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Teen charged with ‘cyberstalking’ in bomb hoax case

Hoaxer kept thumb drive of swatting calls An 18-year-old dual citizen of the US and Israel has been charged with making a string of online and phone threats against schools and Jewish community centers.…

Evil ISPs could disrupt Bitcoin’s blockchain

Boffins say BGP is a threat to the crypto-currency Attacks on Bitcoin just keep coming: ETH Zurich boffins have worked with Aviv Zohar of The Hebrew University in Israel to show off how to attack the crypto-currency via the Internet's routing infrastructure.…

Intel set to buy Mobileye in $15.3 billion deal

Intel's Automated Driving Group will be integrated into Mobileye, run from Israel.

A rash of invisible, fileless malware is infecting banks around the...

Once the province of nation-sponsored hackers, in-memory malware goes mainstream.

Jobs Website: Cybersecurity Skills Gap A Big Problem In U.S.

Cybersecurity climbed the ladder of urgency last year as it spread from the world of corporate data breaches to the playing field of U.S. presidential politics.

As solution providers and their customers combat the many incoming threats, they also have to face another harsh reality: having enough skilled professionals to do the fighting.

U.S. employers particularly face this issue in what is a global problem, according to the job search website Indeed.

In a study whose results were released this week, the U.S. shortage of cybersecurity professionals is the fourth worst in the world, trailing – from first to third – Israel, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

It's an issue solution providers see on two fronts: the skills they have in-house and among their clients.

Ron Temske, vice president of security solutions for Logicalis – No. 30 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 – believes the clients have it tougher.

"Were seeing a lot of our customers taking, most commonly, networking professionals … or other IT disciplines and declaring that" security is, for example, 20 or 30 percent of their work, he told ITBestOfBreed. "The point being that [security is] a side project … rather than [having] dedicated security professionals.

And for the channel?

"We're trying to hire from the same limited pool as everyone else," Temske said, although he added, "I do think that the channel [has] a slight advantage in hiring in that the nature of our work (supporting many clients and projects) allows us to entice some people more easily than end users."

Pat Grillo, president and CEO at solution provider Atrion Communications, based in Branchburg, N.J., says his firm struggles with the cybersecurity skills gap. "We bring in young people and train them," he said, "and give them a big raise once they know something."

Grillo said that just this week he was facing the issue of filling another role with someone who has security skills, especially because business is "picking up really quickly" for Atrion's services.

The Indeed survey, which examined two years of site data, especially numbers of job postings and clicks on those postings, found that the U.S. actually closed the gap from a previous Indeed survey in 2014, with job seeker interest in cybersecurity roles rising from 60 percent to 67 percent.

That was the second best gain behind Ireland, which saw a jump in interest from 25 percent in 2014 to 39 percent.

More specifically, Indeed said it sees "strong" global demand for network security specialists, who have the most wanted skill sets in the U.S., as well as in Israel, Ireland, the U.K. and Germany.
In the U.S., demand for network security skills dwarfs that of application security skills by more than triple.

But it also cited "severe" shortages in other specialties, notably in cloud security, in which job-seeker interest meets about 23 percent of demand, and application security, where supply meets just 36.5 percent of demand.

Hottest enterprise tech startups named in race to be crowned Tech...

Global awards for enterprise IT startups announce shortlist: Voting is now open

London, UK – 19th January 2017 – The Tech Trailblazers Awards, the first independent and dedicated awards program for enterprise information technology startups, has revealed its shortlist of the most innovative entrants and concepts in enterprise technology areas such as cloud, security, IoT, mobile and many more.

The shortlists have been selected by a panel of leading IT industry experts and are now open to public vote.

Tech Trailblazers Awards logo

In its fifth year, the scheme continues to focus around the ethos of finding innovation from anywhere in the world, from the smallest startups to more established players.

This aim to highlight both up-and-coming and established talent from all regions is reflected in the Firestarter Award for non-VC funded early stage startups. New this year are the Female and Male Tech Trailblazers of the Year awards, celebrating individual success and contribution of men and women in the enterprise tech space.

These categories run alongside the main technology categories of Big Data, Cloud, FinTech, IoT, Mobile, Security, Storage and Virtualization.

In addition to the expert judging panel, the voting public can now help determine who will win in all categories by voting online by 11:59pm Pacific Time on Friday 17th February 2017.

To view the shortlist and vote for your favourites, please visit http://www.techtrailblazers.com/shortlist.

Rose Ross, founder of the Tech Trailblazers Awards, said “Year on year, the judges’ task to shortlist becomes more and more difficult. We have again seen exceptional enterprise tech startups enter the awards. Huge thanks to our judges who once again have had this difficult mission.

The team wishes the very best of luck to our amazing finalists.”

Tech Trailblazers Awards Fifth Edition Finalists

Big Data
Adavow Ltd.

Tunbridge Wells, UK @adavow www.adavow.com
CoHo Data Palo Alto, CA, USA @cohodata www.cohodata.com
Crate.io San Francisco, CA, USA @CrateIO www.crate.io
DriveScale Sunnyvale, CA, USA @DriveScale_Inc www.drivescale.com
Illumr London, UK @illumr www.illumr.com
NGDATA Gent, Belgium @NGDATA_com www.ngdata.com

Cloud
Adavow Ltd.

Tunbridge Wells, UK @adavow www.adavow.com
Bioz, Inc. Palo Alto, CA, USA @biozPage www.bioz.com
Cato Networks Tel Aviv, Israel @CatoNetworks www.catonetworks.com
Fedr8 Farnborough, UK @fedr8 www.fedr8.com
GreatHorn Belmont, MA, USA @greathorn www.greathorn.com
Teridion San Francisco, CA, USA @teridionnet www.teridion.com
YellowDog Bristol, UK @yellowdogltd www.yellowdog.co

FinTech
Cashpundit Pune, India @cashpundit www.cashpundit.com
Divido London, UK @DividoUK www.divido.com
Solfyre Limited Worcester Park, UK @solfyreID www.solfyre.com
Solgari Dublin, Ireland @Solgaritweets www.solgari.com
TransferGuru London, UK @_TransferGuru www.transferguru.com
TruValue Labs San Francisco, CA, USA @truvaluelabs www.Insight360.io

IoT
CopSonic Montauban, France @copsonic www.copsonic.com
Crate.io San Francisco, CA, USA @CrateIO www.crate.io
Dashboard Exeter, UK @dashboard_ltd www.dashboard.net
MammothDB Sofia, Bulgaria @mammothdb www.mammothdb.com
Relayr Berlin, Germany @relayr_cloud www.relayr.io

Mobile
Jumio Palo Alto, CA, USA @jumio www.jumio.com
Leanplum San Francisco, CA, USA @leanplum www.leanplum.com
Pyze, Inc. Redwood City, CA, USA @PyzeInc www.pyze.com
SHYN.one Sofia, Bulgaria www.gain.im
Solfyre Limited Worcester Park, UK @solfyreID www.solfyre.com

Security
Attivo Networks Fremont, CA, USA @attivonetworks www.attivonetworks.com
CLT.Re Oslo, Norway @getcltre https://get.clt.re/
Cognetyx Houston, TX, USA @cognetyx www.cognetyx.com
Dispel New York, USA @dispelhq www.dispel.io
Hexadite Boston, MA, USA @Hexadite www.hexadite.com
InvizBox Dublin, Ireland @invizbox www.invizbox.com
Veriflo San Jose, CA, USA @VeriflowSystems www.veriflow.net

Storage
Catalogic Woodcliff Lake, NJ, USA @CatalogicSW www.catalogicsoftware.com
Cohesity Santa Clara, CA, USA @cohesity www.cohesity.com
Hedvig Santa Clara, CA, USA @HedvigInc www.hedviginc.com
Igneous Seattle, WA, USA @IgneousIO www.igneous.io
Rubrik Palo Alto, CA, USA @rubrikInc www.rubrik.com

Virtualization
128 Technology Burlington, MA, USA @128technology www.128technology.com
Cloudhouse Technologies London, UK @cloudhousetech www.cloudhouse.com
Teridion San Francisco, CA, USA @teridionnet www.teridion.com
Versa Networks Santa Clara, CA, USA @versanetworks www.versa-networks.com

Firestarter Award
Adavow Ltd Tunbridge Wells, UK @adavow www.adavow.com
CLT.Re Oslo, Norway @getcltre https://get.clt.re/
CyberSparta Reading, UK @CyberSparta www.cybersparta.com
Fuzz Stati0n Santa Cruz, CA, USA @fuzz_stati0n www.fuzzstati0n.com
Illumr London, UK @illumr www.illumr.com
Lucy Phishing Thalwil, Switzerland @lucysecurity www.phishing-server.com
SHYN.one Sofia, Bulgaria www.gain.im
Solfyre Ltd Worcester Park, UK @solfyreID www.solfyre.com
StorageOS London, UK @Storage_OS www.storageos.com
TransferGuru London, UK @_TransferGuru www.Transferguru.com
YellowDog Bristol, UK @yellowdogltd www.yellowdog.co

Female Tech Trailblazer of the Year Award
Dr. Karin Lachmi, Bioz, Inc. Palo Alto, CA, USA @biozPage www.bioz.com
Joanne Smith, RecordSure London, UK @recordsure www.recordsure.com
Leanne Harvey, Staff Spotlight Hampshire, UK @staffspotlight www.staffspotlight.com
Shreya Hewett, TransferGuru London, UK @transferguru_ www.transferguru.com
Faith Tulloch, TruValue Labs San Francisco, CA, USA @truvaluelabs www.Insight360.io

Male Tech Trailblazer of the Year Award
David Brown, Adavow Tunbridge Wells, UK @adavow www.adavow.com
Gur Shatz, Cato Networks Tel Aviv, Israel @CatoNetworks www.catonetworks.com
Gene Banman, DriveScale Sunnyvale, CA, USA @DriveScale_Inc www.drivescale.com
Tom Lyon, DriveScale Sunnyvale, CA, USA @DriveScale_Inc www.drivescale.com
Rhys Sharp, Fedr8 Farnborough, UK @fedr8 www.fedr8.com
Dickey Singh, Pyze, Inc. Redwood City, CA, USA @PyzeInc www.pyze.com
Kumar Mehta, Versa Networks Santa Clara, CA, USA @versanetworks www.versa-networks.com

Media Contact
For Tech Trailblazers
Vicki Porter
Omarketing
UK: +44 (0)20 8255 5225
vicki@omarketing.com

Follow the awards buzz at www.twitter.com/techtrailblaze

About the Tech Trailblazers Awards
Tech Trailblazers is a new concept in awards, designed explicitly for smaller businesses and startups that are five years old or less and at C-series funding or below.

The awards have low barriers to entry and not only recognize startup innovation but proactively help startups grow their business.

The awards include the following categories:

  • Big Data Trailblazers
  • Cloud Trailblazers
  • FinTech Trailblazers
  • Firestarter Trailblazers
  • IoT Trailblazers
  • Mobile Trailblazers
  • Security Trailblazers
  • Storage Trailblazers
  • Virtualization Trailblazers

Early stage startups (2 years and younger without VC funding) are able to apply for a chosen tech category free of charge via the new Firestarter bursary and are automatically submitted for the new Firestarter award.

In 2016, the Tech Trailblazers introduced the Female and Male Tech Trailblazers of the Year categories to celebrate individual success within senior members of enterprise tech startups.

The Tech Trailblazers Awards is supported by sponsors and industry partners including AfriLabs, Amoo Venture Capital Advisory, beSUCCESS, bnetTV, BigDataStartups, China AXLR8R, the Cloud Security Alliance, Computing, ExecEvent, GFT, GoMoNews, The Green Grid, GSMA, The Icehouse, Innovation Warehouse, Internet of Things Events, IP EXPO Europe, Launchpad Europe, L’Informaticien, Lissted, MIT/Stanford Venture Lab, The Next Silicon Valley, Outsource, Prezi, The Register, Silicon Cape Initiative, Skolkovo, StarTau, Startup America, Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), Tech in Asia, TechNode, TiE Silicon Valley, Wazoku, Ventureburn and VMware.

Security Firm Nytron Launches in the U.S, Bringing Paranoid Threat-Agnostic Defense

Nyotron launches in the U.S. with a technology platform that it claims to be 'threat -agnostic', using the company's patented Behavior Pattern Map to identify potential risks. At the young age of only nine years-old, Nir Gaist was already running a cyb...

Giuliani announces he’ll be Trump’s czar for the cyber thing

Rudy Giuliani explains the cyber.Fox & Friends, Fox News reader comments 164 Share this story On Fox News' morning show Fox & Friends, former mayor (and frequent proxy for Donald Trump) Rudy Giuliani announced that he would be coordinating a cybersecurity advisory group for the Trump administration. Giuliani's bona fides for this role apparently spring from his time as chair of the "Cybersecurity, Privacy and Crisis Management Practice" at the New York law firm Greenberg Traurig, a position he assumed a year ago. However, it's not clear that Giuliani has ever had any direct experience in cybersecurity law or policy.

Giuliani previously was a partner in a Houston-based international law firm Bracewell (formerly Bracewell & Giuliani) for over 10 years, and he ran his own security consulting firm based on his mayoral experience and credibility from New York City's measures taken after the September 11, 2001 terror attack.

But Giuliani is really counting on private industry to provide all the answers. "The President-elect decided that he wanted to bring in on a regular basis the private sector—the corporate leaders in particular and thought leaders in particular for cyber, because we're so far behind," said Giuliani. "And it's his belief which I share, that a lot of the solutions are out there, we're just not sharing them.
IT's like cancer—there's cancer research going on all over the place. You'd almost wish they'd all get together in one room, and maybe they'd find a cure." Giuliani said he believes that industry will have to lead an answer to cybersecurity rather than government. "That's where we have the great creativity and we have the huge amount of money, and that's where we have these great companies, the greatest in the world," Giuliani said this morning. "So the idea here is to bring together corporate leaders and their technological people.

The president will meet with them on an ongoing basis, as well as anyone else in the administration… I'll coordinate the whole thing." The goal appears to be a one-way flow of information from industry to the government. "Number one, it'll give the government all the information available in the private sector," Giuliani explained. "Number two, it'll form a little more connection between these people who are doing cybersecurity so they can work with each other.
Some of these people, you put one and two together, you're going to come up with six." Much of the private sector already shares information with each other, so it's not really clear what benefit other than presidential face time corporate executives and "technological people" will get out of this proposed arrangement.

The financial industry, for example, has the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center; the auto, aviation, telecommunications, health, retail, and transportation industries, among others, all have their own organizations as well. Previously, there have been efforts, including the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, to encourage an exchange of information between government and industry.

And the Obama administration made attempts to foster other industries to form information sharing and analysis organizations (ISAOs) through the Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.

That administration also encouraged information sharing standards. It's not clear what roles any ISAOs will have in this new cybersecurity body, or even who the "thought leaders" Giuliani wants to participate will be.

But Giuliani apparently wants to include foreign cybersecurity firms, including some from Israel. "They have tremendous cyberdefense research," he said this morning. "We don't get access to that over here."

iPhone hacking biz Cellebrite hacked

Database pwned, cyber-forensics outfit admits The Israeli company that found fame when it was fingered as a potential source of hacking software used by the FBI to crack open an iPhone has itself been hacked. In a statement on its website, Cellebrite today admitted that an "external web server" containing the company's license management system had been accessed by an unknown third party.

The company is still investigating the extent of the hack, but it has advised all its customers to change their passwords. The biz says the database is an old one – it has migrated to a new system – but warned that basic contact information for people that were registered to receive notifications from the company has been accessed. Reportedly, as much as 900GB of information was taken. Such a database could prove valuable given Cellebrite's line of work: it specializes in mobile forensics.
In that capacity, the FBI apparently approached it in an effort to crack the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Farook was running version 9 of the iOS mobile software, which encrypted the phone's data and required a four-digit pin to access it.

Too many wrong tries effectively render the phone inoperable.

The FBI decided to use the case to have a very public fight with Apple over its security features, demanding that the iTunes giant give the FBI access to the phone. Apple refused, stating that it was effectively being told to break its own product, and the impasse became national news, with politicians dragged into the argument.
In the end, in a face-saving exercise, the FBI said it had found a third-party vendor that could access the phone, and backed down from what had by then become a legal challenge. Although neither the FBI nor Cellebrite ever confirmed the forensics company was the source of the hack, neither denied reports, either. Whatever biz bypassed the smartphone's security, it received as much as $1m for its troubles. With that amount of money flying about, it was inevitable that hackers would try to get into Cellebrite's systems. "Cellebrite actively maintains an ongoing information security program and is committed to safeguarding sensitive customer information using best-in-class security countermeasures," the company assured customers. "Once the investigation of this attack is complete, the company will take any appropriate steps necessary to harden its security posture to mitigate the risk of future breaches." The outfit, which is a subsidiary of the Japanese Sun Corporation but is based in Israel, said it was working with the authorities to try to track down the hackers. ® Sponsored: Flash enters the mainstream.
Visit The Register's storage hub

GCHQ feeds first crop of infosec startups to Cyber Accelerator

Tech 'créche' will nurture firms to compete on the world stage The first infosec startups selected for the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator have been unveiled. The accelerator, which officially launches in Cheltenham later today, is part of a UK government-funded Cyber Innovation Centre. The tech créche is designed to nurture information security startups to the point where they can compete on the world stage, boosting British exports in the process. The seven early stage startups selected will receive benefits including access to technological and security expertise, networks, office space and mentoring during a three-month development programme. Contact with an extensive investor network and access to GCHQ's personnel and technical expertise form part of the package. The "magnificent seven" companies selected to join the programme include: CounterCraft, which has developed a cyber-security deception platform, designed to fool hackers with decoy computers, false data and fake identities Cyberowl, an early warning system for cyber attacks Cybersmart, a platform that automates implementation, certification and compliance with cyber-security standards FutureScaper, a collective intelligence platform that provides data visualisations that gives security analysts a better handle on security threats Spherical Defence, an intrusion detection system geared to the needs of the banking sector and featuring deep-learning technology StatusToday, providers of technology designed to detect insider attacks and inadvertent mistakes Verimuchme, a digital wallet and exchange platform The accelerator is a partnership between GCHQ, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and Wayra UK, the corporate accelerator that is part of the global Telefónica Open Future_ network. The cyber-security sector contributes around £2bn a year in exports to the UK economy, according to backers of the new programme. The accelerator forms part of the Cheltenham Innovation Centre, the first of two innovation centres created as part of the government's National Cyber Security Programme. A second innovation centre will open in London later this year. DCMS is contributing up to £50m over the next five years to deliver the two innovation centres. Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock MP said: "I congratulate all the companies selected to join the new accelerator facility which is now open for business. This is an important step in delivering our National Cyber Security Strategy, and supported by £1.9bn transformative investment in cyber security. Based in Cheltenham, the accelerator will help UK entrepreneurs create cutting-edge technology to better protect the nation from cyber attacks and make going online safer for all." Government ministers backed plans for GCHQ to become an incubator for the next generation of infosec firms, first floated two years ago. The idea is inspired, in part, by the production line of successful cyber-security firms set up by alumni from Unit 8200, Israel's military intelligence unit. They have gone on to found Check Point, Palo Alto Networks, and numerous successful security firms. These companies went through their incubator phase while their future founders were serving compulsory military service, which even taken alone is a big difference from the UK model. The cyber-security company production line in Israel is 30 years old and therefore well established, not least thanks to links with US companies, investors and entrepreneurs. Team8, a cyber-security foundry created by members Unit 8200, this week announced a strategic funding round with investments from Microsoft and Qualcomm, among others. Team8 has raised $92m to date from previous investors including AT&T, Accenture and Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors. This is all a long way from a three-month boot camp close to GCHQ but, then again, you have to start somewhere, assuming you agree that government has a role in backing this sort of investment, which is open to debate. ® Sponsored: Next gen cybersecurity. Visit The Register's security hub

If You Thought 2016 Was an IT Security Disaster, Just Wait...

NEWS ANALYSIS: Constant bad news about Russian hacking and the increasing prevalence of ransomware made 2016 an IT security disaster. However, 2017 promises to be even worse. As I'm writing the news is circulating that outgoing President Barack Obama ...

These three 2016 cases gave new life to software patents

For software patent defenders, Planet Blue's patent on lip synchronization in animated characters was their last, great hope.McRO, Inc. reader comments 6 Share this story In 2014, the US Supreme Court dealt a major blow to software patents. In their 9-0 ruling in Alice Corp v. CLS Bank, the justices made it clear that just adding fancy-sounding computer language to otherwise ordinary aspects of business and technology isn't enough to deserve a patent. Since then, district court judges have invalidated hundreds of patents under Section 101 of the US patent laws, finding they're nothing more than abstract ideas that didn't deserve a patent in the first place. The great majority of software patents were unable to pass the basic test outlined by the Supreme Court. At the beginning of 2016, the nation's top patent court had heard dozens of appeals on computer-related patents that were challenged under the Alice precedent. DDR Holdings v. Hotels.com was the only case in which a Federal Circuit panel ruled in favor of a software patent-holder. The Alice ruling certainly didn't mean all software patents were dead on arrival—but it was unclear what a software patent would need to survive. Even DDR Holdings left a teeny-tiny target for patent owners to shoot at. That all changed in 2016. Judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found three more cases in which they believe that software patents were wrongly invalidated. What once looked like a small exception to the rule now looks like three big ones. The results of those cases could portend a coming year that will be friendlier to patent owners than the past few have been. As 2016 winds down, let's take a closer look at the details of these three software patent battles and how patent-holders kept their patents alive through the appeals court. Enfish LLC v. Microsoft Decided: May 12, 2016 Panel: Circuit Judges Kimberly Moore, Richard Taranto, Todd Hughes. In 1993, Enfish Corporation was founded in Pasadena, California, by a former Gemstar executive who wanted to find a better way to track and sort e-mail, files, and other data. By 2000, when Enfish founder Louise Wannier was profiled in the Los Angeles Times, the company had 45 employees and had raised $20 million in capital. But Enfish still wasn't profitable. The "Enfish Find" desktop search tool, and other company products, got positive write-ups in PC World and were downloaded by more than 200,000 users. In the end, though, it wasn't enough. By 2005, Enfish was out of business. The Enfish patents, though, lived on. By 2012, Wannier had formed Enfish LLC and decided to sue several huge software companies: Microsoft, Inuit, Sage Software, and financial tech heavyweights Fiserv and Jack Henry & Associates. The Enfish lawsuit (PDF) claimed that Microsoft's .NET Framework infringed two patents, numbered 6,151,604 and 6,163,775. Enfish claimed to have built a new type of "self-referential" database, with a priority date stretching back to 1995. The district court judge disagreed, though. He said a table is just a table. Emphasizing terms like "non-contiguous memory" (a ubiquitous method for computer storage) and "indexing" wasn't going to save the Enfish patents. In his 2014 order, US District Judge George Wu wrote: For millennia, humans have used tables to store information. Tables continue to be elementary tools used by everyone from school children to scientists and programmers.... the fact that the patents claim a "logical table" demonstrates abstractness... Humans engaged in this sort of indexing long before this patent. In May 2016, a Federal Circuit panel reversed Judge Wu. Software improvements are not "inherently abstract," the judges ruled (PDF). The Bilski and Alice cases were directed at processes "for which computers are merely invoked as a tool." Those cases didn't rule out a patent on a "specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities." The Enfish patent claims were "directed to a specific improvement to the way computers operate, embodied in the self-referential table." The self-referential table "is a specific type of data structure designed to improve the way a computer stores and retrieves memory," and thus deserves a patent. The panel also shot down Wu's finding that the Enfish invention was rendered doubly invalid by Microsoft Excel 5.0, a database product that was in public use more than a year earlier than the Enfish patent was filed. With all five of the patent claims now patent-eligible again, the case was sent back to the lower court. Discovery is underway and a trial is scheduled for 2018. For patent lawyers, the Enfish breakthrough was "like a ray of light at the end of a long dark tunnel," wrote one attorney at Fish & Richardson, the nation's biggest IP law firm, who analyzed the decision in a blog post. "Reaction by the patent bar was swift. Notices of additional authority and requests for reconsideration were submitted to district courts around the country." McRO v. Bandai Namco Games America Decided: September 13, 2016 Panel: Circuit Judges Jimmie Reyna, Richard Taranto, Kara Stoll. For patent system defenders, the next case was clearly a hill to die upon. In its opening Federal Circuit brief, patent-holder McRO Inc., which does business under the name Planet Blue, told the judges that the district court's ruling against it "violates supreme court precedent and threatens all software patents." Planet Blue was founded in 1988 by Maury Rosenfeld, a computer graphics and visual effects designer who worked for shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Max Headroom, and Pee Wee's Playhouse, according to his Federal Circuit brief (PDF). Rosenfeld's firm was hired by several video game companies "to work on animation and lip-synchronization projects." But, at some point, they clearly had a falling out. Beginning in 2012, Planet Blue sued more than a dozen big video game companies, including Namco Bandai (PDF), Sega, Electronic Arts, Activision, Square Enix, Disney, Sony, Blizzard, and LucasArts. Several of those big players had been Rosenfeld clients before the lawsuits. The complaints said the companies infringed two Rosenfeld patents, US Patents No. 6,307,576 and 6,611,278, which describe a method of lip-synching animated characters. Earlier methods of animating lip synchronization and facial expressions, said Planet Blue lawyers, were too laborious and expensive. US District Judge George Wu ruled against Planet Blue in September 2014. He acknowledged that Rosenfeld may have been an innovator, but his patents were nonetheless invalid because they claimed an abstract idea. The patents would have preempted any lip synchronization that used a "rules-based morph target approach." On appeal, the case was immediately seen as one to watch, in part because Rosenfeld was seen as a real innovator in his field. "The patents utilize complex and seemingly specific computer-implemented techniques," wrote Patently-O blogger Prof. Dennis Crouch. "An initial read of the claims in the Planet Blue patents seems to be a far cry from basic method claims." BSA—aka the Software Alliance, a trade group that includes Microsoft and other big software companies—weighed in on the case by filing an amicus brief (PDF) in favor of Planet Blue. The asserted claims weren't abstract, BSA argued. The district court judge, BSA said, had "imported" questions about obviousness into his analysis when he should have only considered a strict Section 101 analysis about abstraction. In BSA's view, the big swath of patents being thrown out in the post-Alice era should "not include claims directed to technological problems specific to the digital environment." The battle was joined on the other side, too. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge jointly submitting a brief (PDF) arguing in favor of the video-game defendants. "The claims embody nothing more than the concept of applying numerical rules—that is, equations—to numerical inputs to obtain numerical outputs," wrote Public Knowledge attorney Charles Duan. "Since the law rejects Appellant’s theories of patentability, Appellant resorts to whitewashing its broad claims by extensively discussing the specification and implementing software. This is totally irrelevant," as it is the claims that are important. When the Federal Circuit found in Planet Blue's favor in September, it was the biggest win yet for software patentees in the post-Alice era. The three-judge panel held that the claims were "limited to rules with specific characteristics." Quoting the specification, they held that "the claimed improvement here is allowing computers to produce 'accurate and realistic lip synchronization and facial expressions in animated characters,' which could previously only have been produced by human animators." The judges didn't buy the defense argument that there was nothing new in having computer-based rules for animation. "Defendants concede an animator's process was driven by subjective determination rather than specific, limited mathematical rules." BSA was jubilant about Planet Blue's win. BSA President Victoria Espinel wrote: The Federal Circuit’s opinion reaffirms that software is worthy of patent protection just as any other field of technology. Software is a major component of today’s greatest innovations, and it is imperative that our patent system continues to encourage innovators in all fields of technology. Today’s Federal Circuit’s decision is a step in the right direction. McRO v. Namco Bandai is now back in Wu's Los Angeles courtroom, awaiting a scheduling conference for the litigation to go forward. Amdocs v. Openet Telecom Decided: November 1, 2016. Panel: Circuit Judges S. Jay Plager, Pauline Newman, Jimmie Reyna (dissenting). Israel-based Amdocs went to US courts to sue (PDF) an Irish company, Openet Telecom, in 2010. Amdocs asserted that four patents related to online accounting and billing methods were all derived from the same original application: Nos. 7,631,065; 7,412,510;  6,947,984; and 6,836,797.  The patents all describe the same system, which allows network operators to account and bill for internet protocol (IP) traffic. Claim 1 of the '065 patent claims computer code for "receiving... a network accounting record," then correlating the record with other accounting information, then computer code that uses that information to "enhance the first network accounting record." The district court found that Amdocs' claim wasn't much more than the abstract idea of correlating two networks. The court tossed the patent. And the Federal Circuit majority recognized that, in other cases, "somewhat... similar claims" had been thrown out under § 101—but then the Circuit majority went on to say that, despite that, the patent should have been allowed. "[T]his claim entails an unconventional  technological solution (enhancing data in a distributed fashion) to a technological problem (massive record flows that previously required massive databases)," wrote US Circuit Judge S. Jay Plager. "The components needed were "arguably generic" but had been used in such an "unconventional manner" that they led to "an improvement in computer functionality." The Amdocs saga isn't back in the lower courts quite yet. Defendant Openet has filed a petition for rehearing by the whole court. However it turns out, these three decisions mean that anyone seeking to enforce a software patent will come into 2017 in a far better position than they were a year ago. The Federal Circuit is continuing to debate the patent-eligibility of software. The random draw of judges on a Federal Circuit panel is increasingly looking like the most important factor on whether a patent prevails or dies at the appeals court. As Crouch notes in his analysis, two of the three judges that made up the majority in the Amdocs case can be seen as being in the minority of the court as a whole, since they pushed against the Alice patent. How such a split will be reconciled isn't clear. Crouch points out there may be two or three vacancies on the Federal Circuit during Trump's first term, and the Supreme Court has shown a continued interest in taking up patent cases. But looking back at the key decisions of 2016, anyone wanting to enforce software patents is in a far better position than they were a year ago, thanks to the three decisions above. 2016 may go down in history as the year that saved software patents.