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Verizon Begins Process of Retiring 3G Network

posted Sunday Dec 7, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Verizon Begins Process of Retiring 3G Network

In the world of cellular technology, everything comes to an end. Eventually analog networks gave way to digital. First generation gave way to second, and so on. Sometimes the transitions are easy, like retiring analog years after all phones in the wild supported digital radios. Sometimes they can be difficult and expensive, like when Cingular shut down their TDMA network, requiring many customers to make the switch from phones they liked, some being nearly new.

Verizon, the largest US carrier, followed by AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, has begun the latest process of network retirements, with a plan to transition all customers to LTE-only. Unfortunately for Verizon, this transition requires a lot of preparations. For example, like with Cingular, all customers will have to have devices that support LTE, which is not necessarily the case today. While it may seem like all phones support LTE today, they don't. Think about your last family gathering where you saw a flip phone. That device does not support LTE and will be completely useless after this transition.

But it's not just LTE that these devices need to support; they also need support for Voice over LTE (VoLTE). What devices currently support this technology? Well, a number of the top-end Windows Phones, Android phones and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus from Apple. If you just upgraded your phone to an iPhone 5s, you will not be able to use that handset after this upgrade completes. There are also many other devices not compatible - it is a far easier list to find all compatible handsets.

Secondly, Verizon needs to ensure that all of its network is LTE compatible, and that they won't cut off customers who can currently use their phone if they do retire 3G. For example, at our former office in Tampa, we had no access to LTE coverage on Verizon. No matter the handset, 3G was the best we could hope for in the area. Turning off the 3G network today would leave that area without Verizon coverage of any sort.

The good news here is that this transition will not happen any time soon. Verizon has not officially announced their intentions; they have simply begun running tests in markets like Manhattan. One user discovered that their 3G access had vanished and, several hours later, was replaced by LTE running on the same spectrum. The fact that Verizon has not made this process public yet is an important indicator to the timeline. When Cingular turned off TDMA, they made their plans known well over a year before the transition began.

Additionally, Verizon's plans do not call for the launch of an LTE-only device until 2016. While that may not be entirely indicative of their timeline, it does help. An LTE-only phone would not necessarily help Verizon in this process, or even be related. Even if Verizon does not support 3G going forward, removing the radio from the handset would serve to limit the phone's roaming capabilities, both domestically and abroad. It might actually be a mistake for them to attempt an LTE-only device at all.

Once a transition like this is complete, Verizon can use the spectrum currently dedicated to supporting older technology to help them feed the need for LTE spectrum, which will ironically only increase with the transition. LTE, however, is far less spectrum-hungry than its older counterparts, which required separate spectrum for data and voice, but ran on a single radio. This means that they can get more out of the spectrum once converted to LTE.

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Lizard Squad Takes Down Xbox Live Twice

posted Sunday Dec 7, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Lizard Squad Takes Down Xbox Live Twice

If you were trying to connect to your Xbox 360 or Xbox.com last week but were unsuccessful, it wasn't because of your Internet connection. Instead, Lizard Squad, the same group behind the PlayStation Network outage last month and for calling in a fake bomb threat on an International flight, has taken claim for the attacks on Xbox's networks.

A Microsoft spokesperson has commented on the matter, only saying that service was interrupted.

On December 5, 2014, some of our customers experienced an Xbox service interruption. We worked quickly to resolve and address the issue and services are being restored to normal.

It should be pointed out that Xbox networks were also down on Tuesday the 2nd. The group's Twitter account, upon Xbox Live having connection problems, simply wrote, "Xbox Live #offline." Shortly after, however, Lizard Squad said that.

Unlike Santa, we don't like giving all of our Christmas presents out on one day. This entire month will be entertaining. #LizardSquad

Lizard Squad has even said that Christmas Day should be an "entertaining" time as well, then went on to take down a Steam server seemingly just for fun. Of course, all of this has sparked outrage within the gaming community, with users creating petitions on the White House website to stop the "infamous" Lizard Squad.

I think the real kicker is how all of this came to be. Based on the Twitter account, the group asked what the next target should be, and a follower responded with, "Xbox." I think this further proves that we should never rely on random Twitter users for ideas for anything.

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Sony Pictures Data Breach Worse Than Expected

posted Sunday Dec 7, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony Pictures Data Breach Worse Than Expected

Last week, Sony Pictures had their servers attacked again, with hacker group Guardians of Peace walking away with other 100 terabytes of data. While the 40 GB sample that GOP released contained an large amount of highly-sensitive information, including unreleased movies and scripts, the entire backlog of data was released shortly after and its contents are remarkable.

On the surface it didn't seem like the end of the world. Sure there were Outlook .pst files, internal financial reports and passwords to the payroll, FTP and security services for many countries, but the release of the entire package makes this go from bad to worse. In its entirety, the data grabbed also holds background checks, salary consideration letters, doctors' letters, other medical records and social security numbers. It would appear the simple days of taking usernames and passwords of customers are over.

With the nature of the attack so severe, there is a lot of speculation as to who is actually behind all of this. Rumors floated around that it could've been internal or that North Korea could somehow be involved, but now investigators might have gotten closer to the source. New information has come in that has led officials to believe the Sony Pictures data breach originated from a room at the St. Regis, a five-star hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. Further, the individuals responsible are said to be tied with DarkSeoul, a hacker group based out of North Korea. It is unknown at this time whether or not this was carried out from a common area or a guest room, but web traffic logs point to St. Regis' Wi-Fi.

Could James Franco and Seth Rogen have really caused this level of outrage within North Korea, to the point where the country hired cyber assassins to take out Sony? So far North Korea has publicly denied all allegations but called the act a "righteous deed" and that it may have been done by "supporters and sympathizers (sic)" of the country.

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Cheap Tablets Purchased on Black Friday Contain Severe Security Vulnerabilities

posted Sunday Nov 30, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

If you ever needed another reason to avoid the cheap $40 tablet from a drug store, here's one that should put your desire to own shoddy hardware to bed. Researchers at Bluebox Labs picked up twelve different budget tablets on Black Friday and have discovered that most of them shipped with exploits, vulnerabilities and security bugs.

The devices purchased were:

$49.99 DigiLand from Best Buy

$39.99 RCA Mercury from Target

$39.99 Mach Speed Xtreme from Kmart

$49.99 Polaroid from Walgreens

$49.99 Zeki from Kohl's

$39.99 Mach Speed JLab Pro from Staples

$49.99 Craig 7 from Fred's Super Dollar

$49.99 Pioneer 7 from Walmart

$49.00 Nextbook from Walmart

$49.99 Ematic from Walmart

$69.99 RCA from Walmart

$47.32 Worryfree Zeepad from Walmart

Bluebox Labs posted its findings on the company blog,

Bluebox Labs purchased over a dozen of these Black Friday 'bargain' Android tablets from big name retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Kmart, Kohl's and Staples, and reviewed each of them for security. What we found was shocking: most of the devices ship with vulnerabilities and security misconfigurations; a few even include security backdoors. What seemed like great bargains turned out to be big security concerns. Unfortunately, unsuspecting consumers who purchase and use these devices will be putting their mobile data and passwords at risk. We recommend that you avoid conducting online banking, making purchases or storing sensitive data on these devices - if you do, you will be putting your data at risk.

Essentially, these things should be used for two purposes: Bing searching and as a paperweight. So what's the details in the security leaks? Well, according to the results, some of the tablets contained little flaws, like sending information that's supposed to be encrypted as unencrypted. Others, however, still shipped with the Heartbleed vulnerability. Bluebox says that there is a free guide you can use to help fix some of the issues in these cheap tablets, but it won't solve devices that are completely insecure, like the Polaroid tablet at Walgreens.

In the end, so goes the old addage, "you get what you pay for." Did you buy any of these tablets on Black Friday or in the past? Are you planning on still giving them out as gifts or are you heading back to the store for a return? Let us know in the comments section.

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FAA to Propose New Rules for Commercial Drone Use

posted Sunday Nov 30, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

FAA to Propose New Rules for Commercial Drone Use

Drones are a new and scary thing, at least for the government. It's such a feared technology that the FAA is going to put the kibosh on any plans for online retailers to have same-hour drone delivery in the future.

New federal laws are expected to be passed to restrict the operation of a commercial drone. While nothing is actually official yet, several people who are tied in with the committee for these rules have given out some information on what those rules might be. For starters, operators of these drones will have to have a license to pilot manned aircraft. Flights will be limited to daytime hours only, you must keep the aircraft below 400 feet and, here's the kicker, the drone must remain within the sight of the operator. I'd be curious to know if being able to see the drone through an Internet-based camera would suffice as being within sight of the operator.

Sources also said that identifying the type of aircraft would be key to restricting which drones fall into which categories. For instance, the FAA is rumored to group every drone under 55 pounds into one category and one set of guidelines. This would put the super-tiny drones under 3 pounds in with the bigger guys.

Of course, privacy concerns and other hang-ups are the topic of discussion when it comes to these devices, however many argue that the rules could be too restrictive and yet again step on the innovation in this space. Add to that the requirement that one must have a license in manned aircraft and it severely limits who can operate these devices. Again, these rules would be for commercial drones only, but they could also be used as a stepping stone to more restrictions on personal use of the same aircraft.

It is being said that the FAA should be a proposal by the end of the year and a public period for comments and concerns would follow that, similar to what we saw with Net Neutrality.

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Sony Pictures Dealt Critical Hit in Massive Data Breach and Outage

posted Sunday Nov 30, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony Pictures Dealt Critical Hit in Massive Data Breach and Outage

Sony Pictures has yet again been targeted for a data breach. Amidst rumors of Sony Mobile's database being hacked, which turned out to be untrue, Sony Pictures has suffered its second data breach in under two years.

Employees of Sony Pictures logging onto their computers this week were welcomed with the image you see on the right. The Guardians of Peace, or GOP, is taking credit for the attack and has watermarked the image to prove it. Employees were unable to access information on their computers or their email, and after some time, the entire system shut down. For almost an entire day, Sony Pictures were unable to restore their servers and other devices to a working state and instead resorted to landline phones and fax machines.

The image on the computers said this,

Hacked By #GOP

Warning:

We've already warned you, and this is just a beginning.

We continue till our request be met.

We've obtained all your Internal data, Including your secrets and top secrets.

If you don't obey us, we'll release data shown below to the world.

Determine what will you do till November the 24th, 11:00 PM (GMT).

GOP made some demands per the image and displayed links to what data was stolen from Sony. Among that data included usernames and passwords, which appeared to have been stored in Excel files sorted by country. There is also "private key" files titled "Sony - Workday" and "ADP SSH Private Key" in GOP's list. The group also says it has several .zip files that it thinks Sony Pictures wouldn't like out in the wild, like internal financial reports, FTP passwords and Outlook .pst files.

Since then, Sony has done some interesting things. First, the initial response from the company was that it is "investigating an IT matter." Sony has gone on record to say it may take "weeks" until everything is fully restored. Sound familiar? Now, Sony Pictures is investigating whether or not North Korea is behind this attack. While this may sound crazy up front, Sony has caught a lot of flack from the country ahead of the release of The Interview, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as journalists who are hired by the CIA to kill Kim Jong-un.

Beyond that, several Sony Pictures titles have been leaked to the web this week, too. Four of them have not been released yet and one of them, Fury, is still shown in movie theaters. While the GOP has not taken credit for this, it does seem a bit coincidental and furthers the damage done to Sony as a whole. Can Sony Pictures rebound from this crucial blow?

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