TIME privacy

International Hacking Ring Charged With Theft of Xbox Software and Data

Hackers also allegedly stole software used by the U.S. Army to train military helicopter pilots

Four members of an international hacking ring were charged with the theft of over $100 million worth of software and data related to the Xbox One and Xbox Live consoles and other technologies, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

The hackers were also charged for stealing data from the unreleased video games Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Gears of War 3, as well as the U.S. Army’s proprietary software used to train military helicopter pilots, the statement said.

Between Jan. 2011 and March 2014, the four men allegedly hacked into the computer systems of video game makers Microsoft, Epic Games and Valve Corporation, according to court documents. They also allegedly stole software from the U.S. Army and Zombie Studios, which produced helicopter simulation software for the Army.

Two of the charged members, whose ages range from 18 to 28, have already pleaded guilty to charges of copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit computer fraud.

“As the indictment charges, the members of this international hacking ring stole trade secret data used in high-tech American products, ranging from software that trains U.S. soldiers to fly Apache helicopters to Xbox games that entertain millions around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.

Three of the hackers are Americans, while one of the hackers is Canadian, the Department of Justice said. Officials believe the Canadian’s guilty plea is the first time a foreign individual was convicted of hacking into U.S. firms to steal information.

“The American economy is driven by innovation. But American innovation is only valuable when it can be protected,” Caldwell said. “Today’s guilty pleas show that we will protect America’s intellectual property from hackers, whether they hack from here or from abroad.”

TIME space

NASA Is 3D-Printing a Better Rocket

Rocket Injector
Test engineer Ryan Wall, left, and propulsion systems engineer Greg Barnett prepare a rocket injector made using the 3-D printing or additive manufacturing process for a hot-fire test at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Emmett Given—MSFC/NASA

NASA and the U.S. Army are now using additive manufacturing to manufacture lighter, cheaper, and better-performing aircraft parts

Consider the injector. It’s a lowly little engine part about as big as a basketball, small compared to the more photographic components that surround it. Its job, however, is big. On a rocket, it shoots hydrogen gas and liquid oxygen into a combustion chamber to create the thrust needed to send that rocket into space. It also needs to endure the trip.

A conventional rocket engine injector may be comprised of a hundred different pieces, making it costly to assemble. On an object that costs several hundred thousand dollars per launch, and billions in development costs, any savings are welcome. It’s one reason why the cash-strapped National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been toying around with rocket parts made using an additive manufacturing process, better known as 3D printing.

In August, the agency test-fired a 3D-printed injector that withstood a record 20,000 pounds of thrust, which actually isn’t all that impressive. Paired with rocket boosters and the rest, the complete Space Launch System—a new heavy-lift vehicle that will power NASA’s deep-space missions starting in 2017—will create 9.2 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the equivalent in horsepower of 208,000 Corvette engines revving up at once. What is impressive is the fact that the injector had just two parts and could produce 10 times as much thrust as any previously 3D-printed injector.

For NASA, additive manufacturing represents a way for the agency to stretch its technological capabilities and its $17 billion budget as it looks to build the next class of rocket engines to take its aircraft onto asteroids and to Mars. “The advances in the technology are finally getting to the point where we can see parts additively manufactured for demanding NASA applications,” says Dale Thomas, associate technical director at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where NASA has been trying out a variety of 3D-printed propulsion parts for more than a year. What the agency lacks, however, is the knowledge required to judge just how well 3D-printed engine parts will stand up during space flight. “We don’t understand the material properties really well and how they behave under stress,” Thomas says.

Enter the Integrated Product Team, a partnership formed in late May between the Marshall Center, the University of Alabama in Huntsville (as in “Go Chargers,” not “Roll Tide”), and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, known as AMRDEC. The question at the central of the partnership: Is there a way to 3D-print material strong enough to insert into a working aircraft?

There is good reason to be uncertain about3D-printing parts that can be used in missiles topped with warheads or rockets ferrying astronauts. Which powdered metals will be easiest to print and strongest to deploy? What 3D-printing machines will work the best? The three groups believe that, by pooling their resources and trading notes, they will save time and taxpayer dollars developing additive manufacturing processes useful to the private sector, the military, and space exploration. They also believe they will manufacture higher-quality parts—lighter, stronger—than those created today through conventional machining techniques.

For the military, that means lighter missile components that can still handle vibrations during flight.

“You always want to save weight for an aviation platform. How do you save weight? Machine the part in a way to minimize frequency vibrations,” says James Lackey, acting director of AMRDEC in Huntsville. “Only through additive layering can you take advantage of what a mathematical formula tells you this design solution needs.”

Conventional machining can be thought of as subtractive manufacturing. You begin with a block of some material and gradually chop some off, a process that constrains the types of parts that can be designed. Additive manufacturing is different. Imagine instead a laser-centering machine that heats up and fuses together successive layers of powdered metals—inconel alloys, grades of steel, titanium, aluminum—to construct simpler rocket engine components. This is how NASA created the injector it test-fired a year ago.

“Those little boogers are incredibly complex,” Thomas says. “When you’re trying to manufacture them you throw away more than you use. With additive [we] can make an injector that in the past took about 15 to 20 pieces.”

Lackey and Thomas agree that the space agency’s foray into 3D printing is still in its earliest days. There is no working budget within AMRDEC or the Marshall Center for additive manufacturing experiments because both centers are still determining which 3D-printing technologies they need to invest in. Phillip Farrington, a professor of industrial and systems engineering and engineering management at the University of Alabama, says that whatever knowledge is gained through the Integrated Product Team could also be applied to streamlining manufacturing processes for automobiles, trains, and ships (a research project in which he’s currently engaged).

Right now, the work being done with additive manufacturing at the Marshall Space Flight Center shows the most promise, a reflection of the progress Thomas and his team are making in using the technology to not only manufacture injectors, but also valves, nozzles, and other parts necessary for propulsion in rocket engines.

“We’re seeing parts that can only be made using additive methods,” Thomas says. “We’re never going to get away from the traditional manufacturing process. But additive is going to have some real game-changing benefits.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME viral

This Video Captures Everything Wrong With Overblown Tech Hype

Ever heard of the MyBook?

Forget about the Apple Watch. What about the MyBook?

Never heard of it? In spoof video above, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone drops hints at, as an interviewer describes it, a “secret tablet-sized object you had in your hand at Disrupt?”

“My book?” Stone asks.

“The MyBook!” And that’s all it takes for the fanboys to being hyping up the most mysterious and disruptive product on the market.

Influential angel investor Ron Conway is behind the funny video launching One City, an initiative that asks tech companies to invest in their own communities. This pitch-perfect spoof touts a program that partners companies with schools, and it hilariously captures the zeitgeist surrounding tech products and begs the question: “What if schools were the next big thing in tech?”

 

TIME Software

Forget Windows 9, Microsoft Just Announced Windows 10

Microsoft says the next version of Windows won't be "one UI to rule them all," but a single product family with an interface specially tuned for each device.

How do you get everyone’s attention if you’re not the world’s most sought-after smartphone or tablet maker, but still the world’s largest operating system manufacturer by miles?

You do something a little weird, say formally skip a version of your operating system, chronologically speaking. If your company name happens to be Microsoft, that means you leap (instead of hop) from Windows 8 right over the wondering heads of pundits proclaiming the imminent arrival of “9” and on to something dubbed “Windows 10.”

What happened to 9? Who knows. Call it a very public sacrifice to the gods of predictability.

Microsoft made the announcement today during an offline press event, then on its Windows blog, where it said Windows was “at a threshold,” and that it was “time for a new Windows … built from the ground-up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.”

We know a little bit about Windows 10 already, but only a little bit. The Start Menu is coming back (not a surprise). Everything will now run in a window, including Windows Store apps. Snapping now supports up to four simultaneous apps (and you’ll be able to see other apps available for snapping). You can have multiple desktops, and there’s a new “task-view” button on the taskbar will let you switch between open files as well as alternative desktops. And File Explorer will now display your most recent files and frequently visited folders.

The number you slap behind your iconic IP, of course, means nothing when it comes to actually delivering on promises made at press events. It’s simply the marketing cap and sequential delimiter companies like Microsoft and Apple use to establish that this is what this thing does as opposed to that one.

But find your mainline product sporting a lower number than a competitor’s, and all marketing bets are off. Microsoft’s been in the single digits with Windows forever, whereas Apple’s been on the 10th iteration of its Mac-based OS X (technically pronounced “oh-ess-ten”) for well over a decade, simply adding a “dot” (and codename) to signify major releases.

It’s not clear whether Windows 8’s potentially behind-looking proximity to Apple’s ten-based naming scheme forced Microsoft’s hand (or galvanized its marketing team), but let’s just say the theory’s at least of passing interest.

TIME Gadgets

5 Best Fitness Trackers for Around $50

The Apple iOS 8 and Google Android L operating systems are making a huge push into fitness tracking this year. Both feature brand new fitness data aggregation apps designed to help you count steps, count calories and more.

Of course, to make the most out of the new features, you’ll need to purchase and import data from an activity tracker.

That may sound expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. The latest generation offers a wide range of different features to choose from at incredibly reasonable prices. Each may not offer to track everything, but with some smart shopping, you can easily find one that tracks just the data you care about.

Here are five of our favorite trackers that can get you started down the path to good health, each for around fifty bucks.

Fitbit Zip

fitbit-zip-wireless-activity-tracker-510px
Fitbit

The small, clippable Fitbit Zip keeps tabs on your steps taken, distance traveled and calories burned. It’s a good start, but what makes any Fitbit product stand out are the extra tools offered behind the scenes. Fitbit products easily interface with fitness apps you may already be using (e.g., Myfitnesspal, Loseit) and offer fun award-style badges to celebrate your hard work. There’s even a food plan tool on the Fitbit website that helps you monitor and modify your calorie consumption to kick your overall health into high gear. There’s a lot to like about the Fitbit ecosystem, and the Zip buys you in for a fraction of the cost of a $129 Fitbit Force.

The Fitbit Zip wireless activity tracker is compatible with most Apple iOS, Google Android and Windows Phone devices. It’s available in your choice of five colors: white, black, blue, magenta and lime.

[Amazon]

Fitbug Orb

fitbug-orb-activity-tracker-510px
Fitbug

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to good health. And while there are plenty of fitness trackers out there that will monitor your sleep quality and patterns, few do it as inexpensively as the coming Fitbug Orb. It’s a tiny clippable tracker that counts steps, distance traveled and calories burned. And if you’re willing to wear it to bed, it’ll keep track of how soundly you sleep, too.

The Fitbug Orb Activity Tracker and the accompanying Fitbug app are compatible with most current Apple iOS and Google Android devices. The Orb is currently available in three different colors: hot pink, black and white.

[Amazon]

Misfit Flash

misfit-flash-waterproof-fitness-tracker-white-510px
Misfit

Swimming is an incredible way to stay in shape – it’s a low-impact, full-body workout that burns a ton of calories. The only problem is that most fitness trackers can’t follow you into the pool. But the coming Misfit Flash can – it’s designed not only to count steps, distance and calories burned, but its waterproof design can help you track your time swimming, too. It tracks plenty of other sports, including cycling, tennis and basketball.

The Misfit Flash and accompanying Misfit app are compatible with both Apple iOS and Google Android devices, though you can just tap its face to get a visual approximation of how close you currently are to your daily goals. It’s manufactured in six eye-catching colors, including frost, onyx, fuschia, zest (neon green), wave (blue) and reef (teal). The Flash is slated for release on October 15.

[Amazon]

Striiv Play Wireless Smart Pedometer

striiv-play-wireless-smart-pedometer-510px
Striiv

Having trouble staying motivated? You may find it’s easier to stick to a new fitness regimen if you turn your effort into a game. That’s the idea behind the Striiv Play Wireless Smart Pedometer. It lets you compete against friends to see who takes more steps, climbs more stairs, burns more calories or logs more minutes of activity. There are even iPhone games you can play that are powered by your own activity.

The Striiv Play Wireless Smart Pedometer is compatible with most recent Apple iOS devices (iPhone 4S or later, iPod Touch 5th generation, new iPad and iPad Mini). It’s available in only one finish, with a black polycarbonate face on a nickel-plated clip.

[Amazon]

LifeTrak C200 Core

lifetrak-core-c200-fitness-tracker-510px
LifeTrak

If you’re looking to lose stubborn body fat, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your heart rate to make sure it stays “in the zone.” That’s why I like the simple, wrist-worn LifeTrak C200 Core. It adds pulse tracking in to the basic suite of data collected by other inexpensive fitness monitors. It will even factor your pulse in to calculations of calories burned, allowing it to come up with more accurate estimates than the competition.

The LifeTrak Core C200 is a stand-alone device and does not connect to your smartphone or tablet. You can get it in white or black with a wide range of available strap colors (e.g., pistachio, orange).

[Amazon]

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

GoPro Just Announced the Cheap Tiny Camera You’ve Been Waiting For

GoPro Hero
GoPro Hero GoPro

The GoPro Hero is just $129

Many casual photographers have been wanting to dip their toes into the GoPro water for some time, but have found the company’s tiny but high-quality cameras too expensive to make the leap at upwards of $200, with the top models costing as much as $500.

But now they can go ahead and jump in; GoPro just announced the “Hero,” a scaled-back, entry-level model that’s perfect for first-time GoPro-ers who don’t need the top-of-the-line features found in GoPro’s flagship cameras. And the cost? Only $129.

Here’s what the Hero features:

  • 1080p video at 30fps
  • 720p video at 60fps
  • 5MP stills at up to five frames a second
  • QuickCapture and Burst Photo modes
  • Wide-angle lens for getting more in your shots
  • Integrated waterproof housing that keeps your Hero dry to an advertised 131 feet

Those features don’t hold up to GoPro’s absolute newest models, which pack ultra high-def 4K video modes. But if you don’t need crazy-high-def video capabilities, the Hero looks pretty great.

Interestingly, GoPro’s entry-level Hero comes at a pretty terrible time for Polaroid — yes, Polaroid — which just dropped a $99 entry-level GoPro competitor called the Polaroid Cube.

While the Cube is a bit cheaper, GoPro’s been building these tiny cameras for a long time, and they come with the benefit of access to GoPro’s immense ecosystem. With the Hero, GoPro is set to nip Polaroid’s cubed competition in the bud before it ever takes root.

TIME Video Games

Pokémon TCG, Nintendo’s First Affiliate iOS Game, Is Finally Here

Gamepad-fiddly platformers like Super Mario Bros. will never make sense on flat touchscreens, but card games like Nintendo's Pokémon TCG or Blizzard's Hearthstone seem like no-brainers.

Drop the word “Pokémon” into Apple’s or Google’s app stores (no need for the diacritical “e”) and you’ll unearth all sorts of odd-sounding concoctions, most of them creature-making tools or field guide paeans to Nintendo’s cutesy media franchise about a world full of exotic monster-pets you can catch and train to do your tactical bidding.

For years, Pokémon on smartphones and tablets has been a strictly fan affair, a cosmology of unofficial encyclopedias and builders, trivia games and wallpaper libraries. But all of those were unvarnished adjuncts compared to the wealth of games, cards, books and movies that swim in officially licensed waters.

Today everything changes: a Pokémon game is finally available on Apple devices. And not a port of one of the color-and-gem-obsessed Pokémon roleplaying games for Nintendo’s handhelds, but a translation 0f something that’s been around for as long as Pokémon itself.

When Pokémon Trading Card Game, or Pokémon TCG launched in 1996 as a physical card game (the same year Satoshi Tajiri launched the series with Game Boy games Pokémon Red and Blue), Patrick Stewart was squaring off with Alice Krige’s Borg, the original Beverly Hills 90210 was just past its halfway point, Sega’s barely one-year-old Saturn was staring down the headlamps from Nintendo’s oncoming N64 train, and Apple’s Bandai Pippin game system no one remembers arrived (and promptly disappeared).

After a run that’s approaching two decades and some publisher deck-chair rearranging, the partly Nintendo-owned property (via its The Pokémon Company International–a Nintendo affiliate) has gone where pundits have been claiming Nintendo needed to for years: Apple’s iPad and iPad Mini.

The Pokémon Company International says the new Pokémon TCG app is free-to-play, so gratis to download and get started. New players begin with a few freebie digital decks and can earn additional ones by winning battles–a little like Blizzard’s Hearthstone, in other words: play casually for nothing, but if you want to play competitively against other Pokémon sharks, you’ll probably have to spend money at some point. There’s also a cross-media incentive: If you buy physical Pokémon TCG products, you’ll get a code that unlocks their digital counterparts.

Pokémon TCG for the iPad and iPad Mini should feel familiar to OS X and Windows players, who’ve had access to it as a downloadable game since April 2011, says The Pokémon Company International. Who you are and how well you’re doing transfers cross-platform, too, so there’s no need to manage separate accounts. All the key PC game features–tutorials, online battles against the computer or other players, deck-building, trading cards, customizing avatars and so forth–are present in the iPad versions, adds The Pokémon Company International.

I’m not sure when the company plans to bring the game to Android devices, but given how vast the Android-verse is, it stands to reason such a version’s inevitable.

So is this Nintendo (directly or indirectly) reneging on past statements about not putting Nintendo games on non-Nintendo devices?

Not really. Nintendo can plausibly claim The Pokémon Company–“founded and affiliated with Nintendo”–is something rather different from the video game empire its design luminaries (like Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka and Eiji Aonuma) built.

In fact, you could argue Pokémon TCG is just Nintendo president Satoru Iwata (again, directly or indirectly) putting paid to a statement made earlier this year, when he said he wasn’t ruling out the possibility of creating games–even ones that use Nintendo characters–on smart devices, then added, “It is our intention to release some application on smart devices this year that is capable of attracting consumer attention and communicating the value of our entertainment offerings, so I would encourage you to see how our approach yields results.”

TIME Companies

eBay to Spin Off PayPal

The eBay headquarters seen in San Jose, Calif., in 2011.
The eBay headquarters seen in San Jose, Calif., in 2011 David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Activist investor Carl Icahn had pushed for the online marketplace to split

EBay has unveiled a plan to separate the company’s namesake company and its PayPal business, creating two independent publicly-traded companies next year — a separation that activist investor Carl Icahn called for earlier this year.

The move, which is expected to result in a tax-free spin off to be completed in the second half of 2015, will allow the separated businesses to focus more on their distinct core competencies: e-commerce and payments. EBay 6.68% said the businesses have mutually benefited as one company for “more than a decade,” but that a strategic review conducted by the company’s board showed that “keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly become less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively.”


“The industry landscape is changing, and each business faces different competitive opportunities and challenges,” said eBay’s President and CEO John Donahoe. In aseparate statement, eBay said American Express 0.03% executive Dan Schulman would join PayPal as its new president effective immediately, and would become CEO of that business at the time of its spinoff.

Donahoe and Chief Financial Officer Bob Swan intend to lead the separation of the businesses though neither will have an executive management role at either of the new companies. They are expected to serve on one or both of the boards of directors, eBay said. Executives Devin Wenig (currently president of eBay Marketplaces) and Scott Schenkel (CFO of eBay Marketplaces) will become CEO and CFO, respectively, of the new eBay.

Earlier this year, Fortune’s JP Mangalindan spoke with eBay’s John Donahoe about Icahn and eBay’s stock price.

Icahn, who had called for a breakup at eBay in January of this year, ultimately conceded his fight after being given a board member. But as Fortune reported last month, if eBay were to go forward with a PayPal spinout in 2015, it would be considered an admission that Icahn had been right all along.

EBay’s move is lifting shares in premarket trading, raising the value of Icahn’s 2.5% stake in the company by nearly $130 million.

The eBay business is slightly larger, generating about $9.9 billion in revenue versus the $7.2 billion generated by PayPal. But the payments business is growing faster, reporting 19% revenue growth, better than eBay’s 10%. Segment margins are higher at eBay, while PayPal has a slightly larger active user count.

Earlier this year, Fortune’s JP Mangalindan spoke at length with eBay’s John Donahoe about Carl Icahn, eBay’s stock price and the outlook for the company.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Social Networking

Facebook Is Just an ‘Ad Platform,’ Says CEO of Ad-Free Social Network ‘Ello’

US-IT-INTERNET-MEDIA-ELLO
The Ello website is seen on the monitor screen September 27, 2014 in Washington D.C. PAUL J. RICHARDS—AFP/Getty Images

"We consider them to be an advertising platform more than a social network."

Ello, an ad-free, invitation-only social network, has been dubbed the “anti-Facebook” after its August launch, but even that characterization might be giving Facebook too much credit, according to Ello’s feisty CEO.

“We don’t consider Facebook to be a competitor,” said Paul Budnitz in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “We consider them to be an advertising platform more than a social network.”

That was just the opening shot in a wide ranging interview in which Budnitz opened fire on Facebook’s design, content and ad-based business model. Budnitz says that Ello can turn a profit by selling add-on features directly to a few users.

He claims to have tapped into a wellspring of discontent with Facebook, signing up users at a rate of 50,000 an hour after Ello suddenly skyrocketed in popularity last week. That’s just a drop in bucket compared with Facebook’s 1.3 billion users, but Ello’s CEO insists that he only wants the users who share his team’s vision of what a social network should and should not be. The site requires users to agree to a manifesto that states, “You are not a product.” Those who select “disagree” are redirected to Facebook’s website.

[Bloomberg Businessweek]

TIME Companies

No, Snapchat Hasn’t Been Hacked

But that doesn’t mean you won’t get annoying weight loss spam from your friends

Snapchat denied being hacked after some users reported receiving spam messages from their friends advertising a weight loss site.

The ephemeral messaging service told the BBC that it believed that user login data was taken from other sites and used to access Snapchat.

“We recommend using a unique and complex password to access your Snapchat account,” the company told the BBC.

According to the BBC, the spam is sent to all of the contacts on an affected user’s account. Snapchat informs those users of the breach–and recommends that they change their passwords–when they log on.

In January, the company was targeted by hackers who took 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers and released the personal data on the web–with the last two figures of the phone numbers redacted. The hackers said they were raising awareness about Snapchat security concerns.

[BBC]

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