Daily Archives: December 29, 2014

Sony’s PlayStation back online after Christmas hack

Sony’s PlayStation reported that its network was back online and claimed that it had been attacked, three days after it and Microsoft’s Xbox went down in an outage.

An allegedly coordinated Christmas day hack brought down the gaming consoles, both hot gifts for the holiday season, although Xbox has been working at near full capacity since Friday.

“PlayStation Network and some other gaming services were attacked over the holidays with artificially high levels of traffic designed to disrupt connectivity and online gameplay,” Catherine Jensen, vice president of consumer experience for Sony’s California-based US division, said in a blog post late yesterday.

“PlayStation Network is back online,” she added.

Meanwhile all except three of Xbox’s applications have been up and running since Friday.

Game users took to Twitter to celebrate PlayStation’s return.

“Was just about to pack this ps4 up and trade it towards an xboxone. Just in time.” Twitter user @xander63090 posted.

Hacker group Lizard Squad took credit for the disruption and has targeted Sony in the past.

Sony had earlier this month been hit by a sophisticated hacking attack that stole massive amounts of data from its servers.

The US has blamed North Korea for the attack, with the reclusive state furious at the release of Sony film “The Interview”, which parodies leader Kim Jong-Un.

However, analysts said a direct connection between the Sony PlayStation and Sony Pictures attacks was unlikely, and that the latest hack was probably the work of fame-seeking amateurs.

TIE

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US marks end of 13 year long war in Afghanistan, Obama praises troops for their sacrifices

The longest war in American history has come to a “responsible conclusion” with the withdrawal of US and NATO combat forces from Afghanistan, US President Barack Obama has said but warned that the country remains “a dangerous place”.

NATO’s war in Afghanistan, fought for 13 years, came to a formal end on Sunday with a flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul that marked the transition of the fighting from US-led combat troops to the country’s own security forces.

In the 13 years since US forces landed in Kabul post 9/11 to throw out Taliban out of power, some 2,200 US troops lost their lives in the war against terror in Afghanistan.

“Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion,” Obama said on Sunday in a statement.

During these 13 years, Obama said, US troops have “devastated the core of Al-Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.”

Thanking the troops and intelligence workers who served in Afghanistan, he said, “We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service.”

From January 1, the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat mission, will be replaced by a NATO “training and support” mission.

“We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service. At the same time, our courageous military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan – along with our NATO allies and coalition partners – have helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities, take the lead for their own security, hold historic elections and complete the first democratic transfer of power in their country’s history,” he
said.

Obama, however, warned that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and the Afghan people and their security forces continue to make tremendous sacrifices in defence of their country.

“At the invitation of the Afghan government, and to preserve the gains we have made together, the US along with our allies and partners will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan forces and to conduct counter terrorism operations against the remnants of Al-Qaeda,” he said.

“Our personnel will continue to face risks, but this reflects the enduring commitment of the US to the Afghan people and to a united, secure and sovereign Afghanistan that is never again used as a source of attacks against our nation,” said the US President.

Under a bilateral agreement with Kabul, about 12,500 foreign troops will remain in Afghanistan. They will not be involved in direct fighting, but will assist the Afghan army and police in their battle against the Taliban, who ruled from 1996 until 2001.

TIE

Bollywood boost for Rajapaksa campaign in Lanka pol

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Bollywood star Salman Khan is in Sri Lanka to prop up the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-election bid, the first Indian actor to be roped in for a poll campaign in the country.

Khan, along with Sri Lankan-born Jacqueline Fernandez and five other Bollywood performers are set to appear on stage in support of Rajapaksa.

Khan was invited to participate in the election campaign by parliamentarian and Rajapaksa’s son Namal, the local website Asian mirror reported.

Jacqueline Fernandez, a former Miss Sri Lanka, is a friend of younger Rajapaksa.

This is the first time a Bollywood actor has been roped in for a poll campaign, analysts said.

Beset by mass defections from his ruling coalition to the opposition challenger Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa is believed to have suffered a loss of popular support. The Bollywood stars are expected to boost the sagging morale of the incumbent’s campaign.

Khan is not the only Indian influence in the Rajapaksa campaign. It has been reported that Arvind Gupta, a BJP social media guru, is helping the incumbent in the social media side of the campaign.

The presidential election will take place on January 8 as Rajapaksa called the election two years ahead of schedule in an apparent attempt to seek fresh mandate before his party’s popularity tumbles further, after dropping over 21 per cent in September local elections.

TS

Key Sri Lankan Muslim party quits government

Sri Lanka’s main Muslim party today quit the government and decided to support the opposition in the 8 January presidential polls in a move seen as a major setback to President Mahinda Rajapakse’s bid to seek a record third term.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauf Hakeem said they left the government due to differences over a 2010 law that lifted the two-term limit on the presidency and gave 68-year-old Rajapakse wide powers over the police, the judiciary and the civil service. “We have decided to support the common candidate Maithripala Sirisena,” Hakeem the SLMC leader told reporters.

“We have now realised the mistake in supporting the amendment which abolished the 17th amendment,” he said.

Hakeem said he has resigned as the Minister of Justice in the Rajapaksa government, becoming the second Muslim minister to quit Rajapakse government after Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen. He said his party would now hold talks with the main opposition United National Party.

The SLMC now joins a number of parties supporting Sirisena, the former health minister of Rajapaksa.

Sirisena defected to the opposition camp along with several other senior leaders of the ruling UPFA coalition last month.

Rajapaksa, who was elected in 2005 and in 2010, called the election two years ahead of schedule in an apparent attempt to seek a fresh mandate before his party’s popularity tumbles further, after dropping over 21 per cent in September’s local elections.

In the last presidential election held in 2010, Rajapaksa won 58 per cent of the vote without the SLMC’s support. The party had then backed the opposition challenger Sarath Fonseka.

The President relies on the support from the majority Sinhala community.

Muslims, the second largest minority in the island after Hindu Tamils, account for about 10 per cent of the electorate and could play a decisive role in the elections. The main Buddhist party has already quit the government.

TS

10 Social Network Blunders Of 2014

Social networks had a big year in 2014: Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday, closed its third billion-dollar acquisition, and renewed its focus on user privacy with a number of updates and changes.

Twitter, though it struggled to meet investors’ expectations in the first half of the year, ramped up activity in the second half, launching new analytics, a buy button, and a handful of other improvements set to debut in 2015.

Curious about what else made our list? Here’s a look at the other top social media disappointments of the year.

1.Facebook splits Messenger

One way to rile your users: Remove a popular feature from your app. This year, Facebook announced plans to drop its built-in chat and instead require users to download a separate application, Messenger, to retain chat capabilities.

The decision was wildly unpopular and wrought with misconceptions. Months later, after Messenger has clocked more than 500 million downloads, much of the moaning has subsided. In a recent Q&A session, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the social network could have handled the switch better.

“Asking everyone in our community to install a new app is a big ask,” Zuckerberg said. “Asking folks to install another app is a short-term painful thing, but if we wanted to focus on service.

2.Yahoo ends third-party logins

Yahoo announced back in March that it would gradually phase out third-party logins for all of its web properties. This meant that users who signed into Yahoo services using their Google or Facebook ID now would need to sign up for a separate Yahoo account to continue to access their Yahoo services.

In June, Yahoo extended this policy to the popular photo-sharing site Flickr, which caused problems for users with multiple Flickr accounts. According to Yahoo’s policy, users could link only one Flickr account to a given Yahoo account. Users with multiple Flickr accounts needed to sign up for additional Yahoo accounts to access them.

3.LinkedIn’s blocking feature

LinkedIn users complained for years that the social network needed a better way to deal with stalking, going as far as to start a petition on Change.org to drum up support. In February, LinkedIn responded by launching a blocking feature.

“We know members have requested a blocking feature on LinkedIn,” said Paul Rockwell, its director of safety at the time. “We built this feature not only because it was a feature our members requested, but because we also knew it was the right thing to do.”

Though the petitioners applauded LinkedIn for adding a blocking feature, others said it doesn’t do enough to prevent stalking. LinkedIn users still can browse profiles anonymously, which makes blocking stalkers impossible.

4.Twitter adds app tracking

It’s no secret that social media sites collect droves of data about you and your actions. This month, Twitter upped the ante on its data collection practices and announced it would also track the apps you install on your mobile devices. The company said this would help it do a better job of targeting content and ads.

The data that Twitter collects is limited to the names of the apps you’ve installed, it said on its Support page. Other information, such as what you share or how often you use the apps, won’t be collected.

5.Facebook’s mood manipulation experiment

Facebook found itself in hot water in June when the results of an experiment it conducted on users’ feeds were made public. Facebook published research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March detailing how it tinkered with the news feed algorithm of nearly 700,000 users for one week in early 2012. Researchers found that, in instances where Facebook showed users more positive posts, users were more likely to share positive updates. Conversely, when Facebook showed negative posts, users were more likely to share negative status updates.

Experts and users voiced their outrage, calling the experiment unethical and even illegal. The Electronic Privacy Center, a privacy watchdog group, filed an FTC complaint against Facebook in July, alleging that the social network deceived users and violated a 2012 consent order.

In October, Facebook apologized and outlined new guidelines that covers internal work and research that gets published.

6.Google+ opens access to Gmail addresses

In January, Google announced that it would allow users who have Gmail and Google+ accounts to email anyone who also has both accounts, even if the user didn’t know the person’s email address. The company said the change would be useful for people who know one another but haven’t yet exchanged email addresses.

The problem: Google automatically turned on this option for all users, which opened people up to a surge of unwanted emails. Users quickly took to Twitter to voice their disapproval, and they called out the company for opting all users into it. Graham Cluley, an independent security expert and former consultant at the security firm Sophos, said in a post that, even though Google does let you opt out, the new feature would be a nuisance for users — and even potentially dangerous.

7.Facebook’s organic reach drops

Businesses struggled to reach their Facebook followers this year after the social network changed its news feed algorithm. According to a Socail@Ogilvy report, organic reach dropped from 16% of followers in 2012 to just 6% in February 2014 — a 49% drop from peak levels. The report advised community managers to expect organic reach to approach zero by the end of 2014.

8.LinkedIn faces privacy violation

A federal district judge in June ordered LinkedIn to face a lawsuit that alleges it violated users’ privacy by accessing their external email accounts and downloading their contacts’ addresses.

According to the plaintiffs, LinkedIn routinely sent multiple emails endorsing its products, services, and brand to potential new users whose email addresses LinkedIn “surreptitiously obtained” as part of its effort to acquire new users. They also claimed that the social network sent additional emails to those addresses when those users didn’t sign up for a LinkedIn account.

9.Facebook’s app push

With the exception of Messenger, the standalone apps Facebook launched in 2014 tanked. In February, Facebook debuted the news reader app Paper, the first app to launch from Creative Labs, its initiative to develop and design apps for mobile devices. Though Paper managed to give users a new way to experience Facebook, it never caught on. Facebook has limited Paper downloads to iOS devices and hasn’t released an update to it in months. The same is true for Facebook’s Snapchat competitor, Slingshot, the interest-based app Rooms, and its latest app, Facebook Groups.

10.Silicon Valley’s diversity problem

Google was the first company to release workplace diversity statistics in June, followed by several other high-tech companies. The numbers told a sobering tale: Silicon Valley has a diversity problem.

Seventy percent of all Google workers are male, the company said, with women holding just 17% of the technical jobs. Leadership roles at Google tell the same tale: 21% are held by women, 79% by men. Sixty-one percent of jobs at Google overall are held by white people.

Of LinkedIn’s 5,400 global employees, 39% are female, and women hold 27% of executive roles in the US, according to the company’s EEO-1 filing. On the ethnicity front, 53% of US LinkedIn workers are white, followed by Asian (38%), Hispanic (4%), black (2%), two or more races (2%), and other (<1%).

Facebook and Twitter revealed similar statistics. Facebook employees are primarily male (69%) and white (57%). Asians (34%) and Hispanics (4%) were the next two most-common ethnicities. Twitter's staff, too, is mostly male (70%) and white (59%), with Asians (29%) and Hispanics (3%) rounding out the top three ethnicities.

TG

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