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Self-driving vehicles will make the driver redundant, but long before that, smarter cars may leave the driver thinking about other things.

Ford is already studying that problem, anticipating an evolution toward autonomous cars that will take a lot longer than projects by the likes of Google may suggest. For now, the motorist is still in charge — with some help.

“We still have a driver-centric model. We still think the driver needs to be engaged,” said Don Butler, Ford’s executive vice president of connected vehicle and services. Drivers and passengers are “more comfortable” when they have some control over the vehicle, he said during a session at GigaOm Structure Connect in San Francisco.

Ford thinks autonomous cars will be real, but for now it’s adding automated assistance one feature at a time. For example, it makes vehicles that can park themselves, and that can keep drivers from drifting into the next lane.

There are technological, regulatory and social challenges to making fully autonomous cars a reality, Butler said in an interview.

Cars may not be ready to drive themselves in all areas and in all weather conditions, he said. Less structured environments outside of cities may be more of a challenge, for example. Some governments may not be ready to deal with the implications of regulating autonomous cars. And most consumers don’t yet trust their cars to drive safely, Butler said. Putting the vehicle in charge full-time even raises ethical questions, such as what’s the least harmful action when a collision is inevitable.

Instead of building fully autonomous cars, Ford plans to gradually add more technology to help drivers. Examples available now include automatic parallel parking and “lane assist,” which detects if the car is leaving its lane and alerts the driver through sound or vibration. Like other carmakers, Ford also offers adaptive cruise control that prevents getting too close to the car ahead, and forward collision warning.

Future automated features may involve “crowdsourcing” data from many cars in the same area. For example, if one car’s wheels slip in snow or ice on a stretch of road, it could share that information so other vehicles could automatically adjust for the conditions, Butler said.

But moving gradually to cars that drive themselves raises another issue: How to make drivers pay attention when they have less to do.

Ford’s exploring that problem, Butler said. As features such as lane assist and auto-parking are added, the company is trying to make sure drivers understand their limitations. And Ford is looking at issues such as cognitive load, or the number of tasks a driver’s brain can deal with at one time.

An early example of making sure drivers are paying attention is drowsiness detection, Butler said. Lane-assist is its own form of drowsiness detection, using the driving itself to determine whether a motorist is dozing off. The auto industry is developing other techniques, including in-car cameras that watch the driver’s eyelids and seatbelts that sense breathing and heart rates.

Source from : (itnews.com)


Yahoo reported a 1 percent sales increase on Tuesday, a marked shift after multiple quarters of decline, though results in its critical ad business were mixed.

The company also said its mobile revenue had become significant enough to report for the first time, passing $200 million [m]. That was a minor victory for CEO Marissa Mayer, who’s been trying hard to get more traction for Yahoo on smartphones and tablets.

“We had a good, solid third quarter,” Mayer said in the company’s announcement Tuesday.

Total sales for the quarter, ended Sept. 30, were US$1.15 billion, up from $1.14 billion last year, the company reported. Excluding traffic acquisition costs, revenue was $1.09 billion and slightly ahead of analyst expectations, as polled by Thomson Reuters.

Net income was $6.77 billion, or $6.70 a share, driven largely by an after-tax profit of $6.3 billion from the sale of Yahoo’s stake in e-commerce giant Alibaba in the Chinese company’s IPO last month.

Yahoo’s adjusted earnings per share was $0.52, clobbering analyst estimates of $0.30.

Much of the success in mobile came from so-called native ads, which are designed to look like the editorial content that appears around them.

“We are moving from a company that makes web pages and money through banner ads to a company that makes mobile apps and monetizes them through native ads,” Mayer said in a conference call to discuss the results.

Since she took over as CEO in 2012, the company has made numerous mobile acquisitions and revamped mobile offerings in the areas of news, email, weather, and photos with Flickr.

But declines in traditional desktop display ads persisted, Mayer said.

Display ad revenue rose by 5 percent to $447 million [m], and the number of display ads sold increased by 24 percent. But the amount paid for those ads dropped by 24 percent.

In search advertising, revenue rose by 4 percent. The number of paid clicks was flat, and the price-per-click paid rose by about 17 percent, Yahoo said.

In the after-hours market, Yahoo’s stock was trading at $41.33 at the time of this report, up 2.3 percent from the close of regular trading.

Source from : (itnews.com)


The Internet of Things is raising a host of concerns over the control of data that could lead to government regulation, but tech companies can rein in those worries on their own if they act fast, according to a former White House technology official.

The kinds of information that connected devices can collect, such as health and fitness data, are more intimate than what consumers are used to sharing on the Web, said Nicole Wong, former U.S. Deputy CTO. In addition, it’s harder to make users comfortable with the use of that data, she said.

Any company that gathers data from consumers has to be transparent about what it collects and how it’s used, in order to build trust, Wong said during a panel at the GigaOm Structure Connect conference in San Francisco. Web and mobile products have ways of communicating that message and giving users choices, but many IoT devices don’t, she said. As examples, she cited the lights in a consumer’s home and future monitoring devices that are injected in the bloodstream.

“Where is the consent happening?” Wong said. “At what point does the user say, ‘I object to that collection’?”

With connected devices arrayed around consumers’ homes and bodies and potentially collecting data that government and other third parties can access, a danger is that people may start to self-consciously regulate their own lives, said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I begin to feel, even in my own home, that I’m being watched in some way,” Stanley said. “I begin to monitor my own behavior because I’m worried about what people who access that data are going to think of me.”

Partly because of these worries, government regulation of IoT security is on the horizon, panelists said. The Article 29 Working Party, a European Union privacy body, recently issued an opinion on IoT with guidelines for wearables and home automation, Stanley said. That document said consumers should remain in control of their personal data throughout the life of the product.

In some parts of Europe, such as the U.K, industry is working closely with government, a good model for forming guidelines, said Richard Cornish, head of IoT at U.K. technology services company xChanging. “I think there is an opportunity for governments to regulate, but regulate with the industry, rather than remotely from industry,” he said.

The U.S. approach could be more industry-centric.

“The innovation around the ethical and appropriate use of technology is going to have to come from the technology sector,” Wong said. “If you move fast enough, if you have best practices that the consumer world feels good about, then the government is not going to have an opportunity to create a regulation that is not in your favor.”

Wong, who stepped down from her White House post in August, has some insight into the private sector’s views. Before joining the Obama Administration in 2013, she had worked at Twitter and Google.

“The government does not know more about technology than you do,” Wong said. “The notion that the technology sector suddenly has government happen to it is wrong.”

Source from : (itnews.com)


Apple has warned users about attacks on its iCloud website, after monitoring groups alleged that China had tried to intercept customer information from the service.

Although China was not named, Apple said Tuesday it was “aware of intermittent organized network attacks” on its iCloud service that were designed to obtain user information, according to a company support page.

Apple said the iCloud servers are still secure but advised customers accessing the service to always verify that they’ve connected to an authentic iCloud website via a trusted browser.

Starting over the weekend, visits to Apple’s iCloud site in China began returning an invalid digital certificate, a sign that the connections had been tampered with using a technique known as “man-in-the-middle attack”, according to anti-censorship group GreatFire.org.

Such attacks involve the hacker trying to eavesdrop on the communication by tricking victims into believing they’ve visited a secure website. Once duped, the victim’s activities can be monitored.

GreatFire.org alleged that the Chinese government was behind the attack, as a way to steal username and password information from Apple’s iCloud users. But on Tuesday a spokeswoman with the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the country opposed any form of hacking.

The man-in-the-middle attack on the iCloud service was just one of several in China that have targeted U.S. websites. Starting late last month, visits to Yahoo’s site from the country were also mysteriously returning invalid digital certificates.

Both Apple and Yahoo have declined comment.

Security vendor Netresec analyzed the attack on the iCloud service, and said it appeared to be conducted over networks belonging to China Telecom, and China Unicom, two state-controlled broadband providers. Both companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The attack on the iCloud service came just after Apple began officially selling its iPhone 6 in mainland China. Before it launched, Apple had increased the security on its iOS software, following a request from a Chinese regulator.

The sophistication of the attack probably means the hackers had access to an Internet service provider, allowing them to create the insecure connections to the Apple site, said Su Gim Goh, a security adviser with F-Secure. “It’s not something that a script kiddie could have done,” he said, adding that an organized group or government could have been behind it.

“iCloud is a big service abroad. This is one good way to look at user content,” he said.

Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan represents Apple’s second biggest market behind the U.S. On Tuesday, GreatFire.org said Apple had changed its domain name system in China to avoid the attack.

Source from : (itnews.com)


Monday evening, investigative journalist Brian Krebs reported that multiple banking sources were seeing a pattern of credit and debit card fraud. The common thread between each case were purchases made at Staples Inc. stores in the Northeastern U.S.

There isn’t a lot to go on if in fact the latest retailer to be breached is Framingham, Mass.-based Staples Inc.

What’s known for sure comes from the sources that spoke on background to Krebs. They said the fraudulent transactions were traced to cards that made purchases at Staples stores in Pennsylvania, New York City, and New Jersey.

In a statement to Salted Hash, Mark Cautela, Senior Public Relations Manager for Staples Inc., said that the company is investigating a potential issue involving credit and debit card data, and that law enforcement has been contacted.

When asked for additional details, Cautela declined further comment.

“Staples is in the process of investigating a potential issue involving credit card data and has contacted law enforcement. We take the protection of customer information very seriously, and are working to resolve the situation. If Staples discovers an issue, it is important to note that customers are not responsible for any fraudulent activity on their credit cards that is reported on a timely basis.” – Mark Cautela, Senior Public Relations Manager, Staples

Given the pattern in recent months, it’s possible that Staples has fallen victim to Backoff, a malware family that targets POS systems, or a similar variant.

Backoff entered the public eye earlier this summer, after the U.S. Secret Service issued a warning to retailers. The attackers installed Backoff after locating poorly protected instances of remote management software, such as LogMeIn, or similar services from Microsoft, Apple, or Chrome.

At the time, some 600 businesses were victimized by the malicious code, but that number was expected to increase.

Since then, Home Depot, Target, Dairy Queen, Kmart, and others have been victimized by POS malware, including Backoff, BlackPOS, vSkimmer, or TriForce.

This story will be updated as the situation develops.

Source from : (itnews.com)


Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy devices have been approved by the U.S. National Security Agency under a program of the agency to quickly deploy commercially available technologies.

The Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program only lists devices that have met the agency’s security standards, and may not necessarily translate into large government orders for the South Korean company.

The products selected under the program of the NSA and Central Security Service include the Galaxy S4 and S5, Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition under the classification of mobile platforms. Also included under the mobile platforms classification is Boeing Black, a smartphone designed for defense and security applications by Boeing.

The listing may, however, serve to boost the standing of Samsung devices based on the Knox platform as an alternative to other products such as those of BlackBerry in markets such as enterprise and government where security of data is often a key factor in purchase decisions.

Samsung said in June it has been seeking security certifications from relevant government bodies across the world for devices using the Samsung Knox platform.

Knox is an Android-based platform that aims to enhance security of the current open-source Android. Devices using the platform allow users to switch between a personal space where personal data can be stored and the protected Knox Workspace container.

Five Samsung mobile devices were in June included on the list of products approved for sensitive but unclassified use by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) of the U.S. Department of Defense. DISA certifies commercial technology for defense use.

The CSfC list supplements the DISA listing to address the full range of U.S. government security objectives, Samsung said in a statement Tuesday. It said it was the only manufacturer with mobile devices on both lists.

Source from : (itnews.com)


Showing all viewers the same commercial six minutes into, say, an episode of “Modern Family” might soon be over. If you’re watching it online.

A new partnership between TV measurement company Nielsen and analytics provider Adobe was announced early Tuesday, presenting detailed data about how people watch TV and other media on the Internet. The team-up adds smarts to existing forms of tracking, by letting broadcasters get a better picture of how Internet users consume media across devices and platforms.

With the service, partnered broadcasters could see, for instance, if viewers began watching a show on Netflix on their laptop, then switched to a Roku set-top box to finish it. And then read an article on ESPN.com.

It’s a big expansion of the usual demographic data and video viewing rates gained through existing Web tracking and online measurement tools. But the Adobe-Nielsen partnership will let broadcasters connect the dots. They’ll see how people interact with digital video between devices, particularly on new platforms like Internet-connected set-top boxes. The information learned will help broadcasters decide what to charge advertisers, and deliver better targeted ads for viewers.

“This is hugely valuable, new, rich data factoring in broader user behavior,” said Melissa Webster, an industry analyst at IDC who studies digital advertising. The partnership allows for a “tremendous data repository” for businesses seeking new customer insights, she said.

Broadcasters today are hard-pressed to make sense of how people consume digital content, a task made more difficult as viewers shift between streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and devices like smartphones and Internet-connected set-top boxes. The technology for gathering data within a particular service’s walls is established, but digital sleuthing between devices and sites is harder.

The Nielsen-Adobe partnership is designed to fill the gap, by marrying Adobe’s video analytics and advertising platform with Nielsen’s TV ratings.

Adobe’s Analytics service, gained through its acquisition of Omniture, let it track how consumers view digital media across devices through digital cookies and mobile advertising IDs. Nielsen’s online tools measure demographic data, social chatter on Twitter and how people interact with content online. The alliance lets participating businesses tap into aggregated and anonymous data measuring how consumers interact with digital content including TV, videos, games, audio and text, the companies say.

Broadcasters can use the new Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, as they’re called, beginning early next year. Early users include ESPN, Sony Pictures Television, Turner Broadcasting and Viacom.

The Internet is still a new frontier for TV, but broadcasters are increasingly looking to attract viewers there. Both HBO and CBS have recently announced standalone streaming services competing with catch-alls like Netflix or Hulu. You could bet they’ll want as much information about customers’ viewing habits as they can get.

Traditional TV advertising is still vastly more lucrative than digital video ads, according to eMarketer. But analytic services like those provided by Nielsen and Adobe could eventually reverse the trend, as more consumers transition online.

Source from : (itnews.com)


Android may still be the most popular mobile OS in China, but local e-commerce giant Alibaba Group continues to offer its own alternative, and has just landed its biggest partner yet.

Chinese smartphone maker Meizu will use Alibaba’s YunOS mobile operating system to power its own handsets, it announced Tuesday. Previously, Meizu ran a customized version of Android called Flyme OS on its smartphones, but said Alibaba’s software could offer better security and performance, including longer battery life.

It’s unclear if Meizu will abandon Android, or keep it in use. The company has created a new version of Flyme running on Alibaba’s YunOS.

Unveiled over three years ago, YunOS is a Linux-based operating system that Alibaba originally envisioned as a way to promote the company’s e-commerce services. The software, however, has struggled to attract better-known hardware vendors. In recent quarters, the operating system has had a market share of less than 1 percent, said Kiranjeet Kaur, an analyst with research firm IDC.

The company’s feud with Google may partly explain the slow uptake. In September 2012 the U.S. search giant accused Alibaba’s mobile OS of being simply a variant of Android. Alibaba denied the claim, and alleged that Google was restricting its Android partners from developing phones using the YunOS.

In spite of Google’s complaints, Alibaba has continued work on the operating system. On Monday, the company unveiled the latest version of YunOS, and stated that the software has also been designed for wearables, tablets and smart TVs. It also released a new YunOS phone built by Philips.

Meizu isn’t a top five smartphone vendor in China, but the company’s phones are well-known on the local tech scene, and among young consumers in the country. Meizu has been competing hard against Xiaomi, another Chinese android phone maker, and last month announced its newest flagship phone, the MX4, priced at 1799 yuan (US$292).

In partnering with Alibaba, Meizu wanted to create a smartphone that could truly leverage the Internet to pull in users and sell more phones, said Meizu vice president Li Nan during Tuesday’s announcement. In China, Alibaba runs Tmall, the largest online retail site in the country.

“This partnership will not only help users, but could also change the industry,” Li added.

Source from : (itnews.com)


A Japanese court on Monday sentenced a man to two years in prison for making firearms with a 3D printer.

The Yokohama District Court handed down the sentence to Yoshitomo Imura, a 28-year-old former employee of Shonan Institute of Technology who made a number of guns with a 3D printer in his home in Kawasaki outside Tokyo last year.

Imura was arrested in May on a charge of illegal weapons possession in what media reports described as Japan’s first such case involving 3D-printed firearms.

“This has shown that anyone can illegally manufacture guns with a 3D printer, flaunting their knowledge and skill, and it is an offense to make our country’s strict gun controls into a dead letter,” public broadcaster NHK quoted judge Koji Inaba as saying in the ruling on Monday.

Prosecutors had demanded a prison term of three and a half years for Imura. Defense lawyer Akira Noguchi had argued that Imura did not know his acts were illegal. After the ruling, he said that an appeal had not been decided upon yet.

A YouTube video uploaded earlier this year apparently shows Imura firing one of the guns in a wooded area. Reposts of a design video apparently made by Imura show the so-called ZigZag revolver has a capacity of six bullets.

Imura’s firearm differs from the design of The Liberator, the 3D-printed gun created by Cody Wilson that is regarded as the world’s first working 3D-printed gun.

Wilson said that design files for that gun were downloaded more than 100,000 times before the U.S. State Department told him to take them down.

Japan has strict controls on firearms compared to other countries. Only 15 people were murdered with handguns in 2012, according to data from the National Police Agency. Statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, published in 2012 by The Guardian newspaper in the U.K., showed that per 100,000 population Japan had 0.01 gun murders each year and 600 guns, while the U.S. had 2.97 gun murders and 88,800 guns.

Source from : (itnews.com)


Following the iPhone 6 launch in China, Apple’s iCloud service began facing a “man-in-the-middle” style attack in the country, in an apparent attempt to steal username and password information, according to an anti-censorship watchdog group.

As of Monday, the attack was still ongoing, said GreatFire.org, which began noticing two days before that certain connections made to Apple’s iCloud site in China were no longer responding with a trusted digital certificate, putting them at risk of decryption.

Man-in-the-middle attacks eavesdrop on communications by pretending to each party to be the one at the other end. The attacker will trick victims into believing they are visiting a site over a secure connection, when in fact all communications are being monitored.

“This is clearly a malicious attack on Apple in an effort to gain access to usernames and passwords and consequently all data stored on iCloud,” wrote GreatFire.org in a Monday posting.

The group, which monitors China’s censorship practices, alleges that government authorities are behind the attack. Other man-in-the-middle style attacks have hit Google, Microsoft and Github earlier this year in China, GreatFire.org added.

Yahoo was another recent victim. Since late September, connections made from China to the company’s site have also been at risk, and vulnerable to eavesdropping. Such attacks are probably made so that Chinese authorities can monitor and block content users in the country are trying to access, said Swedish security firm Netresec, in a posting earlier this month.

Both Apple and Yahoo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple’s iPhone 6 launched on Friday in mainland China, but not before government regulators demanded that security changes be made to the iOS software.

Months prior, Chinese state media alleged that the software could be used to secretly spy on iPhone users through its “Frequent Locations” feature. Apple later denied the claims.

Source from : (itnews.com)

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