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Friday, July 11, 2014

News roundup: This week's tech topics

Keep an eye on the tech landscape with this week's topics.

Category:   News and Events

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From Facebook's controversial emotions experiment to the implications of rising cell phone usage, here are some of the stories grabbing headlines this week.

Criticism grow for Facebook's study on emotions and social media 
Following last month's revelations about a psychological experiment Facebook conducted on how social media news feeds impact people's emotions, critics have questioned whether the company crossed the line and violated users' privacy and consent rights. The social media giant manipulated members' news feeds to display only sad or happy stories, and then assessed whether these users' moods were impacted by the content.

The latest page in this story involved Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), who asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Facebook broke any laws, Forbes Magazine reported. This query will likely help define oversight and guidelines for social media platforms looking to conduct behavioral studies, the source added.

Advantages of agile software development 
In this technology-saturated world, many companies are getting their feet wet with software development projects—in addition to those firms that specialize in this field. A recent article in MIT Technology Review highlighted the benefits of the agile development approach, advocating for the technique for enterprises that make products such as medical devices, external websites, mobile applications and even cars. 

According to the source, agile development, as opposed to the traditional "waterfall" method, emphasizes early and continuous software delivery, with a focus on meeting business needs in a rapidly evolving landscape. Instead of spending a lot of time fleshing out every single requirement, the agile approach involves multiple components simultaneously to speed and improve production. For example, project leaders stay one step ahead of developers, whose work is tested as each component is completed.

Five trends indicate challenges persist for cloud computing 
In a mid-year analysis piece, eWEEK explored five trends in cloud adoption and utilization, concluding that the cloud landscape is still "far from mature." The source focused on:

  • Lack of transparency, particularly in pricing models.
  • Tension between optimizing efficiency for scale and addressing customers' concerns over precisely where data centers are located.
  • Emphasis on hybrid cloud arrangements, which still have ways to go before they're seamless solutions.
  • Incompatibility among cloud providers and their offerings.
  • Competing approaches to the Internet of Things, which interrupts integrated connectivity.

Wi-Fi hacking a pressing concern 
CBS described how Wi-Fi hacking, a popular strategy cybercriminals use to steal personal information, puts unsuspecting users and their data at risk. According to the news source, hackers buy equipment online and set up "copycat" hotspots that look like the ones offered by stores, coffee shops, or other common sources. When people connect, the cybertheives can see user names and passwords, a vulnerability that is often exacerbated when individuals use the same login information for online accounts, such as for their banking.

To prevent identity theft, fraud, and other incidents, people should be wary of public Wi-Fi spots while also taking precautions like setting up their own virtual private networks and ensuring they encrypt sensitive information. However, as the source noted, a Consumer Reports survey found that 62 percent of Americans fail to implement measures to protect their privacy.

Cyberattacks by Anonymous groups strike Brazil, Norway 
In addition to a number of attacks on governmental agencies and corporations associated with the World Cup, the hacktivist group Anonymous has waged a large-scale cyberattack on financial institutions in Norway. According to Press TV, eight major companies, including the Norges Bank, Sparebank 1, Danske Bank, and several insurance firms, were included in the coordinated effort.

This string of attacks, which also might have affected Norwegian airlines and a telecommunication company, involved bombarding sites with requests to interrupt Internet traffic and services provided by the enterprises. Anonymous Norway supposedly has claimed responsibility for the incidents, the source added.