This Week in Tech News

Secret US Spy Program Targeting Americans' Cellphones Revealed

Episode 1135

News broke this week of the U.S. Marshals Service program that's been ongoing since 2007 to gather information from Americans' cellphones. It uses small fixed-wing Cessnas equipped with 'dirtboxes' that imitate cell towers to get identifying information from citizens. According to those familiar with the program, these planes make regular flights and can scoop up data from tens of thousands of phones in densely populated areas. The program is meant to locate individuals under investigation and fugitives, but it collects information from all cellphones.

Obama in Favor of Regulating Internet Service Providers As Common Carriers

Episode 1135

President Obama this week came out in favor of Net Neutrality by regulating Internet Service Providers as common carriers, giving the FCC the power to prevent paid prioritization. This means Internet Service Providers would not be allowed to charge extra for faster access to customers.

Net Neutrality: President Obama's Plan for a Free and Open Internet (WhiteHouse.gov)…
http://www.whitehouse.gov/net-neutrality

Amazon Announces Cloud Connected, Always-On Cylinder Called "Echo"

Episode 1134

Amazon

The Amazon Echo is a cylinder that contains speakers and microphones that are always listening for you to address it, using the wake word "Alexa." It's designed to hear you from anywhere in the room. It responds with information about the weather, sports, news, and will start playing music when you tell it to. Amazon has a demonstration video, in which they say that it isn't listening until you say "Alexa" -- except that it does have to listen to hear when the wake word has been uttered. The real question is whether Amazon is actually listening, or can listen, to everything being said.

Home Depot Gets Hacked, 53 Million Customer Credit Cards and Emails Stolen

Episode 1133

After Home Depot was hacked and had to admit that over 50 million credit card numbers were stolen, they also had to report that an equal amount of email addresses were lifted. That means users are going to be subjected to potential phishing scams and it's important that they pay close attention to any email sent by their banks or Home Depot.

New Vulnerabilities Discovered on Operating Systems

Episode 1133

Root Pipe and Wire Lurker are two new vulnerabilities hitting computers. Root Pipe is hitting OS X but Leo says it can only be activated by someone sitting at your computer, so it shouldn't really be a huge cause of concern. Meanwhile, the Nigerian scam has been reported to have caused over $12 Billion in loses last year.

Meanwhile, a new report says that consumers are reaching "breach fatigue" over all the security breaches that have happened of late.

Google's Nexus 6 Sells Out in 20 Seconds

Episode 1131

Google's Nexus 6 smartphone was made available for pre-orders on Thursday, October 29, and sold out in just 20 seconds. This is Google's latest smartphone that runs pure Android, and will feature the brand new version of Android called 'Lollipop.' Nexus phones in the past have been less expensive with more modest specs, intended mostly for Android software developers. Nexus 6, however, features a larger 6 inch display and is more competitive with other flagship phones on the market.

MCX CurrentC Has Been Hacked While Still in Beta

Episode 1131

CurrentC, the new payment system from MCX that's been adopted by numerous major retailers, has been hacked, and an unannounced number of email addresses were obtained. CurrentC will be launching next year, and Rite Aid and CVS have already blocked NFC and Apple Pay in favor of CurrentC.

CVS and Rite Aid Block Apple Pay

Episode 1130

Apple Pay

Apple users were enraged that Rite Aid and CVS are blocking Apple Pay, and are even boycotting them. Both Rite Aid and CVS used to have "tap to pay" terminals, and they worked prior to the release of Apple Pay with Google Wallet. Even right after Apple Pay started, customers were able to use their iPhones at Rite Aid and CVS successfully. But now Rite Aid and CVS have disabled all "tap to pay" terminals, including both Apple Pay and Google Wallet in favor of its own rival payment system called CurrentC.

Apple's iPad Air 2 Is Here, But Is it Worth the Upgrade?

Episode 1129

iPad Air 2

Leo got the new iPad Air 2 (in opulent Gold, nonetheless) and he says while it's nice and has some new features, you don't really need it. Save your money. Tablets are so mature these days that there really isn't a benefit from cashing in your old one and getting the new one. The only real benefit is that the SIM can be used for almost any carrier, so you can switch carriers on the fly. Other than that, there's no real need to buy a new one.