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Human error root cause of November Microsoft Azure outage

Human error was the culprit for a November outage of the Microsoft Azure cloud storage service. The company is hoping that recent updates that automate formerly manual processes will help prevent similar outages in the future.

?Microsoft Azure had clear operating guidelines but there was a gap in the deployment tooling that relied on human decisions and protocol,? wrote Jason Zander, Microsoft vice president for Azure, in a blog post Wednesday detailing the outage. ?With the tooling updates the policy is now enforced by the deployment platform itself.?

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Forensic software gets around iCloud security features

A Russian software company has updated its forensic software to work-around the security features Apple recently added to iCloud and increased what information can be extracted from the cloud storage service.

Elcomsoft?s Phone Breaker software now supports the two-factor authentication process Apple added to iOS 8 in September for accessing iCloud, Vladimir Katalov, CEO of the Moscow company, said Wednesday in a blog post.

The catch to using the software, which pulls files including photos, calendar information and call logs from iCloud, is that some information about the account is required to access the storage service, according to information on the company?s website. Either an Apple ID, password and the second form of authentication or a binary authentication token are needed to use Phone Breaker.

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Uber envisions a safer ride in 2015

Uber, in 2015, is resolving to make its car hailing service safer, partly by enhancing its driver screening through the use of biometrics and voice verification.

?As we look to 2015, we will build new safety programs and intensify others,? said Philip Cardenas, Uber?s head of global safety, in a blog post published Wednesday.

The new efforts include increasing the number of cities and countries where background checks are conducted, and improving communications with local officials and law enforcement. Specifically, Uber is developing custom tools for biometric and voice verification screening in key areas where the company is active.

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Obama pushes for net neutrality, opposes data localization in trade pact

President Barack Obama?s administration is pushing two potentially controversial Internet policies in a secretive trade pact, with trade negotiators calling for other countries to adopt net neutrality provisions while rejecting policies requiring local storage of data in a secretive 50-country trade pact now being negotiated.

A leaked U.S. proposal from April would prohibit countries signing on to the Trade in Services Agreement [TISA] to reject policies requiring that data held by Internet companies and other service suppliers be held within a member country?s borders. A handful of nations have moved to require their own residents? data to be stored within their own borders in response to recent revelations about widespread U.S. National Security Agency surveillance.

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BrandPost: Optimize your home network using these tools

Most of the focus on home networking is on the speed of the broadband connection from the ISP. That?s obviously an important factor, but most home networks include a variety of other elements that all contribute to the overall experience. The equipment you choose could enhance an otherwise sluggish broadband connection, or end up being a bottleneck that throttles your blazing fast broadband to a crawl.

Ensuring you have a strong connection and purchasing top-of-the-line equipment are two important steps to optimizing your setup, but they don?t take you all the way; NAS (network attached storage) is also an important element of an efficient and convenient home network. A system like one of QNAP?s TS-x51 Series keeps your important files and media in one safe and central spot, rounding out the optimal home network environment.

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Forget 2015: Bing already knows which people, products and trends will win ne...

Denim tuxedos and turtlenecks, the New England Patriots,Boyhood and Iggy Azalea. What do they all have in common? Microsoft's Bing predicts they'll win their respective categories in 2015.

Fresh off of a 2014 where Microsoft's Bing predictive search technology picked (and pretty much nailed) the winners of the World Cup, the company has gone big for 2015. On Wednesday, Microsoft predicted the Grammy winners, which movies will win the Golden Globes, food and fashion trends, and which team will win the Super Bowl.

Pollsters like Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog and Microsoft Bing have discovered that social signals as much as anything are useful predictors of outcomes, even those that theoretically could go either way. Microsoft looked at historical data to predict World Cup games, mixing in oddsmaker's predictions for the games as well as its predictions for NFL football.

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Google may (or may not) release Android 5.1 soon, but either way the OS needs...

Apparently, Google isn?t done updating Lollipop. Citing two unnamed but ?trusted? sources,AndroidPIT alleges that Google will push a major software update in the new year. One of the two sources says the release is targeted for late February.

The report says the Android 5.1 update will come bundled with a RAM management feature, enhanced stability, and a fix for sudden app closures (which I?ve personally been experiencing with the Nexus 9 on an almost daily basis).

There?s also a change log associated with this news. The full list of features bundled with the update is rumored to include:

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Baldur?s Gate II, Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft bring clever, strategy-based...

The best Android news you can get around the holidays: New, major game titles hitting the Google Play Store. Now, instead of listening to your annoying cousins squabble or performing family tech support duties, you can fight your way through dungeons or outduel opponents with magic. That's a gift worth giving to yourself.

Baldur?s Gate II is a popular role playing game (RPG), where you must battle a powerful wizard (you were expecting a weak one?) and unleash your magic for either good or evil. It?s on the more expensive side at $10, but its forerunner was well reviewed and the series has a good reputation on other platforms. It?s available for both phones and tablets.

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Cities: Skylines is more like SimCity than SimCity

With EA busy polishing a hot turd instead of rejoicing at a true SimCity successor, I guess it was only a matter of time before someone else decided to take the lead. Last week I got a brief look at Paradox and Colossal Order's upcoming city builder, Cities: Skylines, and it looks at this stage like everything the SimCity sequel was not.

First and foremost, Cities: Skylines lets you make cities. No, I'm not being facetious. The biggest problem?well, one of the biggest?with EA's recent SimCity outing is that you could only really build towns. I mean, everything looked like it belonged in a city, but the maps were so constrained it was impossible to get that "major city" look.

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IBM detects skin cancer more quickly with visual machine learning

Skin cancer can be detected more quickly and accurately by using cognitive computing-based visual analytics, researchers at IBM Research have found, in collaboration with New York?s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

In a scan of 3,000 images, IBM technology was able to spot melanoma with an accuracy of about 95 percent, much better than the 75 percent to 84 percent average of today?s largely manual methods.

?The technology can pull on massive amounts of data to help the doctor make more informed decisions,? said Noel Codella, a multimedia analytics researcher in the cognitive computing group at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.

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ICANN data compromised in spearphishing attack

A so-called spearphishing attack on ICANN has compromised the email credentials of several ICANN staff members and allowed the attacker access to user information, including email and postal addresses.

The targeted phishing attack also allowed the attacker to gain access to all files in ICANN?s Centralized Zone Data System (CZDS), a centralized point for interested people to request access to so-called zone files provided by participating top level domains. ICANN gave notice of the breach Tuesday, though the CZDS aspect of the compromise was discovered earlier this month.

The CZDS compromise included email and postal addresses, telephone numbers, user names and passwords of some users of the organization?s services, although the passwords were stored as salted cryptographic hashes. ICANN recommends that CZDS users take steps to protect online accounts for which they used the same user names or passwords, and the organization is providing notices to users whose personal information may have been compromised.

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Dish becomes first big US TV provider to offer Netflix through your set-top box

Dish Network customers who are tired of switching inputs on their TV to move between satellite TV and online streaming will be happy to hear they can now sign into their Netflix accounts right from their Hopper set-top box. This makes Dish the first pay-TV provider in the U.S. to provide Netflix streaming through its DVR.

Netflix service won?t come for free, of course; Dish subscribers will still need a Netflix subscription. But for Dish customers who don?t have a smart TV, a home-theater PC, or a stand-alone streaming device (an Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, or Roku, for instance), being able to stream Netflix right from their second-generation Hopper set-top box will be tremendously convenient. Once they?ve linked their Netflix account to their Hopper, they need only push the blue button on their Dish remote and then select the Netflix icon on the TV.

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U.S. agency sues Sprint for alleged unauthorized charges

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has filed a lawsuit accusing Sprint of illegally billing mobile customers for tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized third-party charges.

Sprint operated a billing system that allowed third parties to cram unauthorized charges on customers? mobile bills and ignored complaints about the charges, the CFPB alleged in its complaint.

The complaint from the CFPB, an agency established by Congress in 2010 to protect customers of the U.S. financial sector, mirrors complaints made by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and 51 state-level governments against AT&T earlier this year. In October, AT&T agreed to pay US $105 million[m] to settle those complaints of similar unauthorized third-party charges.

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Blackberry Classic aims for old Bold holdouts

Blackberry is digging deeper into the past for its latest smartphone with the QWERTY-equipped Blackberry Classic.

The phone is a clear nod to the old Blackberry Bold line, with a 3.5-inch 720-by-720 resolution display on top and a physical keyboard on the bottom. While last year?s Blackberry Q10 already pulled that trick once, the Classic goes a step further by bringing back the optical trackpad and the ?tool belt? of physical buttons for back, menu, and phone calls.

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The top five smartphone disappointments of 2014

The poor design of two different smartphones, a low-resolution front camera with the new iPhone, the Moto G?s lack of LTE, and the hefty price tag of the Amazon Fire led to disappointment this year when it came to smartphone releases.

The design of the Samsung Galaxy S5

I almost feel sorry for Samsung Electronics and the year the company has had. For example, while the overall smartphone market grew during the third quarter, Samsung?s sales dropped by about 9 percent to 73.2 million units, according to Gartner. And there is no getting around the fact the all-plastic design of the Galaxy S5 was a huge miscalculation and put a damper on the company?s most important product. Samsung has started to make some changes with the use of metal on smartphones like the Galaxy Note 4, but it remains to be seen if that is enough to turn around its high-end fortunes.

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