“Heartbleed” security bug leaves two-thirds of the Internet exposed

heartbleedSecurity firm Codenomicon and Neehl Mehta of Google Security has recently discovered a major security flaw that affects 66% of the Internet. Officially known as “CVE-2014-0160,” but dubbed “Heartbleed,” the bug is a flaw in the OpenSSL security library that many popular websites use to encrypt valuable data, such as usernames and passwords. Yahoo, in particular, was one of the big websites vulnerable to this security issue.

The bug allows attackers to randomly pull information from a server’s memory. Not all extracted data may be useful, but because the process can be repeated, there’s potential for hackers to retrieve sensitive information such as encryption keys to break the protection on valuable data. While the bug was only recently discovered, the exploit has existed for two years. It is impossible to know if any hackers have taken advantage of the bug during this period of vulnerability.

This specific security exploit only affects specific versions of OpenSSL (1.0.1 to 1.0.1f), and a fix has already been distributed. Some websites may have never upgraded to the compromised version in the first place. However, sites that have been open to the exploit might take a long time to fix since system administrators have to manually fix the problem.

So what should users do? It’s unfortunately on a site-by-site basis. Changing your password on a potentially vulnerable website won’t result in any security until that website has patched the security flaw. Check for official statements from websites you frequent to make sure the Heartbleed bug has been patched and then change your password accordingly. If a website has not yet been fixed, try to avoid using that website until a fix is in place.

There are online tools out there, such as this one, to test whether or not a site is currently vulnerable to the flaw.

For more information on the Heartbleed bug, check out http://heartbleed.com/.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

Amazon enters the streaming box and video game market with the Fire TV

amazon-popcornAndroid-based micro consoles seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but when online retailer titan Amazon jumps on board, it’s big news. During an event in New York on Wednesday, Amazon announced and subsequently released the Fire TV, their entry in the war for living room entertainment.

The Latest for Streaming Entertainment

The Fire TV is a $99 Android-based micro console that allows you to stream movies and TV shows over the Internet to your television. We’ve heard the exact pitch before, but Amazon is in the position to offer services and features that competing devices currently don’t provide.

Amazon claims that the Fire TV is three times faster than competing boxes, such as the Roku and Apple TV. The Fire TV has a quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory, and a dedicated GPU capable of 1080p HD video. It also supports Dolby Digital Plus surround sound via HDMI out. It connects to the Internet via either WiFi or Ethernet.

Fire TV is capable of voice search using the microphone built into its Bluetooth remote. Simply use your voice to search for specific movies or TV shows using keywords, such as actor or movie names. The Fire TV features integrated information from the Internet Movie Database and tablet integration via the Fire TV’s “X-Ray” feature, allowing you to view related movie information on your tablet device while watching said movie.

Other interesting features include a karaoke-esque music player that displays lyrics on screen, the ability to stream photos from your phone, and a parental control mode called FreeTime. FreeTime is a special mode that allows parents to control their children’s viewing experience by setting time limits or setting restrictions on what content is viewable.

The Fire TV will support the standard streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Pandora, with more to come. Certain services, such as HBO Go, are absent, however.

Despite being Android-based, Amazon is keeping the Fire TV a closed ecosystem, meaning it will make use of its own app store, separate from the Google Play Store. Amazon assures that they are partnering with multiple content creators to populate their store with a variety of different apps and entertainment items.

It Plays Games, Too!

amazon-gamepadAmazon is using the Fire TV as a means to break into the games market, as well. They are selling a separate $39.99 game controller. Amazon promises more than 1,000 games on their own marketplace, including games from Amazon themselves.

Over the past few months, Amazon has been picking up popular game developers, such as Double Helix, the studio behind the hit Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct. They’ve also recruited other high profile game industry professionals, including Portal creator Kim Swift.

Amazon Game Studios will be bringing exclusive games to the Fire TV. You can check out a preview of what’s to come in this video. Amazon is also working with third party game developers, including Electronic Arts, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, 2K, Sega, Double Find and Mojang. Versions of Minecraft and The Walking Dead were showcased at the New York event.

Amazon says that paid games will start at 99 cents, with the prices averaging at $1.85. Thousands of free-to-play games will also be available.

Even with this new emphasis on games, they are still a secondary focus for the Fire TV. Though the hardware is powerful, it is nowhere near the behemoths of the new generation video game consoles, such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

The Fire TV is available now for $99 on Amazon’s online store. The device will come pre-registered to your Amazon account, along with a free month of Amazon Prime and Netflix.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

The Internet’s Best Jokes for April Fools’ Day 2014

googlepokemonApril 1st is a dangerous time to be on the Internet. It’s already hard enough to tell fact from fiction on the web on any normal day, but on April Fools’ Day, you can trust no one. Everyone and everything is out to fool you, from your friends on Facebook to even big companies like Sony and Samsung. Luckily, most of these jokes are light-hearted and obviously fake. Jokes like these show even the most serious folks in tech can have a little fun once in a while. Here are some of my favorite Internet jokes from April Fools’ Day 2014.

Netflixs Delicious Originals

The popular media streaming service debuted two new Netflix originals on April Fools’ Day: Rotisserie Chicken and Sizzling Bacon.

Rotisserie Chicken was a Benjamin Button-affair, a 73-minute long film of a chicken roasting on a rotating spit. The catch was the video was in reverse, starting with a fully roasted chicken and ending with raw poultry.

The film garnered 173 pages of viewer reviews. Here’s an excerpt from an insightful 5-star review: “Hesitated in giving this a try, based on the skewering it received from other critics. A riveting tour-de-force that kept me on the edge of my seat… Don’t chicken out on catching this masterpiece while you still can.”

If you didn’t have 73 minutes to spare watching a chicken cook in reverse, Netflix had you covered with Sizzling Bacon, a 20-minute video of bacon frying in a pan.

YouTubes Upcoming Viral Video Trends

YouTube spins a tale in which every viral video since 2005 was meticulously planned and produced by YouTube themselves. Gagnam Style and Nyan Cat were all products grown in the YouTube lab.

In this humorous video, YouTube previews their upcoming viral video trends for 2014. They poke fun at the ridiculous nature of viral videos and jokingly reveal it as a sort of science by reproducing them in crazy new forms, such as “baby shaming” and “kissing dads.” Their new fad of the “glub glub water dance” is guaranteed to be a hit just because it’s in a foreign language.

Watch the video yourself and see how YouTube essentially deconstructs how great and stupid the Internet can be.

kodakThe Kodak Picture Kiosk Drone

Kodak never wants you to miss out on a “Kodak Moment,” no matter your location. The Kodak Alaris is a hovering picture kiosk. The drone delivers high quality prints that “fall right out of the sky.” Simply call or text and the drone will come to you no matter where you are.

Kodak even provides the most interesting interpretation of a “cloud service” to date. Just look up at the sky and frantically thrust your arms through the air, and the drone just might notice you for some quality printing service action.

Skullgirls Pokes Fun at Street Fighter With Brand New Playable Fighter

I had to include at least one video game-related prank, and this is one for a game that ended up being one of my favorites from last year.

For months, Capcom had teased a brand new character for their upcoming Ultra Street Fighter IV. Fans spent a lot of time speculating as to who this new character could be. Could it be a character from the days of Street Fighter 1? Maybe a return of a fan favorite! No! Instead, the mystery ended a few weeks ago with the very disappointing announcement that this new fighter was Decapre, a clone of Cammy, essentially a very simple copy of a character that was already in the game.

This leads to April Fools’ Day 2014, when Lab Zero announced that the PC version of their own fighting game, Skullgirls, was getting a brand new character. Instead of disappointment, fans were left with gleeful excitement.

As a jab at Capcom, the Skullgirls character reveal was a parody of Capcom’s own character reveal trailer. Like the Street Fighter announcement, Skullgirls’ new character, Fukua, is simply a differently colored version of Filia, a character that’s been present in the game since its original release in 2012. The difference is Lab Zero didn’t spend months teasing it. It came as a genuine surprise, much to the delight of Skullgirls fans.

The best thing about it is that Fukua has officially been added to the game’s roster as a playable fighter as of April 1st. While Street Fighter fans are still waiting on Decapre, Skullgirls fans can already duke it out with the palette-swapped Fukua. Skullgirls developer Mike Z claims it took less than a week to create the character. Lab Zero says that, if Skullgirls community ends up liking the character, Fukua will remain playable in the game after April Fools’ Day’s end. If that’s the case, Fukua will eventually see release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

So in the end, the joke turned out to be real!

Google Chrome Emojifies the Web

The Google Chrome team added Emoji to Google Translate. If you’re wondering what Emoji is, it’s essentially graphical representations of emoticons. The Chrome team thinks of Emoji as “next phase of linguistic evolution,” and they sought out to condense the written language into expressive pictures, often resulting in a ridiculous and almost incomprehensible series of images.

Ever wondered how to express the complex emotion of “laughing so hard you’re crying, and you’re a cat” without using words? Google Chrome found a way.

The Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge

A couple of months ago, Twitch played Pokémon, but now Google wants everyone to get in on it with probably the most elaborate April Fools’ prank of the year! Google put together a promotional video on March 31st, the day before April Fools’ Day, advertising a new career opportunity at Google entitled “Pokémon Master.”

In the video, Google Vice President, Brian McCledon, introduced the Google Maps Pokémon Challenge. He challenged Google Maps users to seek out and capture as many Pokémon as they can using the Google Maps application on mobile devices. His ridiculous instructions were accompanied by dramatic video of mountain climbers and other adventurous individuals encountering computer-generated Pokémon at various global landmarks and locales.

As with Skullgirls, the best April Fools jokes are the ones that turn out to be somewhat real. The reality of the Pokémon Challenge is a little less grand than the video, but it was indeed real to some degree. The Google Maps application on iOS and Android devices updated to include an option to activate the Pokémon Challenge. Upon doing so, various Pokémon would spread out around the virtual globe contained within Google Maps. Finding a Pokémon and tapping on them would allow you to “capture” them, with 150 unique Pokémon to collect in all.

Following Google’s prank, thousands of Internet users collaborated in their search for these exotically fictional creatures. Users found Pokémon placed in specific geographic locations. For instance, one could find Pikachu in the Akihabara district of Japan, and Scizor could be caught in the middle of the campus at the University of Texas in Austin. Many of those who sought the title of Google Pokémon Master were willing to work together, sharing Google Docs of Pokémon locations and more. It was fantastic to see Pokémon fans working together across the globe once again with a common goal, all thanks to Google’s elaborate April Fools’ Day prank.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

Facebook Acquires Virtual Reality Gaming Company for $2 Billion

facebook_oculusHot on the heels of the big VR news from GDC, a major development hit the virtual reality scene on Tuesday, March 25. Social networking giant Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2 billion.

Oculus VR, Inc. was founded in July 2012. Their initial success came from a Kickstarter campaign in August 2012 for the Oculus Rift, a product dubbed “the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.” They initially asked for $250,000 to help in the production of Oculus Rift development kits and ended up raising $2,437,429. Since then, they’ve received more than 75,000 dev kit orders, and Oculus has been at the forefront of the virtual reality video game scene. In June 2013, they were able to raise $17 million in venture capital funding and an additional $75 million in December 2013.

Now Facebook has acquired Oculus VR for approximately $2 billion: $400 million in cash and $1.6 billion in Facebook stock options.

According to their press release, Facebook wants to extend Oculus’s technology from video games to communications, education and other areas. In a personal Facebook post, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg hinted at what might be in store for the future of Facebook in relation to this acquisition. “After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”

Oculus maintains that Facebook’s acquisition will not interfere with their focus on video games. Oculus headquarters will remain in Irvine, CA, and they will continue development of the Oculus Rift.

“We are excited to work with Mark and the Facebook team to deliver the very best virtual reality platform in the world,” said Brendan Iribe, co-founder and CEO of Oculus VR. “We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.”

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

Sony’s PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality Headset Debuts at GDC 2014

Sony HeadsetLast week at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, Sony unveiled a prototype of “Project Morpheus,” their virtual reality solution for the PlayStation 4 and the first modern VR device for video game consoles.

Similar to the Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus is a head-mounted 3D display that seeks to turn video games into virtual reality. Unlike the Oculus Rift, which caters to those gaming on personal computers, Project Morpheus promises to bring unprecedented immersive sensory experiences to the console, specifically the PlayStation 4.

The Project Morpheus prototype at GDC featured a head-mounted closed display with HDMI and USB inputs. The display on the device is a 5-inch 1080p LCD screen. The headset allows for a 90-degree field of view and positional head tracking, allowing players to control their in-game view with their head rather than an analog stick. In the audio department, Sony has developed true spatial sound using binaural 3D audio for an intensely personal surround sound experience. The device supports custom headphones that plug directly into the device.

The PlayStation Move-esque sensors on the device allow it to work in conjunction with the PlayStation Camera to offer full-body tracking, a feature not seen in the Oculus Rift.

In addition to the camera, players can also use a DualShock Controller or Playstation Move to control games.

GDC attendees were able to try out Project Morpheus for themselves at the event. One of the technical demos put the player in a virtual underwater shark cage. The PlayStation Camera tracked the player’s body movement. Players could bend their knees and lower themselves in real life and the same thing would happen in game. Looking around the oceanic environment used the device’s head tracking. The player’s vision of the surrounding GDC crowd was completely cut off by the device’s closed display, so even their peripheral vision was met with the in-game environment. A shark would eventually attack the cage, and the player would have to fend it off with a measly flare gun. The shark eventually would tear off one of the cage’s walls, ending the demo.

Project Morpheus has been in development for over three years. Sony unveiled the prototype at GDC in hopes of attracting developers to create games for the machine. Sony is already working with game developers such as Epic Games and Crytek, with hopefully more to come. The prototype at GDC also acted as a development kit.

Sony is the first of the big three video game console companies to step aboard the virtual reality train with Project Morpheus. It remains to be seen if Nintendo or Microsoft will follow suit, but if these kinds of immersive video game experiences take off, Sony will have a distinct advantage in the console race.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra