Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Comcast is Raising Data Caps & Usage Fees


Comcast is more than tripling the amount of data many of its subscribers are allowed to use in a month before they hit a cap, the company said Wednesday.

Comcast may be trying to make some preemptive moves as Charter nears approval for its massive takeover of Time Warner Cable. Regulators are instructing Charter to enter new cable or telecom markets as a condition of the deal, and it could lead to direct, head-to-head competition between Charter and Comcast in some regions.

Charter will not be allowed to impose broadband data caps under the conditions regulators are seeking to impose, so if it really happens (and it will) and consumers are given a choice between Charter and Comcast, a sky-high data cap might help Comcast defend its territory.

"Comcast is doing this to remain competitive," said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst. "If they don't do this, [their] angry customers would end up leaving them, going to a competitor."

The announcement comes as Comcast reported strong growth in its cable Internet and TV business Wednesday. It added 438,000 high-speed Internet customers over the past quarter. That's 7.6 percent more additions to the network than the same quarter a year ago. Most of Comcast's Internet customers, roughly 77 percent, get upwards of 50 Mbps service, the company said.

The new data cap raises the monthly usage limit from 300 GB of data to 1 terabyte (equivalent to roughly 1,000 GB). The change takes effect on June 1, and affects all of the markets where Comcast has been testing data caps — such as Atlanta and parts of Florida — and covers all speed tiers in those markets.

Comcast is also increasing the amount of money customers will have to pay if they want to escape the cap entirely. Previously, subscribers in Florida were asked to pay an extra $30 a month for the privilege; in Atlanta, that fee was $35. Earlier surveys conducted by the company of its heaviest data users suggested that 60 percent of them would be willing to pay between $30 and $40 a month to be exempted from data caps. But the new fee goes beyond that, and is set at a whopping $50 a month.

Comcast said in a blog post that 99 percent of its customers never come close to reaching a terabyte of consumption. "Our typical customer uses only about 60 gigabytes of data in a month," the company said.

Read Article (Brian Fung | | 04/27/2016)

Many individuals had no idea there was a limitation. Unless you watch a lot of Netflix, chances are you’re not going to get near 1TB. And knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that make that connect to the Internet, is also an important issue.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

Verizon Anti-Hacker Unit 1.5M Customers Hacked


In San Francisco, California, records for more than 1.5M customers of Verizon Enterprise Solutions – Computer Security Wing – appeared for sale earlier this week.  This Verizon unit aids large corporations when they’ve been the victims of a hack, now the unit itself has been breached.

According to Brian Krebs, a respected computer security writer, the entire database was offered up for $100,000 on a “closely guarded underground cybercrime forum,” or in increments of 100,000 records for $10,000 apiece.  Buyers were also offered the option to purchase information about security vulnerabilities in Verizon’s Website.

In an emailed statement, the company said, “Verizon Enterprise Solutions recently discovered and fixed a security vulnerability on our enterprise client portal.  Our investigation to date found an attacker obtained basic contact information on a number of our enterprise customers.”

The company noted that no data about consumer customers was involved.

It’s ironic that, each year, Verizon Enterprise Solutions writes one of the most widely-read annual data breach investigation reports, and this event will be scrutinized by the computer security community.

The attack “shows that even those that report security vulnerabilities are susceptible to exploits,” said Brad Bussie, director of product management for STEALTHbits Technologies.

“With 99% of the Fortune 500 using Verizon Enterprise Solutions, the compromise of 1.5 million customers’ contact details could prove a huge payday for hackers.  Stealing contact information doesn’t have the immediate payoff of a credit card number, but in the long term can be extremely lucrative if leveraged correctly,” said Vishal Gupta, CEO of the security company Seclore.

While the breach only included basic contact information about Verizon Enterprise Solutions customers, it’s of concern because of who those customers were, said Dodi Glenn, vice president of cyber security at PC Pitstop.

“A lot of Fortune 500 companies use Verizon Enterprise Solutions – makes you wonder if some of those who purchased the data may have plans to use the information to start phishing attacks, since it contains information from companies with lots of money,” he said.

Read Article (Elizabeth Weise | | 03/25/2016)

Obviously, some of the largest enterprises and companies have maintained an “invincibility” complex, even in the face of breaches over recent years.  Businesses should not subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” saying and be more proactive about their security.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

Five-Dimensional Glass Disc Data Storage


Photographs fade, books rot, and even hard drives eventually expire.  Taking the long view, preserving humanity’s collective culture isn’t a marathon, it’s a relay – with successive generations passing on information from one slowly-failing storage medium to the next.

However, this could change.  Scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK have create a new data format that encodes information in tiny nanostructures within glass.  A standard size disc, of the new format, can store about 360 terabytes of data, with an estimated lifespan of up to 13.8 billion years even at temperatures of 190 degrees centigrade.  That’s actually about the age of the universe, and three time the age of Earth.

This is Five-Dimensional data storage, and it was first demonstrated in a 2013 research paper.  The scientists behind its development have since perfected their technique and are now looking to move the technology forward into commercialization.  “We can encode anything,” Aabid Patel, a post-graduate student involved in the research tells ‘The Verge’.  “We’re not limited to anything – just give us a file and we can print it [onto a disc].”

In order to demonstrate the format’s virtues, the team from the University of Southampton, have created copies of the King James Bible, Isaac Newton’s “Opticks” (the foundational text of the study of light and lenses), and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was presented to the UN earlier this month.  Tomorrow, 02/17/2016, a new paper will be presented at the Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco, by the team’s lead researcher, Professor Peter Kazansky.

To understand why these discs can store so much information for such a long time, it’s best to compare them to a regular Compact Disc.  Data is read from a normal CD by shining a laser at a tiny line with bumps in it.  Whenever the laser hits a bump the laser is reflected back and a (1) is recorded, when there’s no bump a (0) is recorded.

These are just two “dimensions” of information – on or off – but with them CD’s can store: music, books, images, videos, or software.  But because this bumpy line is stored on the surface of the CD, it’s vulnerable.  It can be eroded either by physical scratches and scuffs, or by exposure to oxygen, heat, and humidity.

Conversely, 5D discs house information inside the medium using tiny physical structures known as “nanogratings”.  Much like those bumpy lines on CDs, these change how light is reflected, but instead of doing so in just two dimensions (on or off), the light encodes five (five different streams of the spectrum) – hence the name.  Changes to this light can be read, obtaining pieces of information about the nonograting’s orientation, the strength of the light it refracts, and its location in space on the x, y, and z axes.  These extra dimensions are why 5D discs can store data so densely compared to regular optical discs.  A Blu-ray disc can hold up to 128GBs of data (the same as the biggest iPhone), while a 5D disc of the same size could store nearly 3,000 times that: 360 terabytes of information.

And these discs can potentially last for so long because glass is a tough material which needs a lot of heat to melt or warp, it’s also chemically stable – think about all those science experiments that use glass beakers to contain reactive materials without anything bad happening to them.  This makes the 5D discs safe up to temperatures of 1,000*C, say the researchers.

5D data storage obviously has potential as an archival format for museums and galleries, but the scientists involved believe it could also be commercialized in the not-too distant future.  “The concept and development of it is ready to go,” says Patel.  “It’s a matter of developing the technology so we can ten make it readily available for commercial purposes.”

This seems ambitious though, given the inertia that has to be overcome when introducing any new storage medium.  There are also many rival techniques being developed and theorized.  Hitachi is working on its own form of glass-based data storage, and in 2014, researchers simulated a “liquid hard drive” that would use nanoparticles suspended in a solution to store data.  At least storing data in glass discs that can outlive the Earth sounds almost practical by comparison.

“Who knows what’s going to happen thousands of years down the line, no one can predict that,” says Patel.  “But what we can guarantee is that we have the ability to store the culture, language, and essence of the human race in a simple piece of glass.  For future civilizations – or whatever else is out there.”

Read Article (James Vincent | | 02/16/2016)

For commercial use, their biggest stumbling block appears to be, the effects of Read/Write on the “nanogratings”.  On the surface, this appears to be the best practical future for data storage. (I’d buy that for a dollar)

This is another example of how technology is advancing at an exponential rate, it is very important to not only gain knowledge of technology use, but to improve one’s skill set.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

The Internet Cloud Storage Wars Heat Up


Most consumers may not realize it, but there’s a furious battle playing out on the Master Network, the Internet, as they browse the products of everyday use.  The idea of “the cloud” is akin to “Virtual Reality” for most people, some non-physical location parked off to the side on the mystical Internet, where some of their files live.

But for businesses, the move to the cloud is something which causes them to stay up at night.  It’s the logistical headaches of deciding what files can be moved to the space in the sky, what programs they can run off-site, or which business functions can be trusted company – are all very important for firms that must balance accessibility, Security and immediacy.

For the industry’s largest companies, that means a huge business opportunity – and that has sparked heavy competition among companies looking to manage the tech needs of the next decade’s enterprise market.  Just look at the most recent set of company earnings.  On Thursday Amazon Web Services (AWS) reported very strong cloud service numbers.  The platform powers high-profile services for Netflix, Airbnb and NASA.  (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey Bezos is owner of the Washington Post.)

The firm reported $687 million in operating income on $2.4 billion in revenue for AWS, making it a comparatively more profitable venture than the retail arm of the firm.  CFO Brian Olsavsky said that AWS revenue for the year was on track to be “just short” of $10 billion by the end of its fourth quarter.

Then there’s cloud computing rival Microsoft.  The company reported much progress with Azure, and AWS rival.  Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing business designed to handle modern mobile and cloud-based business needs.  While Microsoft didn’t give specifics, it reported that Azure had grown 140% in the past year.  Is cloud services overall, brought in $6.3 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter, a 5% improvement over the same period last year.

One advantage Microsoft will leverage is its long-running relationships with the business community, building on decades of trust to move into the next era.  The company has already signed on major customers such as GE Healthcare and NBC News Digital in the past to manage some of its online programs; it would make sense to expand relationships with those customers already familiar with the way Microsoft does business as it introduces new products.

Finally, it’s of course worth mentioning that this is more than a two-horse race.  Even among the most influential tech titans, Microsoft and Amazon are not alone:  Google is also gunning for a piece of the pie, as are firms such as IBM and Oracle, both as a way to court businesses and to get a hand in managing and running all the new connected devices that consumers will pick up in the next few years.

In the latest earnings call for Google’s new parent company, Alphabet, executives were eager to talk about its growing efforts in the space as one of its most important emerging businesses.

While Google also doesn’t give specifics on revenue for its cloud business, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai took a moment to highlight the company’s attention to the area.  Pichai said that having run Google’s own services for so long gives the company the experience to handle other businesses’ operations.  And he named cloud as being as important for the firm’s future as a focus on digital media, mobile, virtual reality and the expansion of the availability of Internet service.

“Public cloud services are a natural place for us, so we established a business unit late last year to take full advantage of the opportunity,” he said.  “As you know, Google pioneered the cloud at scale …And we are now able to bring this to bear just as the movement to the cloud has reached a tipping point.”

Read Article (Hayley Tsukayama | | 02/02/2016)

Internet availability and access is an issue without a doubt, but knowing how to use the constantly evolving devices that connect to it is also an issue.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage and we need your support.  Please support this vital cause that appears to be, under-the-radar.  Over 50 million Americans are waiting.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

Cloud Storage Still Has a Security Problem


The list of high-profile security breach victims reads like a Who’s Who of famous companies: Target, Home Depot, J.P. Morgan, American Airlines, Hilton Hotels, Sony, Neiman Marcus, Staples, Time Warner Cable and Ashley Madison.  And let’s not forget the government agencies (names look like alphabet soup) that also got hacked: IRS, OPM, NOAA.  And all of this has happened in just the last couple of years.

Hackers have had a field day breaking into networks and stealing private information, almost at will.  In fact, a study by insurance giant “Munich RE” last spring found that 70% of businesses had experienced at least one hacking incident in the previous year.

These attacks have coincided with soaring adoption of cloud computing.  In a rare justification of the hyperbolic term “Revolution”, the cloud is altering the way nearly every organization approaches IT.  Thus, it’s easy to assume that hackers are increasingly targeting the cloud infrastructure.

Attacks have turned up the heat on a simmering debate over whether data stored in the cloud is less secure than keeping it “on premise” – behind a firewall in a company data center.  In fact, survey after survey shows security is the single biggest factor hindering faster adoption of cloud computing.

(Note: Cloud Security Issues were impressed on the RSA Conference 2012)

So does the pubic cloud have a security problem?  Of course it does.  Begs the question; How long has it had this problem…?  “Cloud attacks are going up simply because that is where the money is,” Kevin Curran, senior member of IEEE, told the tech news outlet Computing.

But there’s a deeper problem.  I’m seeing some situations in the industry right now where speed is taking precedence over security as organizations push applications and data to the cloud.  They are moving this data to the cloud so fast that they’re not always sufficiently sweating all the security details.

It’s important to remember that threats to a company’s cloud don’t come just from the outside; they also can be vulnerable to insiders.  Disgruntled employees gaining access to confidential data has always been a potential problem for companies, but the cloud makes it worse because it’s easier to destroy the entire cloud environment, and quickly, rather than one isolated part of the network.  The same goes for unintentional errors caused by network administrators, say the misconfiguration of a firewall.

Fortunately, new technologies, practices and initiatives are coming along to help double down on cloud security.  A practice known as micro-segmentation is getting increased attention in many organizations.  This helps segment the network limits from an intruder and contain a breach before it harms the entire network.

Another more proactive approach is using software (such as Open vSwitch) to enforce security using policies.  This allows every virtual machine in the network to have its own security – managed at the VM level, rather than at network level.  This means an application can have its own individual security level – something impossible from a traditional network security perspective.

In addition, the OpenStack has a project, Neutron, working on a better cloud security management.

Obviously, the important point is that no cloud strategy is complete without rock-solid security execution.  Organizations may be moving quickly to the cloud, but skimping on security as they do so can be (has been) a terrible and costly mistake.

Read Article (Pino di Candia | | 01/21/2016)

The question is: Are you still comfortable with your personal data in the cloud?  But it is nice to know, though for many after the fact, that a solution is in the works.

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, inevitably the day will come when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars