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Insecure about data?

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Each year a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) details what online firms provide the best protection for your data. This year, despite being hacked, Twitter came out on top with Verizon and MySpace at the bottom. Also polling badly, getting only a single star out of a possible six, were Apple, AT&T and Yahoo! with Amazon and Comcast not far behind with only two stars. Apple, as a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, should have done better, but it doesn't observe any of the other best practices that were measured. 

Google's results were mixed. It was praised for raising awareness of National Security Letters (NSLs) and pioneering the practice of transparency reports, but demoted for changing its official policy on informing users if they are under investigation. You can find the full report here: www.eff.org.

What is wrong with the Koreans? The latest Samsung Galaxy S4 comes in three models, one of which is only available in Korea. Of the two that are available to mere mortals, one is a quad-core CPU unit and the other an octo-core unit with essentially two quad-core CPUs. So far so good. The units all have wonderful features like 13 MP camera, face-expression recognition, a nice 1080p screen and other updates to the S3 with the closest competitor being the new HTC One with the aluminium body. I see that some computer commentators are still trying to compare the iPhone 5 favourably with the S4, as if the i5 is somehow in the same ballpark. It isn't.

The future of connectivity for anyone under 30 (and some who are above that age) is a portable device that is connected wirelessly to the internet. That's because many fixed phone lines are going the way of the floppy disc. The current technology giving the fastest wireless connection is 4G and one friend in Australia recently connected at over 100mps to the network there. 4G is still in the trial stage here in Thailand, but it's the way to go unless 5G suddenly appears on the scene. So why does the quad-core version of the S4 support 4G, but not the more powerful units? An excellent question and one for which I have no answer, hence my earlier question: what is wrong with the Koreans?

Online chats recently overtook the humble SMS as the most popular way of sending messages and by the end of this year they should be outpacing the text message by two to one. It is estimated that about 17.6 billion SMSs are sent out every day, with internet-based services now notching up a total of just over 19 billion uses a day. This is just person-to-person communications and does not include spam and other automated systems. Currently, about half the world's population sends SMSs compared to the half-billion who use a smartphone app to send messages. The SMS was supposed to fade out a while back, but with facilities like "store" and "forward" it still provides good revenue for telecomms companies _ although probably not for much longer.

Kodak is an excellent example of the need to be ready for changes in technology _ and on following through. The firm dominated photography throughout the whole of the last century and came out with the very first digital camera. But after inventing that, Kodak just stopped and continued focusing on film until it was too late to make the change (as others had stepped into the digital marketplace, leaving Kodak far behind). The result was bankruptcy and that "Kodak moment" has now been relegated to old family albums. The firm is trying to fight its way back by concentrating on manufacturing equipment for printing. Perhaps it will succeed, but the setback it suffered should serve as an object lesson to all companies about the necessity of keeping an eye on technology and on what the customer wants.

Just because you have built a nice website for yourself, don't assume that it will remain pure and safe however. Just ask the US Department of Labor, whose website was hacked and malicious code inserted to be served to any visitors. According to security-tools firm AlienVault, that code collected info from the user's systems and then uploaded the results to the hacker's site after disabling anti-virus software from providers like AVG, McAfee, Sophos and Bitdefender. The attack appears to have come from the Chinese hacker known as DeepPanda and, given the identity of the target, government involvement cannot be ruled out.

Google Glass Explorer Edition high-tech glasses have been hacked as has the Google-released GPL source code, though the latter happened a few days after the former. The combination of the two will allow custom firmware versions for the device, just like others do for phones and tablets. The hack might sound like an impressive achievement, except for the fact that the device had only just been released for developers and so had been left essentially unlocked. The specs include a dual A9 ARM CPU, 1 GB of RAM, Android 4.0 and other features that make it more powerful than many existing Android phones. It means lots of potentially great apps in the near future and a lot more people wearing glasses.


James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at jclhein@gmail.com.

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