Apple Security Flaws

More security vulnerabilities will appear in the software of Adobe and Apple than in Microsoft’s, more attacks on the Internet’s infrastructure will occur, and cybersecurity events will stoke international tensions. Those are a few of the predictions for 2017 that security experts shared with TechNewsWorld.

Users of Apple desktops and laptops for years have been relatively insulated from the kinds of malicious activity that has besieged those in the Windows world, but that’s going to change next year, warned Trend Micro.

More software flaws will affect Adobe and Apple in 2017, compared to Microsoft, the company noted in a security predictions report.

Declining PC sales and an exodus to mobile platforms have dampened interest in targeting devices running Windows, Trend Micro explained. Microsoft also has upped its security game in recent times, which has made it more difficult for attackers to find vulnerabilities in Windows.

Signs of hackers’ increased interest in Adobe and Apple started appearing in 2016, Trend Micro noted. Zero day vulnerabilities — flaws unknown to researchers until malicious actors exploit them — numbered 135 for Adobe compared to 76 for Microsoft.

Meanwhile, Apple’s vulnerability count during the same period increased to 50, shooting up from 25 in 2015.

The increased attention Apple has drawn from criminals can be associated with its growing success in the desktop and laptop market.

“There’s a much broader use of Apple products now,” said Ed Cabrera, vice president of cybersecurity strategy at Trend Micro.

“The criminals go where consumers and enterprises are,” he told TechNewsWorld. “If consumers and enterprises are utilizing more Apple products, then that’s where they’re going to focus their activity, because that’s where the money is going to be.”

Upstream Attacks

Distributed denial of service attacks long have functioned as a cyberweapon against websites, but their use reached a new level in 2016, when they disrupted Internet service in parts of North America and Europe by choking an important piece of Net infrastructure: the domain name system.

The DNS converts domain names into corresponding IP addresses. If a domain name can’t be paired with its IP address, then a browser becomes lost on the Net.

More “upstream” attacks on the Internet will take place in 2017, said Chase Cunningham, director of cyberoperations at A10 Networks.

“If you’re an enemy of someone who depends on the Internet for business or commerce, last year it was shown that if you upstream a little bit and launch a crafted Denial of Service attack, you can bring down large provider websites and infrastructure,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“In 2017, we’re going to see more upstream attacks, and DDoS is going to make a comeback as a cyberweapon,” Cunningham said. “We’re going to see a powerful denial of service attack on something that will cause problems for a national infrastructure.”

Home Tech Play

Lenovo watchers expected the company to announce a number of new laptops when CES rolled around, but the company surprised on Tuesday when it also unveiled new products aimed at the home technology market.

“The Smart Assistant and Smart Storage line probably caught everyone off guard,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

Lenovo developed its Smart Assistant with Amazon. Like Amazon’s Echo, the Lenovo assistant uses the Alexa cloud-based voice services to respond to a user’s spoken commands. It can do such things as conduct Web searches, play music, create lists and provide calendar updates.

Pricing for the Smart Assistant starts at US$129.99; the Harmon Kardon edition starts at $179.99. The units are offered in three colors: light gray, green or orange. They are scheduled to go on sale in May.

Lenovo also raised the curtain on a new controller, the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller. The palm-sized wireless keyboard of the unit acts as both a keyboard and Windows 10 gesture-supported touchpad.

The unit is designed for convenience. Every key is within a thumb’s reach, and the controller’s wireless range is 65.6 feet, more than double the range (32.8 feet) of conventional wireless remotes.

Scheduled for sale in March, the 500 Multimedia Controller is priced at $54.99.

Smart Storage

Lenovo announced a new network storage device, Lenovo Smart Storage, that offers 6 terabytes of disk space. It supports dual-band wireless access and multidevice synchronization, as well as built-in facial recognition software for managing photos by faces.

Lenovo Smart Storage will sell for $139.99 when it becomes available in May.

The company announced the immediate availability of its Phab 2 Pro smartphone ($499.99).

New Open Source Infotainment System

Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles this week showcased a new in-auto infotainment platform at CES in Las Vegas. The open source system combines Uconnect with Android Auto.

The companies demonstrated their concept design inside a Chrysler 300 sedan at the show. The new system is built around Android 7.0, or Nougat, and an 8.4-inch Uconnect system.

The integration of Android and Uconnect enables a system built for connectivity and compatibility with the universe of popular Android applications. The demo highlighted integration with Google Assistant, Google Maps, and popular Android apps including Pandora, Spotify, NPR One and Pocket Casts.

The latest version of Android Auto includes core infotainment features such as radio and comfort controls.

The concept infotainment platform is separate from the companies’ self-driving car project, dubbed “Waymo.” That project involves deploying Google’s autonomous vehicle technology to a fleet of 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

The hybrid concept system goes beyond Google’s Android Auto system released in 2015. Android Auto allows mobile devices running Android to operate in automobiles through the dashboard’s head unit.

The digital technology breakthrough may steer car makers away from non-open source in-car solutions, suggested Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“The computerization of automobiles has been progressing rapidly, but less clear has been the process through which automakers will embrace digital entertainment,” he told LinuxInsider. “Major players, particularly Apple, have been moving in that direction — but there have been suggestions that automakers would prefer to avoid highly proprietary technologies and platforms.”

Benevolent ProgressThe agreement between FCA and Google certainly supports the trend, King said, noting that Android offers a highly open and edible environment for building automobile entertainment systems.

“Plus, the platform’s maturity and growing popularity should help assure FCA that its Android investments will pay long-term dividends,” he added. “Overall, this should be a good deal for both companies and FCA customers, and could lead to other automakers adopting Android.”

The collaboration with Google helps both companies explore how in-vehicle infotainment and connectivity technologies continue to evolve. It also will help both companies meet consumers’ increasing desire for innovation of information with minimal distraction, noted Chris Barman, head of electrical engineering at FCA.

“With Android, we are able to maintain our unique and intuitive Uconnect user interface, all while integrating our easy-to-use systems with Android’s features and ecosystem of applications,” he said.

Further, the collaborative efforts support Google’s commitment to building Android as a turnkey automotive platform that integrates deeply with the vehicle in a safe and seamless way, noted Patrick Brady, director of Android engineering at Google.

“This collaboration with FCA brings together the industry standard for connected car systems with Android to create powerful infotainment systems designed for the digital age,” he said.

 

Mixed Reviews

The Android Auto-Uconnect integration may fall short of Earth-shattering, as it is powered by existing technology.

The innovation is based on an open source operating system that includes some proven apps. Android is based on Linux, arguably the most popular operating system in IoT because it is free and can be stripped back to limit resource consumption, observed Mike Pittenger, vice president of security strategy at Black Duck.

“A bigger deal would be using a commercial OS,” he told LinuxInsider, “but why would you ever pay for an OS in the Internet of Things?”

Still, merging Android with Uconnect suggests an expansion of the role of open source technology in the automotive industry.

Major Data Breach Deja Vu

Yahoo on Wednesday revealed that Net bandits stole data associated with 1 billion of its user accounts — one of the largest data breaches in Internet history.

The theft, which occurred in August 2013, is distinct from the theft disclosed earlier this fall, in which 500 million accounts were compromised, Yahoo CISO Bob Lord explained.

Stolen information may include names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords using MD5 encryption — and in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers, according to Lord.

An unauthorized third party accessed the code Yahoo uses to create cookies, he noted. Access to that code allowed attackers to compromise accounts with forged cookies.

In response to this latest discovery, Yahoo is taking steps to secure the accounts of affected users and invalidate forged cookies, said Lord, as well as to harden its systems against similar attacks.

More Data NickedThis latest breach at Yahoo appears worse than the previous one not only because is it bigger, but also because more-sensitive information was stolen.

“More information was released than just usernames and passwords,” explained Rami Essaid CEO of Distil Networks.

“The bad guys are getting a more holistic look at these users,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The weakly encrypted or plaintext security questions in particular could be problematic, because the answers to those questions don’t change from site to site.

“You can change your passwords, but you only have one mother’s maiden name and one birth date,” Essaid noted.

Verizon Deal

How this latest data breach could affect the US$4.8 billion sale of Yahoo to Verizon is unknown. However, after news of the first breach made headlines, Verizon sought to lop $1 billion from the original purchase price, according to reports.

As with the previous Yahoo data breach, Verizon’s official reaction to the latest theft was brusque.

“As we’ve said all along, we will evaluate the situation as Yahoo continues its investigation,” the company said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by spokesperson Rich Young. “We will review the impact of this new development before reaching any final conclusions. We have no additional comment at this time.”

Companies buy other companies for any number of reasons — their customer lists, their technology or their talent, among other things — observed RedSeal CEO Ray Rothrock.

“If Verizon was buying Yahoo for its customers, this is a bad deal,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Merger Downside

If Verizon expected to merge its customer databases with Yahoo’s, it might think twice about that now.

“It’s likely Verizon will avoid merging databases,” said Peter Martini, president of Iboss. “That will impact the value of the acquisition, since a good portion of that value was for Yahoo’s customer database.”

In addition, many Yahoo customers may avoid using the company’s services because of the breach.

“If they see a large exodus of customers, it will further impact the value of the company,” Martini told the E-Commerce Times.

Worse yet, Verizon doesn’t know if there is more bad news down the road, added Mark Graff, CEO of Tellagraff.

“They’ve had these breaches and have not been able to fix them,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Why should we believe the intruders still aren’t there? Why should we think there’s not another shoe to drop?”

Stalking Customers is Need

The controversy over Uber staff using the company’s tech to track people’s movements was reignited this week when information in a pending lawsuit began circulating in the tech press.

Uber employees can pull customer data at will, alleged Ward Spangenberg, the company’s former forensic investigator, in a court declaration filed earlier this fall as part of his bid to prevent the firm from forcing his case into arbitration.

Uber staffers have been able to track high-profile politicians, celebrities and ex-significant others, Spangenberg said.

His original complaint, filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, centers on his dismissal from the company.

Uber continues to allow broad access to users’ trip information, five security professionals formerly employed at the company told Reveal.

That has been going on, they said, in spite of Uber’s assertions two years ago that it had policies prohibiting such actions, following news that executives were taking advantage of its “God View” feature to track customers in real time without their permission.

Uber’s Side of the Story”It’s absolutely untrue that ‘all’ or ‘nearly all’ employees have access to customer data, with or without approval,” maintained Uber spokesperson Sophie Schmidt.

“We have built entire systems to implement technical and administrative controls to limit access to customer data to employees who require it to perform their jobs,” she told TechNewsWorld. “This could include multiple steps of approval — by managers and the legal team — to ensure there is a legitimate business case for providing access.”

Access is granted “to specific types of data based on an employee’s role,” Schmidt asserted. All data access is logged and routinely audited, and all potential violators are “quickly and thoroughly investigated.”

Uber employees must acknowledge and agree to the company’s data access policy, CIO John Flynn emphasized in a memo sent earlier this week.

Violators have been terminated, he reminded them.

“We want our security and privacy practices and technology to be world-class, and we’re moving quickly toward that goal,” Flynn said. It’s “the responsibility of each and every one of us to protect” customer and driver data.

However, Uber’s defense in the Spangenberg case relies mainly on procedural issues.

“It’s not logical for any company to proclaim that they are secure because they sent an email telling employees what to do,” remarked John Gunn, VP of communications at Vasco Data Security.

“In the real IT world you don’t need these types of emails, because you’ve implemented limitations on access to sensitive data [that] you monitor and enforce,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The Need for Privacy

The latest revelation follows news that Uber has tracked customers even after they left its vehicles.

Uber “needs to come clean on whether [the privacy violations] occurred … and needs to have full disclosure of how it uses customer data,” said Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

Frost’s research “indicates that people take personal security very seriously,” he told TechNewsWorld.

On the other hand, “consumers are becoming less concerned about exposing details about their personal information,” noted Michael Patterson, CEO ofPlixer.

“They don’t like the invasion, but they like the services and appear to be willing to compromise,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Still, high-profile Uber customers, including celebrities, could be at risk, suggested Csaba Krasznay, product manager at Balabit, pointing to Kim Kardashian’s robbery in Paris in October as an example.

“We can protect ourselves by not letting Uber and other apps use our smartphone’s GPS data,” Krasznay told TechNewsWorld. “It only takes one click.”

The Most Powerful Person in Tech

There are generally two paths for dealing with someone in power when disagreements arise. One is to confront, and the other is to understand and influence. What is interesting is the most common path taken is the former while the most successful is the latter. I think the reason is that the former path is both the natural path for disagreement and the most visible. Confrontation is always more newsworthy than influence.

When done right, exerting influence has the odd result of not conveying credit while actually making far more progress. This suggests that one of the ways to determine whether someone is doing something because they believe in the outcome vs. doing it for fame and status is whether they move to influence or to confront.

The vast majority of tech executives and politicians confronted Trump, which had little impact on him, while Peter Thiel moved to influence. As a result, he now may be the most powerful person in tech, even though that didn’t appear to be his goal.

I’ll share some thoughts about that this week and close with my last product of the week, which has to be Varonis. It is the one product that could have prevented virtually all of the high-profile breaches that crippled both Yahoo and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Confrontation and BackstabbingOne of the most common ways decisions are made in the tech industry is that the most outspoken and disagreeable person at the table wins, and the person who is better founded but isn’t as focused on the status of winning often loses. I call this the “biggest assh*le at the table method,” but there is a more technical term for this: argumentative theory. I’ve reviewed a lot of failed companies, and at the heart of most failures seems to be this process.

There is a second process that is equally common, in tech firms in particular, and it has a common name that I’ll paraphrase because I can’t use the actual name in mixed company. It is “kiss you screw you.” This occurs after everyone at the table agrees, and then a bunch go out and do everything they can to cause the idea to fail in order to screw the poor person who is trying to execute.

If you’ve ever wondered why a lot of good ideas fail, it is largely because some group of folks inside companies secretly move to cause them to fail. Personally, I think people should be fired for doing that, but they often are rewarded instead, which suggests there are a lot of managers on the wrong side of this practice.

I personally think the Obama administration was defined by both practices. The Republicans largely practiced the “biggest assh*le at the table” method and were obstructionist, while the Democrats seemed to agree but acted against the president behind the scenes, which is why efforts like Obamacare were such a train wreck.

 

Collaboration and Influence

Compare the way much of the tech industry supported Clinton vs. how Peter Thiel supported Trump. Clinton got money and vocal support, and Thiel provided technical advice and focus. He advised and kept tightly to tech topics like cybersecurity, which are critical to the well being of the country. Clinton’s massive support from the industry largely consisted of money, because most thought she was an idiot. That was thanks largely to the email thing, but I’ve seen notes going back years, suggesting that was hardly a new perception.

The right path for Clinton’s supporters would have been to fix the “idiot” thing. Yet there is no evidence it was even attempted. Thiel, in contrast, worked to make Trump smarter, and the result was not only better execution in the final days of the campaign, but also last week’s tech meeting, which focused on making tech companies more profitable.

Contrast this with Eric Schmidt’s relationship with President Obama, which became an embarrassment for the president and didn’t seem to result in anything but an unusual protection against antitrust charges for Google. As a result, it’s arguable that tech actually appears weaker at the end of Obama’s term than it did at the beginning. If the current trend holds, that shouldn’t be the case with Trump, but that outcome will depend largely on Thiel’s relationship with Trump.

Thiel vs. Gawker

Peter Thiel spent $10M taking out Gawker, which scared a lot of folks because it silenced a voice in media. Personally, I thought Gawker was an abomination — largely because it focused on disclosing personal information about powerful people or celebrities, doing them harm for money.

Gawker had its roots in tech, and a tech service that monetizes hurting people tarnishes the entire industry and is counter to efforts that are working to eliminate bad behavior, like bullying, by making it appear like you can bully anyone. By the way, this doesn’t mean that I agree with some of the behavior that Gawker called out — I just don’t think it is in the tech industry’s best interest to validate the hostile use of personal information, given the critical need to protect everyone’s individual privacy.

I’m kind of surprised more tech CEOs haven’t backed Thiel’s efforts, largely because having a “secret mistress” is an extremely common perk of the job. My guess is that most believe they are careful and that their clandestine relationships won’t be reported. Sadly, many aren’t as good at keeping this stuff secret as they think. Had Gawker not been killed, many of those delusional executives likely would have had some explaining to do to their wives, kids, employees, stockholders and boards. Such things rarely go well, so Thiel did them one hell of a favor that most may never appreciate fully.

Heightened Hearing

Welcome to another edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that breaks down the latest in gadget announcements to determine if they’d be naughty or nice additions to your stocking.

Hanging on the fireplace this time around are earbuds to improve your hearing, heated insoles, and a small transparent speaker, which is called “Small Transparent Speaker.”

As always, these are not reviews, and you should place no stock into my ratings, beyond their denoting how much I’d like to try each item.

 

Ear Boost

Bose’s latest earbuds (pictured above) are designed to help you tune in to the specific sounds you want to hear from the world around you. Hearphones are a sort of blend of noise-cancelling earbuds and hearing aids.

There are several presets in the app, with names like “focused conversation,” “gym,” “airplane” and “television.” You can opt to crank up the volume on all sound from the world around you or turn it down. You can block out noise or amplify it from certain directions.

For instance, you might use it to help you better hear a specific person in a crowded place. Can’t hear what your partner is yelling at a festival? You can temporarily turn up the Hearphones, and turn down the crowd and music (though why you’d have Hearphones in your ears at a live music event is a little beyond me).

It’s not the first time we’ve seen earbuds pull off this sound-augmenting trick, but to my knowledge, it’s the first time we’ve seen a pair like this from a manufacturer as well-known as Bose. The “Bose” name should help Hearphones gain more recognition than they otherwise might, normalizing the concept to a degree.

I like the idea, and there are a lot of practical applications for it. The option to stay laser-focused on listening to what my kid might be up to at a crowded playpark seems like it would be welcome in the alternate reality where I have children. My partner also might be less annoyed at my listening to podcasts while we’re cleaning up if I can hear her over the top of the chatter.

 

Winter Warmers

I can’t think of a better time to start a crowdfunding project for heated insoles than when the temperatures start to plummet and there’s a very real chance of cold toes, even while wearing three pairs of socks.

We’ve seen other connected heated insoles in the past, but the +Winter models have some advantages over the competition. They pair with an app over Bluetooth to set the temperature and monitor battery level, and they can charge wirelessly.

Although I’ve been vocal about my dislike of wireless charging and its energy inefficiency, I’d absolutely make an exception here. I’d turn the charger on only when actually using it, and if it meant I could charge the insoles without having to remove them from my boots and carefully refit them afterward, I’d forego my principles for once.

Hot off the rumor

Spotted in an EU trademark application, Beast Mode would apply to smartphones, mobile phones and application software for smartphones, notedGalaxy Club, a Netherlands-based blog.

The Galaxy S8 is expected to be the first smartphone built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor. If true, that lines up with the notion that Beast Mode could allow super high performance.

Another rumor is that the Galaxy S8 will have an optical fingerprint scanner built into the display instead of the body.

Further, it’s rumored that it will include Bluetooth 5.0, recently approved by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group — and that idea seems to carry a fair amount of weight.

Countering Bad PR”There’s a strong possibility that Samsung will incorporate Bluetooth 5 into the Galaxy S8,” said Ken Hyers, director of wireless device strategies at Strategy Analytics.

“With the cancellation of the Note7, the Galaxy S8 is now [Samsung’s] premier device to showcase the latest and best smartphone technology,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Samsung had to institute a global recall of millions of Galaxy Note7s after multiple instances in which the device spontaneously burst into flames. Some replacement devices also caught fire.

“Samsung has a PR problem,” observed Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan. “Note7 is a disaster, and they need something with which to seize the technological high ground.”

Putting cutting-edge technologies in the S8 “will help a lot,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Remember, practically nothing is Bluetooth 5-compliant,” Jude noted. “As long as the S8 can talk to existing Bluetooth devices, it’s golden. People will be drawn to the latest, greatest technology.”

Bluetooth 5.0 doesn’t replace 4.0, 4.1 or 4.2. It extends the functionality of these previous versions of the Bluetooth Core Specification.

Further, Bluetooth 5.0 lets manufacturers leverage interoperability and performance improvements incorporated in the core specs since 4.2 was released.

“From Bluetooth headsets and speakers to home control, personal robots and drones, Bluetooth is a default technology for connecting devices, with the smartphone as the hub of consumers’ device universe,” Strategy Analytics’ Hyers remarked.

“We are rapidly moving into a more complex connected device world,” he pointed out.

Samsung has focused heavily on the Internet of Things, offering smart TVs and smart appliances that can be tied to its smartphones.

Bluetooth 5 “is a huge advance over previous versions of Bluetooth from a connectivity speed and capacity standpoint,” Hyers pointed out, noting that it’s a natural fit for Samsung’s next flagship device.

The S8 will “be both a mass market flagship and a showcase for Samsung’s technological leadership” since the company has canceled its Note series of phablets, he said.

Therefore, Samsung “will be careful to only put technology and features in it that it’s certain will not create issues,” Hyers contended. As a relatively low-risk feature, Bluetooth 5 likely will appear in the S8 in Q1 2017.

 

Bluetooth 5.0 Specs

Bluetooth 5.0 offers 2Mbps of bandwidth, twice that of Bluetooth 4.2, with low energy.

The bandwidth can be decreased to achieve up to 4x the broadcast range of Bluetooth 4.2 with the same power requirement. That means home automation and security devices can cover entire homes, buildings or locations.

Developers can adjust the broadcast range, speed and security for different environments.

Bluetooth 5.0 delivers reliable Internet of Things connections, and it will increase the relevance of beacons and other location awareness technologies, which will enable a seamless IoT experience.

It also has ad extensions that enable more efficient use of broadcasting channels on the 2.4 GHz band.

Slot availability masks can detect and prevent interference on neighboring bands.

 

Keeping the Note7’s Specter at Bay

Many consumers returned their Note7 phablets to purchase an older Galaxy S7, Hyers said. “Given that history, “I expect that the Galaxy S8 will be the most carefully tested and verified smartphone ever released.”

Linux Caters to the Slackware Crowd

Any version of this Slackware-based Linux OS is just that — a really big bother — unless you love Unix-like systems that give you total control. It likely would be especially bothersome for less experienced users and for folks comfortable with Debian distros such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint and such.

Some Slackware-based distros are easier than others to use — but the text-based installation and mostly manual operating routine makes using Absolute Linux a challenge. Once you get beyond the configuration steps, you still face a considerable learning curve to keep it running smoothly.

Clearly, I am not overly impressed with the Absolute flavor of Slackware Linux. I see it as the equivalent of driving a stick shift automobile with a crank-to-start mechanism instead of an automatic model with keyless ignition. That said, once you have the engine purring, it drives fast and furious along the highway.

I like to offer unique computing options in these weekly Linux Picks and Pans reviews, so I set my comfort zone aside and rolled up my sleeves to get my hands a little scraped reaching under Absolute Linux’s hood.

The Spec Sheet

Absolute Linux version 14.2.1 has a larger footprint than previous versions. It no longer fits on a CD.

This distro is a lightweight modification of Slackware Linux, featuring IceWM and ROX for its window and file managers. It comes in a 32-bit and a 64-bit variants with most everything updated under the hood.

Since this release has no size constraints, developers included larger office applications like LibreOffice and Calibre in the base installation. Plus, Absolute includes several utilities that make configuration and maintenance easier. Just remember that “easy” is a relative term when it comes to Slackware distros.

Absolute 14.2.1 also has many common desktop and Internet applications installed. They are configured with tight integration of menus, applications and MIME types.

The installer program has an Autoinstall option, but the lack of a graphical interface somewhat belies the concept of automating the process. At best, it partitions and formats the drive. The applications and development libraries are more extensive than in previous releases.

The 64-bit edition makes GPT (GUID Partition Table) partitions if you are booting Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). However, Slackware distros insist that you turn off Secure Boot in the BIOS if it is set.

Demanding Installation

The installation routine is a tough road to drive compared to other distros that provide a test run via a live session and click-to-install graphical interface. Absolute Linux has neither.

Absolute’s text-based boot prompt is very minimal. It can be very flexible for seasoned users, however.

Home Security with a New Design

Norton by Symantec on Tuesday announced the Norton Core secure router for smart devices in the connected home at CES in Las Vegas.

The router protects up to 20 PCs, Macs, Android and iOS smartphones and tablets on a home network, and unlimited devices connected to the Internet of Things.

It will update its firmware in background mode automatically, but not the firmware on connected devices, said Ameer Karim, general manager of consumer IoT security at Symantec.

Core Functions

The router scans incoming and outgoing network packets across the home network, quarantines infected connected devices to a separate network, and alerts the user.

It provides a real time security score on network and connected device security, and gives users tips on strengthening security settings.

The router has customizable parental controls.

Users will be able to manage their home devices remotely from a connected mobile device.

Lost or stolen smartphones won’t pose a security problem, because “we’re cloud connected,” Karim told TechNewsWorld, so “users can instantly change the password.”

Users also will be able to add a PIN or Touch ID credentials.

The Norton Core supports Wave 2 WiFi and simultaneously transmits at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. It uses MU-MIMO technology.

However, it may need to support other wireless interfaces, like Thread, Zigbee and Bluetooth, suggested Jim McGregor, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

The Norton Core supports speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps for 4K streaming and lag-free gaming.

‘Stellar WiFi’

The router combines an omnidirectional antenna design with advanced beam forming to “ensure your devices get stellar WiFi anywhere in your home,” Symantec’s Karim said.

It can pause the home network as required, and can identify which devices can and can not be paused, he said. IoT devices such as alarm systems, door locks, IP cameras, healthcare devices and appliances won’t be paused.

Consumers can preorder the Norton Core now; it will begin shipping in the United States this summer.

The router is priced at US$200, which includes a one-year complimentary subscription to Norton Core SecurityPlus. The subscription will cost $10 a year after that.

A Good First Effort

The Norton Core is not the first such router on the market; F-Secure, for example, has been shipping a router for the connected home for some time.

Still, Symantec is “a widely known security brand in the consumer space, and they’re using Qualcomm’s latest radios to ensure the device is as current as they can make it,”noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

The Norton Core “anticipates mesh networking in the home to provide full coverage,” he told TechNewsWorld, although it has not yet been implemented.

For a first-time product, “this shows an impressive amount of thought,” Enderle remarked. “The only limitation, prior to testing, is that the mesh capability won’t be enabled instantly. Also, Symantec isn’t known as a router vendor.”

Layers of Security

The Norton Core “raises the question of whether your hardware and software solutions should be integrated into a single platform,” Tirias’ McGregor told TechNewsWorld.

“Software needs to change so quickly, and it seems like the top security software solutions change over time,” he said.

The Norton Core is designed as a geodesic dome, but “there’s a reason why the best routers are funky looking,” McGregor noted. “They need to optimize the number and location of the antennas.”

The Core’s design, while unique, “may not provide the best coverage,” he said.

This Will Be a Big One

CES week is here, and it’s the one week of the year I look forward to looking back on. CES is a killer show — not because you are up to your armpits in interesting new products, but because it is so spread out that it’ll kill your legs as you hike all over the damn place. One year, I walked so much I actually ripped the soles off both shoes.

What is weird about this show is that it really comes too early for vendors to have much of what they intend to have in stores by the end of the year. So, it not only kind of messes up New Year’s for a lot of people who have to prepare for it, but also fails to deliver the impact it once did.

However, it remains one of the most powerful tech showcases in the world, and this year we’ll see a ton of things that likely will have us thinking more and more about the world of tomorrow.

I’ll share more on that and close with my first product of the week: the unusual Phab 2 Pro Phone from Lenovo, the first Google Project Tango phone.

Flying CarsFlying cars are a big deal for me, because I first got involved with this technology in the 1970s with a company that started with a flying saucer. My father put down a deposit on one of the vehicles — he died recently and clearly never got the car. This is how far the technology has come.

There was a showcase a year ago of an autonomous flying car that is actually a people-carrying drone, suggesting that Uber one day might fly to your house rather than drive, at least in rural areas.

Folks apparently realized that if you could get a car to drive itself, and if you could create a drone capable of carrying large packages, then you could create one that could carry people. It is this idea of push-button flying that makes flying cars interesting. I know of several vendors that will be talking about this or showing prototypes at CES.

 

Next-Generation Computing

Microsoft last year brought forward the Surface Studio, a product that blends a high-resolution touchscreen with a digitizer to create a unique all-in-one. It makes the iMac look so last decade — which, given it hasn’t changed much in the last decade, wasn’t a huge stretch.

This class of product has proven ideal for creators, and with the next version of Windows 10 designed specifically with creation in mind, the OEMs are stepping up. In short, there will be a ton of Surface Studio-like products at CES, each doing its best both to stand out against Microsoft’s offering, and to showcase the power of Windows 10 Creator’s edition. If you are a creator, this likely will be your year.

 

Prototype Cars

There will be a number of prototype cars at the event. One that recently came to light, Rinspeed’s Oasis, is equipped with Harman LIVS (life-enhancing intelligent vehicle solutions). It showcases the advantages of a car that is designed to be driven by computer.

It’s basically a living room on wheels, with the focus on entertainment, access and range rather than on handling or performance. Cool stuff includes active glass, a steering wheel that turns into a table, and a huge screen for both work and entertainment.

You’ll see a number of these examples, showcasing each company’s vision of the near-term future and the world of tomorrow. I’m a big fan of Rinspeed and have lusted after its Splash car for years.

 

8K HDR TVs and OLED

Yes, you thought that wonderful 4K HDR TV was the be-all and end-all, didn’t you, and that you’d have at least three years before someone made it obsolete. Well, surprise — there will be 8K TVs at the show. The good news is we don’t even have much 4K HDR content, so your 4K HDR TV likely is safe for three years. These 8K sets likely will be wicked expensive initially — so look, but don’t worry about buying until sometime closer to 2020.

Closer in are OLED sets, which combine the marvelous blacks of the old plasma sets with the reliability and brilliant colors of LCD sets. The manufacturers appear to have fixed the problem of the early OLED TVs’ short service life, and this year the prices of OLED, which have been up in the nosebleed range, should drop sharply. That could mean your new TV isn’t that safe after all.

 

VR Everywhere

CES will be the big coming-out party for low-cost dedicated VR headsets and gear. The initial wave from HTC and Oculus was way too expensive, and the next wave is supposed to be far more affordable.

A lot of vendors will be showcasing their VR gear, so be ready for your kid or spouse to start signaling they want one of these things for their next birthday, and be thankful that it likely will be well below US$500 this round.