set on ‘do not disturb’ mode. The new technology could be a step forward in the right direction, but many seem to believe that the best safety precaution is just teaching proper driving skills.

“We do think we need to know the skills before you start relying a bit more on the technology,” says Ian Jack of the Canadian Automobile Association.

US statistics reveal that crash fatalities of 16 to 19 year-old is three times the rate compared to drivers of age 20 or over. The new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu model will debt at the New York Auto Show in April and is expected to hit the market by the end of this year.

Thank you CTV News for providing us with this information

Unity 5 Released, Including Fully Featured Free Version!

Unity 5 is finally here! This has proven to be a quick response to Epic’s shocking shift in making Unreal Engine 4 free last weekend. Unity 5 brings “over a thousand” improvements, including making the engine 64-bit and adding support for 21 platforms.

In terms of more detailed improvements, the team at Unity call the new engine a “graphical powerhouse”. What they mean by this is that there have been a lot of changes in terms of rendering:

  • Physically-based Standard Shader
    • The new Standard Shader will make your materials look consistent in any lighting environment, across mobile, high-end desktop, and consoles. Apply it across 95% of the materials in your game, such as metal, plastics, wood, ceramics and cloth. Use it together with the new HDR Skybox, Reflection Probes and Global Illumination System to create stunning visuals.
  • Real-time Global Illumination
    • Animate lighting with Real-time Global Illumination built on Geomerics Enlighten technology. Achieve dynamic lighting treatments on high-end mobile, desktop and consoles, and for lower-end devices, create beautifully detailed results with baked artwork.
  • HDR Reflection Probes
    • Enhance visual fidelity with our new HDR Reflection Probes. Add richer detail by having any object realistically reflect its surroundings. Reflection Probes are easy to implement—just place a probe at any location in your scene to sample reflections for its surrounding objects.

Moving further under the hood, we see some major changes in the Editor as well, having added a new audio mixer, enhanced animation workflows and PhysX 3.3:

  • The Audio Mixer
    • Now anyone can massively improve the audio in their game! Our new Audio Mixer brings nested mixing workflows, with snapshots to capture mixes in different areas of your project, plus industry-standard effects to add immersive new depths.
  • New Physics Engine
    • PhysX 3.3 brings massive performance improvements to 3D physics in Unity 5. New multithreaded simulation is available for platforms that support it, and there’s a new cloth component for character clothing. New wheel colliders bring better support for suspension and tire force simulation. Collision detection is improved and bake-free scaled MeshCollider support is added.
  • A more powerful Animator
    • We added more flexibility to the animation system. Add State Machine Behaviours to states to give precise control of script functions during animation. Anything in your game that requires some kind of State Machine-like logic can now use our visual editor live feedback. A new Asset Creation API is now exposed so animators can now create all sorts of tools to create and edit animation assets.

Other improvements include WebGL Preview, which is a preview of the deployment support for advanced 3D and 2D content in modern browsers. It aims at enhancing support for HTML5 and WebGL applications through Unity Web Player, stating that the new improvements will “deliver performance at native speeds”. Aside from WebGL, Unity 5 now supports iOS Metal Rendering, taking full advantage of iOS hardware in order to achieve greater detail, smoother performance and interactivity in games at a lower CPU usage cost.

Also, Unity 5 along with Oculus are working to “further boost the exceptional frame rates achievable with Unity on the Oculus”. This means we are going to see a lot of developers taking an interest in VR technology and in return, we should expect a lot of titles supporting the technology in the future.

In terms of new features, Unity 5 apparently is heading “to the clouds”. The team has prepared a new feature for developers, namely Unity Cloud Build, along with a set of game performance reporting tools and analytics:

  • Unity Cloud Build
    • Unity Cloud Build brings the magic of build automation to all Unity developers. Unity Cloud Build automates the creation and distribution of builds, by monitoring your team’s source control, and when changes are detected, it builds your project for multiple platforms in the cloud. Your whole team is kept updated with email notifications, making it easy for them to install builds on their devices with the tap of a button.
  • Game Performance Reporting
    • Game Performance Reporting is a new cloud service for Unity Professional customers that provides developers with new tools for improving game performance, starting with a preview of exception logging. Exception Logging captures exceptions in editor, development and release builds, and delivers detailed reports that can be read via a web dashboard.
  • Unity Analytics
    • Our new cloud-based analytics tool is currently in open beta. Unity Analytics provides you with powerful yet simple-to-understand tools that will help you understand your audience and get actionable insights into your players’ behavior. With that knowledge in hand, you can then improve your players’ gaming experience to boost retention, engagement and monetization.

Other improvements and additions are as following:

  • A 64-bit Editor to handle large projects
  • iOS 64-bit support
  • New Deferred Rendering
  • Graphics Command Buffers
  • Improved Linear lighting, HDR, Skybox and Cubemap workflows
  • Improved job scheduling system, plus a new CPU Timeline Profiler lets you see and investigate multicore usage
  • Improved NavMesh pathfinding system
  • Integrated SpeedTree support to create lush, rich and dynamic vegetation
  • New Frame Debugger to track down graphical issues in your projects
  • Improved Project Wizard
  • Updated Standard Assets
  • New UI and scripting APIs for AssetBundle Build system

Lastly, Unity 5 not only brings a lot of changes in terms of features, performance and improvements, but in terms of pricing as well. The team seems to be working with having two “goals” in mind:

Goal #1 — One of the founding principles of Unity is the idea that we work hard to solve very hard technical problems so our developers / users won’t have to. For this to be at all relevant, our best tools need to be a great value.

Goal #2 — Deep in Unity’s culture is the principle of Democracy. The goal is to price in such a way as to reflect our principles. Democracy is the principle we were founded on, and it means we do our best to put Unity in the hands of developers, Indies or Pros, that may not have the resources to pay for it. It’s about enabling most everyone to create with the best tools we can make. I won’t get too soppy in this post — but is an honor for me to work in a company so mission driven and principled.
Unity 5 Personal can be downloaded for free over at Unity’s website.

This is reflected in Unity 5’s pricing. This is why the Personal edition can be downloaded for free over at Unity’s website. However, the free version does not include the analytics, cloud, performance reporting and some other features. This is why the Professional edition comes with a subscription fee of $75/month.

However, the subscription fee mentioned above is just for Indie companies. There are three more subscription options, which include Enterprise, Education and Industry Solutions which are offered to bring the best subscription package for the job at hand. The pricing and more detail about the subscription packages can also be found on Unity’s website.

Sources: Unity Blog, Unity 5

Apple to Produce Cars by 2020

Bloomberg, a trusted source for Apple rumours, says that the company is to be producing cars by the year 2020. They say that they company will have vehicles rolling off the production line “as early as 2020”, suggesting that the date could be later, or never, as is the case for many Apple projects that never see the light of day.

However, while that is certainly the case for many Apple products, the car project seems to be a serious one. After credible reports from The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, all but confirming the car project, it certainly seems that Apple is aiming for a slice of Tesla’s pie.

9to5Mac yesterday published an extensive list of employees which Apple has hired to work on the project, with a number of Tesla employees, as well as many senior automotive experts from giants including Ford. That along with those sightings of an Apple-registered car whizzing around the streets of Palo Alto with a load of equipment on the roof, make this rumour seem closer to fact than fiction.

Source: Bloomberg

Has the NSA Been Hiding Viruses in Hard Drive Firmware?

A new report from Kaspersky Lab suggests that the NSA might just have developed quite an interesting way to hide viruses. They say that they may well be hiding malicious software inside the firmware of Hard Drives, including those made by a host of famous manufacturers, such as Seagate, Western Digital, Maxtor, Hitachi, Toshiba and Samsung.

The ‘Equation’ report says that the malware included on the drives would be almost impossible to detect and to remove, giving the NSA an unprecedented way to access many millions of computers across the globe. The report also ponders how the organisation would be able to install such malware, suggesting that while the NSA could full well reverse engineer hard drive firmware, they say that it may be possible that the US government has secretly approached the hard drive manufacturers and worked with them to include the malware with their products.

So far, only Western Digital has spoken out about the report, denying to Reuters that they have any involvement with the NSA. The others all declined to comment.

This makes quite a significant story, with repercussions that will surely develop over time.

Source: Reuters

FBI Warns Autonomous Cars Could Be Used As Bombs

Self driving cars are a thing for the future and most people are looking forward to them. Even the United Kingdom stated that it will introduce some sort of taxi pods a while back, having them operational by 2017. However, are autonomous vehicles really that safe? The Federal Bureau of Investigation tends to disagree.

The FBI has apparently given a warning that criminals could use these driverless vehicles in a variety of ways, from evading law enforcement officers, to shooting cops from the back of the vehicle. An internal report obtained by The Guardian states that in a section by the name of “multitasking”, autonomous vehicles fall in the description of ‘tools’ which can be used to “conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road which would be impossible today”.

In addition to the above, driverless vehicles can also be used as a ‘bomb on wheels’, being able to program it to drive itself to the target. All in all, it seems that although self driving vehicles are a great futuristic way of transportation, they can also pose a great risk for safety and security.

The report is said to be made by the Strategic Issues Group within the FBI’s Directorate of Intelligence and it does not describe only negative points of view about the new technology. It is said that driverless vehicles could be used to as a surveillance tool, keeping a lock on targets while remaining undetected. Though it is unfortunate to see advances in consumer technology becoming a benefit for criminals, impeding further advancements due to the fear of it being used as a weapon.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of The Verge

Freemium Apps Said to Generate 98% of Google Play’s Revenue in May

A study performed by App Annie is said to have revealed in a report that Google Play’s revenue in May was not made from paid applications. With over 1.5 million apps from the store platform, it appears that 98% of the revenue was generated from freemium applications.

The freemium applications, which are ‘free’ to download and play, but also provide ‘premium’ content which users can buy with real money, have proven to be the ‘gold mine’ for Google’s store platform. However, the reports also show that the majority of downloads from the store registered in May also indicated a decrease in freemium apps and an increase in free (no strings attached) applications.

App Annie apparently did not state the revenue spike from freemium apps in the given months, however downloads from previous months followed by content purchase later on might explain it since 90% of the revenue during the first quarter reportedly came from games.

The use of premium content inside games has been criticised for some time now, having gamers with more money be given an advantage over gamers who do not wish to invest in such applications. Nevertheless, data gathered by App Annie shows that while the jury decides whether or not freemium apps are unethical or not, the apps are currently deemed as commercially successful.

The study shows that the average application downloaded from Google Play earns roughly $1,150, while Apple’s App Store brings a figure of $4,000, followed by Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store bringing in only $625. Though there is a considerable gap between Apple and Google’s earnings, it is said that Google is quickly gaining some ground in markets from Asia, Russia, Mexico and Brazil.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Mashable

PlayStation 4 Reportedly Displaying Software Problems, Two New Error Codes Emerge

Sony’s PlayStation 4 is also having its share of latest console issues. Various PlayStation 4 errors are being reported by users all related to the system’s hardware, two new PlayStation 4 errors are stated under. Most reported PlayStation 4 issues are software related, some PlayStation 4 users have been reporting two new PlayStation 4 errors on PlayStation European Blog. According to the reports, an error window pops up every time the users try to check the PlayStation friends list or access the Playroom.

The first error has the CE-34861-2 error code, and is present when users try to access their PlayStation friend list. Kieran0161 reported this error first on PlayStation EU Blog, complaining about the error.

“I keep getting this error and I’m not happy it cost me like £500 for ps4 then £40 to get online and I can’t Even use it you take are money but don’t give use a service we pay for on ps3 it was free so can’t complain but now I pay for bout coz it don’t work you best give use free online for a year now.” Kieran0161 said.

The second reported software related PlayStation 4 error is CE-34878, which occurs when users try to access the PlayStation Playroom. SAUER_30-06 has spotted and encountered the error, and responded with the following post.

“Yesterday I called Sony support about my PS4 that constantly gave me the 34878 error, despite total rebuilding the system, reinstalling certificates and reinstalling games. Sony support told me to get it replaced at the store I got it from, so I did. Got home and plugged it in and everything worked fine. I even played a whole hour of Battlefield 4 for the first time! If your console crashes constantly every 10 minutes, call support or your store. You´ll get a new one. The reason I never found an answer was because the problem is not very common.” SAUER_30-06 said.

Many troubleshooting tips have been posted by other players who have viewed the threads created by the users who are suffering with these PlayStation 4 software errors. Some methods are also reported to be working, so do not forget to check the threads (1, 2, and 3) regarding the PlayStation 4 software errors on PlayStation EU Blog.

Thank you WCCF for providing us with this information

Apple’s iWatch Rumored To Arrive Next October

China-based report might indicate that the long rumored Apple iWatch will finally be launched in October 2014. According to a source who is said to have a good track record with leaks involving Apple, the Cupertino based tech titan is testing two different prototypes of the iOS powered timepiece. Both are equipped with a 100mAh battery, which is roughly one-third of the 315mAh capacity of the cell on the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. And despite an update last month that improved the Galaxy Gear’s battery life, it still is the subject of some complaints. In other words, if a 315mAh battery doesn’t provide enough battery life on Samsung’s smartwatch, what can 100mAh bring to the iWatch?

The report insists that the Apple iWatch will be able to support wireless charging from 3.2 feet away. This would mean that the wireless charging would not be based on Qi’s standards, but would use a magnetic resonance system similar to what Samsung is rumored to be using for its smartphones starting in the middle of next year. If you had enough chargers, you could set them up in certain areas of your home or in your car or office, and the watch could recharge once you were within range.

The report should however be taken as a rumor and nothing more, reports about what the iWatch will look like or its functions are just speculation. Even those who claim to have seen the watch with their own two eyes don’t know if what they were looking at was a prototype that could be changed before it is released.

Thank you Phonearena for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Phonearena

IDC Publish Report Of Top PC Makers For 2013

The recent 3Q13 report was published by research firm IDC, it listed the top five PC makers for the last quarter and it did so by working out who had shipped the most units. The company does also keep a revenue count, but since that never lines up with reported financials it has been all but useless information.

When you rank the companies by their unit shipments we see the following.

  1. Lenovo
  2. Hewlett-Packard (HP)
  3. Dell
  4. Acer
  5. Asus

This list is a big deal for these companies and any and all statistics of big companies such as these are vital for investors too, so having the right information is extremely important, but according to Forbes it isn’t the list you should be looking at.

Since IDC has no way of knowing what the mix of products is, knowing that 1 million units shipped with essentially little or no knowledge of the unit price, or how many of each product type sold is worthless information.

For the tech industry, units shipped is more than enough, especially for a company that may only make graphics cards and can say “we shipped 100,000 graphics cards” or “we shipped 1 million systems this quater” that much is fine, but it is still no indication of revenue. When we take a look at revenue ranking, the line up changes quite quickly.

  1. Apple
  2. Dell
  3. Lenovo
  4. HP
  5. Acer

Thank you Forbes for providing us with this information.