Volume 16, Issue 16
Atari Online News, Etc. April 18, 2014
Published and Copyright (c) 1999 - 2014
All Rights Reserved
Atari Online News, Etc.
A-ONE Online Magazine
Dana P. Jacobson, Publisher/Managing Editor
Joseph Mirando, Managing Editor
Rob Mahlert, Associate Editor
Atari Online News, Etc. Staff
Dana P. Jacobson -- Editor
Joe Mirando -- "People Are Talking"
Michael Burkley -- "Unabashed Atariophile"
Albert Dayes -- CC: Classic Chips
Rob Mahlert -- Web site
Thomas J. Andrews -- "Keeper of the Flame"
With Contributions by:
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A-ONE #1616 04/18/14
~ The History of
Atari! ~ People Are Talking! ~ Playstation
~ Facebook Home Is Flop! ~ Heartbleed Is Reality! ~ Clinton Laptop Sold!
~ Bungie Fires O'Donnell ~ How Heartbleed Happened ~ Xbox One Sales!
~ Google Trends Updated! ~ New Google Glass Offer! ~ CAPTCHAs Are Cracked!
-* Heartbleed Fix Slows Browsers *-
-* White House Updates Online Privacy! *-
-* The New Longest Arcade Game Run in History *-
->From the Editor's Keyboard
"Saying it like it is!"
The Heartbleed problem seems to be dominating the online community these
days, with those potential "targets" doing what they can to repair some
holes in their systems. Surprisingly, this took awhile to become a
public notice; it appears that Heartbleed has been around for some time.
Ever vigilant has taken a security catnap.
Until next time...
->In This Week's Gaming Section
- Sony Sells More Than 7 Million PS4s!
Xbox One Sales Top 5 Million!
The History of Atari!
And much more!
->A-ONE's Game Console Industry
News - The Latest Gaming News!
Sells More Than 7 Million Playstation 4 Consoles
Sony Corp sold more than 7 million PlayStation 4 units as of April 6
is struggling to keep pace with demand for the video game console, the
company said on Wednesday.
"Although we are still facing difficulties keeping up with the strong
demand worldwide, we remain steadfast in our commitment to meet the needs
of our customers," Andrew House, president and group chief executive
officer of Sony Computer Entertainment, said in a statement.
In February, the Japanese company had said it sped past its full-year
target of 5 million units by the end of March this year. It had sold 6
million PlayStation 4 units as of March 2.
PlayStation 4 software sales - retail and digital - touched 20.5 million
copies worldwide as of April 13, the company said in its statement.
The console went on sale on Nov. 29 in the United States, Western Europe
and Latin America, around the same time that rival Microsoft Corp's Xbox
One was released. That console topped 3 million units at the end of last
Xbox One Sales Top 5 Million
Microsoft said Thursday it has sold more than 5 million Xbox One consoles
since they were launched in November.
The news came a day after video game competitor Sony said it had sold
than 7 million PlayStation 4 consoles since mid-November.
Sony’s numbers refer to sales to consumers, while Microsoft’s involve
sales to retailers.
Sales of Xbox One were 60 percent higher than those of Microsoft’s earlier
iteration Xbox 360 during the same length of time after it hit the market,
Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of marketing, strategy and business, wrote on
the Microsoft blog in announcing the figures.
Furthermore, the new game Titanfall, which Microsoft was counting on
boost sales of the new Xbox, was the world’s hottest-selling game in
March, said Mehdi, quoting figures released Thursday by analysts NPD
Titanfall, which came out in March, involves a futuristic galaxy torn
fighting between elite fighter pilots and huge, heavily armed titans.
2' Might Not Make It To Xbox One
Activision has pulled the Xbox One box art from the website for its
upcoming licensed game The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
For the time being at least, the game will make it to just about every
other platform except Xbox One—including the 360 and Wii U.
“We are working with Microsoft in an effort to release The Amazing
Spider-Man 2 video game on Xbox One,” Activision said in a statement to
the press. “Currently, the game will be available on PlayStation 4,
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and the PC on
April 29, 2014 as previously announced.”
Beyond this, there are no details and no reasons given. We’re left with
only speculation and curiosity.
The removal of the box art was first spotted by a NeoGAF user. According
to that post, a German retailer has sent out an email to customers saying
that the Xbox One version has been cancelled.
Whether it’s a cancellation or a delayed release remains to be seen,
this is obviously going to raise some eyebrows without further
explanation. Granted, a licensed IP like this isn’t as big of a deal as
something like Watch Dogs or Call of Duty not making it to a major
platform, but it is odd.
Meanwhile, retailers will need to begin updating their websites
accordingly. For instance, as of this writing I can still order the Xbox
One version of the game on Amazon where an April 29th release date is
still in the listing.
Bungie Fires Halo Composer Martin O'Donnell
Halo series and Destiny composer Marty O'Donnell was fired by Bungie's
board of directors last week, the composer revealed via his personal
O'Donnell composed music for Oni, as well as the Myth and Halo series.
joined Bungie in 2000 as audio director after working on Myth 2, Oni and
Halo: Combat Evolved's scores on a contract basis with his company
TotalAudio. During his time at Bungie, O'Donnell directed voice talent and
sound design for the Halo trilogy, Halo: Reach and Halo 3: ODST. He often
collaborated with TotalAudio partner and now in-house audio design lead at
Bungie, Mike Salvatori.
O'Donnell, Salvatori and Paul McCartney recently worked together to
the soundtrack for Bungie's new shooter, Destiny. O'Donnell said McCartney
was drawn to the project by an interest in interactive music. The three
also produced a symphonic and choral prequel suite for Destiny called
Music of the Spheres, which premiered during game music concert
performance Video Games Live last July.
The early draft of the score, O'Donnell explained, was largely written
without any idea of what the game looked or played like. When he was
finished, he jokingly said, "I dumped 50 minutes of music on [the
development team and said 'Deal with that. Make a game as good as that."
He said his goal as audio director for Bungie, working on Destiny, was
that every sound in the game would be created from scratch.
Titled "There are those who said this day would never come...," Bungie
posted the following statement regarding O'Donnell's termination on its
"For more than a decade, Marty O'Donnell filled our worlds with
unforgettable sounds and soundtracks, and left an indelible mark on our
fans. Today, as friends, we say goodbye. We know that wherever his
journey takes him, he will always have a bright and hopeful future.
->A-ONE Gaming Online
- Online Users Growl & Purr!
IGN Presents: the History of Atari
(Part 4 of 4)
Atari just wasn’t set up to come out with a convincing successor to
2600; instead, Warner was obsessed with continuing to sell its existing
hardware. Atari had been fragmented, with home computer, arcade and game
console divisions all working independently without cross-communication.
Different versions of the 2600, including the 5200, weren’t offering
anything significantly new - and meanwhile, Atari’s competitors in home
computing were coming out with much more sophisticated and more
interesting machines, like the Commodore 64. This was the beginning of
the transition from cart-based gaming machines to home computers, the
machines that most of the kids of the very early 80s would be using to
discover games. The Atari 400 and 800 home computers were part of this
wave, and the 2600 quickly began to look horribly dated next to the
newer machines. Atari's home computers didn't have the same impact as
Though the home computing revolution voraciously gnawed away at the
increasingly dated 2600’s market share, it was the NES that finally
killed it off in the US when it was released in 1985. Ironically,
Nintendo and Atari were originally going to work together on US
distribution, but disagreements over licensing and Nintendo’s home-market
success in Japan led it to go alone. Atari actually turned down deals
with both Steve Jobs’ nascent Apple and Nintendo in the 70s and 80s. How
different things might have been.
During the explosion (and subsequent implosion) of Atari’s home console
business, the company was still making wildly successful arcade games.
Atari’s arcade heyday extended from the late 70s and early 80s, including
enduring classics such as Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Missile Command,
Battlezone, Warlords, Centipede, Tempest and the spellbinding Star Wars.
It was now competing with other arcade giants like Nintendo, Taito, Sega
and Konami, but Atari’s games held their own, both commercially and
critcally. Atari remained a massively important part of the golden age of
the arcade, but the company had already foreseen the future of gaming in
home consoles. Arcades begin to fade by the end of the decade, and for
future generations they would no longer be a significant part of gaming
culture. Instead, gamers were destined to discover games at home on TVs,
instead of dark, smoke-filled rooms with other kids and teenagers.
Atari’s ultimate problem under Warner, as all its remaining early
employees and Bushnell himself seem to see it, is that Warner had no idea
how to run a technology-driven entertainment company. Management did not
understand the need to bring out new products to stay on top, and instead
was focused on trying to sell the product they already had indefinitely.
“Under Warner it committed suicide. It wasn't homicide, it was
self-inflicted stupidity,” Bushnell said to Tech Radar last year. “What
you had was a bunch of record guys thinking they knew what the game
business was about - I could catalogue the screw ups they made. I would
have liked to have taken Atari to another level. If I could go back in
time I would not sell to Warner.”
Warner’s reluctance to take risks is well exemplified by the the Cosmos,
a handheld console that was going to use holography (the idea was to
create a cartridge based game system at half the cost of the VCS, capable
of producing 3D-ish images using hologram technology). Pong creator Al
Alcorn and two other Atari engineers (Harry Jenkins and Roger Hector)
started work on it in 1978, at which point Alcorn was bored of being an
executive and wanted to get back into making things again, but despite
years of development, pre-release adverts and more than 8,000 pre-orders
from retailers, Warner refused to release it without a firm business
plan that the engineers could not produce. The Cosmos was finished, but
The company was big, and management was sluggish - a world away from
adaptive, nimble Atari that first established and then dominated the video
arcade with its varied and risky coin-op machines. “When we were young at
Atari, every year we risked the whole company on new products,” Al Alcorn
said to IGN back in 2008. “If the VCS had failed, or Home Pong had burned
up, we'd have killed the company. And now Atari is making billions of
dollars a year in revenue and if [something] had failed it wouldn't have
been a pimple on the butt of the thing, yet the fear of failure and the
ego of these guys… they weren't Silicon Valley, they weren't start-up
guys, they were not risk takers, so nothing came out.”
Warner sold the home computing portion of the Atari business in July
to Jack Tramiel, the erstwhile founder of Commodore, who renamed it Atari
Corporation. It held onto the arcade division, now known as Atari Games,
for a bit longer. But ultimately Warner would also unload the arcade
business, selling it to Namco in 1985. One year later, a group of
employees would buy Atari Games’ independence from Namco, and the group
would go on to create late-era arcade classics like Paperboy and San
Francisco Rush under various corporate banners, even returning to Warner
at one point.
It was the the big Atari split - the point at which Atari’s history
convoluted and kind of sad. Atari’s golden age was over, almost all of the
people who had first made it a success were gone, and the story from this
point on would be one of the increasing dilution of the brand that was the
most powerful name in video games for over a decade.
In the mid to late eighties, there were so many different home computers
that games would come out in squillions of different versions. I’m looking
at a review for a game called Terramex, in a copy of The Games Machine
magazine from February 1988, and it’s reviewed on the Spectrum 48,
Spectrum 128, Commodore 64/128, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC and the MSX. Then
there was the Amiga, too. And the PC, which was a different thing to all
of them. This is totally baffling to a child of the console generation.
It’s bad enough with two or three of them to fight over. At least they
didn’t have Internet comments back then.
Atari’s 8-bit computers, the 400 and the 800 and its successors, made
decent impact in home computing in the early 80s. But by 1985, there were
plenty of other companies in on the games market that Atari had once
all-but owned. Its failure to keep coming up with new products under
Warner left its new owner Jack Tramiel playing catch-up.
Interestingly, some of those competitors were made by people who had
been part of Atari, or worked closely with it. Jay Milner, who had
designed the chips for Atari’s VCS and 8-bit computers, went on to form
Amiga. Then there were Apple computers - you know, by that guy who helped
create Breakout, Steve Jobs.
Atari Corp’s next machine would be the Atari 520ST: a 16-bit computer
ran games off both floppy disk and cartridge, and would stick around for
years. The Atari ST range was a lot of 80s kids’ first computer, and even
though the Amiga proved to be the better machine, it was a good deal
cheaper - actually it was the cheapest 16-bit computer around. The ST was
an idiosyncratic machine. Its MIDI port made it a favourite with
musicians, and it was especially popular in Europe, where another line
called the Atari PC also made an impact. The ST had a fairly impressive
lifespan, too - the final ST model was called the Mega STE, released in
By 1990, though, change was sweeping through the games industry. Consoles
were starting to gain traction once more as the games machines of choice.
This happened earlier in the US, where the NES hit in 1985 and Sega’s
Master System in 1986. Those consoles dominated in America by ‘87, and
though they didn’t make the same impact in the UK and Europe, the 16-bit
consoles of the early ‘90s would. In the home computer market, meanwhile,
Microsoft’s operating system ecosystem was becoming totally dominant.
In 1993, after releasing one last 32-bit computer called the Falcon
previous year, Atari Corporation shut down its home computer manufacturing
business in order to concentrate on making its own console. This would
prove the company’s final undoing as a hardware manufacturer.
First, though, there was a brief and even more ill-fated diversion into
portable consoles. The Atari Lynx wasn’t actually developed internally by
Atari; it was conceived by a company called Epyx, and sold to Atari in
January 1989. It came out later that same year. Released the same year as
the Game Boy, it was a technically far superior handheld, with full colour
and games that boasted arcade quality - but it was far more expensive than
the Game Boy, with only a 4-5 hours battery life, and Nintendo’s handheld
comprehensively won the early fight for market share thanks to Tetris.
Once Sega’s Game Gear came out in 1991 with Sega’s much-better software
lineup, it wasn’t even the only color handheld around anymore. The Lynx
died a quick death.
But it was ultimately the Atari Jaguar that drove the company into the
ground. It was the first 64-bit console, released in 1993. The
red-and-black machine looked kind of like something from Knight Rider’s
innards. It was impressively powerful for its time, but its terrible
controller and lack of software support prevented the Jaguar from breaking
through against the incredibly popular Super Nintendo & Sega Genesis. Only
67 Jaguar games were ever released.
The Jaguar was not without its hits - Tempest 2000 and Alien vs Predator
are remembered fondly - but it wasn’t enough. The Jaguar didn’t last long,
and Atari had nothing left to sell. In 1996, Tamriel admitted defeat, and
the company disappeared into corporate purgatory.
That was the second time that Atari properly died, if the first time
when Warner sold it off in bits. Two years later Atari was resurrected
when Hasbro Interactive, the video game division of the toy giant, bought
JTS for a paltry $5 million, primarily to acquire the rights to the Atari
name. Hasbro then sold its video game subsidiary to French software
company Infogrames in 2000. This is when many younger gamers started
seeing the Atari brand and that distinctive logo return to prominence.
You see, Infogrames was an aggressively acquisitive company throughout
late 90s and early 00s, buying up several big name publishers and brands
in an attempt to rival EA. Once it had the Atari name, Infogrames decided
to give itself global recognition, and rebranded its American and European
publishing and distribution businesses to Atari in 2003. That’s the Atari
that we saw on the boxes of games like 2003’s Driver 3, 2009’s
Ghostbusters: The Video Game and 2008’s Alone in the Dark. It was a very
complex company at that time - part distributor, part publisher, and one
of many floundering companies under Infogrames’ banner.
As for Atari’s original games - Pong, Centipede, Tempest, the arcade-era
classics - those stuck around, and were re-released in various
compilations and on mobile throughout the ‘00s. But Atari was neither a
force in games hardware nor games development any more. Atari’s final
death happened in January 2013, when it filed for bankruptcy yet again. As
of yet, nobody’s stepped up to buy the name.
Nor was the Atari that died in 1996. Looking back on its history, it
like Atari wrote its own death warrant when it sold to Warner; it may have
achieved its greatest monetary success under that ownership, but the
creativity and risk-taking that established it were nowhere to be seen.
You can’t help but wonder how things might have been if that hadn’t
happened. Maybe Atari would be up against Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo
Its founder Nolan Bushnell thinks so. “Absolutely Atari could be competing
with Xbox and PlayStation today,” he told TechRadar last year. “I would
have liked to have taken Atari to another level. If I could go back in
time I would not sell to Warner. Take the company public, raise money
that way - I think I should have just taken a vacation.”
Atari may not have invented video games, but it invented the business
video games. It shaped the idea of what early games were: easy to learn,
hard to master, and most importantly, accessible to everyone.
The New Longest Arcade Game Run In History
- Over 85 Hours
On the morning of Wednesday, April 9, Ohio arcade champion John Salter
slipped a quarter into his Armor Attack arcade cabinet. By the time he
finished playing late Saturday night, he'd broken two major video game
The last two guys to try and beat the Q*Bert world record had to pull
due to fatigue, because they'd need to have played the game for over…
In an event streamed live on the website of "Video Game Media Personality"
Patrick Scott Patterson, Salter spent 85 hours 16 minutes playing Armor
Attack, a 1980 vector-based shooter from Cinematronics. In doing so he has
claimed the world record for longest arcade game run on a single credit.
The previous record, 84 hours and 48 minutes, was set by Q*bert champion
George Leutz last year.
Salter survived the gaming marathon by taking power naps, letting the
claim a fraction of his pool of extra lives while he did so. 1
While the longevity record was fresh, Salter also scored 2,211,990 points,
breaking the 2,009,000 point record set in 1982.
A-ONE's Headline News
The Latest in Computer Technology News
Compiled by: Dana P. Jacobson
The White House Has Updated
the government will gather the user data of online visitors to
WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites, and it clarifies that
online comments, whether tirades or tributes, are in the open domain.
“Information you choose to share with the White House (directly and
third party sites) may be treated as public information,” the new policy
The Obama administration also promises not to sell the data of online
visitors. But it cannot make the same assurances for people who go to
third-party White House sites on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.
There will be no significant changes in actual practices under the new
policy. But legal jargon and bureaucratic language have been stripped
out, making it easier for readers to now understand that the White House
stores the date, time, and duration of online visits; the originating
Internet Protocol address; how much data visitors transmit from
WhiteHouse.gov to their computers; and more. The administration also
tracks whether emails from the White House are opened, forwarded, or
old,” blogged Obama’s digital director Nathaniel Lubin.
After coming to office in a campaign lauded for its online savvy,
President Obama’s White House has quickly adapted to online engagement
since taking office in 2008, embracing using the Internet in all its
manifestations. The first administration with an Office of Digital
Strategy, Obama’s online strategy now includes a We the People petitions
platform, live online chats, and more than a dozen social media sites,
including Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Myspace, and
seven Facebook pages, including La Casa Blanca and Education to Innovate.
Visitors who link to those social media sites are advised: “Your activity
on those sites is governed by the third-party website’s security and
privacy policies,” which frequently allow those companies to sell
visitors’ data. In addition, the White House archives Twitter, Facebook,
and Google+ content to comply with the Presidential Records Act.
The policy says Obama will keep some information — automatically
generated email data, Mobile App use data, and some cookie data — until
the end of the current administration. The White House is also explicit
about what it doesn’t do, including collecting geolocation information
from mobile-app visitors or sharing information for commercial purposes.
The policy is being released at a time when the administration is facing
unprecedented criticism over disclosures from former intelligence
contractor Edward Snowden that expose sweeping U.S. government
surveillance programs. The policy aims to address at least some of those
White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said they also do not give third
parties, including the political organization Obama for America or the
U.S. National Security Agency, access to their email database or other
“Within the White House, we restrict access to personally identifiable
information to employees, contractors, and vendors subject to
non-disclosure requirements who require access to this information in
order to perform their official duties and exercise controls to limit what
data they can view based on the specific needs of their position,” the
address, staffers might respond to the message or petition, providing
information or even services if appropriate. They might also take
messages, comments, Twitter replies, and Facebook comments to use for
public advocacy, like promoting Obama’s health-care overhaul.
If a visitor asks the White House a question that is really about homeland
security, that person’s information may be shared with that agency. And if
someone is trying to report a federal crime, or threatening someone, that
person’s information may be passed on to law enforcement.
Lehrich said that when people share comments or sign online petitions
through the We the People platform, it’s with the understanding that it
is public information.
Reviews from privacy experts — who have been watching the privacy-policy
revisions closely — were mixed.
The biggest problem, said Jeramie Scott, national security counsel for
Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., is not what
happens when visitors are on WhiteHouse.gov, but when they click onto the
White House’s third-party social media sites that don’t abide by Obama’s
own privacy rules and may sell personal data they glean from visitors.
“Interacting with the White House and its different sites is inherently
political, and that type of thing shouldn’t be used for commercial gain,”
Mark Jaycox, a legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
in San Francisco, said the new policy underscores the administration’s
ongoing interest in collecting data. “You see it across the board. You saw
it in the campaign. You see it in the White House petitions. This is just
one more step toward amassing more information,” he said.
Jaycox said the new policy is not explicit enough about what the White
House does with information it gathers. “The onerous thing is we don’t
know what they’re doing on the back end with all of this data,” he said.
But several privacy experts praised the new policy as more explicit
“It’s a nice gesture by the White House,” said Federation of American
Scientists secrecy expert Steven Aftergood in Washington. “I think the
move reflects a heightened public awareness of privacy concerns, which is
Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director John Simpson said that in
terms of pure disclosure, “this seems to be one of the better policies, a
model perhaps for others.”
It's Real: Hackers Are Using Heartbleed To Attack
When the Heartbleed vulnerability was made public last week, it seemed
terrifying. Afflicting thousands of servers across the Internet, the bug
had the potential to expose a wide variety of private data, including
credit card numbers, passwords, and even a server's private encryption
But one question that came up a lot was whether anyone had actually
Heartbleed to attack real computer systems. For the first few days, no
one could point to real-world examples of Heartbleed attacks.
But now that uncertainty has been put to rest, as the security firm
Mandiant reports that it is has observed a Heartbleed attack occurring
"in the wild." The attack targeted a Virtual Private Network service at
an unnamed organization, gaining access to its internal corporate network
— and it shows that hackers are finding the parts of the internet are
least likely to have been updated to protect against Heartbleed.
The attack worked like this. When a user logs into a VPN service, it
issues a "session token," a temporary credential that is supposed to prove
that a user has already been authenticated. By stealing the authentication
token from the server's memory, the attacker can impersonate the
legitimate user and hijack her connection to the server, gaining access to
the organization's internal network.
In the immediate aftermath of Heartbleed's discovery the vulnerability
big organizations like Google and Tumblr got most of the press. Those
firms quickly updated their software and hardened their defenses.
The problem is that OpenSSL is used by a lot of smaller companies in
wide variety of special-purpose networking appliances. The software on
these network appliances may not be as easy to upgrade as a
general-purpose web server. And organizations might not even realize that
their devices are running OpenSSL in the first place, much less know how
to fix it.
That means we should expect to see organizations being hit with Heartbleed
attacks for a long time to come. It'll be a recurring reminder that we
don't invest nearly enough to secure our IT infrastructure.
Here’s How The Heartbleed Bug Scurried Into The Hearts and Minds
On April 7, 2014, the world learned of what’s possibly the most severe
security bug in the history of the Internet. It’s called Heartbleed.
Discovered simultaneously by Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Google,
and Finnish security firm Codenomicon, the bug compromises a security
protocol commonly used by devices and websites worldwide. Heartbleed
makes it possible for a hacker to scrape data from memory – including
passwords, bank account numbers, and anything else lingering inside.
The severity of the bug left many wondering how it could happen. OpenSSL,
the security protocol in which bug was found, is used all over the world.
It’s used not just in servers, but also routers and even some Android
smartphones. You might think that some responsible party has a team of
security researchers checking and double-checking the code but, in truth,
OpenSSL is managed by a small group consisting mostly of volunteers.
Opening to OpenSSL
OpenSSL boasts its open-source origin in its name. Founded in 1998,
project was created to provide a set of free encryption tools for
Internet servers. This was an important goal; encryption is critical and
common. A free standard was needed to make sure it would be adopted as
quickly as possible. The project was wildly successful, and quickly
became one of the Internet’s most important security tools.
Yet, success did not result in expansion or profits. OpenSSL generates
income only through support contracts, which provides access to
troubleshooting and consulting from the organization itself.
A total of just 11 people, most of them volunteers, are responsible
critical encryption standard.
These contracts provide a minor stream of revenue, but the project is
from being overflowing with cash. The OpenSSL Software Foundation has
never earned more than one million dollars in gross annual revenue.
Donations have been anemic as well; the organization usually receives
about $2,000 each year.
This results in a predictably tiny staff. The “core team” is made up
only four individuals, and the development team adds seven more names to
the list. That’s a total of just 11 people, most of them volunteers,
responsible for a critical encryption standard. Only one of them, Dr.
Stephen Hanson, focuses on OpenSSL entirely. Everyone else has another
Steve Marquess, who manages the organization’s money, said it best.
mystery is not that a few overworked volunteers missed the bug; the
mystery is why it hasn’t happened more often.”
Mistakes were made
That’s what the entire crisis boils down to – a mistake. The error was
introduced by Robin Seggelmann, a German volunteer working on an OpenSSL
extension called Heartbeat. He submitted the code on New Year’s Eve,
2011, and it subsequently slipped through the review process. Heartbleed
has existed, unknown to the public, for over two years.
Other members of the project double-check submitted code during the
review, but mistakes happen, so it’s hardly a surprise that a bug
eventually slipped through. Even multi-billion dollar companies like
Microsoft and Cisco are hit by their fair share of embarrassing exploits.
The problem stems from allocating memory according to a value that can
defined by a request. If the user provides a valid input, the function
works as intended. However, if an invalid request is made, the code dumps
part of what’s in memory, including information that’s supposed to be
secure and encrypted. This web comic also explains Heartbleed, should you
deem a visualization to be helpful.
Some software engineers believe that the existence of the bug raises
questions about the security of C, the code in which the Heartbeat
extension was written. Though popular, C is a complex language that
offers a lot opportunity for errors in memory management and the handling
of values. A bug in another open-source SSL implementation, GnuTLS,
cropped up a month before Heartbleed, and was also written in C. That
bug was even older; the code responsible for it was added in 2005.
What’s the next step?
Human error is ultimately to blame for Heartbleed, but the fault doesn’t
fall solely on the shoulders of a single coder. OpenSSL is free software
used by Fortune 500 companies, governments and even military
organizations, yet these outfits almost never contribute funding or
manpower to the project.
Companies and governments seem very concerned, yet pledges of real
support are ominously absent.
That’s a systemic failure on a staggering scale, yet the obvious need
more oversight hasn’t spurred many people in positions of great wealth or
power to action. OpenSSL Software Foundation money-man Steve Marquess says
that donations have increased since the bug’s discovery, but, as of
April 12, still totaled no more than $9,000 for the year. Most of that
came from individuals pledging $5 or $10. Companies and governments seem
very concerned, yet pledges of real support are ominously absent.
The world also must learn from this mistake. Using an open-source project
without contributing to it is, in the long term, a recipe for disaster –
particularly when the project is a critical part of network
infrastructure. The Internet’s security shouldn’t be upheld by a handful
of volunteers who find their names in the news only when something goes
Heartbleed Fixes May Be Slowing Web Browsers
The heartache from the Heartbleed Internet flaw is not over, and some
experts say the fix may lead to online disruption and confusion.
The good news is that most sites deemed vulnerable have patched their
systems or are in the process of doing so.
The bad news is that web browsers may be overloaded by the overhaul
security certificates, leading to error messages and impacting web
performance, said Johannes Ullrich of the SANS Internet Storm Center.
“A good percentage of the websites are patched,” Ullrich told AFP.
The patches enable the web operators to obtain new security certificates
that demonstrate that they can be trusted by web browsers.
But Ullrich noted that for each patch, web browsers must update their
list of “untrusted” certificates or “keys” that would be rejected.
“For the fix, the website needs to obtain a new private key and the
key has to be revoked,” he said. “Browsers will not trust the old keys.”
Browsers usually update dozens of keys on a daily basis, but because
Heartbleed, that may rise to tens of thousands.
If the verification process takes too long, Ullrich said, the browser
simply declare the site invalid or show an error message.
“People will see errors,” he said. “They will see an invalid certificate.
They can either accept the certificate or consider it invalid.”
The big danger is that people may become so confused or frustrated that
they ignore the warnings or reconfigure their browsers to no longer
perform the security check.
“If people turn off those lists, then a hacker could get in,” Ullrich
With thousands of websites seeking new security credentials, “some
certificate authorities and website administrators have been making
careless mistakes,” online security firm Netcraft noted.
Warnings about the danger have grown over the past week, with everyone
from website operators and bank officials to Internet surfers and workers
who telecommute being told their data could be in danger.
The bug is a flaw in the OpenSSL encryption at “https” websites that
Internet users have been taught to trust.
The Heartbleed flaw lets hackers snatch packets of data from working
memory in computers, creating the potential for them to steal passwords,
encryption keys, or other valuable information.
The security firm CloudFlare reported last week that it appeared
impossible to use Heartbleed to steal certificates to impersonate a
website, but then reversed itself after a “challenge” to the security
community brought out evidence that these thefts were possible.
Google said that some versions of its Android mobile operating system
be vulnerable to Heartbleed. On Monday, it urged developers to create new
security keys to ensure that apps and other services can be trusted.
Trend Micro security specialist Veo Zhang said the latest evidence shows
mobile phones are potentially vulnerable in two ways.
“This is because mobile apps may connect to servers affected by the
Zhang said in a blog. “However, it appears that mobile apps themselves
could be vulnerable. … We have found 273 in Google Play which are bundled
with the standalone affected OpenSSL library, which means those apps can
be compromised in any device.”
Some of the first evidence of hackers using Heartbleed has begun to
surface in recent days.
British parenting website Mumsnet announced Monday that members’ data
been accessed, potentially compromising 1.5 million accounts.
Officials in Ottawa said personal data for as many as 900 Canadian
taxpayers was stolen after being made vulnerable by the Heartbleed bug.
The Canadian Revenue Agency last week shuttered its website over concerns
Facebook Home Reception Slower Than Expected
Facebook has been a wildly successful social network, but that doesn't
mean it hasn't seen some failures along the way. According to CEO Mark
Zuckerberg, Facebook Home was at the top of that list.
In a recent interview with Zuckerberg, the The New York Times made a point
that Facebook's homemade features like Facebook Home and Graph Search have
been flops. However, the companies it has acquired like Instagram and
WhatsApp have been more successful which calls into question Facebook's
ability to innovate.
Zuckerberg defended Graph Search, saying that it's more of a long-term
investment than Facebook Home. Graph Search is is a semantic search
engine that was designed to give answers to a user's natural language
queries rather than a list of links.
"With Graph Search, I think that modern search products have so much built
into them that we knew it was going to be a five-year investment before we
got anything really good and different," said Zuckerberg. "So far we’ve
done these milestones. The first one was that we were able to search over
structured connections on Facebook. That was important as a consumer
product and also as infrastructure that we are using inside the company.
"The next focus is searching posts. All of this has been on desktop, and
the real push is mobile. So I’m not that worried about it. I think the
real question will be how effective it will be on mobile once
post-search works. I think that’s a five-year thing. We have to think
about it over a longer period of time."
But Zuckerberg was quicker to admit that Facebook Home isn't too popular.
Facebook Home is a user interface layer for Android-compatible
smartphones, offering notifications and other Facebook-flavored features
right on the lock screen.
"With Home, the reception was much slower than we expected," said
Zuckerberg. "But it was a riskier thing. It’s very different from other
apps, let’s say Paper or Messenger. For those, you install it, and if
it’s useful you’ll go back to it and use it. Home is your lock screen.
When you install it, it’s really active, and if it does anything that
you don’t like, then you’ll uninstall it."
Another innovation question brought forth by NYT is why Facebook couldn't
develop something like WhatsApp instead of paying $19 billion USD for the
acquisition, since it already had something similar (Facebook Messenger).
Zuckerberg said that its Facebook Messenger is quite different from
WhatsApp, and are both big in their separate markets.
"I think you want to look at the things that we do in three stages. First,
there’s Facebook the app. A billion people or more are using it, and it
is a business," said Zuckerberg. "Next there’s Instagram, WhatsApp,
Messenger, Search — these are use cases that people use a lot, and they
will probably be the next things that will become businesses at Facebook.
But you want to fast-forward three years before that will actually be a
"Then there are things that are nascent, that we’re inventing from
scratch, like Home, Paper or any of the other Creative Labs work we’re
going to do. Maybe in three to five years those will be in the stage
where Instagram and Messenger are now. So what we want to do is build a
pipeline of experiences for people to have. It would be a mistake to
compare any of them in different life cycles to other ones.
"They’re in different levels."
Google Trends Adds Email Notifications
Google has updated its search statistics service, Google Trends, to
people to sign up to be notified by email periodically about the
popularity of specified search terms. Introduced in 2006, Google Trends
has long been a popular way to assess what people are looking for online.
But the service has been hampered by lack of an API, promised back in
2007, but never delivered. A Google Trends API would allow programmatic
monitoring of search trends by software, a more convenient option than
requiring people to visit the Google Trends website for manual keyword
In 2008, Google introduced a variation on Google Trends called Google
Insights for Search that is tailored to helping advertisers understand
search behavior. It doesn't have an API, either. Since then, numerous
unofficial Google Trends APIs have been developed.
Asked whether Google still plans to provide a Trends API, a Google
spokesperson said, "We don't have any new news to report right now about
In a blog post, Google engineer Gavri Smith acknowledges the burden
having to seek information manually on Google Trends. "[W]ithout doing
your own exploration on the Trends website, it can be tough to find the
interesting - and sometimes surprising - topics the world is searching
for," said Smith. "Starting today, it's easier to get just the right
insights at just the right time with email notifications."
Consider email notifications a consolation prize of sorts. An API would
be a sign that Google wants Trends to become a serious data-mining
service. Email notifications indicate that Google sees Trends as a way
to enhance consumer engagement.
Trends allows users to subscribe to search topics, country-specific
Searches, or any US monthly Top Chart. It's similar to Google Alerts,
except that Alerts provides links to newly indexed content associated
with specified search terms. Trends provides graphs describing the
frequency of specified search terms, or what's popular in broad
categorical topics over time.
As such, Trends has limited utility beyond satisfying personal curiosity.
You could use it, for example, to receive a weekly email update on the
popularity of a term such as "Bitcoin." But the inability to drill down
into the details of the data, to segment and process them, makes the
service more of a social yardstick than a tool for serious data science.
One option that would help make Trends more useful is a way to trigger
notifications based on search surges. Currently, Trends will send out
notifications on a weekly or monthly basis, subject to an unspecified
degree of variation. Greater real-time awareness and responsiveness would
make the service more useful for urgent matters. For example, a human
rights organization might find it valuable to be notified immediately if
searches for the name of an at-risk individual suddenly increase. But it
remains to be seen whether Google wants to turn Trends into something
more than a casual research tool.
The Newest Facebook Feature: Sharing Your Location with Friends
Facebook knows a lot about you, including, in many cases, the location
you’re posting from. Now the social network wants other people to know
where you are, too.
On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will be rolling out a new feature
called “Nearby Friends.” The feature will allow you to see your
approximate distance from anyone within your network. You’ll also be able
to continuously share your location with other people for a limited
amount of time.
The good news? It’s an opt-in feature, meaning it’ll be enabled only
those who want to use it.
It works like this: Once the feature becomes available to you on iOS
Android in the next couple of weeks, you’ll see the Nearby Friends option
in the app list on your navigation menu. You can choose to turn it on for
your entire social network, or to limit the people who can see your
location to a specific friend list.
Then a list of your (geographically) closest friends will show up, ranked
by how many miles they are from you. Again, you’ll see only the people
who have also turned on the feature and allowed you to see them. The list
will display a timestamp next to each person so that you’ll know exactly
when Facebook registered her location. Finally, if you’re in a
metropolitan area, the app will do you the favor of including the name of
the neighborhood the person is in.
A location-services feature like this is not at all novel. Foursquare’s
entire business revolves around whether you can see if your friends have
checked in around you. And the now-defunct Google Latitude worked with
the company’s Maps app to do essentially the same thing as Nearby
Friends. There are even entire apps, like Connect, SocialRadar, and
Cloak, that are dedicated to culling the information provided by your
friends’ social networks in order to map the location of their last
digital interaction (so you can either connect with them or avoid them).
What’s somewhat eerie about this feature, however, is how expansive
Facebook member’s social network remains. Facebook is a community where
family, friends, colleagues, and old high-school acquaintances congeal
into one large blob of connections unless you are constantly pruning your
sharing settings. If you forget to leave your Nearby Friends feature off,
it could potentially allow for less-than-comfortable stalking from your
friends and family.
For now, it seems that Facebook has made it easy to differentiate who
you’re sharing your current location with. But as even Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerberg’s sister has proved, it hasn’t always had the best reputation
for making matters of privacy easy to understand.
If you do choose to try it out, I’d recommend making a list of trusted
friends you feel comfortable sharing your location with. That way you
never risk airing your private information to an audience of strangers.
Google's Recent TOS Update Reminds Us What Little Choice We Have
So, Google analyzes your email. Who knew? Well, judging by a recent
of internet chatter regarding a two-sentence update the search giant made
to its terms of service this week, not that many. The truth is, of course,
that most Gmail users did know that Google scans your email, or parses it
in some way so that it can place those oh so important personalized
adverts alongside them. Like anyone on Facebook who got dating ads after
changing their relationship status can attest to. The backlash this week,
however, seemed to take two basic flavors. One being paranoia that some
deep change had taken place that the search giant was looking to sneak
past us. The second being that this was a sign of how our rights are
constantly being eroded, and that this constant "policy creep" will soon
have us handing over our deepest darkest digital secrets, without any
powers to negotiate. So which is it?
We asked Google directly, and it tells us that on this occasion, the
additional text is merely a clarification of the existing policy. It's
spelling out what it already does. We spoke to London-based media lawyer
John Haggis about this kind of amendment, who confirmed that if there were
significant changes to the meaning of the policy, then Google (and others,
like PayPal's shown below) would have an obligation to communicate that to
its users. Not doing so would be an incredibly risky strategy for any
firm. Minor housekeeping and clarifications, however, might not warrant a
(potentially alarming) email blast -- though this recent Google case
shows that it's still worth considering your strategy every time.
For those that were concerned about the specific part in Google's TOS
refers to email you receive (i.e., that sent by people who might not have
agreed to said TOS), Haggis reminds us to think along the lines of how
images, etc. are shared on Facebook. You might not be on Mark
Zuckerberg's social network, but a photo you took and sent to a friend
could be. Facebook might even learn it's a picture of you via tagging,
and have a moderate profile of you based on multiple such photos. But,
the truth is, there's not a lot it can do with that information if you're
not a signed-up (and contractually agreed) member.
The more important issue highlighted by Google's recent tweak is of
little choice we have either way. It serves as another reminder that some
of our most precious data is locked into services and ecosystems that we
can do little to control or negotiate with. If your email provider
incrementally changes its terms of service, you might not even really
know what you've agreed to anymore. Worse, you could actually know all
too well, and decide that you no longer are comfortable with those
conditions. But what are your options, then, if a service goes a
bullet-point too far? For the most part, you're left with the binary
choice of suck it up, or find another provider. Here lies the biggest
problem facing you or me. Who wants to change their email address after
double figure years of distribution? Or migrate their music collection
from one corner of the cloud to another (not to mention whether you can
take it with you thanks to rights restrictions). Not many we'd wager.
The good news? Google tells us that for future such amendments it will
be placing an "Updated" notice on the Google.com homepage (including on
mobile), which will also show on regional domains (Google.co.uk, for
example) when applicable. This might not solve your data-hostage
quandary, but it should mean fewer false alerts.
Laptop Used for First U.S. Presidential Email Sells for Over $60,000
The laptop computer that Bill Clinton used in 1998 to send the first-ever
U.S. presidential email has sold for $60,667 in an online auction, the
Boston auction house that handled the transaction said Thursday.
RR Auction did not disclose the name of the buyer of the still-functional
Toshiba Satellite that Clinton borrowed to email veteran astronaut John
Glenn, who was orbiting Earth aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
The laptop, with accessories and full documentation, originally belonged
to White House physician Robert Darling, who lent it to Clinton when NASA
informed the president that Glenn wanted to swap emails with him.
“It’s a remarkable collection that represents the dawn of a new age,
combining America’s greatest technological achievements — space travel and
the Internet,” said RR Auction vice president Bobby Livingston in a
Glenn, a U.S. senator who in 1962 became the first American astronaut
orbit the Earth, was completing a nine-day mission on Discovery in
November 1998 when he sent word that he wanted to email Clinton, who at
the time was visiting friends in his home state of Arkansas.
“This is certainly a first for me, writing to a president from space,
it may be a first for you in receiving an email direct from an orbiting
spacecraft,” wrote Glenn, then 77.
Clinton was keen to get the message, but when his staff couldn’t readily
find him a computer to do so, Darling stepped forward with his trusty
Toshiba and his personal AOL email address.
“Hillary and I had a great time at the launch,” emailed Clinton, referring
to Discovery’s liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center a few days earlier.
“We are very proud of you and the entire crew, and a little jealous.”
In an interview in 2000, Clinton said he never used email due to security
concerns, but acknowledged emailing Glenn in space, as well as some U.S.
marines and sailors at sea at Christmas.
Prior to selling the laptop in 2000, Darling took care to keep the
historic email exchange on its hard drive, and made a copy on its internal
floppy drive, while deleting all other data.
He also typed up a memo about the landmark email, saying Clinton “seemed
to really enjoy himself particularly when he pressed the ‘send’ key and
realized that at that instant his message was traveling through cyberspace
and into real space.”
Google Glass Sells Out, But More Chances To Buy May
Google‘s one-day sale of Glass was a success—at least, according to Google.
On Tuesday, the company held a one-day sale where anyone U.S.-based
could buy the $1,500 prototype headset (while supplies lasted), and become
a member of the company’s Glass Explorers program. On Wednesday, Google
said it had sold every available Glass it had set aside for the day-long
promotion. Still, Google isn’t saying just how many pairs it sold.
The company did, however, tease at the fact that it may open Glass up
sale again before the wearable tech becomes a consumer product. (Google’s
now saying sometime before the end of the year, but we’ve heard that
“If you missed it this time, don’t worry,” the company said on its Google+
page for Glass. “We’ll be trying new ways to expand the Explorer program
in the future.” There’s a form you can fill out at glass.google.com if you
are interested in the next chance to pay up to become one of Google’s beta
Google Offering Try-before-you-buy Kits to Those Interested in Glass
Google has begun contacting customers and offering them the chance to
out the company's Glass wearable device before committing to pay $1,500
for the gadget.
The company is offering to send those users trial kits that come with
Glass units in four different color options along with the device's
various frame styles.
"We’ve heard from potential Explorers that they’d love to be able to
Glass on at home before committing to purchase it," a Google spokeswoman
said in a statement. "As a result, we’re doing outreach to a small group
to see how this approach works. We’ll let you know if this experiment
Before sending out the kits, Google places a $50 hold on customers'
credit cards so that users will not be tempted to keep the gadgets.
The devices that Google sends out in the kits appear to be Glass units
that have been returned by other customers. However, the kit's Glass
devices have had their USB ports "destroyed" so that their batteries
cannot be recharged, rendering them inoperable, according to 9to5Google.
Recently, Google also held a one-day sale for Glass where any adult
resident could purchase the $1,500 device without needing an invitation
to do so.
Google has said that it will begin selling the device to the general
public at some point in 2014, but right now, the company appears to be
trying to get early editions of the gadget to as many users as possible.
Developed Technology To Crack CAPTCHAs
Google has cracked the CAPTCHA. In a paper published this week, Google
researchers say that they’ve developed an algorithm that can accurately
solve Google’s own CAPTCHA puzzles — those obfuscated jumbles of
letters and numbers you type in on websites to prove that you’re human
— with 99.8 percent accuracy, obviously posing something of a problem
to the puzzle’s intended purpose of weeding out robots. The new system
was developed to help Google automatically analyze hard-to-read signs
and house numbers photographed by its Street View cameras, allowing it
to accurately match images with locations on a map.
Despite being near perfect when it comes to CAPTCHAs — a feat that
plenty of humans can’t even manage — the new system’s analysis of
Street View imagery isn’t quite as accurate, correctly identifying the
text just over 90 percent of the time. When analyzing house numbers
specifically, however, its accuracy jumps up to over 96 percent.
Google is, of course, specially suited to developing such advanced
automated text analysis because of its extensive work with Street View
and reCAPTCHA, its own CAPTCHA service. Even so, Google says that it’s
already found ways to further protect reCAPTCHA from being broken by
others’ computers. “Thanks to this research, we know that relying on
distorted text alone isn’t enough,” Vinay Shet, reCAPTCHA’s product
manager writes in a blog post. Shet explains that part of this is
analyzing a user’s full interaction with the CAPTCHA puzzle — and not
solely whether they can get the answer right.
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