Top Stories for the Week of May 17, 2017

  • Episode 504
  • May 17, 2017
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday May 17, 2017

Netflix is messing around with pricing in Australia.

Would you pay more to get your Netflix fix? How about on weekends, when the urge to binge strikes hardest?

A price hike could well be in the works with the streaming giant quietly testing out changes to the cost of plans in Australia.

Netflix has tested upping Australian prices by as much as AU$3 over weekends, increasing its Basic plan from AU$8.99 to AU$9.99 a month, its Standard plan from AU$11.99 to AU$13.99 a month, and its Premium plan from AU$14.99 to AU$17.99 a month.

Netflix confirmed that it has tested price changes, but was quick to emphasise that it has not made any announcement to change prices, either locally or globally.

Regardless, Australians could be up for a Netflix price increase within a matter of weeks.

In addition, the federal government is set to extend Australia's 10 percent goods and services tax to "intangible supplies" such as digital content, games and software, which would also impact the cost of using online streaming companies such as Netflix.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

We're on the cusp of what could be a world-changing evolution in battery technology thanks to an Israeli startup.

It sounds like science fiction, but smartphones with batteries that fully charge in just five minutes could be available to consumers next year.

The technology was first shown off in 2015, when Israeli start-up StoreDot demonstrated its FlashBattery at the CES tech show in Las Vegas.

Chief executive Doron Myersdorf recently said it is now expected to enter production in early 2018.

Mr Myersdorf said he could not reveal which manufacturers were signed up to use the technology.

In 2015, he had said his firm's battery contained materials that allowed for "non-traditional" reactions and the unusually fast transfer of ions from an anode to a cathode - the electrical process that charges a battery.

The design involves nanomaterials, which feature extremely small structures, and - unnamed - organic compounds.

The company also unveiled an electric car battery that charges in five minutes at a tech show in Berlin this week.

The firm said the battery provides 300 miles of range.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

MP3 is dead. Sortof.

MP3, the format that revolutionized the way we consume music since the 90s, has been officially retired -- in a manner of speaking.

The German research institution that created the MP3 format, The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, announced that it had terminated licensing for certain MP3-related patents. In other words, they didn't want to keep it on life support, because there are better ways to store music here in 2017.

In its place, the director of the Fraunhofer Institute said the Advanced Audio Coding--or what we know as the AAC format has become the "de facto standard for music download and videos on mobile phones." It's simply more efficient and has greater functionality, as streaming TV and radio broadcasting use the format to deliver higher-quality audio at lower bitrates than MP3.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

Let the VR Headset legal wars begin! A company that won $500 million from Oculus is now going after Samsung's Gear VR.

Games company ZeniMax, which successfully sued Facebook-owned Oculus for $500 million earlier this year, has filed a new lawsuit over Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

The suit alleges that Samsung knowingly profited from Oculus technology that was first developed at ZeniMax, then misappropriated by Oculus executive John Carmack.

Carmack, whose company id Software was acquired by ZeniMax in 2009, was one of the driving forces behind the Gear VR. While the headset was released by Samsung, it’s described as “powered by Oculus,” with heavy software optimizations developed by Carmack. But the lawsuit alleges that Carmack owed much of his success at Oculus to software he developed as part of a team at ZeniMax.

Among other things, the Texas court filing claims that Carmack secretly brought Oculus (and former ZeniMax) employee Matt Hooper into id Software’s offices to develop an “attack plan” for mobile VR, which Oculus would later take to Samsung. The Samsung Gear VR was also built on some of the same code as the Oculus Rift, which was the subject of ZeniMax’s earlier lawsuit.

The new lawsuit officially accuses Samsung of copyright infringement for using ZeniMax VR code in the Gear VR, as well as trade secret misappropriation, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. ZeniMax’s case could be bolstered by the previous judgment against Oculus, since the Gear VR is unambiguously based on Oculus software.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

The WannaCry ransomware is taking online threats to a whole new level.

To say 2017 is a dangerous year to be online is an understatement. With reports of 200,000 computers infected in 150 countries this past weekend, mankind’s newest cyber enemy, WannaCry, takes online threats to a new level.

WannaCry not only encrypts a computer’s files and makes them impossible to read. An unprotected PC with WannaCry also encrypts files on protected com­puters if those files are configured as a shared drive on the infected machine. We’ve seen this in earlier forms of ransomware.

The malware also searches for other computers to infect over home and business networks, thereby propagating itself across the internet with devastating effect. In the past, health facilities, police and government offices have had to pay hackers to get their files back.

With WannaCry, propagation doesn’t depend on you opening a malware-laced attachment in your email, although that helps.

And it’s easy for hackers to come back for seconds. Hackers easily can alter detected malware to make it hard to identify again and send it out afresh. They can try to infiltrate back doors into computers they infected the first time.

Microsoft is under no obligation to continually update operating systems it retired long ago. Namely, the big issue here comes from Windows XP. The public had been warned that support for security updates would end but continued to use old Windows XP systems despite warnings not only from Microsoft, but security professionals and shows like ours.

Keep in mind too that Microsoft makes millions of dollars by charging agencies such as the federal government to implement security updates for its old Windows XP systems. To make those expensive updates more widely available to the public and enterprise free of charge would undermine that cash flow.

For an in-depth discussion of the WannaCry threat, join security researcher Mark Skilton along with ESET Senior Security Researcher, Stephen Cobb on Episode 504 of Category5 Technology TV.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


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