Despite a high-quality screener version of "American Sniper" hitting the Internet days before the film's box office release, the movie still grossed $90.2 million from Friday to Sunday - the most successful opening weekend between December and February.
It's hard to estimate what role piracy could have had on the box office, as some viewers likely skipped the theater when they found the online version. However, it is possible people impressed after watching the film used word-of-mouth to help tell friends and family how good the movie is.
The film features Bradley Cooper portraying Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL and most prolific sniper in US military history, and Sienna Miller serving as Kyle's wife. Kyle survived four tours of service in Iraq, and was murdered on a Texas gun range by a fellow veteran. The Clint Eastwood-directed film has generated a high amount of controversy, though has the support of Kyle's wife and military members.
Not surprisingly, President Barack Obama has sided with UK Prime Minister David Cameron's demand that computer companies provide a backdoor to governments, even of encrypted communications. The US government has relied on a mix of warrants, wiretaps and direct access from technology companies so they have access to phone calls, social media, and other communications.
Simply demanding access to encrypted communication isn't worthwhile, so Obama played to emotions with his justification: "If we find evidence of a terrorist plot... and despite having a phone number, despite having a social media address or email address, we can't penetrate that, that's a problem," Obama recently said.
Obama wants to ensure a way to keep data private from cybercriminals, but not from police authorities and federal investigators.
The FBI and other US government departments want to recruit cybersecurity specialists, while the private sector also is throwing big money at qualified job candidates. To help fill this jobs void, a growing number of universities are creating programs to develop the next wave of security specialists.
Cybersecurity jobs soared 74 percent from 2007 to 2013, and there are a number of appealing opportunities for candidates. With such fierce competition for the current crop of security specialists, universities are broadening security-themed offerings from one or two courses to minor and major programs, or certifications.
"The demand is very high. I've had students get into cyberspace companies with just one security class, never mind an entire major," said Kenneth Knapp, IT management professor at University of Tampa and head of its cybersecurity program. "With all of the high-profile breaches over this last year or so, more focus has been on security than I've ever seen, and I've been doing it since I was 21 years old in the Air Force."
Smartphones are virtually everywhere in the United States, and some banks are rolling out "cardless cash" ATMs that dispense money to consumers using their smartphones.
Wintrust Financial pairs its mobile app with the ATM, so consumers choose how much money they want to withdraw, sign into the mobile app using a four-digit PIN or password, and select the cardless cash option. From there, they touch the "cardless cash" button on the ATM screen, scan a QR code, click submit, and the ATM will provide the funds. Consumers only need to touch the ATM screen once - and provides a faster, streamlined option than inserting an ATM card.
"We anticipate the increasing convergence of ATMs and mobile banking," according to Mercator Advisory Group's "2015 Outlook: Banking Channels" report. Early testing reveals no significant problems - and if the smartphone is lost or stolen - the criminal would need a PIN/password to unlock the device, and know the password for the mobile app.
As more private drone operators take to the skies for the first time in 2015, privacy concerns appear to be at an all-time high. Drone Labs recently introduced its Drone Detector solution, alerting users to a drone's presence - able to detect recreational and commercial drones. Instead of using acoustics-based solutions, the Drone Detector uses multi-factor authentication to identify a drone's presence.
"To be clear, most [drone] pilots are responsible, law-abiding people," said Zain Naboulsi, co-founder and CEO of Drone Labs. "We [at Drone Labs] are drone pilots ourselves. Unfortunately there are some bad pilots out there who don't follow the rules. We are committed to protecting people from unwanted drone invasions."
The FAA estimates up to 30,000 commercial drones flying by 2030 over the United States, but hasn't estimated the number of private drones.
Amazon has earned early success from its unique TV productions, and plans to transition towards movies. After a movie is released in theaters, Amazon wants to make sure the title is available via Prime video service within two months.
The company plans to create "close" to twelve movies per year, and production will begin later in 2015. The idea of a film being available online within eight weeks, as opposed to 39 to 52 weeks, gives viewers a chance to watch movies much sooner.
"Audiences already recognize that Amazon has raised the bar with productions in the episodic realm, tackling bold material in unique ways and collaborating with top talent, both established and emerging," said Ted Hope, Head of Production for Amazon Original Movies, in a statement. "Amazon Original Movies will be synonymous with films that amaze, excite, and move our fans, wherever customers watch. I am incredibly thrilled to be part of this."
ARM believes connected technology being used in our homes and apartments provides great potential, and the technology should take off in 2015. It appears the company is prepared to continue working with its partners and drive towards innovation - and won't shy away from any market that potentially needs hardware to power products.
"We're seeing the intelligence that is enabled by embedded processing really starting to come to the fore and I think it's going to be a really exciting year in 2015 as these ideas develop," said Simon Seagars, CEO of ARM Holdings, in a statement to CNBC. "I think we're seeing a very broad theme developing into more concentrated ideas around smart homes, smart cities, connected cars."
Analysts believe connected technology will continue to expand, largely driven by mobile, as product offerings and price points begin to diversify in 2015.
Chinese cybercriminals stole data related to the B-2 stealth bomber, F-22 Raptor, a nuclear submarine, and Australia's new F-35 Lighting II aircraft, according to data taken by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The Australian government plans to purchase 58 F-35 fighter jets for $12 billion, which will bring its JSF fleet up to 72 total.
Using a mix of its own research and development, along with data stolen from western political rivals, China continues to develop its own Shenyang J-31 and Chengdu J-20 aircraft. The J-31 is the most advanced Chinese fighter jet, while the J-20 is the country's first effort to develop a stealth fighter.
The Chinese government has been accused on numerous occasions of running sophisticated cyberespionage attacks against the United States - and its key allies - to steal software code, hardware designs, and military technology.
It would appear the National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for breaching North Korea's computer systems years ago, before North Korea's alleged role in attacking Sony Pictures. With help from select allies, the NSA targeted North Korea's links to the outside world, such as China and Malaysia.
US security officials installed malware so they were able to monitor the online movements of North Korea's Bureau 121 hackers - a group growing in sophistication - as cyberespionage becomes more popular.
When the FBI was so quick to conclude North Korea was responsible for attacking SPE in late 2014, the cybersecurity industry was skeptical. FBI Director James Comey previously said the hackers got sloppy and forgot to mask their IP addresses. "We could see that the IP [Internet protocol] addresses that were being used to post and to send the emails were coming from IPs that were exclusively used by the North Koreans."
Microsoft Xbox One gamers can now sign up for the Neverwinter closed beta, beginning on February 5 and running for just three days, according to Perfect World Entertainment. Gamers are required to have an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play the title.
Neverwinter is scheduled to launch sometime during early 2015, and is a free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). "Consoles are a perfect fit for action-oriented MMORPGs like Neverwinter, and we are thrilled to be one of the first publishers to bring premium free-to-play titles to leading next-gen platforms," said Alan Chen, CEO of Perfect World, in a statement.
Neverwinter originally launched on the PC in 2013, with the Tyranny of Dragons expansion released in August 2014.