Officials Say U.S. Did Not ‘Hack Back’ Against North Korea

The U.S. government was not responsible for sustained electronic attacks that crippled North Korea's Internet infrastructure last month, just after President Barack Obama promised that his administration would respond to the hacker break-in at Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., two senior U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

The Obama administration has been deliberately coy about whether it caused North Korea's outage, which affected all the nation's Internet connections starting the weekend of Dec. 20. But the two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to openly discuss the issue, acknowledged to the AP that it was not a U.S. operation.

It was not immediately clear even within the administration whether rogue hackers or other governments disrupted North Korea's networks. The networks are not considered especially robust since they rely on a single provider, China United Network Communications Group Co. Ltd., the state-owned provider in neighboring China. North Korea's service was sporadic starting Saturday, Dec. 20, then collapsed entirely for nearly 10 hours two days later in what has remained an enduring whodunit.

"It looks more like the result of an infrastructure attack than an infrastructure failure," said James Cowie, chief scientist at Dynamic Network Services Inc. of Manchester, New Hampshire, who studied the outages. "There's nothing you can point to that says it has all the hallmarks of an attack by a nation state. It could have been anybody."

Within the U.S. government, contingents have debated privately whether to acknowledge that the U.S. played no role in North Korea's disruptions or remain silent to avoid detailed conversations about U.S. capabilities and policy on offensive cyber operations, which are considered highly classified.

The disclosure denying U.S. involvement was intended to convey how seriously the administration considers offensive cyberattacks, intended to be used only in the most serious cases and consistent with the State...

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Wearables Emerge in Big Way at CES 2015

When it comes to wearables, the headlines often seem dominated by smart watches and fitness-tracking bracelets. However, as the Consumer Electronics Show wraps up in Las Vegas on Friday one thing is clear -- there's a lot more to wearables than just bangles and timepieces.

Among the wearable Innovation Award winners at this year's CES were a heart-rate-monitoring strip that sticks to a user's torso; a sensor-embedded "digital shirt" for athletes; and a wireless smart insole for tracking steps, gait and balance. Some exhibitors at the show even debuted wearables for pets . . . yes, pets.

While it's early days for smart wearables, such accessories could prove to be more than just clever and trendy devices worn for a while and then quickly forgotten once the next innovation comes along. One area where they show great promise, for example, is not with the fit and aerobically minded but with the elderly and disabled.

From Smart Shirts to Pet Trackers

Wearables had their own marketplace category at CES this year, and nearly two dozen were singled out for Innovation Awards based on engineering, design, uniqueness and potential user value.

They included FitLinxx's AmpStrip, a system with a set of 30 stick-on monitoring strips to track heart-rate and activity 24/7; the Digital Shirt Smoozi (D-Shirt S for short) from Cityzen Sciences, which is a "revolutionary textile embedded with smart sensors and adaptive algorithms"; the Footlogger insole, which provides an in-shoe sensor system for tracking activity, monitoring the balance of people with diabetes, and even offering predictive capabilities for early signs of dementia or spinal disease; and Qardio's QardioCore personal ECG monitor.

Pets were included in the wearables action as well, with the introduction of products like WonderWoof, an app-integrated bow-tie device you can attach to a pet's collar to see where...

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Coming to a Car Near You: CES Auto Tech Roundup

Self-driving cars garner much of the attention, but in reality, we're years away from tooling around in something like Knight Rider's KITT. Coming sooner to a car near you: smartphone apps on dash displays, cruise control that adapts to cars around it, remote engine starting and more.

At International CES in Las Vegas, 10 automakers and numerous suppliers unveiled technological features that will find their way into cars in the distant and not-so-distant future. Here's a look at some of their wares.

Your car will think. It will react. It will learn.

"This car will take responsibility," said Dieter Zetsche, leader of Mercedes-Benz, as he introduced the company's luxury self-driving concept car of the future.

If that sounds a bit scary, like the prologue to a film in which machines overtake mankind, companies supplying the brains and eyes for these robocars say it's for our own good. Cars already do some of these things, really. Anti-lock brake systems, cruise control and parallel parking assistance are steps toward taking our hands completely off the wheel.

There are 1.2 million traffic-related deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization; 32,719 of them were in the U.S. in 2013. As automakers point out, your self-driving car won't get drunk, tired or distracted. And they could return something many other gadgets have taken away: time.

First, "the car has to become self-aware. It has to be able to see and understand what's happening around it," said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and CEO of Nvidia, which introduced a super-fast processor at the show and has been working with Audi to develop piloted systems and in-car digital displays.

Audi touted a road trip that its A7 piloted prototype -- piloted because there still needs to be a driver behind the wheel to assure nothing goes awry -- took from Silicon Valley to...

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CES 2015: Lots of Noise, Plus a Few Smart Home Gems

Technology forecasters are calling 2015 'The Year of the Internet of Things' -- referring to the idea that everyday objects will use sensors and Internet connectivity to start thinking and acting for themselves. At the International CES gadget show, I explored many of the elements that could lead to a smarter home. Some were intriguing, others disappointing. Are the capabilities on offer worth the expense and hassle? I'm not entirely convinced.

But there were some gems amid the noise.

The Smart Coffeemaker

A Mr. Coffee coffeepot has remote functionality but it's limited to starting a brew or setting a timer. (And you have to replenish the coffee beans and water after each brew.) But a company named Smarter is making a coffeemaker that lets you put in a week's worth of water and coffee beans. And the best part: The Smarter device will know when you had a horrible night of sleep, based on data from fitness trackers. It promises to make your coffee extra strong that morning.

The $199 device will start shipping in March.

The Smart Yoga Mat

Sensors in the SmartMat analyze your stance. The app alerts you if your balance is off and will tell you to put more weight on your right foot, for instance. You are scored on how well you did the routine.

The app takes up the full screen, so you'll need a separate device if you have a workout video to watch. SmartMat costs $297 and will ship in July.

The Smart Lock

For $219, Kwikset's Kevo system (shown above) will unlock the door while your phone's still in your pocket, useful if your hands are full. You train it so that it opens only when you're right outside the door, not down the block, or worse, inside the house late at night.

Although I'm nervous that someone will find a...

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Will Internet, Smartphones Be Used for 2020 Census?

The days of the census taker with clipboard in hand may be numbered. The Census Bureau plans to test digital tools in preparation for the 2020 census, a change that could save millions of dollars.

People may be asked to fill out their census forms on the Internet instead of sending them through the mail. Census takers may use smartphones instead of paper to complete their counts.

The once-a-decade count is used to draw congressional maps and helps determine how the government spends $400 billion on infrastructure, programs and services each year.

Despite outreach and advertising campaigns, the share of occupied homes that returned a form was 74 percent in 2010, unchanged from 2000 and 1990. The majority of the money the bureau spends during a census goes to getting everyone else to fill out their forms, Census Director John H. Thompson said.

In the Savannah, Georgia, area and in Maricopa County, Arizona, census workers this year will be asking people to respond on the Internet instead of filling out the traditional forms with such questions as age, race and homeownership. During follow-up visits for those who don't answer, census workers will forgo using paper and instead input answers directly into their smartphones for instantaneous collection and analysis.

In addition, in Savannah and nearby South Carolina, census officials will test an Internet response system that will only require a person to input a home address to answer questions, instead of using a government-generated identification number.

"All you need to have is an address where you live," Thompson said. "If we do that, it opens up all kinds of new ways to promote the census in targeted ways. If we contact someone at a sporting event and they have a smartphone, we can get them to respond right then and there."

The Census Bureau plans to discuss its...

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Robot Exhibits Grow Markedly at CES 2015

The Jetsons probably had no idea how soon the average American would see robots become a reality. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, a number of devices showed the futuristic concept is here and now. Robotics exhibits at CES grew 25 percent from last year's show, according to the event's organizers.

"It speaks to the category's growth and ability to disrupt and transform the consumer technology industry," said Karen Chupka, senior vice president of CES and corporate business strategy. "Robots are changing the way consumers learn, do business, monitor their health, and maintain their households as they are capable of doing things that humans can't, or simply don't want to do."

Before the dust settles, let's take a look at some of the robots-related announcements that happened at and during the show.

Diverse Robotics Exhibitors

That tiny dancer in the aisles of CES this year was named Ozobot, the world's smallest programmable robot with a color-based language. Bridging the physical and digital divide, the smart game piece glides seamlessly from paper to digital tablet. The company is convinced that playing with this robot will introduce kids and young adults to simple coding basics, stimulate their imaginations and encourage life skills.

Other major exhibitors at the CES Robotics Marketplace included ABB, Double Robotics Inc., Lowe's Innovation Labs and Future Robot Co. Furio-iHome also made a big splash at CES. A wheel-mounted smart tablet can take voice commands and connects home networks and devices. Personal robots like Jibo and Pepper also turned heads. Jibo focuses on managing a connected home network and interacts with its owners. Pepper is a white robot that's about the size of a 7-year-old that moves about your home as a friendly companion.

Robotic Trends launched a new consumer robotics Web site at CES. Robotic Trends' aim is...

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Robot Exhibits Grow Markedly at CES 2015

The Jetsons probably had no idea how soon the average American would see robots become a reality. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, a number of devices showed the futuristic concept is here and now. Robotics exhibits at CES grew 25 percent from last year's show, according to the event's organizers.

"It speaks to the category's growth and ability to disrupt and transform the consumer technology industry," said Karen Chupka, senior vice president of CES and corporate business strategy. "Robots are changing the way consumers learn, do business, monitor their health, and maintain their households as they are capable of doing things that humans can't, or simply don't want to do."

Before the dust settles, let's take a look at some of the robots-related announcements that happened at and during the show.

Diverse Robotics Exhibitors

That tiny dancer in the aisles of CES this year was named Ozobot, the world's smallest programmable robot with a color-based language. Bridging the physical and digital divide, the smart game piece glides seamlessly from paper to digital tablet. The company is convinced that playing with this robot will introduce kids and young adults to simple coding basics, stimulate their imaginations and encourage life skills.

Other major exhibitors at the CES Robotics Marketplace included ABB, Double Robotics Inc., Lowe's Innovation Labs and Future Robot Co. Furio-iHome also made a big splash at CES. A wheel-mounted smart tablet can take voice commands and connects home networks and devices. Personal robots like Jibo and Pepper also turned heads. Jibo focuses on managing a connected home network and interacts with its owners. Pepper is a white robot that's about the size of a 7-year-old that moves about your home as a friendly companion.

Robotic Trends launched a new consumer robotics Web site at CES. Robotic Trends' aim is...

Read More

Facebook Still Social Media Champ

If you donEUt visit Facebook at least once a day, youEUre in a dwindling minority. Facebook still remains the most popular social media site by far, according to a new survey by Pew Research. While its growth has slowed as other platforms grow, the level of user engagement with the platform has increased nonetheless.

Facebook continues to be the most popular social media site, but its membership numbers since 2013 have been mostly static, according to the study, which surveyed 2,000 adult Internet users in September. One notable exception is among older adults. For the first time since Pew has tracked these numbers, more than half of Internet users age 65 and up now use Facebook. Overall, 71 percent of Internet users are on Facebook, the same as in 2013.

Meanwhile, over the past year, every other significant social media platform, including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, has seen significant increases in the proportion of online adults who now use their sites. The number of users overall on Instagram has increased by nine percentage points and it has realized significant growth in almost every demographic group. LinkedIn has continued to grow among groups that already use it heavily, including professionals and college graduates, and Twitter and Pinterest have seen increases in users across a variety of demographic groups.

Several Times a Day

But for now, Facebook remains the king. Seventy percent of the people surveyed use the site daily, up from 63 percent in 2013. Forty-five percent use it several times a day. Meanwhile, 49 percent of Instagram users and 17 percent of Pinterest users visit those sites daily, about the same as in 2013. Thirty-six percent of Twitter users visit the site daily, but thatEUs down 10 percentage points from the previous year.

While the 13 percent of LinkedIn users who engage...

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Facebook Still Social Media Champ

If you donEUt visit Facebook at least once a day, youEUre in a dwindling minority. Facebook still remains the most popular social media site by far, according to a new survey by Pew Research. While its growth has slowed as other platforms grow, the level of user engagement with the platform has increased nonetheless.

Facebook continues to be the most popular social media site, but its membership numbers since 2013 have been mostly static, according to the study, which surveyed 2,000 adult Internet users in September. One notable exception is among older adults. For the first time since Pew has tracked these numbers, more than half of Internet users age 65 and up now use Facebook. Overall, 71 percent of Internet users are on Facebook, the same as in 2013.

Meanwhile, over the past year, every other significant social media platform, including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, has seen significant increases in the proportion of online adults who now use their sites. The number of users overall on Instagram has increased by nine percentage points and it has realized significant growth in almost every demographic group. LinkedIn has continued to grow among groups that already use it heavily, including professionals and college graduates, and Twitter and Pinterest have seen increases in users across a variety of demographic groups.

Several Times a Day

But for now, Facebook remains the king. Seventy percent of the people surveyed use the site daily, up from 63 percent in 2013. Forty-five percent use it several times a day. Meanwhile, 49 percent of Instagram users and 17 percent of Pinterest users visit those sites daily, about the same as in 2013. Thirty-six percent of Twitter users visit the site daily, but thatEUs down 10 percentage points from the previous year.

While the 13 percent of LinkedIn users who engage...

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Facebook Buys Video Compression Startup QuickFire

You certainly cannot accuse Facebook of getting 2015 off to a slow start. The social network just announced its second acquisition of the week, and it looks like it could be a big one. Although details of the transaction, including its cost, were not revealed, FacebookEUs latest move could help set it up to take on YouTube.

The deal in question is FacebookEUs acquisition of QuickFire Networks, a video compression technology start-up. Although not typically associated with video content, videos are one of the fastest growing types of content being shared on its site, according to the company. On Monday, Facebook acquired Wit.ai, a company that makes voice recognition technology for wearable devices and Internet-connected appliances.

An Increasing Priority

EUWeEUre increasingly seeing a shift towards visual content on Facebook, especially with video,EU Facebook wrote in a company blog post on Wednesday, just before it announced the acquisition of QuickFire. EUIn just one year, the number of video posts per person has increased 75 percent globally and 94 percent in the U.S.EU Globally, the numbers of videos from people and brands in News Feed has increased 3.6 times, year-over-year, the company said.

Since June, Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day. On average, more than 50 percent of people who come back to Facebook every day in the U.S. watch at least one video daily. Additionally, 76 percent of people in the U.S. who use Facebook tend to discover the videos they watch on Facebook, the company wrote.

With that much traffic, it is little wonder that the social network is doing more to prioritize visual content. CEO Mark Zuckerberg underscored that point during the companyEUs third-quarter conference call in October. EUVideo is a very big priority,EU he said, adding that a lot of the content people share will be...

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