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August 20, 2014

AT&T Gigabit Internet Coming to Cupertino

AT&T Austin Gigapower

AT&T today confirmed plans to light up the heart of Silicon Valley with gigabit Internet: Cupertino, California.

Home of Apple, and neighbor to Google and Facebook, Cupertino is the first California city to receive AT&T's gigabit broadband speeds.

"Cupertino is leading the way in creating an environment that fosters innovation, and the deployment of ultra-high-speed broadband service will further support innovation in our community, spur our local businesses, and result in even greater economic development in our city," Mayor Gilbert Wong said in a statement. "We are very pleased to work with AT&T to offer this unprecedented service to our residents and small businesses."

The enhancements ensure customers have access to AT&T's fastest Internet speeds, as well as new TV services, like the ability to watch and record five simultaneous HD streams on a 1TB DVR.

"The ultra-fast speeds of the AT&T GigaPower network open up a whole new world of possibilities for our customers in Cupertino," said Ken McNeely, president of AT&T California. "From our wireless network to our broadband network, we are proud to empower entrepreneurs, developers, artists, and creative thinkers of every strip to build and shape the future of California."



August 19, 2014

Microsoft Goes From Cellar to Stellar in New Antivirus Test

AV-ComparativesMany independent antivirus testing labs have taken to calling Microsoft Security Essentials their baseline, separate from the products undergoing testing. If an antivirus can't do better than Microsoft, it's a poor product indeed. However, Dennis Batchelder, director of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC), contends that lab tests don't reflect the product's actual user protection, and that in the real world Microsoft is much more effective than the tests show. A recent test suggests that just might be true.

World-Wide Telemetry
The basis of Batchelder's claim is that Microsoft's researchers know more about the actual prevalence of specific malware families than just about anybody. Why? Because every Patch Tuesday the Malicious Software Removal Tool both deletes prevalent malware and reports a raft of non-personal information back to Microsoft. The returned telemetry includes what (if any) threats were neutralized, but also tells them the Windows version, the version of any installed antivirus software, whether that software is up to date, and more.

The MMPC website offers visitors a lightweight summary of current statistics. Under the hood, they've got vastly more data, and they use that data to prioritize protection against the most dangerous and most prevalent malware threats. Or so they say.

Considering Prevalence
Microsoft commissioned the well-known lab AV-Comparatives to re-evaluate a recent test taking prevalence of samples into account. This was a simple file detection test—run an antivirus scan with each product and note how many of over 100,000 samples it detects.

The samples are selected to represent malware prevalent in the wild and to avoid over-representation of any one malware family. However, in calculating the detection rate, every sample gets the same weight. The new report takes the same data and applies weighting based on Microsoft's reported prevalence. The results were vastly different from the original, as you can see in the chart below.

Ranking Change Based on Prevalence

Weighting didn't change the top and bottom scores. Kaspersky Lab is still number one, and AhnLab is still in the cellar. But other rankings changed dramatically. Instead of being second-to-last, Microsoft ranked better than three-quarters of the competition. And aside from Kaspersky, all those ranked above Microsoft came up from lower rankings.

By the same token, most of the lowest-ranked products started off much higher. Bitdefender, Lavasoft, Kingsoft, Emsisoft, Qihoo, and BullGuard had originally tied for sixth place. After weighting for prevalence they're ranked from 15th place on down. Baidu took the biggest plunge, from second place to 22nd. Why? Because while it didn't miss many samples, the ones it did miss were extremely widespread.

The full report from AV-Comparatives describes the weighting scheme in detail and also offers country-specific analysis showing each product's performance on a global map. It states, "This report should be regarded as a prototype, the purpose of which is spark debate on the significance of prevalence data, and promote ideas for improving the method," and expresses a hope that other vendors will share telemetry data with Microsoft "in order to get a more significant and impartial customer-impact analysis."

That sounds like a good plan to me. The radically different results using Microsoft's prevalence data alone suggests that we need data from a broader set of sources.



August 19, 2014

Ballmer Resigns From Microsoft Board

Ballmer

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer today stepped down from the company's board, though he plans to remain Redmond's top shareholder.

Ballmer, who left Microsoft in February after Satya Nadella was named CEO, pointed to a "hectic" schedule as his reason for departing.

"In the six months since leaving, I have become very busy. I see a combination of the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking a lot of time," Ballmer said in a memo to Nadella.

Ballmer is the now the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and he greeted his new team in typical Ballmer fashion this week. Some of those civic contributions, meanwhile, include taking part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

"I have confidence in our approach of mobile-first, cloud-first, and in our primary innovation emphasis on platforms and productivity and the building of capability in devices and services as core business drivers," Ballmer wrote. "Given my confidence and the multitude of new commitments I am taking on now, I think it would be impractical for me to continue to serve on the board, and it is best for me to move off."

"I bleed Microsoft," the former CEO insisted: 34 years and counting.

"Count on me to keep ideas and inputs flowing. The company will move to higher heights," he wrote. "I will be proud, and I will benefit through my share ownership. I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can."

Ballmer announced plans to step down as CEO last summer after a tough period that saw Windows 8 and Windows Phone, not to mention Surface tablet, fail to really catch on. Nadella has his work cut out for him, and recently announced massive layoffs in a bid to transform the software giant.



August 18, 2014

4.5 Million Patient IDs Compromised in Hospital Hack

Security Password Hack One of the country's biggest hospital operators, Community Health Systems, on Monday announced that its computer network was the "target of an external, criminal cyber attack" which saw the compromise of patient identification data for "approximately 4.5 million individuals."

The attacker or attackers are believed to have originated in China, according to Community Health Systems and its IT security contractor, Mandiant.

Community Health Systems, which operates more than 200 hospitals in the United States, revealed the breach in a Form 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The hack of the computer network occurred in July, the publicly traded company said. Data stolen in the breach "did not include patient credit card, medical, or clinical information," Community Health Systems said, but did include "patient names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers, and social security numbers," which are protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Community Health Systems said Mandiant, serving as the company's forensic expert for the breach, believed "the attacker was an 'Advanced Persistent Threat' group originating from China who used highly sophisticated malware and technology to attack the company's systems."

The intruder or intruders behind the attack is known to federal authorities, according to Community Health Systems.

"The company has been informed by federal authorities and Mandiant that this intruder has typically sought valuable intellectual property, such as medical device and equipment development data," the SEC filing said.

However, the July intrusion focused on "non-medical patient identification data related to the company's physician practice operations," Community Health Systems said.

Attorney Nick Akerman, a partner at international law firm Dorsey and Whitney with a specialization in computer crimes, said the scope of the breach was very concerning.

"The danger here is not only in the patient's privacy but the fact that they could be victims of identity theft because of the credit card information that was stolen," Akerman said. "It is unlikely that the Chinese hackers care about the health information. What is key is the financial information on the patients."

Community Health Systems said it was "providing appropriate notification to affected patients and regulatory agencies." The company said it has finished removing the malware installed by the attackers in its computer systems and was working with Mandiant on other remediation and preventative measures to avoid future intrusions.



August 18, 2014

Latest iPhone Rumors Focus on Battery Power

Apple logo With just three weeks before Apple is expected to announce its next iPhone (or iPhones), the rumor mill shows no signs of slowing down.

According to photos leaked from China, for example, the first of Cupertino's two new handsets—the 4.7-inch "iPhone 6"—will run on an 1,810mAh lithium-ion polymer battery; the iPhone 5s sports a 1,440mAh battery.

A second report, from Taiwanese blog Apple Daily, shows three components set for Apple's phablet-sized iPhone, also referred to by the blog's sources as the "iPhone 6L."

However, Apple Insider was skeptical of those rumors, saying that the photos of the display and logic board—presumably meant for a 5.5-inch handset—are nearly identical to images leaked last week in reference to the smaller iPhone.

Elements like screw bosses, circuit board anchors, and circuitry can be found in the exact locations as their little sibling, which Apple Insider said is unlikely when building different sized smartphones.

The Taiwanese blog also showed off a never-before-seen photo of a 2,915mAh battery, which could be housed inside the 5.5-inch iPhone. But Apple Insider pointed to other recent battery leaks, which suggests the leaked batteries are meant for testing purposes only, and may not end up in the final product.

Meanwhile, other leaks tip a reversible USB plug, which - as 9to5Mac noted - would let you plug it in in either direction. And G4Games says that the iPhone 6 will only have 1GB of RAM.

Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment.

New iPhone reports have been emerging for months, tipping a new, more rugged sapphire display screen, a light-up logo for notifications, and more.



August 17, 2014

Microsoft Issues Hotfix for Internet Explorer Slowdowns

A Closer Look at Windows 8's Browser: Internet Explorer 10 Having some trouble with your Web browser? Specifically, Internet Explorer? If you've noticed that your Microsoft browser has felt as if it's been crawling to a halt lately, then we have some good news for you: Microsoft knows about the issue and has recently issued a hotfix to correct it.

If you have no idea what we're talking about, we'll start from the top. There are two Internet Explorer updates that, when applied to any iteration of the browser between Internet Explorer 7 and 11 (yikes), could eventually cause the browser to grind to a halt. The culprit? "Web applications that implement consecutive modal dialog boxes," reads Microsoft's hotfix.

So how do you know if you have these updates installed? If your browser hasn't yet gotten sluggish, but you want to prevent it from doing so in the future, start by hitting up your Windows Control Panel. Once there, click on the icon for "Windows Update." In the windows that appears, click on the "View update history" in the left-most sidebar (and while you're here, make sure you've downloaded and installed all the latest Microsoft updates for your system!)

Within the list of updates, which we recommend you sort by name just to make the entire process easier, you're going to want to look for one of two different patches: KB2962872 or KB2976627. If you system automatically downloads and installs Windows updates, odds are good you have both—like this article's writer.

If you'd like to head off Internet Explorer's issues at the pass—or if you're already suffering strange slowdowns—you'll want to check out Microsoft's KB2991509 article. In it, Microsoft has a laundry list of update links for all versions of Internet Explorer from 7 to 11, for all operating systems. That includes 64-bit verisons; if you're not sure whether you're running a 64-bit OS, Microsoft has you covered there as well.

Simply click on the correct package for your Internet Explorer and Windows OS combination, download it, and install it. It's that easy.

It's unclear if or when Microsoft will roll out the hotfix as an automatic update, but it never hurts to fix your browser early, right?



August 16, 2014

Report: Apple Gambles $700M on Sapphire iPhone Display

iPhone 6 sapphire display leaks, and it’s indestructible

Every cell phone owner is familiar with the overwhelming feeling of dread when your device slips out of your hand or gets knocked off a table. Did it scratch? Can I still send Snapchats through the cracked screen?

Apple's next-generation iPhone may ease those fears. The company is rumored to be replacing its Gorilla Glass screen with a new sapphire glass display made by partner GT Advanced Technologies.

But that sort of relief doesn't come cheap. According to The Wall Street Journal, Cupertino is gambling $700 million on the harder, more flexible material.

Typically used in airplane windows and armored vehicles to protect against extreme conditions, the massively expensive sapphire is often used only sparingly—perhaps as a scratch-resistant cover for costly watches.

Apple already uses the material, according to the Journal, to cover its iPhone camera lense and fingerprint reader. But what could widespread use mean for oft-damaged screens?



August 15, 2014

Report: Sprint to Get Aggressive, Launch Cheaper Plans

Sprint Logo Sprint is wasting no time mourning the demise of its rumored acquisition of T-Mobile and departure of former CEO Dan Hesse; new chief Marcelo Claure on Thursday reportedly announced service changes during a company-wide meeting.

According to LightReading, Claure will start his stint at CEO by launching new, aggressive pricing plans next week.

"We're going to change our plans to make sure they are simple and attractive and make sure every customer in America thinks twice about signing up to a competitor," Claure said during a Sprint town hall meeting.

"When you have a great network, you don't have to compete on price," the Brightstar Corp. founder added, according to LightReading. "When your network is behind, unfortunately you have to compete on value and price."

Sprint declined to comment on the report.



August 15, 2014

Report: Apple to Store User Data on Chinese Servers

China flag Apple has reportedly moved the personal data of some of its Chinese users onto servers stored in the country.

The move is noteworthy since a number of tech companies have avoided storing data in China because of censorship and privacy concerns, Reuters said.

But Apple wants to move customers' data closer to the actual customers, in the hopes of improving the speed and reliability of its iCloud service, where folks store content like documents, photos, and emails.

To do so, it has teamed up with China Telecom, the country's third-largest wireless carrier, to keep data inside the country.

"Apple takes user security and privacy very seriously," Apple told Reuters. "We have added China Telecom to our list of data center providers to increase bandwidth and improve performance for our customers in mainland China."

All user data is encrypted, Cupertino explained, adding that even China Telecom does not have access to content stored on its servers. An anonymous source confirmed to Reuters that Apple's encryption keys will be kept offshore and not made available to China Telecom.

"After 15 months of stringent tests and evaluation … China Telecom has become Apple's only cloud service provider in China," the company said in a statement, published by The Wall Street Journal.

Neither Apple nor China Telecom immediately responded to PCMag's request for comment.

This announcement comes after a July dispute, which began when China Central Television (CCTV) called the iOS 7 "frequent locations" function a "national security concern." Apple denied the charges, but Chinese officials later dropped 10 Apple products from its approved government procurements list.

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August 13, 2014

AT&T Offers iPhone Buyers $200 Off iPad

Apple Unveils New iPad Air, Retina iPad Mini

AT&T is offering $200 off the price of an iPad for those who are buying an iPhone 5c or 5s.

To get the deal, shoppers must sign on for AT&T Next when buying their smartphone, which lets people pay off the cost of a phone over 12 or 18 months rather than locking them into a two-year contract, potentially allowing them to upgrade to a newer smartphone faster.

If you buy a 16GB iPhone 5s, for example, you will pay $27.09 per month via AT&T Next 18 or $32.50 per month using AT&T Next 12. It's $199.99 with a two-year contract and $649.99 unlocked.

A colorful 16GB iPhone 5c will cost you $22.92 per month on AT&T Next 18 and $27.50 on AT&T Next 12. It's $99.99 with a two year-contract and $549.99 unlocked.

To get the iPad discount, however, buyers must sign on for a two-year contract for the tablet. Data plans for an AT&T tablet range from $14.99 to $50 per month, depending on how much cellular data you intend to consume.