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New Top-Level Domains Used Exclusively for Scamming

posted Thursday Sep 3, 2015 by Scott Ertz

New Top-Level Domains Used Exclusively for Scamming

A few years ago, ICANN, the organization that oversees the overall Internet protocols, proposed a slew of new top-level domains. TLDs are the suffix at the end of a website. Most commonly you will see .com, .net, .tv, etc., but there are many others, and new ones are being added all the time.

When these new TLDs were initially proposed, there was a lot of concern that they could create places that could promote negative behavior. For example, if there are hundreds of TLDs, getting an email with a link to http://chase.zip could easily take you to a phishing site. Normally people who are observant will look to ensure the website makes sense, but many won't understand the difference between chase.com and chase.zip. Once you're on the site, a user might enter their password and have their bank account emptied fairly quickly.

As it turns out, these fears were entirely accurate. In fact, there are some TLDs that are almost entirely, if not 100%, shady. This comes to us thanks to a report by Blue Coat, a security firm that scanned known sites to determine the shadiest "neighborhoods" on the Internet. The results might be a little surprising to some, and even more importantly, some of the results don't make a lot of sense.

For example, 100% of sites that end in .zip in their database were classified as "shady." The problem with this one is that .zip is not available yet. In fact, there is only a single domain in existence in the TLD, and that is owned by Google and redirects to Google's domain registration service. Luckily, Blue Coat has an explanation for this behavior.

An unfortunate scenario is that 100% of known domains ending in .review also show up as shady. That is truly disappointing, as this TLD was one I was personally excited about - being able to distinguish review sites from traditional content. Apparently this is not to be the case, however. Also on the list, with 97% or higher shady rankings, are country, kim, cricket, science, work, party (not surprising), gq and link (also not surprising). It is important to note that gq is actually not a new TLD, but a country code for Equatorial Guinea.

Not all TLDs are bad, though. Church has a less than 1% and london only 1.85%. It's good to see that not everything is being taken advantage of, but it is disappointing to see some of the better ones being used so heavily for nonsense. The important takeaway here is that you should always inspect your FULL domain path before visiting a website, not just the core. Be vigilant whenever you are online.

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Machinima Loses FTC Case Over Paid Xbox One Content

posted Thursday Sep 3, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Machinima Loses FTC Case Over Paid Xbox One Content

When a new product launches, one of the most important things to do is get good marketing to the world. While television, web and mobile ads are good, what is better is positive content. The best way to get this is from tech blogs and websites, but sometimes that is not possible. For example, when Microsoft released the Xbox One, many media outlets misunderstood the platform or wanted to see it fail and published negative content instead.

Because of this, Machinima was brought in to produce and market positive content about the Xbox One around its launch. They paid 2 YouTube personalities a total of $45,000 to produce videos, and created a program for other "influencers" to receive $1 for every 1,000 page views, maximum of $25,000. All of this is completely legal and fairly common. The problem is that this is not the whole story.

What Machinima failed to do, or possibly actively discouraged, was provide disclosure of these payments. As it turns out, since these were paid product endorsements, they fall under the purview of the FTC Act, which prohibits deceptive advertising. Because the videos contained "seemingly objective opinions," they require the video producers to disclose that they are paid advertising, just like an infomercial. Jessica Rich, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director said,

When people see a product touted online, they have a right to know whether they're looking at an authentic opinion or a paid marketing pitch.

In a proposed agreement, Machinima would be prohibited from running future campaigns of this nature, and would be required to clearly disclose future paid endorsements. Microsoft and ad agency Starcom MediaVest Group were both cleared for their involvement in the issue, citing corporate policies prohibiting such activity and swift action once informed of the problem. Machinima points out that these issues came about before a corporate leadership change in March 2014.

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Is Apple About to Embrace Multi-Platform Development?

posted Thursday Sep 3, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Is Apple About to Embrace Multi-Platform Development?

The differences between the way Apple does business and how everyone else in the industry do business are well documented. For most of the Mac's existence, the largest software developers for the platform were Microsoft and Adobe, with Apple barely making the list. Microsoft has produced Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even a version of Internet Explorer for a period of time. Adobe has produced what is currently called the Creative Cloud, which includes products like Photoshop and Premiere. Even Google produces Chrome for the Mac.

What does Apple produce for Windows? iTunes and QuickTime. For a while they produced Safari, but that was short lived. That leaves their software products, like Photos, Pages, Numbers and Keynote, available only on their own platform. Considering the overall adoption rate of Mac, which is higher than in previous years, but only around 10% of active computers, this represents a lot of development cost for very little reward.

The company's focus on hardware has been successful for them for many years, but has certainly slowed in recent years. While Microsoft's foray into hardware, the Surface, has continued to see sales growth, the iPad has retreated over the past few quarters, despite new hardware. The iPhone has similarly seen sales declines, but not of dangerous amounts. So, while hardware in general becomes less attractive to consumers, how is Apple to compete in an industry that they have never participated in? We might find out on September 9th at the next Apple event.

Apple may not have teased or leaked any information about Windows software coming our way, but the event page does give a little hint to a change within the company. To watch the livestream of their event, they have always required an Apple product - Mac, iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. On this event page, however, is this text:

Requirements: Live streaming uses Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) technology. HLS requires an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with Safari on iOS 7.0 or later, a Mac with Safari 6.0.5 or later on OS X v10.8.5 or later, or a PC with Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. Streaming via Apple TV requires a second- or third-generation Apple TV with software 6.2 or later.

Supporting Edge is a very big deal, because it represents a shift in mentality for the company. It could also indicate an announcement for the event of Apple software coming to Windows, likely Windows 10. The most logical product for them to bring over to Windows would be their iWork suite, which would attempt to compete with Microsoft's own Office suite. While the prices might be less for the product, the capabilities are also far less - an issue that has helped drive adoption of Office on iOS and Mac. Another good choice could be Photos, which would give Windows users easier and direct access to the iCloud photos takes with an iPhone.

The problem here will be whether Apple can get adoption on these products off their own devices. To accomplish it, they will need to increase the capabilities of their products. For example, expanding the iCloud storage available to customers paying $10 per month: Apple currently gives 500GB for that price, while Microsoft gives 1TB of OneDrive plus Office for Windows and Mac and Skype Phone for $7 per month. It will take a big move to get people consider the change.

So, is this the beginning of a change in culture for Apple, or did Microsoft simply implement HLS in the new browser? We only need to wait a few more days to find out. Would you consider using a product like iWork or Photos on Windows? Let us know in the comments.

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Popcorn Time is the Newest Platform Whose Users are Under Legal Fire

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Popcorn Time is the Newest Platform Whose Users are Under Legal Fire

When RIAA took offense to BitTorrent, while they obviously didn't understand what the company does, they did have something right: it can be misused. One of the products that is misusing the protocol is a site called Popcorn Time. If you have not encountered the site you're in luck. Using the BitTorrent protocol, Popcorn Time allows you to stream television and movies with or without legal access.

Clearly, it was not going to take long before the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) took action. That action came this week in the form of a lawsuit, whose defendants are named as "Anonymous Users of Popcorn Time: Does 1 - 11." Obviously this is a suit focusing on copyright infringement, as the defendants are being sued for accessing torrented, protected content.

Cobbler Nevada, LLC, the plaintiff, is looking for a jury trial, but needs one thing before they can do that: to know who the defendants are. They are seeking a subpoena for Comcast, demanding they turn over the names attached to the IP addresses currently named "Does 1 - 11." Comcast has refused information requests like this until a federal judge required it, so it is possible they could put up a fight, but not under the circumstances.

As the owner of NBC Universal, Comcast actually has a dog in this race. Helping to make it less desirable to use a service like this could directly affect their bottom line, encouraging people to, instead, use a service like Hulu, in which they are also partial owners.

The plaintiff is using a warning on the Popcorn Time website as proof that the defendants knew ahead of time what they were doing was illegal. Given that RIAA never had any success with suits like this one, it will be interesting to see if the MPAA can change that statistic. The moral of the story is, don't use Popcorn Time, as users are being watched.

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Google's "Right to be Forgotten" Articles Asked to be Forgotten

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google's

Google is in the middle of an Inception-style moment. When the European Union ordered Google, Bing and Yahoo to offer the ability to request content removal from the search index, a lot of places wrote about the order. It was, after all, a strange requirement of a company whose whole business model revolves around knowning everything people want to know. Since then, many articles have been written about requests that have been made through the system

Now, the company is being ordered to forget about the order to forget. The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office has ordered Google to remove links to articles about the "right to be forgotten" requests in Europe. They have been given 35 days to comply with this odd meta request, though it is not clear what the punishment might be for non-compliance.

The order comes in response to a previous request from someone who had what they called a "relatively minor offense" nearly 10 years ago. Google complied with the request, removing links to articles about the incident. However, sites wrote about the removal, because they were relevant to current events - namely the right to be forgotten law. Google refused to continue sensoring new content under the request, because of the fact that the content was in the public interest.

If Google complies with the order, it will essentially be accepting that the EU has the right to censor the content on the web on a very wide scale. This is not the first time that a government has ordered Google to highly censor their search results. In 2010, Google was ordered to censor a tremendous amount of content in China, which resulted in the company abandoning the country entirely, making way for Baidu to take the reigns in the country. UK Deputy Information Commission David Smith said,

The commission does not dispute that journalistic content relating to decisions to delist search results may be newsworthy and in the public interest. However, that interest can be adequately and properly met without a search made on the basis of the complainant's name providing links to articles which reveal information about the complainant's spent conviction.

So, the order wants to censor journalistic content because it contains someone's name in regards to a modern and lawful activity, required by the government. Censoring access to the free press is a major step in the direction of a totalitarian government, and Google has proven over the past few years that they do not want to be a part of that process. It will be interesting to see how Google responds to this order.

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Nintendo to Drop Price of 2DS

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo to Drop Price of 2DS

Almost exactly 1 year ago, Nintendo announced the 2DS, a handheld designed to be less expensive than its larger 3DS and 3DS XL siblings. It removed the 3D capabilities, as well as the hinge, making it a dual-screen tablet design, rather than the better-known clamshell design.

The device was launched to coincide with the release of several new games for the mobile environment: particularly the new Pokémon games, which launched the same day. To play these games, you needed a device within the family. The company's fear was that not enough people would be willing to pay the retail price for a 3DS, hence the less expensive alternative.

This week, coinciding with the anniversary of the launch, the company announced yet another reason to consider getting a 2DS - a price cut. The company is cutting the price almost 25%, or $30, from $130 to $100. The handheld also comes with Mario Kart 7, making it a truly great deal. It is no wonder the company sold over 2 million devices in its first few months.

Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America's Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, said of the price cut,

At a suggested retail price of $99.99, Nintendo 2DS is an even more attractive introductory option for first-time gamers. The new lower-priced hardware combined with the strong lineup of new games launching this year and arguably the best library of games in this generation makes it a great time to be a Nintendo fan.

If you are in the market for a new handheld gaming device, the 2DS might just be the device to check out.

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