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21 hot programming trends—and 21 going cold

Programmers love to sneer at the world of fashion where trends blow through like breezes.
Skirt lengths rise and fall, pigments come and go, ties get fatter, then thinner.

But in the world of technology, rigor, science, math, and precision rule over...

Cheerleading company can get copyrights, pursue competitors, Supreme Court says

The high court ponders copyrighted uniforms, Van Gogh, and cat-shaped lamps.

BPA free? Another stand-in chemical also disrupts hormones in lab tests

No evidence of harm to humans, but BHPF may not be an improvement over BPA.

Akamai buys bot-sniffing startup Cyberfend

Credential-stuffing mitigator snapped up Akamai Technologies has beefed up its existing bot management and mitigation services with the acquisition of US startup Cyberfend.

Financial terms of the deal, announced Monday, were undisclosed. Credential theft and abuse is a significant problem for online businesses and their customers.

Cyberfend’s tech is designed to mitigate problems caused by compromised user credentials (eg, usernames, passwords, email addresses) that leak and become public following data breaches. Hackers increasingly use these stolen and leaked credentials to log into a wide range of popular web and mobile services.

Credential-stuffing attacks of this type have affected the UK National Lottery and online takeaway firm Deliveroo over recent weeks. “With the introduction of Bot Manager earlier this year, Akamai helped change the way online businesses deal with the bots and other automated agents that visit their sites,” said Stuart Scholly, senior vice president and general manager, web security at Akamai. “The addition of Cyberfend’s technology is intended to give our customers a better way to spot and stop credential abuse on their sites – benefitting both the online business and its users.” Through its acquisition of Cyberfend, Akamai plans to extend the capabilities of the Cyberfend’s Bot Manager product by offering online businesses the technology required to effectively distinguish between real customers and attackers, thus limiting hackers’ ability to skirt detection. ® Sponsored: Customer Identity and Access Management

US flight regulators consider whether to allow or bar in-flight Wi-Fi...

Travis Olbrichreader comments 57 Share this story The Internet-connected world could get even more connected as federal aviation officials are considering rules on whether fliers should, or shouldn't, make Wi-Fi-based calls. The US Department of Transportation announced Thursday it was seeking public comment on the topic.
It is asking the public to ponder whether a rule should demand that airlines, if they offer potential phone service, should provide advance notice to fliers (perhaps at the time of ticket purchase). Regulators also want public input on whether in-flight Wi-Fi calling should be banned outright. "Consumers deserve to have clear and accurate information about whether an airline permits voice calls before they purchase a ticket and board the aircraft," US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "Today's proposal will ensure that air travelers are not unwillingly exposed to voice calls, as many of them are troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cellphones in flight." The Federal Communications Commission bars fliers from making cellphone calls in flight, but not Wi-Fi calls. Wi-Fi calling is already technically feasible with on-board Wi-Fi services such as Gogo and ViaSat, since many Android and Apple mobile phones can make telephone calls with a Wi-Fi signal. What's more, there are a ton of apps like Skype and Google Voice that make Wi-Fi calling possible. However, US carriers have rules, or technology, prohibiting Wi-Fi-based calling even though some passengers may currently skirt those rules. "The Department is also seeking comment on whether disclosure is sufficient or whether it should simply ban voice calls on flights within, to, or from the United States," the agency said. Members of the public have 60 days to make a comment. The idea of making phone calls aboard an airplane is controversial. Most other transportation venues—like trains, buses, and subways—allow them.

But airplanes are seemingly different. The Transportation Department first started taking public comment on the overall issue of in-flight phone calls two years ago, and many of the comments were negative.

But Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi-based calling, have become ubiquitous under today's technology.
So federal regulators are taking a proactive position and looking to clarify onboard phone-calling rules that weren't historically part of the equation: a calling ban was originally based on fears that cell-based calls could interfere with a plane's flight instruments. What's more, airlines in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East are now offering fliers voice communication services.
Some US airlines are offering phone service to premium customers, too. In response, the Transportation Department is suggesting that, at a minimum, consumers have a right to know if Wi-Fi calling would be allowed on a passenger's particular flight.

The agency believes that many fliers don't want to be aboard a plane with everybody talking on their phones. According to the DOT: Under this proposal, disclosure about voice calls being permitted on a flight is required from the beginning of the process.

The Department believes that consumers would be unfairly surprised and harmed if they learned only after the purchase of a ticket (or, worse, after boarding the aircraft) that the carrier permits voice calls on its flights.
If voice calls are allowed on a flight, the DOT proposal requires disclosure the first time that flight is offered or identified to a consumer. No disclosure is required if the flight does not allow voice calls. Continental said it would "carefully evaluate the views of our customers and crew members on this topic." Delta and JetBlue have said they would continue to prohibit calls no matter what the Department of Transportation decides, according to The Wall Street Journal.

American Airlines offers first and business class passengers onboard satellite phone service. United said it bars VoIP calling, as does Southwest. The 50,000-member Association of Flight Attendants opposes in-flight calling. "Any situation that is loud, divisive, and possibly disruptive is not only unwelcome but also unsafe. Many polls and surveys conducted over the years find that a vast majority of the traveling public wants to keep the ban on voice calls in the aircraft cabin," the union said. What's more, many US lawmakers said in-flight calling is dangerous and annoying, and it is "impossible for passengers to remove themselves from loud or unwanted conversations and disputes." The Transportation Department did not say what the time frame would be for new in-flight calling rules.

Lawmakers question DOJ's appeal of Microsoft Irish data case

Four U.S. lawmakers are questioning a Department of Justice decision to appeal a July court decision quashing a search warrant that would have required Microsoft to disclose contents of emails stored on a server in Ireland. Last Thursday, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, filed an appeal of the ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. But the four lawmakers, two Republicans and two Democrats, said the DOJ should be working instead with them on legislation that gives law enforcement agencies access to data on foreign servers in limited cases. The DOJ should instead help fine tune the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA), introduced earlier this year, the four sponsors said in a Friday letter. U.S. technology companies face a tough decision when receiving law-enforcement requests for data on servers in other countries, the letter said.  They can either "comply with the demand and satisfy U.S. law and risk violating the privacy laws of the host country, or challenge U.S. law enforcement's request in order to comply with the laws of the host jurisdiction," the letter said. "No one should be placed in this untenable situation." The appeals court suggested that legislative action is needed to revamp the "badly outdated," 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act that governs law enforcement access to electronic communications, the lawmakers noted. "Federal judges have rightly concluded that current law does not provide U.S. law enforcement with authority to access data stored overseas," Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and ICPA sponsor, said in a statement Sunday. "We can strengthen privacy and promote trust in U.S. technologies worldwide while enabling law enforcement to fulfill its important public safety mission." Representatives of the DOJ and Bharara didn't immediately respond for comment on the letter. The Microsoft case has raised questions about the authority of U.S. law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes by accessing data across international borders. The DOJ is seeking access to email records of a drug trafficking suspect tied to the notorious Silk Road website.  The suspect's email is stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland, and critics of the DOJ search warrant say the agency doesn't have the authority to compel companies to disclose information stored outside U.S. borders. If search warrants were enforceable across international borders, U.S. residents' data could be subject to search warrants from other countries, critics say. But the DOJ argues that technology companies now have the ability to store customer data in many different locations, potentially allowing criminals to skirt domestic search warrants. Microsoft stores customer data in about 40 countries, with the data stored closest to the location reported by the customer, Bharara noted in his appeal. "Microsoft makes no effort to verify the location reported by the customer," Bharara wrote in his appeal. The International Communications Privacy Act would, in many cases, prohibit U.S. law enforcement agencies from searching data stored in other countries. Law enforcement agencies could gain access if they show the suspect is a U.S. resident, or if the U.S. has a law enforcement cooperative agreement with the host country.

Supreme Court to hear copyright fight over cheerleader uniforms

Iowa State Cyclones cheerleaders during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesThe US Supreme Court said yesterday it will hear a case between two cheerleader uniform suppliers that could affect the state of copyright nationwide.In 2010, Star Athletica published its first catalog of cheerleading uniforms and was promptly sued.
Varsity Brands, the world's biggest manufacturer of cheerleading and dance-team uniforms, alleged that Star Athletica's uniforms violated Varsity's copyrighted designs. The clothiers' conflict could have wide effects in the fashion world and beyond.

A trio of 3D printing companies have already filed an amicus brief asking the high court to take the case, seeking clarity on how to separate creative, copyrightable designs from utilitarian objects that aren't subject to copyright. The case below Star argues that Varsity's copyrights were on utilitarian elements of the uniforms, and thus shouldn't be allowed.

The US has never allowed copyrights on "useful articles," and that's long been held to include clothing.
Star won its case in district court, but a split panel at the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit overturned the win, siding with Varsity. In its petition (PDF) to the Supreme Court, Star said the appeals court decision "exacerbates a circuit split and defeats Congress's well-recognized denial of copyright protection to garment designs or uniforms, despite lobbying by the garment-design industry for more than a century." If the 6th Circuit decision isn't overturned, "industrial designers can claim copyright protection... for pleats on tennis skirts, button patterns on golf shirts, and colored patches on rugby uniforms," says Star Athletica. Circuit courts, the US Copyright Office, and academics have created "at least nine different tests" to separate copyrightable content from utilitarian. "The Sixth Circuit rejected them all and created a tenth," write Star Athletica lawyers. Star Athletica also complains about Varsity's aggressive tactics, noting it has sued or acquired several other competitors. "The net result is inflated uniform prices, to the detriment of families everywhere," the petition states. Art vs. function As the district judge saw it, it's impossible to sever the Varsity designs from the "utilitarian function of the resulting cheerleading uniforms." A similarly shaped outfit "without team colors, stripes, chevrons and similar designs... is not recognizable as a cheerleading uniform." The appeals panel disagreed, finding no utilitarian function in Varsity's stripes and chevrons. "A plain white cheerleading top and plain white skirt still cover the body and permit the wearer to cheer, jump, kick, and flip," wrote the two-judge majority. "The top and skirt are still easily identified as cheerleading uniforms without any stripes, chevrons, zigzags, or color-blocking." An amicus brief (PDF) filed by 3D printing companies Formlabs, Matter and Form, and Shapeways asks the Supreme Court to take up the matter to provide clarity on where to draw the line on "conceptual separability" between what is and isn't copyrightable. 3D printing is a "revolutionary process" that's transforming industry, the brief states. While some objects are clearly copyrightable and others aren't, there's also a lot of gray area—and the tests aren't clear. Printed objects that are "purely ornamental and nonfunctional," like sculptures and jewelry, are clearly copyrightable.

Designs that are "purely functional," like a wrench, are not.

But "a significant percentage of 3D printed objects combine utilitarian and artistic elements in complex ways," and the 3D printing companies would like a clear test so they know what their liability is.

Aereo: Hey, we’re a cable company after all!

After Supreme Court loss, Aereo tries a strategy that failed for ivi TV.

Can Being Facebook Friends Cancel Your Right to Sue?

When it comes to privacy, a business can't be too careful. That's apparently the stance over at General Mills, the parent company to a long list of household brands, including Pillsbury, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Bisquick and Gold Label. General Mills this month made changes to its Privacy Policy and its Legal Terms, which now take away a consumer's right to sue the company if he or she has Liked the company on Facebook (aka "joined" its online communities), downloaded coupons, entered a sweepstakes or contest hosted by the company, or interacted with it in a variety of other ways, The New York Times reported April 16. Put another way: If a peanut winds up where it shouldn't be—to dangerous results—but you're Facebook Friends with GM, you've given up your right to sue.   The report is fascinating on several fronts. First, for the stunning audacity of a company that makes food (a product with so much potential for harm) to skirt the use of a judge and jury in favor of an arbitrator—and to do so in a way that's surely unclear to most people. (Like me!) I also hadn't realized quite how many businesses, from wireless carriers to major banks, home builders and nursing homes, had also taken the arbitrator approach. The Times linked to the site of Public Citizen, a public advocacy group that, among its causes, works to "blow the whistle" on companies "that are taking away your rights with this predatory practice." The site includes links to the "forced arbitration provisions" in contracts from companies including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Comcast, DirectTV, Chase, Discover and American Express. Finally, reading General Mills' new Legal Terms, I was amazed—or maybe just amazingly depressed—to realize how much this cereal company is interested in knowing about me and you. The new terms are worth reading. General Mills discloses that it collects, among other things, information such as: the type of devices we're using, the operating system we're on, the browser we're using, whatever it can glean about us from social networks, and what it learns from "other sources where permitted by law." It also receives information from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks about our contacts. If you visit a General Mills Website or click on an ad on its site, expect that it's taking note of the "Websites or online services you visit before or after our Site." The company may also turn to public aggregators to learn your social networking IDs, demographic information, postal address and income level. Then, it might share all the information it's collected "among our various businesses, and within our family and affiliated companies," as well as with service providers and "third parties." Surely, that's all safe. General Mills adds, "We know that maintaining your trust requires that we protect your privacy—so we are very sensitive to the privacy concerns of those who use our websites, our pages and applications on third-party social-networking services, our emails and our mobile applications. …" The government is spying on all of us, I get that. But when even the company that makes breakfast wants to know about my income and operating system preference—and if they want to know it, that means all the companies we interact with do—it feels like technology has devolved society. It makes me want my own new Terms and Policies.   Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.

iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor: The end of passwords?

Apple's addition of a fingerprint reader in its latest smartphone, the iPhone 5S, is part of its strategy to double down on device security. iPhone 5S' fingerprint reader, dubbed "Touch ID." (Credit: Apple) Apple has unveiled its smartphone's latest weapon: a fingerprint reader it's calling Touch ID. With its move, Apple could end up making the technology commonplace, as rivals might feel compelled to follow suit. It could be only a matter of time before passwords and passcodes are relegated to yesteryear. In making the iPhone 5S one of the first mainstream smartphones in the Western market to include hardware security, Apple has not only declared war on passwords and weak security, but it has begun to reinvent the notion of device and online identity. The iPhone 5S' fingerprint reader will act as a first line of defense against would-be thieves and hackers -- even intelligence agencies, to a degree -- against identity and content theft, fraud, and surveillance. Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said at the Tuesday event that the Touch ID fingerprint scanner will be used to access a user's device quicker, as well as preventing unauthorized users from accessing a device's data.

App purchases can also be used with the scanner. The fingerprint data will be stored on the device, and will not be backed up to iCloud, Apple confirmed. Once a feature traditionally aimed at business customers, fingerprint technology has increasingly seen an uptick in consumer devices, notably laptops. With a swipe of a finger, a device can unlock or decrypt documents without the need for remembering passwords. But fingerprint reading technology has been dogged with problems -- namely, that it's not so hard crack -- and that’s something Apple is trying to address. Motorola first launched its Atrix smartphone with fingerprint reading technology, but it was reportedly dropped as consumers complained of errors. In Japan, many phones designed in part as digital wallets for electronic payments also feature biometric security.

This trend is set to continue later this year, following reports of a push in the South Asian market. In doing this, Apple is not only going after consumers, but businesses -- with iPhones and iPads making their way into more companies. Apple demos Touch ID fingerprint reader for iPhone 5S The path Apple took to reach this point officially started long before the company acquired fingerprint and biometrics firm AuthenTec for $356 million in June 2012, with patent applications spanning back as early as 2009. Later, in October 2012, Apple inked a deal with Australian fingerprint security company Microlatch, sparking further rumors that a future iPhone would include fingerprint recognition technology, along with other security features embedded in its iOS software.  Biometric and fingerprint technology has long been criticized by security experts. Biometrics are not an exact science and can be fooled. In some cases, confectionary and Play-Doh can be used as simple and cost-effective ways to skirt fingerprint security. The iPhone 5S' fingerprint reader authenticates a user's identity, preventing unauthorized users -- such as thieves -- from accessing the device's data. (Credit: Apple) Apple's bid to future-proof the iPhone meshes well with existing security shifts and trends such as epidemic levels of phishing, device thefts, and malware.

Its new fingerprint sensor likely means basic password security will take a backseat in favor of an increased focus on personal online identity.

And it could negate the need for two-factor authentication and password-reset questions. The move may help companies like PayPal, whose apps and payment services rely on ensuring the utmost levels of security.  PayPal Chief Information Security Officer Michael Barrett alluded to the iPhone 5S’ upcoming biometric technology at the Interpol conference in May.

He said, according to Macworld, that users pick "poor passwords" and "reuse them everywhere." He added: "That has the effect of reducing the security of their most secure account to the security of the least secure place they visit on the Internet.”  PayPal this year helped launched the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance, which is aiming to do away with passwords and codes, focusing instead on common and open standards. BlackBerry, Google, and Lenovo, a major player in the Chinese market, are also members of the group. While devices may be replaceable, data loss can be catastrophic for the owner if it lands in the wrong hands. Despite backups and cloud-based storage, this "security" to "identity" shift suggests the iPhone maker recognizes that data is tied to an identity, not an easy-to-crack access code. It comes just months after calls from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for the smartphone industry to make devices and data more secure. Apple execs met with Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, but the company was already doubling down on software security. Pre-release versions of iOS 7 already included an "activation lock" feature, which requires users to enter a valid Apple ID to authenticate the device.

This de facto "kill switch" is designed to bolster the device's security at a software level. The possibilities for this technology could change the entire personal security landscape altogether. While a password can be as secure as a four-digit code or lengthy alphanumerics, a fingerprint could become the gateway to Web-based authentication -- something not too uncommon in this day and age where we make payments electronically or wirelessly from our smartphones. The app ecosystem will now be able to tap into a reliable and secure mechanism that can authenticate the person, not the device or the data, as the digital signature behind transactions and decisions.

The possibilities extend as far as in-app purchases, banking, and connecting to virtual workplaces, while at the same time reducing accidental app and game purchases and adding an extra layer against malware. While Barrett remained optimistic that this year more devices will contain identity management and security technology, he was less so about the death of the password. "Passwords won't disappear overnight," he said. However, Apple has fired the starting pistol on what it sees as the future of security and online identity, with a layered and multifaceted idea of how we connect with our devices and how our devices represent the user on an identity level.