The mysterious U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane returned back to Earth, landing at the Vandenberg Air Force Base after a 674-day mission in space. The aircraft is 9.5-foot tall and is over 29-feet long, and its wingspan is slightly less than 15-feet.
This was the third flight of the X-37B spacecraft, marking the longest stretch in space for the Air Force aircraft. Its X-37B has solar panels that allow it to recharge its wings after it already is in orbit. It remains unknown what the Air Force was doing with X-37B in space, as exact mission details remain classified.
"The 30th Space Wing and our mission partners, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Boeing, and our base support contractors, have put countless hours of hard work into preparing for this landing and today we were able to see the culmination of that dedication," said Colonel Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, in a press statement.
Russian hackers have generated an estimated $2.5 billion over the past year, as state-sponsored groups are able to breach companies in the United States and Western Europe. The Target breach, impacting millions of customers, helped them generate a tremendous amount of revenue, according to the Group-IB report.
Stealing and selling credit card information - among other personal information - helped the groups generate $680 million, with financial fraud also raking in $426 million. In addition to the Target breach, The Home Depot was recently compromised, with Russian-based hackers likely involved.
Both Russia and China have been named major threats to the United States, launching organized cyberattacks with a focus on corporate espionage and compromising users. Unfortunately, hackers are better organized and able to compromise point-of-sale (POS) terminals in retail stores, hack ATM machines, and steal consumer personal information at a rapid pace.
It's no surprise that the Internet is a major facilitator of intellectual property piracy and theft, but revelations that the United States hosts a majority of piracy websites might be a shock, according to the IP Crime Report released by the UK IP Crime Group. It's extremely difficult to shut down piracy groups that operate in other countries, which is what UK copyright enforcement groups have found over the past 12 months.
"Analysis has shown that the three key countries in which content is hosted are the UK, the USA and Canada," according to the report. "However, investigating servers located offshore can cause specific problems for FACT's law enforcement partners."
Trying to clamp down on piracy has evolved from individual lawsuits to increased effort to shut down those responsible for operating piracy rings and servers. However, Internet piracy will remain a problem for music labels, movie studios, and game makers, despite increased surveillance of distribution groups.
A growing number of U.S. retailers are being victimized by data breaches, leading to millions of consumers at risk of identity theft and fraud - and now President Obama has stepped in, signing an executive order to enforce increased payment security measures. The federal government will now use chip-and-PIN technology for all government credit cards, providing an additional layer of security for all agencies that handle monetary payments.
"We applaud the administration for taking proactive and positive steps by adopting PIN and chip technology for government-issued debit and credit cards, among other things," said Matthew Shay, National Retail Foundation (NRF) CEO, in a statement. "From insisting our PIN and chip cards to facilitating greater information sharing among retailers and other sectors, we are committed to finding the right answers with the latest technologies to stop these cyber thieves."
Moving forward, the President also wants additional transparency when companies suffer a data breach and consumers are impacted. Meanwhile, WalMart, Home Depot, Target, Walgreens, and other retailers plan to use chip-and-PIN point-of-sale (POS) terminals in their retail stores, starting in early 2015.
Credit card company MasterCard is rolling out a new contactless payment card in 2015 that uses a fingerprint sensor. The company partnered with Zwipe, which wants to replace a debit card PIN number or credit card signature, with a fingerprint. Consumers just wave the card near an NFC reader at the checkout, with biometric authentication reportedly safer than a chip and PIN system.
The card will roll out to the UK market in 2015, after a trial run conducted in Norway. The card doesn't require a battery and will harvest power from the contactless till at the payment terminal each time it's used. Fingerprint data is stored directly on the card, so MasterCard and retailers won't have an external database that could be breached.
"Our belief is that we should be able to identify ourselves without having to use passwords or pin numbers," said Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard president of enterprise security solutions. "Biometric authentication can help us achieve this."
The Sony PlayStation 4 continued to dominate the North American console gaming market, outselling the Microsoft Xbox One in September. The PS4 has racked up nine consecutive months over the Xbox One, but Microsoft hopes its gaming bundles will help draw more interest leading into Christmas.
Console hardware sales increase 200 percent year-over-year, with prices dropping as the console battle continues to heat up.
Meanwhile, video game software struggled in September, even with the release of Activision's Destiny. It's worth noting that last October saw the release of Grand Theft Auto 5, which became an instant hit. Madden 15, Fifa 15, Super Smash Bros. and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor rounded out the top five game titles in the month. Software sales were down 35 percent year-over-year, but digital video games delivered over the Internet were up 8.6 percent, up to $873 million.
The subway system in New York City now supports Wi-Fi and mobile carrier coverage for 40 stations located in Manhattan and Queens. An estimated 47 million customers will be able to benefit from the technology boost each month system wide, with distributed antenna systems (DAS) for 3G and 4G cellular support - along with Wi-Fi hotspots - being added.
There are 76 stations that now support free Wi-Fi and additional mobile coverage for passengers, in an ongoing project. The Wi-Fi expansion is scheduled for completion by 2017, and will support all 277 subway stations, project managers noted.
"Bringing wireless service into our subway system is the latest milestone in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's effort to use technology to improve the service we provide for our customers," said Thomas Prendergast, MTA chairman.
Samsung today announced the Chromebook 2 powered by an Intel Celeron processor, as the company continues to support Google-powered operating systems. The Chromebook 2 is a light device designed to power on fast and utilize cloud-based storage - it likely won't be a desktop replacement for business users, but could be a fun, inexpensive product for consumers to play with.
The device runs Google Chrome and is powered by an Intel Celeron N2840 (2.58 GhZ) processor, 2GB DR3L RAM, 16GB storage, Intel HD graphics, and supports 1366 x 768 resolution. The Chromebook has an 11.6" screen and weighs just 2.65 lbs., with battery life up to nine hours.
The Samsung Chromebook 2 with Intel Celeron processor is now available for pre-order with a $249.99 MSRP, and will be released next week.
Consumers are extending the lives of their tablets - and many others are turning their attention to phablets - which negatively hit tablet sales in 2014, according to the Gartner research firm. Global tablet sales will reach 229 million units in 2014, an 11 percent surge year-over-year, but manufacturers will need to create appealing offers to win over potential customers.
Phablets, 2-in-1 convertible laptops and other devices have become cheaper, and have become more appealing to consumers. Gartner believes there will be 155 million fewer tablet replacements through 2018, along with 90 million fewer new tablet purchases in the consumer market.
"The market is clearly favoring those vendors offering value in lower-priced smartphones," said Roberta Cozza, Gartner research director, in a press statement. "This trend has become more apparent, especially in the second quarter of 2014 when most of the top Chinese smartphone vendors grew volume and market share. As smartphones reach lower prices, Gartner expects nine out of 10 phones to be smartphones by 2018."
Sony has shown off some new updates that are set to enter the PlayStation 4, with the PS4 interface itself being updated in a 2.0 system update. Part of the new update includes the ability of a USB Media Player, something that should be welcomed with warm arms.
Gamers can't transfer music to the PS4, but they'll be able to play MP3, MP4, M4A and 3GP files from a USB stick inserted into the PlayStation 4, as background music while they game. Sony is also amplifying the social interaction on the PS4, which will now suggest "players you may know", recommending PS4 users that your friends frequently game with. On top of that, if purchasing themes isn't something you're into, the new PS4 2.0 update will allow you to customize the background color of the PS4 interface.
The new update will also provide a feature to add a game to your library, instead of forcing you through the steps of cancelling that unwanted download. Continuously expanding gaming libraries will be easier to manage with the PS4 2.0 update, with improved filters to organize your game collection. The PS4's live broadcasting tool is also being reworked, providing gamers with more control for following broadcasts, searching for specific games, as well as archiving sessions.