Forget the Drama Llama — the Irony Rhino went charging through the room this week. The same day President Barack Obama gave a big speech on the importance of, you know, cybersecurity , the Twitter and YouTube accounts for the US military’s Central Command were hacked by supporters of Islamic State. Wired magazine was among those who dismissed the hack as a stunt and not a deep security breach, and some experts are theorizing that the person in charge of those social media accounts got jacked, which led to the official accounts being compromised.
Other government leaders are also concerned about security, terrorist activity and other dirty deeds done dirt cheap online. In a speech this week, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron said he would try to ban apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp in Britain if intelligence services did not have a key to the back door. And the Federal trial of the Dread Pirate Roberts, also known as Ross Ulbrict of the Silk Road site, started this week in Lower Manhattan.
Microsoft is just not having it from Google. In a post on the Microsoft Security Response Center site, senior director Chris Betz blasted the Big G for releasing information about some Windows 8.1 bugs before Microsoft could roll out its monthly Patch Tuesday fixes. Google made the Windows cracks known in posts on its Project Zero site for security engineers, which tracks holes in Google’s (and other companies’) software. As an incentive for the fixing, Project Zero typically has a 90-day trigger of automatic disclosure of unpatched bugs after the vendor has been notified.
Microsoft has started the slow countdown to the official demise of Windows 7: The company’s Product Lifecycle database notes that mainstream support for Windows 7 ended this week. Extended product support, which provides regular security updates, goes until January 14, 2020. (Windows 7 still has more than 50 percent of the Windows market at the moment, according to Net Applications.)
You’ve seen those Amber Alert notices on the news and even on electronic highway signs. Now Facebook is partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to bring geographically relevant alerts to user news feeds.
The old try-before-you-buy philosophy isn’t just for demoware. Luminoid.com, which rents out cameras, tablets and other gadgets, has just started a new Home Try-On program for wearable electronics. You can borrow five health and fitness tracking devices and try them all out for seven days. If you like a model, you send back the demos and buy a new one from Luminoid. If you don’t buy, you just send them $20 for their lending and shipping efforts.
In iOS news, Google released a free iOS version of its Chrome Remote Desktop app this week. With the app on your iPhone or iPad, an extension to the Google Chrome browser on your computer and a Google account, you can log in and control your computer over the Internet. (An Android version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app was previously available.) And Apple is giving confused parents a hand with new age-appropriate subsections to the Games for Kids area of the App Store.
Although unmanned drones are mostly banned for commercial use, CNN has worked out an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that would let the channel test camera equipped drones for video journalism and news-gathering. Several media companies have previously complained about the FAA’s ban on drones saying it restricts the First Amendment rights of journalists to gather news. The FAA is currently working on a new set of drone rules, so stay tuned — maybe the drone rules will land before the Federal Communications Commission gets its Net Neutrality ducks in a row.
If you’ve ever dreamed of having your own personal robot, there’s a Kickstarter campaign awaiting you. A startup called Robotbase is gathering funds for a product called Personal Robot, which looks to be the artificial intelligence of personal assistant software married to a motorized robotic rolling platform. As Sam Maggs over on The Mary Sue blog points out in her post titled “Now You Can Have Your Very Own A.I. Personal Robot Lady Friend,” the Cylon race also started out as robot butlers in the Caprica series.
And finally, the New York Public Library is leading out more than just books and videos. As part of the new Library HotSpot program, that fine institution is also making 10,000 free Wi-Fi hot spots available for six-month loans to families who have no broadband access at home. The Library HotSpot project is also receiving major support from Google, the Knight News Challenge, Open Society Foundations and New York’s Robin Hood Foundation. Both the nonprofit Internet access company Mobile Beacon and Sprint are working to get the hot spot hardware distributed to library branches around the five boroughs. And remember hot-spot recipients: security.