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Thu, 30 Mar 17
It's Over: Britain Files for Divorce from the European Union
The United Kingdom filed for divorce from the European Union on Wednesday, overturning four decades of integration with its neighbors, demolishing the notion that EU expansion is inevitable and shaking the foundations of a bloc that is facing challenges to its identity and its place in the world.
Britain's top envoy to the EU, Tim Barrow, hand-delivered a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk formally triggering a two-year countdown to the final split.
"Today the government acts on the democratic will of the British people," Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers in the House of Commons, adding, "This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back."
Tusk tweeted that "after nine months the U.K. has delivered," followed by a photo of Barrow handing him the letter in front of British and EU flags in Brussels.
There is "no reason to pretend this is a happy day," Tusk told reporters later, emphasizing that the priority now is to minimize costs for EU citizens and member states.
To Britain, he said: "We already miss you."
But for Britons who voted 52 to 48 percent to leave the bloc in a referendum nine months ago, it was a time for celebration.
"I voted for Brexit and today is the day that vote starts to count," said Charles Goodacre, a former taxi driver, in the northern England city of Sunderland. "Things have been bad round here for a while and we needed a change. There's been a lot of arguments about what happened but we can now get on with it."
Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who campaigned for years to take Brexit from fringe cause to reality, said Britain had passed "the point of no return."
"I can still, to be honest with you, scarcely believe today has come," he said.
For "remain" campaigners, it is...
Thu, 30 Mar 17
Samsung's Galaxy S8 Phone Aims To Dispel the Note 7 Debacle
Samsung seems to be playing it safe with its first major smartphone since the embarrassing recall of its fire-prone Note 7.
The Galaxy S8 features a larger display than its predecessor, the Galaxy S7, and sports a voice assistant intended to rival Siri and Google Assistant. But there is no increase in battery capacity, providing the battery more breathing room. The Note 7 pushed the engineering envelope with its battery, which contributed to a series of spontaneous smartphone combustions.
The Galaxy S8 will come in two sizes, both bigger than last year's models. Both models have screens that curve around the edges and get rid of the physical home button.
The Note 7 recall cost Samsung at least $5.3 billion. Though many customers remain loyal, any further misstep could prove fatal for the brand.
"We're in the process of earning back that trust," said Drew Blackard, a senior director of product marketing for Samsung. In the U.S., Samsung will start taking orders Thursday, with shipments scheduled for April 21. Prices haven't been announced yet.
About That Battery
Samsung has blamed the Note 7 fires on multiple design and manufacturing defects in its batteries. Inspectors concluded that the initial batteries were too small for their capacity, and that their external pouch put pressure on the internal structure, leading to damage and overheating.
Samsung recalled the phones and shipped replacements, but the newer batteries had welding defects and a lack of protective tape in some battery cells. Samsung recalled the replacements, too, and scrapped the phone.
The company says phones will now go through multiple inspections, including X-rays and stress tests at extreme temperatures. The standard-size S8 phone has as much battery capacity as last year's Galaxy S7, but the phone is 4 percent larger by volume. The larger S8 Plus model has 3 percent less capacity than the Galaxy...
Thu, 30 Mar 17
IBM X-Force Finds over 4 Billion Records Leaked in 2016
The number of records compromised by data breaches grew an historic 566 percent in 2016 from 600 million to more than 4 billion, according to IBM Security's X-Force Threat Intelligence Index.
The leaked records include types of data that cybercriminals have traditionally targeted such as credit cards, passwords, and personal health information. But IBM also found a shift in cybercriminal strategies last year, with a number of significant breaches related to unstructured data such as email archives, business documents, intellectual property, and source code.
Spam Surges on Back of Ransomware
‚EUúCybercriminals continued to innovate in 2016 as we saw techniques like ransomware move from a nuisance to an epidemic,‚EUĚ said Caleb Barlow, vice president of threat intelligence, IBM Security. While the volume of records compromised last year reached historic highs, we see this shift to unstructured data as a seminal moment. The value of structured data to cybercriminals is beginning to wane as the supply outstrips the demand. Unstructured data is big-game hunting for hackers and we expect to see them monetize it this year in new ways. p In a separate study last year, IBM Security found 70 percent of businesses impacted by ransomware paid more than $10,000 to regain access to business data and systems. In the first three months of 2016, the FBI estimated cybercriminals were paid a reported $209 million via ransomware. p IBM blamed the rise in ransomware last year on the increased willingness of enterprises to pay off cybercriminals who hijack their data. The primary delivery method for ransomware last year was via malicious attachments in spam emails, the company said. p That fueled a 400 percent increase in spam year over year, with roughly 44 percent of spam containing malicious attachments. Ransomware made up 85 percent of malicious attachments in 2016. p subheadShift from Healthcare Back to Financial Services/subhead p While the...
Thu, 30 Mar 17
Microsoft To Release Windows 10 Creators Update on April 11
In addition to announcing the release date for its next big Windows 10 update -- April 11 -- Microsoft today unveiled several new partner-manufactured devices designed to support the new operating system's novel features. p Among the new tools arriving with the Windows 10 Creators Update is Paint 3D, which represents a major change for Microsoft's long-used Paint tool. The update will let users convert two-dimensional drawings into 3D, create 3D images from scratch or share 3D art with others via a built-in online community. p The Creators Update will also bring new security updates, including a Windows Defender Security Center and screen time controls for parents whose kids play Xbox One. And enterprise users of Microsoft's Surface Hub will see a number of top-requested new features for better collaboration, the company said. p subhead New 3D Paint, Mixed-Reality Apps /subhead p Available to current Windows 10 users as a free update, the Creators Update will be rolled out in a measured way to ensure the best possible customer experience, according to Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group. p Writing on the company's Windows 10 blog today, Mehdi said the new Paint 3D app is designed to enable the more than 100 million monthly users of the traditional Paint tool to express their creativity in new ways as the 3D image industry continues expanding. He noted the 3D market is predicted to grow by more than 62 percent by 2020. p Beyond introducing 3D drawing, the Creators Update will also support new applications for mixed reality, with several manufacturing partners set to come out with Windows Mixed Reality headsets later this year, Mehdi said. Priced at $299, the headsets will contain built-in sensors to enable inside-out, six-degrees of freedom, allowing for easy setup and free movement without the need for external markers or sensors...
Thu, 30 Mar 17
What the Death of Broadband Privacy Rules Means
Now that both houses of Congress have voted to block Obama-era broadband privacy rules , what does that mean for you? p In the short term, not so much. The rules, which would have put tough restrictions on what companies like Comcast, Verizon and ATT can do with information such as your internet history, hadn't yet gone into effect. So if President Donald Trump signs the measure, as the White House has indicated he will, the status quo will remain. p But the absence of clear privacy rules means that the companies supplying your internet service -- and who can see a great deal of what you do with it -- can continue to mine that information for use in their own advertising businesses. And consumer advocates worry that the companies will be an enticing target for hackers. p Here's how that could play out and what it means. p subhead What Changes Now? /subhead p Not much, at least immediately. For now, phone and cable companies remain subject to federal law that imposes on broadband providers a duty to protect the confidentiality of customer information and restricts them from using some customer data without approval. p But it doesn't spell out how companies must get permission, how they must protect your data, or whether and how they have to tell you if it's been hacked. p subhead What the Rules Would Have Changed /subhead p Under the Federal Communications Commission's rules, Comcast and its ilk would have needed your permission before offering marketers a wealth of information about you, including health and financial details, your geographic location and lists of websites you've visited and apps you've used. p Republicans and industry officials complained that the browsing and app history restrictions would have unfairly burdened internet providers, since other companies such as Google and Facebook don't have to abide by them. p That's important because the biggest broadband companies want to build ad businesses...
Thu, 30 Mar 17
Uber Diversity Report Says 36 Percent of Employees Are Women
Uber's first report on employee diversity shows low numbers for women, especially in technical positions. In that regard, the company is similar to other Silicon Valley giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple. p But Uber's report comes as pressure mounts on the company in light of sexual harassment claims by a former employee, the antics of its embattled CEO Travis Kalanick and ongoing criticisms of a boorish brogrammer culture. Management defections include that of the company's president, Jeff Jones, after just six months on the job. p Thirty-six percent of the company's worldwide employees are women, according to the report , which does not count drivers as employees. Google, in comparison, has 31 percent women and Apple, 32 percent. When it comes to technology jobs such as engineering, only 15 percent are women at Uber. At Google, it's 19 percent and Apple, 23 percent. p As with other tech companies , Uber is making some progress in diversifying its work force. The new hires at the company show a higher percentage of women -- 41 percent -- as well as more underrepresented minorities. p In the U.S., the largest ethnic group at Uber is white and the second largest is Asian. The report also shows that nearly 9 percent of the company's U.S. employees are black and almost 6 percent are Hispanic. At Google, a much larger company, the numbers are 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively. p Uber also says 15 percent of its U.S. employees hold work visas, and they hail from 71 countries. Other technology companies have not been disclosing this information, but it's possible that they will follow Uber's steps -- especially as the industry continues to clash heads with President Donald Trump's administration over immigration issues. p Uber has about 12,000 employees worldwide, about half in the U.S. p The San Francisco company has hired former U.S. Attorney...
Thu, 30 Mar 17
What Makes a Cyberattack? Experts Lobby To Restrict the Term
When U.S. senator John McCain told Ukrainian television that the allegedly Russian-backed breach of the Democratic National Committee's server was an act of war, Michael Schmitt cringed. p Schmitt, a professor of law at the U.S. Naval War College and University of Exeter in England, has spent years trying to defuse talk of cyberattacks, an expression used to describe everything from remotely disabling a city's power grid to stealing a Facebook password. The concern, for Schmitt and others, is that overheated rhetoric could prompt dangerous diplomatic missteps. p We're very nervous when people say 'cyberattack,' because a 'cyberattack' opens the door to a state responding at very highest level of severity, Schmitt said in a recent interview. If there's any area where we need to be careful, it's this. p Schmitt is one of a group of academics campaigning to change the language around electronic subterfuge. Their work on a recently published handbook, the Tallinn Manual 2.0 , is meant to help policymakers to distinguish serious attacks from minor incidents. Other experts are directly lobbying journalists and politicians to moderate their tone. p Words matter, said Thomas Rid, who teaches at the Department of War Studies at King's College London. Words affect intelligence operations; words affect military operations; words affect the behavior of allies and enemies. And of course words shape what lawmakers think and what laws are made. So if we're not precise, we're literally escalating a problem. p Professionals are trying to knock back talk of cyberattacks, too. When Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe described the massive data breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as one of America's most damaging cyberattacks, one of America's top spymasters corrected him. p I would say that this was espionage, then-National Security Agency Director James Clapper said. I think there is a difference between an act of espionage, which we conduct as well,...
Thu, 30 Mar 17
Self-Driving Car Crash Comes Amid Debate About Regulations
A crash that caused an Uber self-driving SUV to flip onto its side in a Phoenix suburb serves as a stark reminder of the challenges surrounding autonomous vehicles in Arizona, a state that has gone all-in to entice the company by promising minimal government regulation. p Friday night's crash was blamed on the driver of an oncoming SUV that turned left in front of the Uber vehicle carrying two test drivers and no passengers. There were no serious injuries and the driver of the other car was cited for a moving violation. But images of Uber's Volvo SUV rolled onto its side reverberated heavily on social media. p Uber responded by briefly suspending its self-driving cars in its three testing locations -- Arizona, San Francisco and Pittsburgh -- as it investigated the accident. p Uber's self-driving car program is rolling out amid questions about how much government regulation it should endure on issues such as accidents, insurance and reporting instances in which the person behind the wheel in test cars needs to take control of the vehicle. p The San Francisco-based startup endured a shaky December rollout in California -- including running red lights -- that culminated in a standoff between Uber and state regulators who wanted more transparency and reporting. p Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey seized the opportunity and used lax regulations to entice Uber, which decided to ship more than a dozen SUVs to metro Phoenix. p California may not want you, but Arizona does, said Ducey, who took the first ride as a passenger in Uber's self-driving cars last month. p Uber spokeswoman Taylor Patterson said the company is operating more than a dozen of the 21 vehicles it has registered in Arizona. Some pick up passengers. p In Arizona, companies such as Uber only need to carry minimum liability insurance policies to operate self-driving cars. They are not required to track crashes...
Wed, 29 Mar 17
Amazon Launches Its Own Call Center Platform
Plenty of companies have wished they had access to the same call center technology Amazon uses for its customer service centers. Now, they can. Today, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the launch of Amazon Connect, a self-service, cloud-based contact center technology service that is based on the same technology the company uses to power its own customer service operations.
According to the company, the service will allow enterprises to set up their own call center operations without having to invest heavily in proprietary hardware and software systems. Instead, Amazon's enterprise clients will be able to set up and configure their own "virtual contact centers" in a matter of minutes, offering better customer service at a lower cost.
Amazon Sells Its Special Sauce
Traditional contact centers have typically been complicated, expensive operations to set up, often taking months or even years to fully deploy. They often involve proprietary technologies that require special skills to operate, and frequently come with restrictive licensing agreements that can make it difficult for companies to scale their call center operations in response to changes in call volumes due to short-term promotions, seasonal spikes, or new product launches.
Amazon said that was the reason it decided to develop its own call center technology. "Ten years ago, we made the decision to build our own customer contact center technology from scratch because legacy solutions did not provide the scale, cost structure, and features we needed to deliver excellent customer service for our customers around the world," said Tom Weiland, vice president of worldwide customer service, Amazon, in a statement.
‚EUúThis choice has been a differentiator for us, as it is used today by our agents around the world in the millions of interactions they have with our customers, he added. We're excited to offer this technology to customers as an AWS...
Wed, 29 Mar 17
Apple Rolls Out Major Update with iOS 10.3: Here's What's New
Released yesterday, the latest update to Apple's mobile operating system makes it easier for users to locate their misplaced AirPods and introduces a new look for the Settings app. Likely to be the last update before iOS 11 comes out later this year, iOS 10.3 also comes with a new file system designed for improved storage, and new features for app developers. p Devices that support iOS 10.3 include iPhone 5, 6 and 7 models, the iPhone SE, the iPad Air, the iPad Air 2, and the fourth-generation iPad. p Since iOS 10 was released in September, Apple has updated the operating system several times to address a number of issues and add new features and functions. This latest version of iOS 10.3 has seen seven beta releases since the first came out in late January. p subhead File System Optimized for Flash/SSD Storage /subhead p Apple users are noting on Twitter and elsewhere that downloading and installing iOS 10.3 could take longer than some previous versions as this release comes with a number of major changes. Many report that their devices show improved memory and performance after updating. p One of the big changes arriving with iOS 10.3 is the Apple File System (APFS) that replaces the Hierarchical File System Apple has been using for more than 30 years. Announced at last summer's Worldwide Developers Conference, APFS is optimized for Flash and SSD storage and also delivers many other improvements, Apple said. p Apple File System is a new, modern file system for iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS, Apple said in its online developer guide. It is optimized for Flash/SSD storage and features strong encryption, copy-on-write metadata, space sharing, cloning for files and directories, snapshots, fast directory sizing, atomic safe-save primitives, and improved file system fundamentals. p subhead New Support for Finding AirPods /subhead p In its review of the iOS 10.3 release, Ars...