TIME Social Media

U.S. Teens Are Deserting Facebook Faster Than Ever

125980303
Brendan O'Sullivan—Getty Images

Prefer social media with more youthful user bases, like Snapchat and Twitter

U.S. teenagers increasingly think Facebook is like, whatever.

A new report has found that Americans aged 13 to 17 who use social media are leaving Facebook faster than ever, with the percentage of those with accounts dropping six points from 94% last year to 88% in 2014. From 2012 to 2013, it only dropped one point.

This is not the first time analysts have reported a drop in Facebook’s popularity among teenagers, and the company’s co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gone on the record saying he’s skeptical of their claims. “Based on our data, that’s simply not true,” he said last year.

If the numbers aren’t growing in that demographic, Zuckerberg added, that’s only because the site is already so deeply engrained in the life of the American teenager that there’s nowhere to grow.

The group behind the new report, Frank N. Magid Associates Inc., found that teens are spending more time on messaging apps and even Twitter, which now boasts 48% engagement in that age group.

Part of their attraction to newer services like Snapchat and messaging apps are their youthful user base. After all, with parents and even grandparents on the social network, no wonder teens are saying thanks but no thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s friend request.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Cuba

What Washington’s Policy Shift Means for Cuba’s Awful Internet Service

Cuba Internet
A Cuban uses an illegal Wi-Fi connection to surf the internet, on November 28, 2014, in Havana. Adalberto Roque—AFP/Getty Images

Part of the new deal involves efforts to literally bring Cuba up to speed

The United States’ trade embargo against Cuba began on Oct. 19, 1960. That’s almost exactly nine years to the day before the first link was established on what would eventually evolve into the Internet. Since then, the global web has exploded in complexity and content — but Cuba has largely been left behind, with access that’s slow, censored and available only to few.

A new change in U.S. policy announced this week, however, stands to change all that.

About a quarter of Cubans have Internet access, according to the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency that oversees global communications. One in four may seem decent, especially compared to other isolated nations like North Korea, where its netizens are its most elite. But it turns out that 25% figure doesn’t tell the whole picture.

Most connected Cubans only have access to a Balkanized, government-approved version of the Internet, more akin to a heavily restricted web portal than the open browser you and I use. Freedom House describes the typical Cuban connectivity experience as “a tightly controlled government-filtered intranet, which consists of a national email system, a Cuban encyclopedia, a pool of educational materials and open-access journals, Cuban websites, and foreign websites that are supportive of the Cuban government.”

Maps of undersea communications cables tell the story of Cuba’s Internet another way. Only one major submarine cable connects Cuba’s telecommunications networks to the outside world: ALBA-1, owned by a state-run Venezuelan telecom and connecting southeastern Cuba to Venezuela and Jamaica. That cable could be in pretty bad shape, says Fulton Armstrong, a research fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, but Armstrong added that he couldn’t verify that first hand.

Tellingly, cables that connect the southeastern U.S. to Central, South and Latin America completely bypass the island nation:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.43.11 PM
TeleGeography

From an engineering perspective, it makes perfect sense to have routed those cables through Cuba. But geopolitics got in the way: the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba meant American companies couldn’t lay pipe into the island, leaving it off the grid as neighbors got online. Cuba has for decades been a member of Soviet/Russian satellite service Intersputnik, but the country didn’t get Internet access until the American telecom provider Sprint set up shop in 1996. Sprint provided a dedicated line connecting the Cuban state Internet provider to Sprint’s U.S. network at 64kbps — just a bit faster than dial-up when running full throttle.

Sprint was able to set up that line thanks to 1992’s Cuban Democracy Act, which authorized American companies “to provide efficient and adequate telecommunications services” between the U.S. and Cuba.” The idea was to ensure that Cubans wouldn’t be entirely cut off from notions of free speech and democracy. But Cuba’s web censorship, combined with its slow speed and high cost, means the Internet hasn’t had a massive impact on its society.

“Only foreign nationals and Castro can afford [Cuba’s Internet],” says Larry Press, a researcher and blogger who covers technology in Cuba. In lieu of the Internet, he says, Cubans buy and sell USB drives loaded with media like American movies and TV shows on the secondary market. New drives with fresh content pop up weekly, Press says. He isn’t sure where the drives come from, but one theory he relayed is that the Cuban government could be allowing them as a means to profit from them. Some Cubans also use illicit Wi-Fi networks to share information locally, but those networks aren’t connected to the wider Internet.

Nevertheless, Cuba’s Internet could be about to get a whole lot better. President Barack Obama unexpectedly announced a new chapter in U.S.-Cuban relations Wednesday, and part of that deal involves new efforts to literally bring Cuba up to speed. Under the policy change, American companies will be able to not only sell some hardware and software to Cuban customers, but they could be encouraged to make investments in infrastructure, too, whether that means building undersea cables or rolling out mobile broadband across the country. Cuba’s Internet, Press says, is a “greenfield,” meaning whatever networks are built won’t be encumbered by pre-existing infrastructure, because so little of it exists. That means Cuba could bypass older, slower technologies and leapfrog right to ultra-fast fiber, for example, provided the will and the funds are there.

“I hope they consider a wide range of infrastructure ownership and control models, looking toward Europe, China, Singapore, South Korea, Google (free DSL or paid fiber), et cetera,” says Press. American University’s Armstrong, meanwhile, says bringing faster Internet to Cuba will “take some time,” with the speed depending on “how fast [the telecoms] and the Cubans negotiate deals and get them off the ground.”

The White House said its new policy will help Cubans communicate more freely, which could accelerate societal change in the Communist country. But it remains to be seen just how much Cuban officials will be willing to open up. China, in particular, has proven that it’s possible to have a flourishing technology sector while still keeping a tight lid on what citizens search for, say and do online. Still, if Congress approves normalizing trade ties with Cuba, that could give Washington economic leverage to make sure Cuba keeps its Internet open. And there’s a chance, however small, that would mean changes offline, too.

“With greater opening and exposure of the Cubans to American culture, music, movies and way of life, I think there might be more demand for greater freedom, which might then encourage the government to loosen up its practices,” says Sanja Kelly, project director at Freedom on the Net, Freedom House’s Internet freedom project. However, she cautioned that Cuba’s fate remains in its leaders’ hands: “[Cuba’s] future will ultimately depend on the government’s willingness to change its repressive practices.”

Read next: How Venezuela’s collapse helped thaw Cuban-American relations

TIME cell phones

Researchers Find Flaws That Means Anyone Can Listen to Your Cell Phone Calls

Flaws found in global cell network means spies can hack your phone

Security flaws discovered by German researchers could allow hackers to listen in on private phone calls and intercept text messages en masse, the Washington Post reports.

The weaknesses in the global cellular network are to be reported at a hacker conference in Hamburg this month, by Tobias Engel, founder of Sternraute, and Karsten Nohl, chief scientist for Security Research Labs.

The Post reports that these experts believe that SS7, the global network that allows cellular carriers worldwide to route calls and messages to each other, have “serious vulnerabilities that undermine the privacy of the world’s billions of cellular customers.” Researchers in Germany have discovered that hackers with an in-depth knowledge of SS7’s different features would be able to exploit certain functions to listen to private calls and intercept text messages.

One way that hackers could intercept calls would be to exploit cellular carriers forwarding function — which allows a user to have his calls directed to another number — by redirecting “calls to themselves, for listening or recording, and then onward to the intended recipient of a call. Once that system was in place, the hackers could eavesdrop on all incoming and outgoing calls indefinitely, from anywhere in the world.”

Despite mobile carriers working to secure data, the Post reports that the weaknesses in SS7 have left millions vulnerable:

These vulnerabilities continue to exist even as cellular carriers invest billions of dollars to upgrade to advanced 3G technology aimed, in part, at securing communications against unauthorized eavesdropping. But even as individual carriers harden their systems, they still must communicate with each other over SS7, leaving them open to any of thousands of companies worldwide with access to the network. That means that a single carrier in Congo or Kazakhstan, for example, could be used to hack into cellular networks in the United States, Europe or anywhere else.

It’s unclear how much, if any, data has been intercepted due to these vulnerabilities, but as Engel told the Post, “I doubt we are the first ones in the world who realize how open the SS7 network is.”

[Washington Post]

TIME Video Games

Minecraft Is Getting a Story Mode

Minecraft
Young racegoers play in a Minecraft tournament during Ascot Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup and Concert at Ascot Racecourse on August 9, 2014 in Ascot, England. Miles Willis—2014 Getty Images

It's a big change for a normally open-ended game

This article was originally published on the Daily Dot.

The developer of Minecraft has partnered with another high-profile company on a major expansion to the popular online game.

Telltale Games on Thursday announced the development of Minecraft: Story Mode. Minecraft developer Mojang presented the news through a mini-game called Info Quest II.

Telltale is tapping into a game that is already rich in non-traditional narrative. Minecraft is about making your own stories—as in literally constructing them from the raw materials given to you by a world seed. The slew of popular Minecraft “Let’s Play” videos are all player-created stories; “Let’s Play” live-streams construct the story right before the viewer’s eyes.

Read the rest of the story from our partners at the Daily Dot.

TIME intelligence

White House Doesn’t Rule Out Cybercounterattack in Sony Hack

Calls it a "serious national security matter"

The White House is treating the massive hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment as a “serious national security matter” and is currently devising a “proportional response” to the cyberattack, press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

Earnest said there have been a number of daily meetings at the White House about the hack, and that there are “a range of options that are under consideration right now” for a response. Earnest would not rule out a U.S. cybercounterattack on those behind the Sony hack, saying officials are mindful of the need for a “proportional response.”

“This is something that’s being treated as a serious national security matter,” he said. “There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor.”

Read more: Everything we know about Sony, The Interview and North Korea

Earnest would not publicly name the “sophisticated actor” behind the attack, even as U.S. officials have linked North Korea to the hack — something Pyongyang has denied. “I’m not in a position to confirm any attribution at this point,” Earnest said.

The incident remains under investigation by the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, and Earnest said those efforts are “progressing.” Earnest said it’s unlikely officials will be able to fully disclose the eventual response. “I don’t anticipate that we’ll be in a position where we’re gonna be able to be completely forthcoming about every single element of the response that has been decided upon,” he said.

Asked about Sony’s decision to pull the film The Interview from distribution in response to threats of 9/11-style attacks from hackers, Earnest said: “The White House stands squarely on the side of artists and other private citizens who want to freely express their views.”

Read more: You can’t see The Interview, but TIME’s movie critic did

“This is a decision that Sony should make,” Earnest added. “This is a private company.”

The hack exposed reams of employees’ data and embarrassing email exchanges between executives. It came as Sony was preparing to release The Interview, which has been fiercely criticized by North Korea for depicting a fictional assassination attempt of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. With a growing number of movie theaters saying they wouldn’t screen the film amid the threads of attack, Sony canceled its release late Wednesday.

“Administration officials were consulted about the film prior to its release at the request of the company that was producing the movie,” Earnest said, confirming that officials had screened the film.

TIME Nintendo

Duck Hunt Will Land On Nintendo’s Wii U on Christmas Day

Duck Hunt
Duck Hunt Nintendo

No plastic gun this time

Nintendo has a retro Christmas gift in store for people who own its Wii U console.

Duck Hunt, the legendary fowl-hunting, gun-slinging game originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, is coming to Nintendo’s newest console on Dec. 25. The game will be downloadable on the Wii U’s virtual console, which brings classic Nintendo titles to the system.

The Wii U version of Duck Hunt replaces Nintendo’s classic light gun accessory with the Wii Remote, which players use to shoot birds or clay pigeons bouncing around their screen.

“Test your sharp-shooting skills as your targets take flight in this legendary NES classic,” reads Nintendo’s press release. “Be quick to knock them out of the skies, or your canine companion won’t hesitate to make you the laughing stock of hunters.”

TIME Security

4 Things Every Single Person Can Learn From the Sony Hack

Most importantly: Never email your passwords

The massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment that resulted in thousands of employees’ emails and personal data being posted online may have been the work of expert hackers with North Korean support—but that doesn’t mean we can’t all learn something from the incident.

Reporting around the Sony hack revealed the company and its employees did little to keep passwords and other sensitive data secure. Here are four things we can all learn about data security from the Sony hack.

Never open suspicious links

While some reports suggest the Sony hackers had inside help, it’s just as likely they accessed Sony’s systems after a hapless employee clicked a suspicious link in what’s called a “phishing” email. Those emails increasingly target specific employees with very personal messages that make it look like they’re from somebody you trust, but clicking the links they contain can result in malware hitting your computer, infecting your company’s network and leaving it vulnerable.

Learn more about phishing emails and how to detect them on this helpful Microsoft site.

Don’t email your passwords

Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton’s assistants emailed him unencrypted reminders of his passwords for email, banking and online shopping accounts, according to the Associated Press. How does the AP know that? Because those emails were leaked by the Sony hackers along with troves of other data, exposing Lynton to a serious personal security problem. All a hacker with Lynton’s emails had to do was search the cache for “password,” and voila, tons of access credentials.

If you have to communicate passwords with family members or coworkers, the safest solution is a secure password manager like 1Password or LastPass.

Encrypt your most sensitive data

Every business has sensitive files, like contracts or employees’ medical information. Encryption basically makes files look like a jumbled mess to anyone who doesn’t have the right decoding software, meaning it would have made it much harder for hackers and journalists to get anything useful from Sony’s documents.

Most people don’t go the extra mile and encrypt their private files, but the Sony hack shows we really ought to do that. Lifehacker has a good list of encryption tools here, though top tech companies have increasingly been making encryption the default, especially on mobile devices.

Make sure you’ve got an ace security team

This tip is more for corporate executives than rank-and-file employees, but it’s crucial that your company’s IT team is up to snuff. Sony Pictures CFO David C. Hendler complained about the company’s poor security policies as recently as October, according to emails leaked in the hack. The Sony hack would have caught many companies flat-footed, but having better security and IT practices might have helped Sony ward off the worst of it—and rebuilding after a hack is far harder and costlier than deflecting one to begin with.

TIME legal

We Won’t See That Last Steve Jobs Video After All

Steve Jobs Introduces iCloud Storage System At Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference
Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivers the keynote address at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Judge denies media's request to copy and air the footage

The judge presiding over an antitrust lawsuit against Apple has denied media outlets’ request to release a deposition from Steve Jobs recorded six months before the Apple founder succumbed to cancer in 2011. The video is among the last times Jobs appeared on film before his death.

District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that the public already had sufficient access to the footage, which was played in the courtroom and transcribed for the public record. Enabling media outlets to copy and distribute the tape could infringe on the privacy rights of the defendant, Rogers ruled, adding that misuses of the tape could have a chilling effect on future depositions.

“If releases of video depositions routinely occurred,” she wrote, “witnesses might be reticent to submit voluntarily to video depositions in the future, knowing they might one day be publicly broadcast.”

TIME Crime

Uber Driver Accused of Raping Passenger in Boston

The alleged rape comes as Uber navigates intense scrutiny at home and abroad

An Uber driver in Boston was charged with kidnapping and raping a customer of the ride-sharing service, in another potentially damaging case for the rapidly expanding company.

Alejandro Done, 46, allegedly drove a woman he picked up to a secluded area and then assaulted her in the back seat earlier this month. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Wednesday, the Boston Globe reports.

Uber says Done had passed a background check. “This is a despicable crime and our thoughts and prayers are with the victim during her recovery,” Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh said in a statement to CBS Boston. “Uber has been working closely with law enforcement and will continue to do everything we can to assist their investigation.”

The ride-sharing company is coming under increasing scrutiny in the U.S. and abroad over regulatory and safety concerns as it expands to more than 50 countries. Several countries have moved to outlaw Uber services, and New Delhi banned Uber earlier this month days after a female passenger accused her Uber driver of rape.

The ride-sharing service said yesterday that it was boosting safety measures and revamping its background checks abroad.

[Boston Globe]

TIME Media

You Can Visit The Colbert Report’s Set on Google Maps

Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert hosts Comedy Central's "Indecision 2008: America's Choice" at Comedy Central Studios on November 4, 2008 in New York City. Brad Barket—Getty Images

Check out the set on Street View

Even though The Colbert Report is ending its run Thursday, the show’s set will live on through Google Maps.

The entire iconic stage is rendered in 3D through Google’s service (though sadly, Colbert himself isn’t present). You can get a close-up look at some of the show’s famous gags, like the portrait of Stephen Colbert standing in front of a portrait of Stephen Colbert standing in front of a portrait of Stephen Colbert.

There are also plenty of goodies on Colbert’s bookshelf that you may have never noticed before, like a Captain America shield, a Rock’em Sock’em Robots game and a solemn photograph of Hugh Laurie.

Check out the set in all its glory here.

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