Top Stories for the Week of December 30, 2014

  • From Category5 Technology TV S08E14
  • December 30, 2014
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Tuesday December 30, 2014

Both Sony and Microsoft's gaming networks came under attack last week, and while services have been restored, the threat of repeat attack is very real.

Sony and Microsoft have restored their gaming services which were taken down by a DDOS attack on Christmas day.

Microsoft and Sony have been working to restore Internet platforms for their Xbox and PlayStation game consoles.

Attacks disabled the online services on Christmas Day, making it difficult for users to log on.

The Xbox Live status page suggested on Saturday that Microsoft services had been restored. PlayStation said it was getting to grips with the issue and thanked users for their patience.

A hacking group called Lizard Squad claimed to have caused the problems.

The name is the same used by a group of hackers that has targeted Sony in the past.

Microsoft's Xbox Live has 48 million subscribers and Sony's PlayStation system has more than double that number, at about 110 million users.

In a tweet posted on Saturday morning, Sony said of their PlayStation network, "Update: PS4, PS3, and Vita network services are gradually coming back online - thanks for your patience."

A later statement said they were seeing reduced reports of network issues and would continue to monitor things.

Sony executives must be asking themselves - when will it stop?

The attack on the PlayStation network - along with Microsoft's Xbox Live network - is nowhere near as serious and sophisticated as the Sony Pictures hack, but the impact on customers is more direct, and the fact that Sony took longer than Microsoft to get its network up and running is another blow to the reputation of its security operation.

The distributed denial of service attack which overwhelmed the servers at Sony and Microsoft appears to have been on a very large scale, and came at a time of year when traffic would have already been very high.

But customers are just as angry with Lizard Squad, who has since justified its actions with statements about exposing poor security.

The group now appears to have set its sights on bringing down Tor, the secure network which enables anonymous online communication. This threat has incurred the wrath of the better known hacker collective Anonymous - so we should be prepared for some online conflict in the coming days, hacker group vs. hacker group.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Google's Gmail, the world's most widely used email service, has been almost entirely blocked in China since boxing day.

Gmail, the world's largest email service, has been almost entirely blocked in China., a China-based anti-censorship group, indicated that Gmail might have been thrown outside the great firewall of China.

Google's Transparency Report shows a dramatic drop in Gmail traffic in China starting Friday.

Google declined to comment on the reasons behind the drop in traffic, but a Google spokesperson said, "We've checked and there's nothing wrong on our end."

Google has had issues operating in China for years, tracing back to its clash with the country after refusing to censor its Internet search results in 2010. Its services have worked inconsistently after it moved its operations from mainland China to Hong Kong.

In June, China blocked the use of Gmail through browsers ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, in which the government violently cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators. However, there was a loophole that allowed people to continue to access Gmail through Microsoft's Outlook or Apple's email client.

That loophole has apparently been closed.


Hate Facebook Messenger? Too bad--you're not one of the users Facebook is listening to.

Facebook plans to separate even more of its features into separate apps, just like it did with Facebook Messenger.

Like it or not, Facebook wants to occupy several spots on your smartphone’s home screen.

Annoyed that you had to download a separate app, Facebook Messenger, to chat with your friends and family on the world’s most popular social network? Too bad.

Facebook has no intention of reversing that contentious move. In fact, it plans to move more features from its main mobile app into separate apps in 2015.

Jordan Banks, the managing director of Facebook Canada and the global head of vertical strategy says, “We’re getting away from that single app that does everything for you. We released nine different apps in 2014 and I think what you’ll see is we’ll release more in 2015 — at the demand and behest of our users”.

He goes on to say “(Users) want single apps that do one thing incredibly well. So one of the reasons we took Messenger out of the [Facebook] app and gave it its own standalone app is because that’s what our users were telling us. They didn’t want to click two or three times before they got into Messenger.”

While Banks insists he’s only heard good feedback, forcing users to download a separate app for Facebook Messenger stirred a loud chorus of complaints. On the Apple App Store, there are more one-star reviews panning Facebook’s move than rave ratings.

Banks says, “I hear everyone talking about how delighted they are that they get one-click access to a Messenger app that has over 500 million people using it.”


In entertainment news, Justin Lin is confirmed to be the director of the next Star Trek film.

In entertainment news, Justin Lin is confirmed to be the director of the next Star Trek film.

Film-maker Justin Lin is to direct the next installment of the Star Trek movie franchise.

Lin, whose previous credits include four installments of the Fast and Furious series, replaces Roberto Orci, who recently pulled out of the role.

JJ Abrams, who made the first two reboots of the sci-fi series, stepped down to make the new Star Wars film.

A release for the third Star Trek prequel has not been set by Paramount. However, there has been speculation that it will come out in 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Star Trek television series.

Casting details are also not confirmed, but actors who starred in the first two outings, including Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, are expected to return.

Star Trek Into Darkness, released in 2013, co-starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan and made more than $467m worldwide.

The first prequel, looking at the younger lives of its famous characters, was released in 2009.

Orci, who was due to make his directorial debut on the project, is co-writing the script.

Orci, along with Abrams, will continue to be on board as producers.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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