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EA Servers and Websites Hacked to Snatch Apple IDs, Origin Passwords

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

EA Servers and Websites Hacked to Snatch Apple IDs, Origin Passwords

On the Internet, nothing is safe, regardless whether it's an individual or a company. This week, another big shot succumbs to the cruel world that is filled with hackers. Electronic Arts suffered a data breach that compromised Apple IDs.

Hackers were able to get into EA Games servers and use them to set up phishing sites in order to grab Apple ID information. Netcraft, who initially reported this breach, alerted EA within 10 hours of the findings to tell the company about the security issues. It is believed that the hackers used a known security exploit in an outdated version of WebCalendar, an Internet app used to maintain calendars for a single user or a group of people.

Obviously having older software on a system can raise security concerns, especially when updated editions have fixed known flaws. On the matter, a Netcraft spokesperson said,

The mere presence of old software can often provide sufficient incentive for a hacker to target one system over another, and to spend more time looking for additional vulnerabilities or trying to probe deeper into the internal network.

So how did the site work? Well, if you visited EA.com in the past couple of weeks, you may have been asked to enter either your EA, Origin or Apple ID and password. It then would ask you to supply your full name, credit card number, expiration date, verification code, birthdate, phone number and many other pieces of vital information. After submission of your Apple ID, the site redirected you to the Apple ID website. For Origin, the phishers were using an EA Games server to accomplish the same goal. This shouldn't have to be repeated in another outlet, but nobody from EA nor any other company will ever ask you for your password or other identifiable information without you triggering a password reset first. If you entered your information in the past month, change your password on EA/Origin and Apple, and change it on sites that you used the same password.

EA spokesperson John Reseburg said this week that,

We (EA) have found it, we have isolated it, and we are making sure such attempts are no longer possible. Privacy and security are of the utmost importance to us.

Like I said, nobody is safe anymore and precautions need to be taken on an individual level because data breaches happen on a weekly basis now.

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Former Microsoft Employee Arrested for Years of Code Leaks

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Former Microsoft Employee Arrested for Years of Code Leaks

Over the last few generations of Windows software, there has been a scenario that most of us were surprised by: constant, up-to-date leaks of development builds. During the lead-up to Windows 7 and Windows 8, it seemed like every time the development team hit build, the installer was available online. While none of us knew exactly where the builds were coming from, it was clear someone inside the company, and someone inside the team, was responsible.

As it turns out, I was not the only one to know it was an employee on the team that was leaking the code, and the company has been investigating the problem for years. That investigation came to a head this week when former employee Alex Kibkalo was arrested in Seattle on March 19th. Microsoft has charged him with leaking pre-release versions of Windows 8 as well as the company's Activation Server Software, which is the technology that lets Microsoft protect their software. In addition, according to Seattle PI,

Investigators contend Kibkalo was also caught bragging about leaking Windows 7 program files, as well as an internal system meant to protect against software piracy.

So, while he has bragged about his involvement in the Windows 7 leaks, they investigators have not been able to actually pin it to him yet. The big question is, "how did someone inside of Microsoft manage to get away with releasing SO MUCH of Microsoft's code for SO LONG?" Apparently pure dumb luck.

As it turns out, the guy in question was not the brightest of individuals. His leaks were always directed at the same individual, an unnamed French blogger, who would then release them to the world in whatever means they used: usually BitTorrent. The only problem is that Kibkalo used his personal SkyDrive (now OneDrive) account to upload the code, and his personal Hotmail account to send the links to the blogger.

Now, while I applaud Kibkalo's unrelenting dedication to Microsoft and their technologies, it is probably a bad idea to steal from the company that writes your checks and, therefore knows who you are, and use their own monitored technology to make the handoff. An investigation into his OneDrive and Hotmail accounts is what finally sealed the deal.

It is believed that he leaked the code after a particularly negative personnel review. The review system in place at the time was controversial, to say the least. Based on the "stack ranking" concept, the review system forced supervisors to rank their subordinates in relation to one another. This forced developers who would be considered superstars at any other company to look like underperformers compared to the superstars of Microsoft, who are without comparison outside of the company. Before leaving his CEO post, Steve Ballmer saw the review system axed, but not before doing tremendous damage to the morale of the corporation.

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Unreal Engine No Longer Just for AAA Titles

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Unreal Engine No Longer Just for AAA Titles

If you have been a serious gamer for a long time, you will certainly know the name Unreal Engine. If you have been around even longer, you will probably remember the games Unreal and Unreal Tournament, for which the engine was named and developed by Epic. You probably are also aware that the engine is one of the most popular for many AAA titles for Windows, Xbox, PlayStation and mobile.

Now, it's not to say that the engine has not had interest from smaller developers, but its licensing costs were such that only the top-tier developers could afford to work with it. The world of gaming is changing, however, with small developers completely owning the mobile gaming space, leaving the big guys out in the cold completely. With the increase in indie games' successes comes a collection of new indie-focused tools, like Unity.

Unity is a platform which allows you to develop a videogame using their gaming engine and deploy it to all of the usual suspects. While Unity has a tremendous amount of potential, it is no Unreal Engine. As it turns out, Epic has recognized that there is a need for a product of their caliber in the smaller market space and has decided to fill that need themselves.

Available right now to early adopters who are interested in trying out the new release of the engine, Unreal Engine is available to any developer for $19/month and 5% revenue share. This is a very different revenue model compared with Unity, which, to license the platform for Windows, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, iOS and Android runs $225/month, but has no revenue sharing requirement. Epic, on the other hand, is really counting on their developers to release games of value.

Personally, as a developer, I like that these different companies are experimenting with different pricing models. The up-front cost of developing any application is very high, and the ability to cut down that cost, even by forfeiting future revenues, can be attractive to start-ups. Our sister company, Sumo Software has been in this very situation several times, and we have offered the Unreal model versus the Unity model successfully.

If any of our readers are currently developing a game with either Unity or Unreal Engine, let us know in the comments.

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Class-Action Lawsuit Hits Fitbit After Reports of Severe Rashes from Using the Force

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Class-Action Lawsuit Hits Fitbit After Reports of Severe Rashes from Using the Force

Fitbit has had some experience being on the receiving side of a lawsuit in the past. However, after its voluntary recall earlier this month of the Fitbit Force, a class-action lawsuit has now been filed.

Earlier this week the lawsuit was filed with the Superior Court of California in San Diego county. In it, the class-action filing says that Fitbit's promotional and marketing campaign deceived customers. Customers were not made aware that rashes could be caused by using the Force.

Aviation teacher Jim Spivey has headed up the lawsuit. Interestingly enough, Spivey has never even had a reaction to the Force but he feels that Fitbit didn't do a good enough job of informing customers. "I have a concern that there is still a risk of developing an injury for me and others," he said. To that point, 9,900 have reported some sort of rash or other irritation from using the Force. It should also be noted that 250 people indicated they experienced blisters. All in, that's only 1.7 percent of the total Force owners out in the sea of 1 million US and 28,000 Canadian devices currently being recalled.

The lawsuit goes on to describe out the way Fitbit should tell all Force customers in the state of California about the voluntary recall, why the irritation is happening and how to get a refund for the wristband. Lead attorney for the lawsuit John Fiske said,

We are asking for full disclosure of the dangerous aspects of the product and a full disclosure of why it's causing these injuries.

Now, if you recall back to my article on the news earlier this month, CEO James Park already wrote a letter and has put up a full, dedicated website on the matter. Because of that, a representative from Fitbit spoke about the lawsuit, saying that,

Based on our initial review of the lawsuit, the complaint asks for a recall of Force and a refund to consumers. Fitbit took initiative long before this complaint was filed, publicly offered refunds, and worked closely with the CPSC on its voluntary recall program. We strongly disagree with the statements about the product and the Company.

So, from Fitbit's standpoint, the company has already done the things requested by the lawsuit, which also goes along with common sense when you discover issues like this. From the lawsuit's standpoint, it feels a little like the people involved are just seeking monetary damages, as usual with these type of cases. But McDonald's now has to label hot coffee as hot, and BMW has to state that you shouldn't turn into a lake even if your GPS says so, as they both lost similar common sense cases like this. My guess is that the same thing will happen here and Fitbit will have to say that "metal might give you rashes if you are allergic to metal." Not everyone is Fit to use the Force.

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Sony Lays Off Hundreds of Employees in Media Division

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony Lays Off Hundreds of Employees in Media Division

After Sony's rejection of spinning off the media division in order to possibly save the company, CEO Kaz Hirai then had to cut $250 million from the media budget, which meant a reduction in movie releases for the year. Now, after another grueling loss in profits and revenue, Sony is laying off hundreds of employees in the division.

The terminations are happening at the California TV and film studio just outside of Los Angeles. In total 216 Sony employees will have to find new work and the company's interactive and digital marketing teams appear to have been hit the hardest. Sony started notifying employees of the layoffs this week and should have been done by Friday. This is after the company ended the employment of Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies, and Mitch Singer, the chief digital strategy officer for UltraViolet storage, back in January.

Sony spokesperson Charles Sipkins said in an email statement that, "We (Sony) are continuously evolving the business to make Sony Pictures Entertainment more efficient and competitive."

Now that Sony rejected a plan that could have possibly avoided this mess, are people still confident in the ability of its media division to pull through? More so, is Sony going to be around in five years? Things are looking bleak as it stands, with the consumer electronics division not doing well, however the one saving grace is the strong sales of Sony's latest gaming console, the PlayStation 4.

Can the momentum of the gaming unit keep the entire company afloat? So many questions and only time will give way to the answers. However, we're curious to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Marvel Adds Soundtrack and Commentary to Digital Comics

posted Sunday Mar 9, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Marvel Adds Soundtrack and Commentary to Digital Comics

Announced this afternoon at their SXSW, Marvel has added a few long expected multimedia features to their Marvel Unlimited mobile apps. Beginning with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel has begun adding a collection of additions to their new release comics.

Intended to make the books more immersive, one of the media features will be a smart soundtrack capability, which they refer to as "adaptive audio," playing related Marvel-style music from scene to scene as you read through the digital book. Kristin Vincent, Marvel's vice president of digital products, said the goal was to make the digital version of the comics feel more authentically digital, without becoming foreign to the avid comic readers. She added,

We knew we had something conceptually but we weren't sure how it was going to work with comics. We wanted to figure out how we could tell stories in new ways.

Arune Singh, director of communications for publishing and digital media, believes that this could fundamentally change the way digital comics are produced by the company, stating,

The way we used to paste comics together on the page in production, so far we have been pasting comics on our iPad. Now, we have adaptive audio.

It is definitely a change in the way that Marvel thinks about comics and their production. The adaptive audio is a huge shift in production, and an interesting technological feat. The app, now written in native code as opposed to HTML5, is able to detect when you switch panels and adjust the music PER PANEL with background score similar to the films. It is also able to adapt the music's speed and transitions based on how quickly you individually read the comics: a faster reader will have quicker transitions planned.

In addition to the adaptive audio, there is also the ability for DVD commentary-style videos. While certainly not the most popular part of a DVD, commentary is popular among a particular type of viewer. Many of those viewers are the same ones who are avid comic readers, so this feature makes a lot of sense. This feature has been available before now, but via a QR code, mostly in print comics, meaning that the already digital content was mostly unavailable to already digital subscribers.

If neither of these new features are exciting to you, there is good news. Both are able to be turned off in the app's settings.

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