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Archive for February, 2013

Music sales increase for the first time since 1999

February 27, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Dr Search, Ecommerce, Hackers, Mobile Marketing, Search Clinic, Tablets, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Global music revenues had risen for the first time since 1999 according to new research.Music sales increase for the first time since 1999The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said that accelerating digital music sales had caused a 0.3% upturn in global revenues – a total of  £10.9 billion.

“It is hard to remember a year for the recording industry that has begun with such a palpable buzz in the air,” said Frances Moore, chief executive of IFPI.

“These are hard-won successes for an industry that has innovated, battled and transformed itself over a decade.

“They show how the music industry has adapted to the internet world, learned how to meet the needs of consumers and monetised the digital marketplace.”

Global singles best sellers in 2012

Carly Rae Jepsen, Call Me Maybe, 12.5 million units
Gotye, Somebody That I Used To Know, 11.8 million
PSY, Gangnam Style, 9.7 million
Fun, We Are Young, 9.6 million
Maroon 5, Payphone, 9.1 million
Michel Telo, Ai Se Eu Te Pego, 7.2 million
Nicki Minaj, Starships, 7.2 million
Maroon 5, One More Night, 6.9 million
Flo Rida, Whistle, 6.6 million
Flo Rida, Wild Ones, 6.5 million

Source: IFPI

The music industry has undertaken a sizable campaign over several years to see illegal sites and services put out of business.

In the UK, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) took action to the courts, obtaining a court order to force internet service providers to block access to file-sharing site The Pirate Bay.

The music industry has also started to refocus its efforts by targeting those who make profiting from illegal music possible, such as advertisers, as well as the piracy sites themselves.

Elsewhere, search engines like Google have been pressured to demote piracy websites in their search results.

More needs to be done on that front, IFPI said: “Searches for the names of popular artists followed by the term “mp3” still return a large number of results for illegal sources on the first page.

“In August 2012, Google announced it would take into account the number of valid copyright notices it receives when returning search results.  That was a welcome step in principle but unfortunately has not been translated into results.”

Online music piracy down

February 25, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, data security, Dr Search, Hackers, internet, Search Clinic, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Online music piracy across the world “declined significantly” in 2012, according to a new report.Online music piracy down The NPD Group said last year the number of users on peer-to-peer (P2P) illegally downloading music fell by 17% – down to 21 million worldwide.

The market research firm cited an increased use of legal streaming music sites as being behind the drop.

The NPD Group’s report, based on its annual study of music consumers, said that at P2P file sharing’s peak, in 2005, as many as 33 million people used the services – one in five of all internet users aged 13 and older.

But in 2012 that number was measured as being down to 21 million people.

The report said as many as 40% of people who used illegal music services in 2011 stopped doing so in 2012.

Of those, 20% said this was due to the fact the illegal service they were using had been shut down, or had contained spyware and viruses.

More than half the users who stopped using illegal sites said they now preferred legal services such as the UK-headquartered Spotify.

The music industry has undertaken a sizable campaign over several years to see illegal sites and services put out of business.

In the UK, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) took action to the courts, obtaining a court order to force internet service providers to block access to file-sharing site The Pirate Bay.

The Pirate Party UK – a political group that campaigns for an “open” internet – launched a proxy service to allow UK users to circumvent the block of The Pirate Bay, but that too was closed following legal threats from the BPI.

“In recent years, we’ve seen less P2P activity, because the music industry has successfully used litigation to shut down [P2P client] Limewire and other services,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of NPD.

“Many of those who continued to use P2P services reported poor experiences, due to rampant spyware and viruses on illegal P2P sites.”

PlayStation 4 console announced by Sony

February 22, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Gaming, internet, Search Clinic, Social Networking, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Sony has announced its next-generation gaming console – the PlayStation 4.PlayStation 4 console announced by SonyIts new hardware is designed to offer superior graphics as well as new social features including the sharing of recorded gameplay clips.

It will succeed the PlayStation 3, which went on sale in 2006 and has sold about 75 million units.

Sony also confirmed a range of big-name software for the machine including Bungie’s upcoming “shared-world shooter” Destiny, which will include exclusive content for the PS4.

The developer’s previous title, Halo, helped drive sales for the rival Xbox platform.

A successful launch might spur on sales of Sony’s new televisions and other consumer electronics, helping turn around its fortunes.

Sony posted a £3.2 billion loss in its last financial year, marking the fourth year it ended in deficit.

But the firm has forecast a profit for the current financial year ending in March.

Sony said the console was “coming holiday 2013” suggesting it will go on sale in at least some countries in or around December.

Sony described the machine as being like a “supercharged” PC.

It runs off an x86-based CPU (central processing unit) – similar architecture to that found in most desktop computers – and an “enhanced” PC GPU (graphics processing unit). Both CPU and GPU are designed by the US firm Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

It comes with the new DualShock 4 controller, which includes a touchpad, a “share button” and a lightbar, which allows a separate camera to track its movement.

Another new feature is that gamers can let one of their friends connect to their machine and take control of their character to help if they have got stuck, or allow several friends to watch their live progress as spectators.

While the graphics shown during the demonstrations were more advanced that those in current games for Nintendo’s Wii U, Sony must also convince gamers to choose its platform over PC-based systems.

Sony did not announce how much it plans to charge – perhaps holding the news back for the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles in June or a later announcement.
Quantic Dream demo Developers say they can create more realistic looking in-game characters, making it easier to convey emotions

The PlayStation 3 was initially sold at a loss, so if that practice is repeated with the new model its launch may initially put fresh strain on the firm’s finances.

Dell’s sales fall ahead of proposed buyout

February 20, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Dr Search, Ecommerce, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

The computer maker Dell has reported quarterly falls in profits and sales in what could be its last set of results as a public company.Dell's sales fall ahead of proposed buyoutThe world’s third largest PC maker said net profit in the fourth quarter fell 31% to £345 million ($530 million)  compared with the same period a year ago.

Revenue fell 11% to £9.34 billion which were hurt by the shrinking consumer business.

Founder Michael Dell has offered to buy the business for £15.9 billion.

But his attempt to turn it back into a private firm has faced opposition over the value of the consultancy side of the business.

Dell’s largest independent shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management, said the offer “grossly undervalues the company”, while reports suggest other large investors also oppose the deal.

In recent years Dell has struggled to compete with cheaper Asian rivals, as well as the boom in smartphones and tablet computers, and has focused more on corporate needs and less on the home consumer.

For the full year ending 1 February 2013, net profit fell 32% to £1.55 billion, while revenue fell 8% to £37.19 billion.

Dell said that it was not providing an outlook for the 2014 fiscal year or for the first fiscal quarter, given the proposed merger agreement to take the company private.

Apple computers now hacked

February 18, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Apple, Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Hackers, internet, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Apple has announced that its own computers were attacked by the same hackers who targeted Facebook.Apple computers now hackedThe iPhone-maker said a small number of its machines were affected, but added there was “no evidence” of data theft.

Last week Facebook said it had traced a cyber attack back to China which had infiltrated employees’ laptops.

Apple said it would release a software update to protect customers against the malicious software used in the attack.

In a statement, the firm said: “Apple has identified malware which infected a limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plug-in for browsers.”

“The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers.”

“We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network. There is no evidence that any data left Apple.”

“We are working closely with law enforcement to find the source of the malware.”

Apple said it had taken measures to protect users from vulnerabilities in Java, a widely-used programming language that was found to have serious security flaws.

“Since OS X Lion, Macs have shipped without Java installed, and as an added security measure OS X automatically disables Java if it has been unused for 35 days,” the company said.

“To protect Mac users that have installed Java, today we are releasing an updated Java malware removal tool that will check Mac systems and remove this malware if found.”

Facebook’s turn to be targeted by sophisticated hackers

February 15, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Facebook, internet, Personal Security, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Facebook has revealed it was the latest website to be targeted by a “sophisticated attack” by hackers last month, but found no evidence any user data had been compromised.Facebook's turn to be targeted by sophisticated hackersThe social network said that the attack occurred when employees visited a mobile developer website “that was compromised”.

More than one billion people use Facebook worldwide.

“Last month, Facebook security discovered that our systems had been targeted in a sophisticated attack,” the company said.

“The attack occurred when a handful of employees visited a mobile developer website that was compromised.”

Malware was downloaded on to its employees’ laptops, the firm said, adding: “As soon as we discovered the presence of the malware, we remediated all infected machines, informed law enforcement, and began a significant investigation that continues to this day.”

“We have no evidence that Facebook user data was compromised in this attack,” Facebook said in its blog post.

The firm went on to say that it was “not alone in this attack”.

“It is clear that others were attacked and infiltrated recently as well. As one of the first companies to discover this malware, we immediately took steps to start sharing details about the infiltration with the other companies and entities that were affected,” Facebook said.

Oxford students test self drive car

February 13, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Customer Service, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

A car that is able to drive itself  has been tested at Oxford University.Oxford students test self drive carThe technology uses lasers and small cameras to memorise regular journeys like the commute or the school run.

The engineers and researchers behind the project are aiming to produce a low-cost system that “takes the strain” off drivers.

Other companies, such as Google, have also been testing driverless vehicle technology.

The Oxford RobotCar UK project is seeking to do the same in the UK, said Prof Paul Newman from Oxford University’s department of engineering science.

“We’re working with the Department of Transport to get some miles on the road in the UK,” said Prof Newman, who is working alongside machine learning specialist Dr Ingmar Posner.

Until the car can hit the streets, the team is testing it out in a specially-made environment at Begbroke Science Park in Oxfordshire.

Fully autonomous cars won’t appear in showrooms overnight. But it seems inevitable we will be handing over more of the driving to computers as the years roll by, and this Oxford University system could well be the next step.

There are barriers of course. Makers will have to prove they are safe. Then they’ll have to convince the public. And there’s the sticky question of who’s liable if there’s a crash.

Still, most car crashes are down to the human at the wheel, so plenty of people believe robotic cars could save thousands of lives in the future.

The technology allows the car to “take over” when driving on routes it has already travelled.

“The key word for us is that the car gains ‘experiences’,” Prof Newman explained.  “The car is driven by a human, and it builds a 3D model of its environment.”

When it goes on the same journey again, an iPad built into the dashboard gives a prompt to the driver – offering to let the computer “take the wheel”.

“Touching the screen then switches to ‘auto drive’ where the robotic system takes over, Prof Newman added.  “At any time, a tap on the brake pedal will return control to the human driver.”

At the moment, the complete system costs around £5,000 – but Prof Newman hopes that future models will bring the price of the technology down to as low as £100.

Autonomous technology is being tested by several car manufacturers and technology companies.

Simple self-driving tasks, such as cars that can park themselves, are already in use across the industry.  The Holy Grail is a fully-autonomous vehicle that is location-aware, safe and affordable.

Prof Newman applauded Google’s efforts in innovating in the space – but was buoyant about the role British expertise could have in the industry.

“This is all UK intellectual property, getting into the driverless car race.  I would be astounded if we don’t see this kind of technology in cars within 15 years. That is going to be huge.”

UK needs more skilled cyber crime fighters- official

February 11, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Ecommerce, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Given the recent spate of hacking incidents a timely report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has highlighted that a lack of skilled workers is hampering the UK’s fight against cyber crime.UK needs more skilled cyber crime fighters- officialThe spending watchdog had heard from experts who believe it could take “up to 20 years to address the skills gap”, it said in a report.

But progress has been made in tackling cyber fraud, with more police resources and prosecutions aimed at catching cyber criminals, the NAO added.

The government said it was “investing heavily” in research and education.

The number of IT and cyber security professionals in the UK has not increased in line with the growth of the internet, the watchdog said.

In 2011, ministers announced funding of £650 million to implement the UK’s Cyber Security Strategy, which set out the risks of the UK’s growing reliance on cyber space.

The strategy identified criminals, terrorists, foreign intelligence services, foreign militaries and politically motivated “hacktivists” as potential enemies who might choose to attack vulnerabilities in British cyber-defences.

In a review of the strategy, the NAO said there had been an number of developments to help tackle cyber crime.

The internet economy in the UK accounts for more than £120 billion – a higher proportion of GDP than any other G20 country, the NAO said.

But it warned that the cost of cyber crime is estimated to be between £18 billion and £27 billion a year.

Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, received 46,000 reports of cyber-enabled crime, amounting to £292 million of attempted fraud, the report said.

And the Serious Organised Crime Agency had captured more than 2.3 million compromised debit or credit cards since 2011, preventing a potential economic loss of over £500 million.

New regional police cyber crime centres and a trebling of the size of the Police Central e-crime Unit had also helped boost the UK’s capability to combat attacks, the watchdog said.

But the NAO warned that the UK faced a current and future cyber security skills gap, with “the current pipeline of graduates and practitioners” unable to meet demand.

Education officials interviewed by the NAO said it could take “up to 20 years to address the skills gap at all levels of education”.

They raised concerns about a lack of promotion of science and technology subjects at school, leading to a low uptake of computer science and technology courses by university students.

Twitter- targetted by hackers

February 08, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, Email, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Twitter, Uncategorized

250,000 Twitter users have had their accounts hacked in the latest of a string of high profile internet security breaches.Twitter- targetted by hackersTwitter’s information security director Bob Lord said about 250,000 users’ passwords had been stolen, as well as usernames, emails and other data.

Affected users have had passwords invalidated and have been sent emails informing them.

Mr Lord said the attack “was not the work of amateurs”.

He said it appeared similar to recent attacks on the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal as the US newspapers reported that their computer systems had been breached by China based hackers.

Mr Lord said in a blog post Twitter had discovered unauthorised attempts to access data held by the website, including one attack that was identified and stopped moments after it was detected.

“This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident,” he wrote.

Mr Lord did not say who had carried out the attack, but added: “The attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organisations have also been recently similarly attacked.”

“For that reason we felt that it was important to publicise this attack while we still gather information, and we are helping government and federal law enforcement in their effort to find and prosecute these attackers to make the internet safer for all users.”

The biggest worry for most of Twitter’s 200 million active users is not this attack per se, but the additional new “phishing” scams the attack has already inspired.

Since Twitter users now know to be on the lookout for emails asking them to change their passwords, criminals are sending out very similar messages.

If users click on the links in those they risk – once again – having their account hacked.

Dr Search warns you- don’t click on links in any emails asking you to change your password- instead go directly to the web site, log in normally, and change it using the instructions without clicking on email links.

“You have to be careful if you get hold of one of these emails because, of course, it could equally be a phishing attack – it could be someone pretending to be Twitter.

“So, log into the Twitter site as normal and try and log in to your account and, if there’s a problem, that’s when you actually have to try and reset your password.”

Facebook reports sharp drop in profits

February 06, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Facebook, internet, Mobile Marketing, Pay Per Click Advertising, Search Clinic, Social Media, Social Networking, Uncategorized

Facebook has reported a sharp drop in profits- partly due to increased spending on research and development.Facebook reports sharp drop in profitsThe social network site made a profit of £41 million in the final three months of 2012, compared with £133 million a year earlier.

Revenue was up 40% at £1.02 billion, largely due to a big jump in advertising revenue, a quarter of which came from mobile platforms.

Shares in Facebook fell by almost 6% in after-hours trading in New York.

The shares launched on the Nasdaq stock exchange in May at $38, and had halved in value by September.

They have since recovered to stand at $31 at the close of trading. The drop in after-hours trading suggests the shares will fall back again when full trading resumes on Thursday.

Revenue from advertising was £833 million, 41% up on a year earlier.

Mobile revenue, an important indicator of the company’s ability to capitalise on the growing move towards mobile platforms, accounted for 23% of overall revenue.

“In 2012, we connected over a billion people and became a mobile company,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and chief executive.

“We enter 2013 with good momentum and will continue to invest to achieve our mission and become a stronger, more valuable company.”