ISIS Hacker Group Targets U.S. Military Command Accounts

Hackers who claim affiliation with the Islamic State took over the Twitter and YouTube accounts of the U.S. militaryEUs Central Command. Malicious hackers maintained control over the social media accounts, which are hosted on commercial, non-Defense Department servers, for about 30 minutes.

During the takeover, the ISIS-aligned EUCyber CaliphateEU hackers published propaganda videos, hateful messages, and military documents. One of the messages read, EUAMERICAN SOLIDERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK. ISIS.EU The YouTube and Twitter accounts have been taken offline while the U.S. government investigates.

EUCentCom's operational military networks were not compromised and there was no operational impact to U.S. Central Command,EU the government said in a statement. EUCentCom will restore service to its Twitter and YouTube accounts as quickly as possible. We are viewing this purely as a case of cybervandalism.EU

Timing is Everything

In its initial assessment, Central Command said that no classified information had been posted and none of the information posted came from its server or social media sites. WhatEUs more, Central Command is notifying appropriate U.S. Department of Defense and law enforcement authorities about the potential release of personally identifiable information and vowed to take appropriate steps to quickly notify potentially affected individuals.

We caught up with Ken Westin, a security analyst for advanced threat detection firm Tripwire, to get his thoughts on the hacking. He told us itEUs not a coincidence that this attack occurred just as President Barack Obama announced new cyber safeguards, including new legislation to create a single, national standard protecting Americans from identity theft.

EUMajor companies get hacked; America's personal information, including financial information, gets stolen. And the problem is growing, and it costs us billions of dollars,EU Obama said in an address on Monday. EUIn recent breaches, more than 100 million Americans have had their personal data compromised, like credit card information. When these...

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Car Being 3D-Printed at Detroit Auto Show

The "co-creation" company Local Motors is not only showing off the world's first 3D-printed car at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It's also actually printing a new and improved "mid-model refresh" of the vehicle on the show floor.

By the end of this week, the freshly printed Strati upgrade will be available for show attendees to test-drive on the NAIAS Shell Innovation Track, promised Local Motors CEO and co-founder John B. Rogers, Jr.

"To our knowledge, it's the first time cars have been made on the show floor here," Rogers said during a Monday press event at the auto show.

Cutting-Edge Automotive Hardware

The Strati, which means "layers" in Italian, was conceived of by Italian designer Michele Anoè, who submitted his idea to Local Motors as part of a 2014 co-creation competition. Anoè's design earned him a cash prize, as well as the opportunity to see his idea actually turned into a real-life vehicle.

That vehicle was driven onto the NAIAS show floor Monday before Local Motors' Rogers announced that an updated model of the Strati would be printed on site.

Rogers acknowledged that the company could have easily chosen to introduce the Strati at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. However, he noted, it seemed "unfair" to debut the vehicle at an event focused on software innovations. As an example of cutting-edge hardware creation, he said, the Strati was better unveiled in Detroit.

Stratis on the Road this Year

Founded in 2007 and based in Phoenix, Local Motors designs vehicles with the support of a global "co-creation community" of "enthusiasts, hobbyist innovators and professionals." Through its combination of open collaboration and micro-manufacturing, the company has produced such vehicles as the off-roading Rally Fighter, the Harley Davidson-inspired Racer motorcycle, the electric Verrado tricycle and the Cruiser motorized bike....

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Wearable Sensors Gather Data — Now To Make It Useful

It's not just about how many steps you've taken or how many calories you've burned in a day. Wearable fitness trackers and health monitors are becoming more commonplace and diverse, but just what do you do with all of that data?

"We have a lot of people buy wearables and then stop using them," said Paul Landau, president of Fitbug, a British maker of fitness trackers. Landau attended the International CES gadget show in Las Vegas last week, promoting a series of 12-week fitness coaching programs that offer detailed and custom recommendations for getting in shape. "If you want to help people," said Landau, "they've got to have more than just self-tracking."

Health monitors aren't just for fitness buffs. Startups and big tech companies at the gadget show promoted all kinds of uses for the data generated by wearable sensors -- from mindfulness exercises to figuring out the best time to get pregnant. Other companies aim to offer value by aggregating data from different sources, so it can be viewed and interpreted together. That could be useful, but it also raises a host of privacy concerns.

Turning Data Into an Experience

"A lot of wearables today are just throwing numbers at people. We're looking to synthesize that data and turn it into an experience," says Jason Fass of Zepp Labs, a Silicon Valley startup that makes a tiny, wearable motion sensor for tennis, baseball and golf enthusiasts.

Zepp has been selling sensors for a year, Fass said in an interview at CES, but he's hoping weekend athletes will see more value in Zepp's new smartphone app. It shows users an animated analysis of their swing, and lets them compare their moves with videos of pro athletes.

The trend goes beyond sports. A Canadian startup called InteraXon displayed a headset that can measure brain activity, by tracking...

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Citrix Buys Virtual Storage Firm Sanbolic

Desktop virtualization firm Citrix is making virtualized storage moves with the acquisition of Sanbolic. The company has made a name for itself in workload-oriented storage virtualization technologies.

Specifically, Sanbolic technology makes it possible for IT to software-define storage to optimize delivery of application-specific workloads from any media type, including SSD, Flash and hard drives in NAS, SAN, server-side and cloud deployments. The promised result: improved storage load balancing, application availability and delivering the highest-performance end-user experience.

EUThere are tremendous synergies between our companies,EU said Momchil Michailov, CEO and cofounder of Sanbolic. He expects the acquisition to make enterprise data and workloads EUhighly available and elastic based on changing business demands.EU

Tackling Problems Head On

While server hardware and software licensing costs are well understood, Citrix noted that storage many times presents the biggest barrier to cost-effective and seamless implementations. By integrating Sanbolic technology into the mix, Citrix can roll out new solutions to address these challenges.

EUCitrix is able to address this problem head-on, delivering solutions to our customers that simplify the infrastructure and reduce the overall cost of deployment and management,EU said Geir Ramleth, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Citrix. EUSanbolic has built a highly-skilled team that joins us today, which accelerates our ability to deliver simpler and more cost-effective solutions to our customers.EU

As Citrix sees it, the Sanbolic acquisition helps the company solve customer challenges. For example, enterprises will now be able to deploy virtual apps and VDI across their organizations -- and guarantee workload service level agreements through the platformEUs enhanced quality of service. Citrix calls it a EUhyper-converged solutionsEU that will allow customers to use their existing storage, networking and compute infrastructures, whether on premise or in the cloud.

Where Does Citrix Go Next?

Sanbolic allows customer deployments to be geo-distributed across multiple locations and clouds. The solution...

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Obama Pushes for Data Hacking, Privacy Laws

President Barack Obama on Monday called on Congress to enact federal legislation that would force American companies to be more forthcoming with information and updates when credit card data and other consumer information are stolen in an online breach.

The move follows high-profile breaches at retailers and other companies last year including Target, Sony, Home Depot and Neiman Marcus.

In addition to the customer notification legislation, Obama will also ask lawmakers to pass the Student Digital Privacy Act. The measure would prohibit companies from selling student data to third parties, a move spurred by the increased use of technology in schools that can scoop up personal information.

One National Standard

The Personal Data Notification and Protection Act would create a single, national standard that would obligate companies to inform their customers within 30 days after discovering their data has been hacked. The proposed act was announced by Obama Monday during a speech at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Obama said that the current assortment of state laws covering hacking incidents does not sufficiently protect Americans and is a burden for companies that do business across the country. The president's proposals are part of a weeklong focus on privacy and security ahead of next week's State of the Union address.

If passed by Congress, the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act could require companies located in the United States to notify customers within 30 days after their personal information has been compromised. Recent hackings have exposed the lack of uniform practices for alerting customers in the event of a breach. The legislation, which would be partly based on an existing statute in California, would also make it a crime to sell customers' identities overseas.

"As cybersecurity threats and identity theft continue to rise, recent polls show that nine in 10 Americans feel they have in some way...

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IBM Breaks Record with 7,534 US Patents in 2014

Big Blue announced Monday that it obtained a record number of patents -- 7,534 -- from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014, the 22nd year in a row that the company has led the U.S. patent list. Among the areas where IBM saw the most patents were analytics, cloud computing and mobile computing.

Other top patent-getting companies last year included Samsung (4,952), Canon (4,055), Sony (3,224), Microsoft (2,829), Toshiba (2,608), Qualcomm (2,590), Google (2,566), LG Electronics (2,122) and Panasonic (2,095). IBM's performance last year made it the first company ever to receive more than 7,000 U.S. patents in a single year.

The patent figures, based on an annual tally by IFI Claims Patent Services, show that the USPTO last year also granted more patents than ever before over a 12-month period: 300,678.

A press statement from IBM President and CEO Ginni Rometty attributed her company's record to "the kind of fundamental R&D that can solve the most daunting challenges facing our clients and the world." Based on its latest figures, IBM averaged more than 20 new patents per day last year.

Growth in Cloud, Analytics, Mobile

IBM's 2014 output saw more than 3,000 patents -- around 40 percent of the year's total -- in several technologies: cloud computing, analytics, mobile, social and security. Those "strategic growth areas" for IBM have seen the number of patents more than double over the past five years.

Another area that has seen a lot of activity is in cognitive computing, which IBM has grabbed numerous headlines for, particularly in regards to Watson, its Jeopardy-winning smart computer. Cognitive systems helped IBM win more than 500 patents last year.

More than 34 percent of IBM's patents came from inventors who live outside the U.S.

Some of the top patents from Big Blue last year included a...

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Google Offering Real-Time Translation

It started with the news that Skype will be offering real-time translation for users speaking English and Spanish. Now, Google has joined the universal translator club as it tries to do Microsoft one better. According to a report in the New York Times on Sunday, Google will offer real-time translation for speakers of 90 languages.

The development could prove to be a revolutionary step in the field of human communications. Users will be able to speak to people in foreign languages, and have their responses converted to English text. For a few of the most popular languages, users will have the option of hearing spoken translations instead.

Learning from Mistakes

The feature is set to be included in a forthcoming update to GoogleEUs translation app for smartphones. After the update, the app will also be able to automatically detect the language that a speaker is using. Both speakers will need headsets for the app to work correctly, however, and the translations work best when both parties pause between responses, according to the New York Times.

Although GoogleEUs plan represents a big step, it is not the companyEUs first foray into the world of translation. On the contrary, Google has been rolling out improvements to its translation abilities for years. Users already have the ability to view automatic translations of Web sites written in other languages on GoogleEUs Chrome Web browser.

And its Google Translate page has given users the ability to type in text from dozens of languages and get translations almost instantly. Google is also working on a separate app that will allow users to translate texts by snapping an image of the text to be translated, a potentially lifesaving feature for overseas tourists, according to the report.

The technology is still far from perfect, with several errors in grammar and word...

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Microsoft Angry at Google over Zero-Day Disclosure

Google knows that month in and month out, Microsoft releases security bulletins on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month. Many times, Patch Tuesday issues fixes for zero-day flaws.

This month, Google got way ahead of Redmond with a public disclosure that came just days before Patch Tuesday -- and Microsoft is downright angry. Now, Chris Betz, senior director of research at Microsoft, is calling for coordinated vulnerability disclosure.

Here's the root of the drama: Google released details of the flaw in Windows as part of its Project Zero initiative that aims to press firms to address security issues more rapidly. Apparently, Microsoft was already moving pretty swiftly to handle the issue.

Did Google Blow It?

"I think Google's security engineers are being irresponsible in releasing proof-of-concept code -- especially when they knew Microsoft was just a couple of days away from releasing the patch," Graham Cluley, an independent security research analyst, told us. "I cannot see how what Google did helps people stay safer online."

Google could not immediately be reached for comment, but developers are sounding off. In the Google Security Research wiki, one developer wrote: "Automatically disclosing this vulnerability when a deadline is reached with absolutely zero context strikes me as incredibly irresponsible, and I'd have expected a greater degree of care and maturity from a company like Google."

Another developer chimed in: "Exposing vulnerabilities like this has far-reaching consequences. People could get hurt by this and it doesn't bring anyone closer to a solution. I find it difficult to believe that MSFT and GOOG don't have red-telephone access to each other if needed. This is a terrible oversight here. When an organization is as big and powerful as GOOG people working there need to think of themselves as stewards of a great power, and work to be fair and...

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Samsung Unveils Ultra-Thin, Totally Metal Galaxy A7

The latest smartphone unveiled by Samsung -- the ultra-thin Galaxy A7 -- features a metal body instead of a plastic one, and is powered by two separate quad-core processors. The phone's hardware is designed with multi-tasking social users in mind, according to Samsung.

Samsung took the wraps off the Galaxy A7 at a launch in Malaysia last week, and released more details about the device over the weekend. The phone is reportedly set to arrive in some Asian markets starting in February with a price tag of around $420.

With a body thickness of just 6.3mm, the Galaxy A7 will be the thinnest of Samsung's A family to date. Announced last fall, the Galaxy A3 and the Galaxy A 5 are 6.9mm and 6.7mm thick, respectively. Like the A7, the earlier models also feature metal bodies instead of Samsung's typical all-plastic design.

Fast-Changing China Market

It's likely that the new Galaxy A7 will be targeted at the same select markets as the Galaxy A3 and Galaxy A5. Those markets include China, where sales of Samsung and other leading smartphone brands have taken a hit with the emergence of a new and fast-rising competitor: Xiaomi.

Founded in China just five years ago, Xiaomi has quickly grown to become the world's third-largest vendor of smartphones, according to the latest figures from analyst firm IDC. The company, whose latest phone, the Mi4, was released in August as a high-end alternative to other brands, saw sales grow by more than 211 percent from Q3 2013 to Q3 2014, and sold over 61 million handsets last year.

While Samsung remains the global leader in smartphone sales (Apple is in second place), its market share has declined considerably -- from 32.5 percent in Q3 2013 to 23.8 percent for the same period last year. According to the...

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Sony Pictures CEO: No ‘Playbook’ for Studio Hack

The network was crippled. Days before Thanksgiving, Sony Pictures employees had logged onto computers that flashed a grim message from a hacker group calling itself Guardians of Peace. Soon personal information for tens of thousands of current and former workers was dumped online, including Social Security numbers and the purported salaries of top executives. Five Sony-produced movies, including the unreleased "Annie," appeared on file-sharing websites. Thousands of private, and sometimes embarrassing, emails hit the Internet.

"They came in the house, stole everything, then burned down the house," Michael Lynton, the movie studio's CEO, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. "They destroyed servers, computers, wiped them clean of all the data and took all the data."

More than six weeks later, the studio's network is still down -- and is expected to remain so for a few weeks, as techs work to rebuild and get it fully back online. In that time, Sony has been thrust into the geopolitical spotlight as the target of an unprecedented corporate cyberattack that the United States has attributed to North Korea. In a wide-ranging interview Lynton talked about the isolation and uncertainty created by the attack and the unique position the company found itself in, in a case that's undoubtedly being closely watched in boardrooms around the world.

"We are the canary in the coal mine, that's for sure," Lynton said. "There's no playbook for this, so you are in essence trying to look at the situation as it unfolds and make decisions without being able to refer to a lot of experiences you've had in the past or other peoples' experiences. You're on completely new ground."

In the early hours of the hack, workers scrambled to find ways to communicate with the studio's 7,000 employees and keep the business running. Some dug through basement...

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