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Comcast subscribers are now recommended to change their passwords after the NullCrew FTS hacker group successfully hacked at least 34 Comcast servers. The hack took place earlier in February, but didn't receive much attention, and many Comcast users were still unaware they faced any type of security exploit.
All 34 Comcast mail servers fell victim to the same exploit.
Much to the delight of the hacker group, when originally targeting Comcast, a Comcast Twitter support team member naively asked "Hello, how can I help?", in which the group said, "Fix the vulnerabilities in your mail servers before we pwn them?, taunting the oblivious customer service rep.
Comcast is the biggest U.S. ISP and appears to have neglected closing a security hole in which the NullCrew FTS team was able to collect information - and didn't share customer data in a public pastebin - specifically targeting e-mail accounts.
Manufacturers have finally figured out how to attract consumers to connected high-definition TVs (HDTVs), using third-party Web-based apps to draw in users. Smart TVs will capture the "majority of television shipments" this year, and more U.S. consumers will have smart TVs than connected TVs by 2015, according to Business Insider.
Original Web TVs initially seemed appealing, but were wrongly predicted TV viewers would want to use the TV to browse the Internet in a traditional manner. Some companies embrace open platforms, such as LG, Roku and Google Chromecast supporting open source, while Apple, Samsung and other companies rely on closed infrastructures.
Apple TV and Roku set-top boxes lead the market for streaming devices, though Google Chromecast also sold a large number of units. Apple TV racked up 8 million units shipped during all of 2013, while Roku shipped 4.5 million units.
Google may have opened up the Chromecast SDK for developers, but don't expect to see any porn through the $35 product - banning any content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, and sexually-explicit material.
Google also warned child porn supporters that the authorities will be notified whenever discovered. From the Google fine print:
"We don't allow content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child sexual abuse imagery. If we become aware of content with child sexual abusive imagery, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and delete the Google Accounts of those involved with the distribution."
This isn't a big surprise, as Google decided to turn down porn-related apps from its Glass product, with the company trying to get its product supported for all audiences. Gambling apps also are banned from Chromecast, including online casinos and sports betting apps that reward gamers with cash or other currency.
Less than one year after the public launch of its Chromecast HDTV dongle, Google has finally opened up the software development kit for developers trying to get in on the fun. The Cast SDK was previously available, but was in a restricted form as Google worked with exclusive partners to give them earlier access to create Chromecast apps.
"With the Chromecast, we're resetting consumer applications," noted Rishi Chandra, Google Chromecast director of product management.
App developers now have the ability to integrate Chromecast apps with Google Android, Apple iOS, or Web-based apps - and Google developers believe the potential for Cast-enabled apps is huge - joining Netflix, YouTube, Chrome, and a small number of apps Google immediately included support for from launch.
Cable provider Time Warner Cable suffered through another turbulent year, losing 831,000 paid subscribers in 2013. The No. 2 broadcaster in the United States lost 119,000 during Q1, 191,000 in Q2, 306,000 in Q3, and 215,000 subscribers in Q4 - but still has 11.5 million video subscribers in the United States, though that number is expected to decline further.
Several companies have shown interest in trying to acquire Time Warner Cable, with Charter Communications expected to raise its bid for the struggling cable provider. As Time Warner Cable continues to lose subscribers, both Charter and Comcast are likely to show great interest in picking up the company.
Although there are disputing reports of cord cutting, in which subscribers go to Netflix and other online-based services, cable and satellite providers are clearly struggling. Premium subscription channels such as HBO and Starz are increasingly opening up content through connected TVs, tablets and smartphones, which will continue to increase.
AT&T has recently filed for a patent that would institute a credits-based system. The new system is designed to allow AT&T to lower the bandwidth allotment for file-sharers, but the implications of the patent go much further than that. The new patent could have a chilling effect on content distribution networks, including Steam, Origin, and Netflix.
The patent, titled "Prevention Of Bandwidth Abuse Of A Communications System", would theoretically allow AT&T to create Internet plans that would only allow access to certain sites or protocols. The patent has a brief description:
The user is provided an initial number of credits. As the user consumes the credits, the data being downloaded is checked to determine if it is permissible or non-permissible. Non-permissible data includes file-sharing files and movie downloads if user subscription does not permit such activity. If the data is permissible, the user is provided another allotment of credits equal to the initial allotment. If the data is non-permissible, the user is provided an allotment of credits less than the initial allotment
The wide adoption of connected high-definition TVs opened the door to great potential for consumers accessing apps, streaming video, and other dynamic content. Software maker Opera recently shared several web trends that consumers can expect to see from connected TVs and other entertainment devices in the living room.
Opera believes Internet video will explode on TV in 2014, as the amount content also drastically catches up. Next, TV apps are going to become more relevant and viewers will become more comfortable using these types of apps as the overall experience improves. Due to new connected technology apps available, TV ads also are going to become interactive, providing a more targeted, entertaining experience.
Moving forward, smart TVs will become even more affordable, so casual consumers will be able to explore different options available. As more people begin to upgrade their TVs and purchase newer models, the amount of content will also increase - on-demand, Netflix, Hulu, and pay operators are expanding their streaming offerings.
The growth of connected technologies will also drive demand for apps which have typically only found their way to smartphones and tablets. Since refrigerators, thermostats, and other connected home appliances typically don't rely on a traditional GUI to operate, apps are the best way for home owners to interact with smart technology.
"As users continue to adopt and interact with apps, it is their data - what they say, what they do, where they go - that is transforming the app interaction paradigm," a Gartner analyst recently noted. "In the next three to four years, apps will no longer be simply confined to smartphones and tablets, but will impact a wider set of devices, from home appliances to cars and wearable devices."
For example, an app would send out an alert via the connected refrigerator to the owner to notify milk - or another staple food item - is running low.
Despite the growth of connected technologies, after a recent security study discovered at least one connected refrigerator was part of an organized botnet, security issues will clearly need to be addressed.
A recent botnet with more than 100,000 hijacked PCs and electronics also included at least one refrigerator, according to security research group Proofpoint. The botnet also relied on "multi-media centers" and connected high-definition TVs, though this is the first public disclosure of a smart refrigerator - and household appliance - used in an organized botnet.
The 'Internet of Things' continues to frighten researchers trying to determine guidelines on how to defend connected devices that are able to connect to the Internet. Despite the security threat, consumers are expected to embrace the Internet of Things, though provides "great promise for cyber criminals," according to security experts.
These types of attacks targeting connected devices will only increase, security researchers warn, as more consumers begin to use smart refrigerators, washers and dryers, and other common household appliances.
If you're a resident of Provo, Utah, then this news is right up your alley: Google is now accepting registrations for its gigabit Internet service, known as Google Fiber.
The high-speed broadband will include any customers sitting on the former iProvo network, a fiber-optic backbone that was installed, and later sold to Google. Google did note: "We can't install fiber to everyone in Provo all at once, so we're going to work in waves, starting with the North Park area next month and finishing in the Foothills area hopefully by the end of this year".
Provo residents can choose from three different service plans, with the minimum offering 5/1Mbps, which will cost you a $30 one-time fee for installation. Higher tiers are available, with Gigabit Internet on offer for $70 per month, or a Gigabit Internet + TV offer for $120 per month.