With the preponderance of the use of satellite technology—from broadcasting television to providing walking directions to people’s smartphones—one would imagine that the area just above the atmosphere is cluttered with them. However, there are less than 3000 satellites up there doing “a job.”
There are between 20,000-35,000 objects spiraling around the Earth at any given time, mostly debris from space missions. In order to keep a better eye on all of that stuff whirling above our heads, the U.S. Air Force recently declassified their plan to launch a satellite system for just that purpose.
Called a “neighborhood watch” satellite by General William Shelton, the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program “will supplement ground-based radars and optical telescopes in tracking” both space-debris and the activities of foreign satellites, according to Reuters. While the GSSAP will monitor the positions of purposeful satellites in order to avoid collisions with space junk—which travels at about 17,000 miles-per-hour—it will also remain on guard for satellites that are trying to avoid detection, perhaps for the purposes of monitoring U.S. interests or other clandestine activities.
The GSSAP are scheduled to go up in the last quarter of 2014 on an unmanned Delta 4 rocket, and critics wonder why the U.S. government declassified the program and effectively informed “our enemies” of this satellite’s capabilities. Yet, according to Brian Weeden, technical advisor with the Secure World Foundation and quoted by Reuters, that is precisely what the Obama Administration intended. He says they are “being more honest when [they say] it declassified this program to try and deter attacks on U.S. satellites.”
Rather than catching adversaries or, worse, allies attempting to interfere with our national satellite system, the White House prefers to simply let everyone know that they have the ability to monitor the satellites closely.
A Maryland man is suing the Ethiopian government after it was discovered that it infected his computer with spyware, wiretapped his calls made via Skype, and monitored his family’s computers for months.
"We have clear evidence of a foreign government secretly infiltrating an American's computer in America, listening to his calls, and obtaining access to a wide swath of his private life," said Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Nate Cardozo. "The current Ethiopian government has a well-documented history of human rights violations against anyone it sees as political opponents. Here, it wiretapped a United States citizen on United States soil in an apparent attempt to obtain information about members of the Ethiopian diaspora who have been critical of their former government. U.S. laws protect Americans from this type of unauthorized electronic spying, regardless of who is responsible."
This case is part of a larger operation by the Ethiopian government to spy on people it believes are political opponents. The man, who goes by Mr. Kidane in order to protect his family, reportedly opened a Microsoft Word document that was sent to him, and upon opening the document, his computer became infected.
“I would be extremely hesitant to continue to seek legal redress in this case should I be denied this request to proceed pseudonymously, as I fear the litigation would put my life and the lives of my family at substantial risk,” said Mr. Kidane. The man, who is originally from Ethiopia, won political asylum 22 years ago and has lived in Silver Spring, Md., ever since.
"The problem of governments violating the privacy of their political opponents through digital surveillance is not isolated – it's already big and growing bigger," said Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Yet despite the international intrigue and genuine danger involved in this lawsuit, at bottom it's a straightforward case. An American citizen was wiretapped at his home in Maryland, and he's asking for his day in court under longstanding American laws."
Reports claim that Ethiopia is not alone in spying on the activity of perceived opponents to its government.
Mozilla announced Sunday that it will begin making $25 phones in a chip deal with Spreadtrum.
The company made the announcement in a press release before the kick-off of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Mozilla, a non-profit, will be turning to mobile OS with smartphone capabilities with a focus on developing markets and global carriers looking for a third option, Forbes reported.
Mozilla launched its Mobile OS in 2012. Then Chinese manufacturer ZTE announced it would collaborate with the company on an open software-based device.
“It’s all part of our wider plans to create a better balance of products using various operating systems. We won’t just rely on Android or Windows,” said ZTE Director of Corporate Branding & Communications David Dai Shu.
Firefox OS is slated to move into Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama this year as Telefonica expands to those countries. Deutsche Telekom will contribute markets in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia and Montenegro.
While Windows has targeted the lower-end of the mobile market, Mozilla may be emerge the victorious underdog, according to Forbes.
A couple of days ago, iPhone users may have been alerted about a software update that was newly available. The updated software, iOS 7.0.6, came with one line of description: “This security update provides a fix for SSL connection verification.”
While carrying out a software update can be cumbersome and is often pushed aside by users, this particular update provides an important remedy to a major security flaw in Apple’s devices.
According to Forbes, the update fixes a bug in the software code that makes the majority of Apple’s applications easily susceptible to eavesdroppers and hijackers. iOS users on a public WiFi network could easily tap into and/or control various apps due to Apple's improper implementation of SSL encryption prior to the update, Wired reports.
The fiasco is being referred to as “gotofail” by the online tech security community because the security flaw was exposed simply by Apple developers improperly using a “goto” command in the software’s code. The developers accidentally typed two subsequent lines of the string “goto fail” in the wrong spot of code, which essentially causes programs such as Safari to bypass online authentication checks. Although the coding language is difficult to understand, the actual mistake was as simple as a single typo.
Although Apple’s most recent software update provided a fix for its Safari web browser, other applications may still be at risk. Private tech researchers and security experts have been investigating the situation and claim that third-party apps such as Twitter might also be affected by the security flaw.
Apple is reportedly investigating the situation, but users should continue to watch for software updates. Additionally, you can check whether you should be concerned at gotofail.com, a website designed to alert users whether or not they are at risk as a result of the exposed security flaw.
Mozilla recently angered many of its users by announcing that it would start placing ads on its popular Internet browser, Firefox.
According to TechDirt.com, the nonprofit organization kept banging away on that sour note by announcing its new "Directory Tiles" that will feature ads and recommended or popular websites on a new tabs page on Firefox (sample pictured).
"Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for first-time users," Mozilla's VP Darren Herman said in a statement. "Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission. The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such, while still leading to content we think users will enjoy."
While speaking to AdAge.com, Herman even slammed the present Firefox, which users have loved for years, as being a "dumb window."
"Mozilla is moving from a dumb window to the internet to a smart agent on behalf of the user, putting the user first," said Herman.
Mozilla's general counsel and head of the business affairs group Denelle Dixon-Thayer also slammed Firefox for being a "window into the web."
"We wanted to get away from being this window into the web that doesn't bring value," Dixon-Thayer told CNET. "We looked at it from the perspective of how much value are we bringing to the user? We're not focused on bringing the most revenue into Mozilla."
Sources: CNET, AdAge.com, Mozilla.org, TechDirt.com
Social media giant Facebook made viral headlines across the web, including on its own platform, when the company announced that it would be acquiring mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion on Wednesday. The acquisition itself was not surprising, as Facebook has been known to pursue any services that rival or surpass its own Messenger app. The exorbitant price Facebook paid for WhatsApp is what seemed the most outrageous.
Although WhatsApp is a popular, widely used service, its effect on popular culture is nowhere near that of Facebook. Still, the app’s ability to send messages, photos and videos via Wifi or data has made it successful in the international market, allowing individuals and groups to communicate for free across country lines. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that the acquisition had global implications.
WhatsApp “doesn’t get as much attention in the U.S. as it deserves because its community started off growing in Europe, India and Latin America. But WhatsApp is a very important and valuable worldwide communication network. In fact, WhatsApp is the only widely used app we’ve ever seen that has more engagement and a higher percent of people using it daily than Facebook itself,” Zuckerberg said.
According to The Blaze, Facebook is paying around $42 per WhatsApp user during the acquisition, as the service has over 450 million monthly active users. Reports vary about how long it will likely take Facebook to regain that sum, but it’s undeniable that the company has purchased a service that could have risen to become one of its primary competitors. The ability to squash a competitor’s growth may be victory enough, especially regarding Zuckerberg’s failure to buy messaging service Snapchat even after offering the company's young founders $3 billion. Access to WhatsApp's surplus of data regarding international consumers is also highly valuable for Facebook's marketing team.
Despite the recent acquisition, Facebook maintains that not much will change regarding WhatsApp. The company is going to keep its original office space, and the app is to remain separate from Facebook’s main app. WhatsApp has an office of 55 employees, all of whom are to be granted company stock worth a total of $3 billion.
Whether through the trash section of our email inboxes or the comment sections of websites, we’re constantly being told by shady strangers how easy it is to start making thousands of dollars.
But what if I told you that all you need is a camera, an Internet connection, and maybe a sense of humor for you to be a millionaire? You don’t have to buy or sell anything. Just record yourself saying a few insightful or interesting things and voilà – you could make up to $6.7 million a year.
You’re probably rolling your eyes just as you did at that woman who assures you she made $7,000 a month sitting at home. Don’t throw me in your spam box just yet.
What is this mystery money maker I’m referring to? YouTube.
People with lots of followers and channel views on YouTube make money. Lots of money.
According to YouTube analytics site Social Blade, the highest-earning YouTube user, BlueXephos, made $6.7 million dollars on the site in 2012. Two more users made over $5 million. 13 users made over $2 million. The top 25 highest earning YouTube users all made over $1 million in 2012. Who knew prank jokes and makeup advice were such lucrative callings?
Users make money by becoming YouTube partners. Becoming a YouTube partner isn’t easy – you’ve got to have a loyal following of subscribers before applying to become one. But if YouTube’s team thinks you have what it takes to bring traffic to the site, you can make some serious money. YouTube partners share revenue generated from in-video advertisements. In 2012, YouTube generated over $3.4 billion in ad revenue.
This top 25 list is just people whose earnings top the million-dollar mark. If you’re content making, say, a lowly $90,000 a year, you’ll find a good crowd of people who’ve done so.
So, what are you waiting for?
(You’re welcome, YouTube)
The internet is a powerful thing. Words typed in anonymity online – whether intended to be taken seriously or not -- often bite back with real world consequences. Minnesota high school student Reid Sagehorn is finding this out the hard way.
Sagehorn has been suspended for over two months after sending out a tweet claiming to have had sexual relations with a teacher at his school. Sagehorn, a student at Rogers High School, sent out the tweet in response to a rumor on the “Rogers Confessions” page on ask.fm. Ask.fm is a popular social media site in which users – often through a veil of anonymity – ask and answer questions online.
A rumor on the site alleged Sagehorn had sexual contact with a female teacher at his school. In typical high school male bravado, Sagehorn responded to the rumor saying that “Yes, actually” he did have a sexual interaction with the teacher. Sagehorn’s claim spread quickly amongst students and didn’t take long to reach school administrators.
Police interviewed the 28-year-old teacher at the center of the rumor and found that Sagehorn’s claim was false. Rogers High School suspended Sagehorn for two months for making a false claim that had the very real ability to tarnish a teacher’s reputation and ruin her career.
The student body at Rogers High has taken to Sagehorn’s defense. They say his claim was just a joke and that his suspension is an overreaction. What’s worse, the students are directing much of their anger at the teacher involved in the rumor, as if she somehow contributed to Sagehorn’s suspension.
Rogers Police Chief Jeff Beahen spoke to the Star Tribune recently about Sagehorn’s comment and the student body’s protests.
“It’s like screaming ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater or ‘I have a bomb’ on an airplane,” Beahen said. “If you say something on a very public forum, there are consequences. This young, innocent teacher is the victim here…no one seems to care about the teacher … and that’s a sad experience. She’s, frankly, being bullied and harassed by students.”
Elk Area River Schools Superintendent Mark Bezek defended the teacher as well.
“The teacher involved, she did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said. “In the cyberworld, she’s getting crucified. Our staff members wonder: ‘Is this going to happen to me?’”
Police Chief Beahen says that in addition to his suspension, Sagehorn may face criminal charges. Since the teacher would be committing a crime if she had enagaged in sex with Sagehorn, his claim that she did so is a false criminal accusation.
“That’s a crime,” Beahen said.
Sagehorn may face either felony or misdemeanor charges for his comment. For a felony charge, Beahen said, “You have to prove intent, that the accused was fully aware that harm would occur.”
A misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge could apply if prosecutors decide not to pursue the felony charge. Beahen says the county attorney will decide which route to take following an investigation.
Superintendent Bezek says the ordeal serves as a warning to students to take their online conduct seriously. He called the internet a powerful thing that “can also cause so much harm. We’ve just given it to them without the proper training. You don’t let a kid drive a car, shoot guns without the proper training.”
Google is aiming to run completely on alternative energy sources, its Energy and Sustainability head said Sunday. Already a third of the search engine giant’s operations rely on wind and solar energy.
Rick Needham, the director of Google’s Energy and Sustainability office, told CNBC that the company is investing in raising its 34 percent reusable energy use to a full 100. In the last quarter it spent $2.25 billion on data centers and general infrastructure—giving it an incentive to use clean energy to cut day-to-day operational costs.
"We've invested over a billion dollars in 15 projects that have the capacity to produce two gigawatts of power around the world, mostly in the US, but that's the equivalent of Hoover's Dam worth of power generation," Needham said.
Google just opened the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station, a gigantic field of mirrors on the California-Nevada border southwest of Las Vegas that harnesses solar energy and reduces energy costs.
"The fact is that all of these things, procuring power for ourselves, investing in power plants, renewable power plants, they all make business sense, they make sense for us as a company to do. We rely on power for our business," Needham told CNBC.
Other Silicon Valley companies are investing in renewable energy sources, if not with as much enthusiasm as Google.
"Silicon Valley is leading the charge to be more efficient, to work on solutions to some of these problems. Google is ahead of the pack and we'll have to wait and see how it works out. They are certainly trying many different initiatives to figure out how best to manage their footprint in the environment, as well as how to manage the cost of all their energy," said Ben Schachter, senior Internet analyst at Macquarie Securities.
That means that your next Google search could be powered by the sun.
While Comcast plans to buy Time-Warner Cable and takeover the cable/Internet market, the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) has its own plan: to provide free Internet for the whole planet.
MDIF hopes to launch hundreds of low-cost miniature satellites into low Earth orbit (pictured), notes the Daily Mail.
MDIF is going to use datacasting, which sends data via radio waves and will theoretically broadcast the web around the world in what they call the "Outernet."
But MDIF first needs to raise tens of millions of dollars in donations, which they accept on their website.
"We have a very solid understand of the costs involved, as well as experience working on numerous spacecraft," MDIF's Syed Karim stated on the social media site Reddit.
"There isn't a lot of raw research that is being done here; much of what is being described has already been proven by other small satellite programs and experiments. There's really nothing that is technically impossible to this," added Karim.