TIME Security

9 Terrifying Digital Threats Lurking in the Shadows

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

It’s that time of year again: Spring is in the air, Monarch butterflies are traveling north, and Verizon’s data breach report is making the rounds, freaking out already freaked-out chief information security officers around the globe.

The annual report compiles and analyzes more than 63,000 security incidents (as well as 1,300 confirmed data breaches) from about 50 companies worldwide. This year’s 60-page document identified nine main patterns of attack, including point-of-sale intrusions, denial-of-service attacks and acts of cyberespionage. According to Verizon, 94% of all security incidents in 2013 can be traced to these nine basic categories.

(As for the other 6% of threats facing corporate America, well, ignorance is bliss, right?)

Here, our summary of the most pressing security threats for major companies:

1. Web app attacks

Hands down, this is the most common type of data breach. According to Verizon’s report, web applications remain the “proverbial punching bag of the Internet.” How do the bad guys do it? Phishing techniques, installing malware, and, yes, correctly guessing the name of your first stuffed animal, your oldest cousin’s eye color and your nickname in sixth grade. There are ways to better protect Internet-facing applications, Verizon insists, and it starts with two-factor authentication.

2. Cyberespionage

Incidents of unauthorized network or system access linked to state-affiliated actors have tripled — that’s right, tripled — over the last year. Espionage exhibits a wider variety of “threat actions” than any other attack pattern, Verizon says, which means that once intruders gain access, they’re making themselves comfortable and partaking in all sorts of activities, from scanning networks to exporting data. Verizon warns that we can’t keep blaming China, though — at least not just China. About 21% of reported incidents are now being instigated from Eastern Europe.

3. Point-of-sale intrusions

Given the recent high-profile Target breach, in which hackers gained access to the credit card numbers of some 40 million customers, this may seem like the attack pattern du jour. But Verizon claims point-of-sale intrusions have actually been trending down over the last several years. “Recent highly publicized breaches of several large retailers have brought POS compromises to the forefront,” the report’s authors write. “But at the risk of getting all security-hipster on you — we’ve been talking about this for years.” Still, retailers and hotel companies in particular need to be concerned about this kind of attack. It only takes one massive point-of-sale intrusion to scare away customers and investors — just ask Target.

4. Payment card skimmers

Skimming mainly affects ATMs and gas pumps, and is a relatively crude form of attack that requires a skimming device to be physically added to a machine. It’s hardly a new tactic, but what’s different today is the way that the data from “skimmed” payment cards is collected. Before, a criminal had to retrieve the skimming device; now, a thief can remotely collect the data using Bluetooth or other wireless technologies. More modern ATMs are designed to be relatively tamper-free, but this is still a big problem in some parts of the world, such as Bulgaria and Armenia.

5. Insider misuse

Not sure what falls under this category? Imagine someone akin to the rebel NSA defense contractor Edward Snowden, or pretty much any unapproved or malicious use of organizational resources. The most common examples of this are employees using forbidden devices (e.g. USB drives) or services to send intellectual property to their personal accounts — or, more deliberately, posing as another user and sending messages aimed at getting a colleague fired. According to Verizon, many of the people committing these crimes are payment chain personnel and end users, but C-suite managers were more to blame in prior years. Bottom line: Trust no one.

6. Crimeware

This category includes any malware incident that doesn’t fit into the espionage or point-of-sale buckets. The goal is always some kind of illicit activity, such as stealing users’ online banking credentials. Most forms of crimeware start with web activity such as downloads or so-called drive-by infections, where a virus can be downloaded when a user unknowingly clicks on a deceptive pop-up window. What can corporations do to combat these types of attacks? Keep software such as browsers up to date.

7. Miscellaneous errors

Oops, I did it again — as in, I sent an email containing sensitive information to the wrong recipient. That’s the most common example of this kind of unintentional data disclosure. Others include accidentally posting non-public information to a company’s web server or even snail-mailing documents to the wrong physical address. There’s no cure for human error (other than replacing them with computers, of course), but Verizon says corporations can implement data loss prevention software to reduce instances of sensitive files sent by email and tighten processes around posting documents to internal and external websites.

8. Physical theft/loss

Here’s a fun fact: It turns out that corporate assets like phones and laptops are stolen from corporate offices more often than from homes or vehicles. The primary cause of this type of incident? Carelessness. According to the Verizon report: “Accidents happen. People lose stuff. People steal stuff. And that’s never going to change.” The only thing you can change, advises the company, is to encrypt devices, back up data, and encourage employees to keep their gadgets close.

9. Distributed denial-of-service attacks

Last but not least, so-called DDoS threats include any attack aimed at compromising the availability of networks and systems. These are primarily directed at the financial, retail and public sectors. And while the motives behind shutting down corporate, consumer-facing websites remains the same — extortion, protest, or perverse fun — the tools at attackers’ disposal have become more sophisticated and more thoughtfully named, such as “Brobot” and “itsoknoproblembro.”

More on cybersecurity from Fortune:

TIME Internet

Instagrammers Post 216,000 New Pics a Minute and Other Crazy Internet Data Facts

There are 26,380 Yelp reviews generated every minute. God help all of us.

Every minute, 2.4 billion people on the internet churn out a lot of data. While data generation might not seem like the most interesting of topics, business intelligence company Domo translated them into digestible tidbits of information.

For example: Instagram users post 216,000 new photos every minute, which dwarfs Pinterest users’ 3,472 pins a minute. Meanwhile, Whatsapp users share 347,222 pictures a minute.

Domo
TIME streaming video

HBO Is Coming to Amazon Prime

HBO

A new licensing deal will bring HBO movies, comedy specials and series to Amazon's $99-per-year Prime subscription service, with the first shows due in May

Amazon and HBO are joining hands for an exclusive licensing deal that will bring HBO’s content to Amazon’s $99-per-year Prime subscription service, with the first shows hitting Prime on May 21.

Assuming you’re a fan of the sort of content HBO offers, including some of the highest-acclaimed series in television history, that’s as big a deal as any in recent memory — the first time in history HBO’s paired off with an online-only subscription-based streamer.

It means access to HBO will no longer be limited to cable or satellite provider packages, opening the door wide for the first time to cord-cutters who’ve doubtless been waiting for a deal like this to go down. It means you’ll be able to tap HBO with anything that currently supports Amazon’s Prime channel — set-tops, tablets, phones, game consoles, etc. — and gain access to whole swathes of HBO content (as well as free two-day shipping and Kindle library lending) for Amazon’s standard $99-per-year fee.

Bear in mind, if you’re not a member, that Prime content is free to Prime members; this isn’t HBO signing up to let Amazon charge you to watch these shows. Amazon says Prime members will have “unlimited streaming access” to shows that include:

  • All seasons of The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome and Six Feet Under, as well as Eastbound & Down, Enlightened and Flight of the Conchords
  • Miniseries, including Angels in America, Band of Brothers, John Adams, The Pacific and Parade’s End
  • Select seasons of current series such as Boardwalk Empire, Treme and True Blood
  • Original movies like Game Change, Too Big To Fail and You Don’t Know Jack
  • Documentaries including the Autopsy and Iceman series, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and When the Levees Broke
  • Original comedy specials from Lewis Black, Ellen DeGeneres, Louis CK and Bill Maher

Amazon says earlier seasons of HBO shows like Girls, The Newsroom and Veep will roll out over the course of the multi-year agreement, approximately three years after airing on HBO.”

Not to worry, cable subscribers and HBO Go users: Amazon assures HBO content will remain “on all HBO platforms.” HBO hasn’t signed any of its series over to Amazon exclusively, in other words; only the right to stream existing shows through Prime. What’s more, Amazon says the HBO Go app is coming to Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box by the end of the year, the upside being access to the full HBO caboodle if you pay monthly for HBO: “1,700 titles online including every episode of new and classic HBO series, as well as HBO original films, miniseries, sports, documentaries, specials and a wide selection of blockbuster movies.”

TIME technology

Google Street View Now Includes Time Lapse Feature

Google Maps Street View Time Lapse
Google released time lapse functionality within street view, allowing users to look back in time. Google

Seven years of Google Street View images are now available all at once

Since it launched in 2007, Google Street View has become the closest thing we have to a teleportation device. With a few keystrokes, you can go somewhere without actually going there, walking sidewalks in Paris one moment and poking into Mumbai shop windows the next.

But Google’s virtual map of the world has always been limited to the present — or at least the most recent images transmitted by its camera-equipped vehicles. Each time those vehicles captured a site, the new images would become searchable and the old ones were taken down and relegated to Google’s servers.

Now, Street View is trying to turn its teleportation device into a time machine. Starting today, all the Street View images taken over the last seven years will be viewable as part of a new feature that allows users to see how places have changed since Google began photographing the globe’s nooks and crannies. It happens in a whirl. Buildings that took years to construct magically appear in moments. Neighborhoods humming with life one year are wiped away by natural disasters the next. Billboards featuring flip phones suddenly show smartphones.

“Our original goal with Street View was to build a map that is useful, accurate and comprehensive,” says Vinay Shet, a Google product manager. “So we’ve been capturing all these snapshots, and we thought, let’s use all this data and create something that users will love, that will be exploratory, and hopefully will be useful.”

The time lapse feature will appear in a window within Street View, along with a bar users can manually toggle to change years. (It includes a substitute for Pegman, the little yellow guy users drag to launch Street View. On time lapse, your guide is an avatar that looks an awful lot like Dr. Brown from Back to the Future.)

There will also be double the number of Street View images that were previously accessible. Google Trekkers have driven more than 5 million miles in 50 countries since 2007 and have gone many places more than once, giving most locations at least one time-lapsed layer.

Google’s most engaging images often involve construction and destruction. One World Trade Center in New York City and Rio de Janeiro’s World Cup stadium rise in seconds, while areas affected by the Japanese tsunami become instantly obliterated.

“It’s only been seven years,” Shet says, “but it’s amazing how many interesting changes we’ve found.”

One World Trade Center, New York City
April 2009 – August 2013

Google

The construction of One World Trade Center began in 2006, but for the first few years most of the work was below-ground. Much of the above-ground construction took place right as Google began capturing it from Manhattan’s West Street.

Soumaya Museum, Mexico City
October 2010 – November 2011

Google

This Mexico City art museum was financed by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man. The modern, showpiece structure was constructued in a little over a year.

The Howard Theatre, Washington, DC
July 2009 – May 2012

Google

The historic Howard Theatre, built in 1910, was in danger of closing a century later but underwent a massive $29 million renovation that began September 2010. It reopened in April 2012.

Marina Bay Sands Resort, Singapore
November 2008 – May 2013

Google

The hotel, considered the most expensive building in the world at $5.7 billion, includes three 55-story towers with more than 2,500 rooms. It opened in June 2010.

Graffiti on Bowery Street, New York City
June 2009 – August 2013

Google

The side of a building on Bowery Street in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood that’s seen a steady rotation of street artists.

Naucalpan, Mexico
November 2008 – October 2013

Google

An overpass gets built over an existing street in Naucalpan, Mexico, just outside of Mexico City.

Brazil World Cup stadium, Fortaleza, Brazil
February 2012 – September 2013

Google

A soccer stadium slowly rises in Fortaleza, Brazil, one of the host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

 

TIME Web

The Best Web Browser

With our lives being so connected these days, most of us spend more time using our web browser than any other computer program. A great browser makes for the best Internet experience, so choosing the right one is a necessity. And right now both PC and Mac owners have a lot of choices. There are the default browsers, Safari and Internet Explorer, plus dozens of others that work on both platforms. What makes any of them better than the others?

The best browsers are simple to use, speedy, hog as few computer resources as possible and keep you safe from malware and third-party tracking. On top of that, browsers should offer a wealth of customization options, tight integration with sites and services you use often, robust tab and window management, and syncing across computers and mobile devices.

There are five browsers that have most or all of these qualities: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera. Of these, Chrome and Firefox offer the best experiences across the board and have the advantage of being available for all major operating systems and many mobile devices. After using both browsers extensively for over six months, I found Firefox to be the superior browser. Read on to find out why.

Firefox: The browser to beat

If you’re familiar with Firefox from years past, you might balk at my recommendation at first. Firefox was once a top browser alternative but lost a lot of popularity and users to Chrome because it grew too slow while hogging a ton of memory. It took a while, but Mozilla’s developers finally turned this problem around. It’s secure, fast, easy to use, customizable, uses few computer resources and makes switching between computers and mobile devices easy.

Browser add-ons

firefox-addons-list-600px
Mozilla

Firefox has the most robust and useful library of add-ons for its browser, making it the most customizable and useful browser. It has all of the most popular extensions and plugins—ad blockers, adjuncts to popular services like Evernote and Pocket, social network integration, etc.—plus some very useful add-ons that are only available for Firefox. For instance the Heartbleed checker for Firefox, Heartbleed-Ext, adds a red warning at the top of vulnerable sites.

Plus, all of the add-ons you find in the official Mozilla repository (found under Firefox >> Add-ons) are checked for compatibility and malware, unlike Google Chrome’s extension library. Add-ons won’t add new or malicious functionality behind your back the way some Chrome Extensions have been accused of. By default, add-ons update automatically as the browser checks for new versions and security patches, but you can disable that so you can approve all updates.

firefox-tab-groups-400px
To create a Tab Group, you use the Tab Group short cut–“Ctrl + Shift + E” for PCs and “Command + Shift + E” for Macs. Then drag the tab you want to use to create a group out of the main Group Your Tabs box to create a new group. Mozilla

Tab and window management

If you like to keep multiple sites open in multiple windows or tabs, Firefox’s built-in tools for managing them are the best. The Tab Groups feature makes keeping tabs organized much easier and clears away the clutter that comes with having dozens of tabs open in one window. You can group tabs any way you like and even name the groups so you remember which websites you have stored inside. Switching between groups is as easy as switching between windows, but everything stays under one icon. In Firefox you can also “pin” a tab (right click on a tab to pin it), which moves it to the left of other tabs and keeps it in place permanently, even after you restart. This is useful for websites I keep open and check often, such as Gmail and Facebook, because I can always find them and see notifications.

Security

Besides keeping your plug-ins updated, there are other ways Firefox keeps you secure. The browser is automatically updated to ensure you have the freshest protection while surfing. And, if you come across a malware-infected site or a fake site designed for phishing, the browser will warn you before loading. This list of bad sites is kept up to date as new fakes and infections pop up.

Private browsing

Mozilla improved on Firefox’s private browsing experience. Now it works similarly to Chrome–private windows open alongside normal ones, so you don’t have to close down what you’re doing to go incognito. However, you can’t open multiple sessions in private windows as you can with Internet Explorer. If you’re signed into one Yahoo Mail account in private, you can’t sign into a second account in another private window.

firefox-sync-400px
Mozilla

Syncing across devices

The ability to sync browser data is increasingly important for people who spend their day switching between devices, be they mobile phones, tablets, or computers. It’s nice to be able to reopen tabs from your computer on your phone, especially if the tab has needed information. I also appreciate having all my bookmarks, passwords, and add-ons on both my work and home computer. Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari all have some syncing capability, though the first two have the best and most comprehensive implementation.

Setting up Chrome’s sync is easier and faster than Firefox because all you have to do is sign in to your Google account and you’re done. Firefox has a code verification system that requires using an existing synced device to authorize another, which is a minor pain.

Syncing works on Android smartphones and tablets, too, since both Chrome and Firefox have mobile versions on that platform. However, there’s no Firefox for iOS. Chrome is available for iPhone and iPad, though Safari is naturally more integrated with those devices and you can’t change the default browser to Chrome in iOS.

Final call

Firefox is now back to being the best browser choice, thanks to recent updates and added features. It’s secure, streamlined, customizable and makes switching between computers and mobile devices easy.

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Smartphones

Here’s Proof You’re More Addicted to Your Phone (and Tablet) Than Ever

Mobile addicts are growing.
Mobile addicts are growing. Flurry Analytics

The number of people who launch apps more than 60 times per day on phones or tablets doubled in the past year

If you’re constantly checking your phone despite the pleas of your mom, boss or significant other, you might just be a “mobile addict” — and you’re not alone.

The average mobile user only launches an app 10 times per day, but a mobile addict, as defined by analytics firm Flurry, launches them more than 60 times each day. By tabulating how often some 500,000 apps were launched on 1.3 billion mobile devices over the past year, Flurry has deduced that the number of mobile addicts grew from 79 million people to 176 million people between March 2013 and March 2014 — an increase of 123%.

Mobile addicts skew female — there are approximately 15 million more women than men who fit the description — and they’re also young. Teens and college students make up a significant portion of the mobile addicts segment (cue anxieties about selfie-taking millennials).

Flurry’s data also suggested that middle-aged parents were becoming major mobile addicts, but researchers say it’s likely that older consumers are buying devices that are shared among their families. Don’t worry, your dad’s not on Snapchat — at least not yet.

TIME Technologizer

Apple Will Let Mac Users Try Out OS X Betas (Finally!)

OS X Mavericks
Apple

Good news for early adopters. Will iOS be next?

If you’ve got a Mac and like trying out new software, Apple has a proposition for you. Join its new OS X Beta Seed program, and you’ll be able to download free test versions of future editions of OS X from the Mac App Store, before they’re released to the general public.

As with all beta programs, what’s in it for the software developer in question is real-world testing. Apple will be able to get feedback from program participants while it’s still possible to fix any glitches which turn up.

With any other product and any other company, this wouldn’t be news: It’s the way things work, generally speaking. For instance, Microsoft released a free consumer preview of Windows 8 in February 2012, months before the final operating system shipped in October.

Apple, however, has usually held its betas close to the vest. It’s distributed them to people who pay $99 a year to register as an OS X or iOS developer, but doing so has required those folks to sign an agreement saying they won’t discuss the pre-release software in public.

Actually, that mandate is still in place: As the Verge’s Chris Welch points out, signing up for the Beta Seed requires you to agree that you won’t blog, tweet, share screen shots or otherwise spill the beans.

The Beta Seed site never says that signing up for the program entitles you to get every new version of OS X early. In fact, the only version of OS X it mentions by name is Mavericks, the current major release. So I don’t think it’s a given that Beta Seed testers will get immediate access to the next version after Mavericks when it comes along, possibly at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June. But it would be nice if they did: It will have major new features, and any further Mavericks updates probably will not.

It’s traditional in stories such as this one to include a stern disclaimer that installing beta software can cause major problems and therefore isn’t for the faint of heart. I guess that’s true. Full disclosure, though: For years, I’ve installed most betas the moment I can get my hands on them. So far, I’ve lived to tell the tale. It may be risky, but it can also be a rewarding experience.

How about iOS? Apple isn’t making any mention at all of its mobile operating system, and it would be a much bigger decision for it to let consumers install such betas. Early versions of smartphone operating systems are far more likely to have crippling problems than desktop ones, and it’s tougher to reverse the process if you regret installing them.

I can’t imagine that Apple wants to provide tech support for people who install an iOS beta and then discover that their phone no longer functions as a phone. Maybe the company will cautiously provide seeds of very late, almost-done betas–also known by names such as “release candidates,” and typically just about as polished as final software. Here’s hoping.

TIME Silicon Valley

Ed Norton’s Charity Company Doesn’t Sound So Charitable

Mat Hayward—Getty Images

How do you become a $23 million darling in Silicon Valley? By building a for-profit business that serves nonprofits, apparently

What’s one of the rare blessings of living in an era characterized by tremendous asset inequality and a chastened, hamstrung welfare state? Charitable giving has by some accounts reached an all-time high, both among the general public and among the American wealthy. What a time to be alive.

As has been the case with many a popular activity in our time, techies have now come along to philanthropy to offer the piggy-back ride they like to call disruption, claiming to fix something that may not have needed fixing while skimming a fee for doing business. The crowded crowdfunding field offers any number of sites that handle charitable donations, from Indiegogo to GoFundMe to Causes to JustGiving. All tend to follow the same basic formula, allowing users to register their own charitable causes and to donate to established ones. It’s hard for any one site to make a name for itself.

But on Monday one of the pack stepped forward from the others with big news: CrowdRise, a charity-specific crowdfunding venture, had landed $23 million in venture capital funding from a group including Twitter/Tumblr investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, and Jeff Bezos’s personal investment fund, Bezos Expeditions. (This funding round followed an earlier seed round that included investment from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.)

Those big names join the biggest one that had previously been attached to the site: Edward Norton, the actor and director. Norton and a band of cofounders launched the site in November 2009 after they raised a surprising $1.2 million for a wildlife preservation concern in eastern Africa. They figured, If we can raise good money like this, why shouldn’t we let everyone else do the same? That was a giving notion, and it’s of a piece with CrowdRise’s passionate and playful message. The site’s motto says its users will “have the most fun in the world” while fundraising, and little jokes pepper its official literature. To wit: “CrowdRise is way more fun than anything else aside from being all nervous about trying to kiss a girl for the first time and her not saying something like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.'” Fun!

But what does altruistic fun have to do with a $23 million round of funding? That cash would do some good in the pockets of the charities CrowdRise users support. The site’s literature explains its business plan this way: “When a donation is made through Crowdrise, we deduct a transaction fee so we don’t go out of business (GOB).” No, ExxonMobil’s corporate communications team would never write such a plain thing. But perhaps what they would write would not fudge things, either. Those transaction fees not only kept CrowdRise from going under but made the business promising enough to land all that venture money. As TechCrunch put it: “[CrowdRise is] profitable and … viewed the Kickstarter goal of $1 billion raised on CrowdRise as very doable.” (CrowdRise had not responded to questions from TIME as of late Tuesday afternoon.)

Capitalist techniques have gained an increasingly stable foothold in the world of nonprofits. Universities, hospitals and big foundations are lousy with MBAs and executives who command (citing market logic) salaries close to what their for-profit counterparts make. CrowdRise’s big-bucks waltz into this moral vacuum might be a little brazen—but at least it’s clever. The opposite of clever is the spirit that accompanies any event like this. A perusal of the comments on TechCrunch’s post, and the Twitter response to the same, indicates an unflinchingly positive reaction to the news. “Great to see.” “Psyched.” “Congratulations.” That’s a whole lot of accolades for a common middleman who just got a whole lot richer.

TIME Gadgets

Apple’s Patent to Auto-Disable Texting While Driving Is Old News

Anti-texting tools capable of disabling mobile devices on the fly have been around for years.

The idea that a master control device placed in your car or truck or rental vehicle might automatically deactivate your smartphone’s ability to text has been around for awhile: There’s an app that’ll disable phone texting if it detects motion above 10 m.p.h., for instance, or another from AT&T that’ll do so the same once you reach 25 m.p.h. We’ve written about a few ourselves in recent years, like Scosche CellControl, or TextBuster. They’re not really news.

Bear that in mind as you’re reading reports that Apple might (gasp!) have lockout designs on your handheld computing device while operating a motor vehicle. First, the news stems from a patent, and patents slot somewhere between hypotheticals and parking spaces. And second, Apple filed this particular patent back in 2008 — this is just the patent coming to light.

Here’s the gist, scraped from U.S. patent 8,706,143, published today for what Apple describes as a “Driver handheld computing device lock-out.”

…The lock-out mechanisms disable the ability of a handheld computing device to perform certain functions, such as texting, while one is driving. In one embodiment, a handheld computing device can provide a lock-out mechanism without requiring any modifications or additions to a vehicle by using a motion analyzer, a scenery analyzer and a lock-out mechanism. In other embodiments, the handheld computing device can provide a lock-out mechanism with modifications or additions to the vehicle, including the use of signals transmitted by the vehicle or by the vehicle key when engaged with the vehicle.

In other words, pretty much like the apps mentioned above. Apple’s imprimatur could carry significantly more water, of course, if it’s working with automotive manufacturers to make the technology work automatically (or optionally) with its iOS device lineup. And while anti-texting app-makers like Cinqpoint have talked about offering iOS versions down the line, your alternatives in iOS at this point are limited to workarounds that don’t actually disable texting, because Apple doesn’t allow it. Whether that’s because Apple’s been waiting to roll out its own solution, or for security reasons, say to prevent rogue apps hijacking your phone’s messaging capabilities, is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime, the real debate governing hard and fast anti-texting solutions is over here; that’s where the conversation has to start, anyway.

TIME Opinion

Fan TV Highlights Everything Wrong with Cable Right Now

Fan TV

A new $99 set-top box aims to fix cable TV, because TV providers won't.

Fan TV has a simple proposition for Time Warner Cable customers: For $99, it will make your cable TV-watching experience better.

You buy the box and stick it in your living room, in place of a regular cable box. Instead of the the regular guide–cluttered with row upon row of channels you never watch–you get personalized recommendations, not just for stuff that’s on cable, but for shows and movies from other streaming video sources like Crackle and Redbox Instant. And instead of a huge, clunky remote, you use a touchscreen pad that responds to swipes and taps.

But as CNet points out, Fan TV also makes the experience worse in a few significant ways: You can only watch what’s available through Time Warner Cable’s mobile app, which means some channels may not be available. You also can’t record live shows for later viewing or watch recordings from another DVR. A full cable box stand-in this is not.

No disrespect to Fan TV, which has created what appears to be a pleasant interface and concept. But the whole setup is preposterous.

Here we have a cable company that is unwilling to reinvent its stodgy old system for watching television, but continues to increase prices year after year. To justify these higher prices, Time Warner Cable and other providers point out how they’re offering more channels than ever, regardless of whether subscribers asked for these channels. Meanwhile, the licensing costs to carry all these channels keep going up, and all subscribers get is more clutter in an increasingly mind-numbing TV guide interface.

So now, instead of addressing those problems, Time Warner Cable turns to another company that promises to fix the clutter–not for the same exorbitant prices you’ve been paying, mind you, but for an extra $99. Oh, but no DVR allowed. Sorry.

No wonder more people are ditching or skipping cable in favor of cheaper, smarter, more convenient online video services. And no wonder companies like Google and Apple have delayed or given up on plans to make cable TV better. It’s a lost cause.

On a section of Fan TV’s website, the company wonders aloud whether it’s crazy to compete with the tech giants and instead cozy up to pay TV providers like Time Warner Cable. At last, we know the answer.

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