Geekly Update - 09 January 2015

Category: Tech-News

Will Seagate's newest hard drive eat Manhattan? How easy is it to forge someone else's fingerprint? What country uses sneakers to provide Internet connections? Have hackers been listening to your phone calls for 30 years? Get answers to these burning questions, and the scoop on the latest tech news, in this edition of the Geekly Update. It's guaranteed to make you 146% smarter. Read, think and comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

Game Over for mobile phone privacy, before it ever started. Vulnerabilities in SS7, a wireless signaling protocol that’s been in use everywhere since 1980, make every single cell phone on Earth vulnerable to hackers. By exploiting SS7’s flaws, researchers say they can track a phone even if GPS is turned off, temporarily decrypt its encrypted communications, and generally “own” almost any cellular device. I'll bet those NSA guys are jealous.

The cable TV industry will lose a million subscribers per year for the rest of this decade, predicts researcher NPD Group. Small wonder, with the average monthly bill at $123 and rising 6 per cent annually. Viewers are defecting to Netflix (subscribership up 25%), Amazon Prime (up 14%), and Hulu (up 3%). In October, 2015, more streaming options are coming from HBO, Univision, and CBS.

Geekly Update 01-09-2015

Seagate’s 8 TB Archive Label hard drive should hold all the data you have, and perhaps that of everyone you know, too. It spins at 5,900, has a SATA-3 I/O interface with 128 MB of cache, and comes with or without hardware encryption. Best of all is the price: only $270. My first hard drive was 10 megabytes (8 million times smaller) and probably cost about the same.

Scammers who call end-users pretending to be Microsoft support technicians are the target of the company’s Digital Crimes Unit in a civil lawsuit alleging “unfair and deceptive business practices and trademark infringement.” Microsoft estimates defendant Ominitech Support and similar firms con consumers out of $1.5 billion per year.

JPMorgan Chase spent $250 million on information security last year, but neglected to implement two-factor authentication on one obscure server that became the entry point for hackers in the biggest data breach of a U.S. bank to date. All the hackers needed were login credentials stolen from a single employee to snatch the account details of 83 million customers.

The “sneaker net” lives! Internet access is tightly restricted in Cuba – less than 5% of the population has private connections. But some Cubans get around that with the Paquete Semanal (Weekly Packet), a growing network of… feet. One person with legal Internet access fills an external hard drive with “global films, TV dramas, comedies, magazines, applications and anti-virus software,” then sells copies to dealers who sell copies to customers who sell more copies to family, friends and neighbors. But how many copies can they sell when the average salary of a Cuban worker is $20/month? Isn't communism great?

Before Google, librarians answered life’s big and little questions. The New York Public Library is publishing vintage patron queries on Instagram each Monday using the hashtag #LetMeLibrarianThatForYou.

Tony Durham got a call from HP telling him his YouTube video had gone viral and garnered half a million hits. The caller said HP wanted to interview Durham and give him a free shopping spree in its online store. Durham ordered four HP computers. Just one catch: “I don’t even know what YouTube is,” says Durham. He also doesn’t know how the caller got his debit card number, but his bank account has been emptied. When contacted about Mr. Durham’s plight, an HP spokesperson said people should know better than to fall for calls like that. And so should you.

A number of tech pundits have egg (or maybe apple sauce) on their faces after they pounced on a survey that showed Samsung smartphone users are now more satisfied than Apple’s. These “experts” speculated that the iPhone 6 and 6+ were to blame for Apple’s fall, even though they were not released until three months after the survey was published.

The whole world knew that Sony’s Playstation gaming network was knocked offline by a DDoS attack around Christmas. But just to make sure that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was on the case, some gameboy called 911 to report the outage. The sheriff’s office later tweeted, "Last time I checked that wasn't an emergency. Try going outside or read a book." Or maybe call Sony.

A white-hat hacker named Jan Krissler replicated the thumbprint of Germany’s defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, using photos taken during a press conference by a “standard camera.” Security experts have long known that fingerprints are not particularly difficult to forge, but fingerprint scanners continue to proliferate as security devices on phones, laptops, and other devices.

Chinese Gmail volume dropped to zero beginning Christmas Day. Google’s webmail site has been blocked in China since June, but Chinese users got around that by using POP3 and IMAP email clients. That door was closed suddenly, though traffic is gradually rising again. The Chinese government says it didn’t block Gmail, but they also claim to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Chinese people.

If 2015 is the year you plan to treat yourself to a solid-state drive, be sure to consider the new Samsung 850 Evo family (not to be confused with the 850 Pro). Using 3D NAND technology, which stacks flash memory cells atop silicon up to 32 layers high, the 850 Evo is able to pack more storage into less space for less money. MSRPs are $100, $150, $270 and $500 for 120GB, 250GB, 500GB and 1TB, respectively.

 
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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 09 January 2015"

Posted by:

Lucy
09 Jan 2015

Call me skeptical but I cannot help thinking that once cable is knocked out of the game, Netflix, Hulu etc. will likely not be the bargains they are now.

Right now cable and satellite seem to be the only way to get sports, that would need to be addressed.

Also what about the ISP's? Surely they will charge more for the extra usage as everyone watches via the internet.

Yeh, like I said, I'm skeptical, but then I never believed we'd ever be able to hang our TV's on the wall either, and look how wrong I was about that :-)


Posted by:

Doc
09 Jan 2015

My sister warned me that she was getting calls from Microsoft wanting to look inside her comptuer and "fix some problems we see." Her son, one of the Self-taught computer geeks of this generation would get on the phone and say - "What port do you show the problem from?" "Click. Bzzzzzzzz." was the answer. The *I* started to get the same calls, first I said "IBM? That's funny I only run apples.", and they paused then said, "I'll transfer you to our Apple section." And I simply said, you said IBM now you say Apple - if you don't know one machine from the next I'm not interested." And hung up. I got one more call that said my Apple was showing some line problems, and I said "Apple? Really? I only have IBMs..." and asked what port to look at - and those calls stopped.

Then in the two follow up calls (about two weeks apart) from "Microsoft" I simply used my nephews line: "OMG! That's TERRIBLE!! I'm sorry. Exactly what ports do you show are causing the troubles and I'll have a quick look to see what the problem might be. Exactly what do you show the problems are? ..." I never once was able to finish the sentences. No more calls. It's been (knock on wood) three months since the calls. This might help some others deal with the problem - my calls stopped and so did my sisters after we started asking about 'ports' and what kinds of "problems" were being transmitted.


Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
09 Jan 2015

Regarding the poor fool who "won" an HP shopping spree ... Decades ago, movie comedian W.C. Fields (look him up, youngsters) said, "You can't cheat an honest man." In this case, that's actually true.

In the case of the naive who get snookered by "Microsoft" technicians who call them, maybe not so true.


Posted by:

RandiO
09 Jan 2015

Lucy is right on about jumping out of the skillet and right into the frying pan (re: pricing of alternatives to cable)! It should already be mentioned that what TimeWarner did by buying out the rights to almost all NBA (over $2B/yr) and MLB sport packages has left a lot of true sports fans in limbo and is/was a true disservice by these sport leagues' Hooligans. I am kinda liking (…and hating) that the only entertainment provider that is the lone-man out is DishNetwork in their attempts to control their subscription pricing strategy by not caving into TWC (w/these sports packages). DishNetwork is also in fights with at least some individual networks that are trying to jack up the rates that they charge to providers like DishNetwork. Two current examples come to mind >> One was the CBS black out late last year. Currently, FOX networks have been suspended from DishNetwork availability because they are holding viewers hostage in their appetite to increase what they charge DishNetwork for airing FOX affiliates. Unfortunately, my mate loves her Lakers but no longer can view them locally and I like the news feeds of FOX that I can no longer consume on a daily basis via the DishNetwork Hopper DVR. But we are realizing that we can do without these 2 packages even if it means that she gets to watch the Lakers games with a day delay (via [ahem] downloading the games later) and I have been getting my news fix via DrudgeReport and the local newspaper.
Besides NetFlix/Amazon/Hulu, there is also HBOgo and CBS that are trying to go a-la-carte pricing packages that can be viewed via computing devices (PCs/Tablets/SmartPhones) or using the current crop of SmartTVs.
On the funnier side of your "Weekly Update" >> I am not certain how many people remember your reference to "ALL YOUR PHONES ARE BELONG TO US" [although the proper way is to make the noun singular]. Giggles!


Posted by:

Rochelle
09 Jan 2015

Some3one I know had a foolproof way to make the scammers stop calling. She asked the guy to wait a minute, and put the phone down for half an hour. Then she got back on and asked him to wait again. Never heard from them again. But if there are 50 companies doing this...


Posted by:

Steven Horn
10 Jan 2015

Bob,

The first hard drive I bought was a 10 Mb external "Winchester" hard drive for an Apple IIe computer in 1986. Its cost was CAN$4000. The Samsung 1200 PC clone I bought in 1988 had a 20 Mb hard drive and cost only $1200.

Time does fly. :-)


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
10 Jan 2015

WOW --- $500 for 1TB Solid-State Drive, is really good. Oh okay, the price is much lower, than I have seen. However, that gives me hope, that I will be able to use a Solid-State Drive, in the future. Prices are definitely coming down, like all computer components have done, the past 20 years or so.

I think, the only exception, of lower prices, are the Video Cards of today. They are OFF the charts in prices and just seem to be going higher and higher. You really have to search for a decent priced Video Card.

I remember, paying $175 for a 4.3GB Hard Drive, back around 1998 and I honestly, thought I was getting a REAL bargain! I also, got a SIMM (Single Inline Memory Module) 32MB EDO (Extended Data Out) Memory Module, for $64 during that time. Time does fly ... Doesn't it???


Posted by:

Robert
11 Jan 2015

Ah the great moments of "translating" Japanese games into English. "Zero Wing" will live on forever in our hearts as a milestone tribute... although one that some may wish to forget...

AND if I recall, my first Apple II FLOPPY drive and I/O card combo set me back over $300, and some of the first (5MB) hard drives were the size of large space heaters and could also serve as one... I still have one of the Frizbee/dinner plate-sized-almost 1/8" thick aluminum platters around here somewhere from "back in the day" (no they weren'r removable but sometimes came in a "disk pack" plastic case with a stack of platters in them on a spindle you dropped in). And who remembers 8" floppies? (I also remember paying around $10 EACH for a 5 1/4" floppy disk for my Apple system). Those "good old days" you can keep.


Posted by:

Dave
11 Jan 2015

I once paid $800 for a 240 MG hard drive and was told by the dealer that nobody needs a drive that big. We still kid about that one.

I was getting calls from some one saying that my computer was sending out viruses and they stopped when I said I will have to get a computer to see what all this is about.


Posted by:

Nezzar
12 Jan 2015

Dear Bob,
Thanks for the info on the "Microsoft technicians." I have been called twice by these fakes. I almost fell for it the first time, but fortunately realized that I was being scammed before doing anything stupid. I hung up on the second fake call. I appreciate your letting me know just what is going on. Loved this update;so full of info.


Posted by:

Rochelle
25 Jan 2015

MS is suing those scamming companies only in civil court for “unfair and deceptive business practices and trademark infringement.” Why aren't the police after them for robbery?

Last week, I told one of them I had only Linux, but the guy didn't understand what I was saying, so I don't know if he'll be back or not.


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