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Faster Forward
Posted at 10:25 PM ET, 12/21/2011

Today in Tech: Kindle Fire, ‘spear-phishing,’ SOPA and Carrier IQ

Kindle Fire: Amazon’s Kindle Fire update hit devices Wednesday, with promises of faster Web performance, better privacy and a more responsive touchscreen.

So how did it match up? The updated device did immediately and noticeably respond better to the touch, with few of the lags that had bothered buyers in previous versions of the software. The update also fixes a privacy issue that had some consumers upset — Kindle Fire owners now have the opportunity to edit their activity histories in the carousel.

Spear-phishing: Hackers from China have reportedly been able to break into the systems at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stealing an unspecified amount of data and possibly gaining undetected access to the network for over a year. The Wall Street Journal reported that the hackers used “spear-phishing” — highly personalized e-mails that entice users to click on a link or open a file — to gain access to the Chamber of Commerce’s network.

More advanced spear-phishing attacks have been on the rise in the past year, in part because it’s so much easier for hackers to customize enticing messages based on data pulled from social networks.

SOPA protests:Scribd, which has aimed to do for document sharing what Spotify has done for music, is protesting two bills in Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, by making some of the words in documents posted to its site disappear. Scribd visitors today will see words in the documents they’re reading fade away before a lightbox pops up on the site explaining the rationale behind the stunt.

As The Washington Post’s Maura Judkis reported, opposition to SOPA is gaining a foothold not only in the Web community, but also among recording artists who’ve found fame through the sharing culture prevalent on the Internet.

Carrier IQ: Motorola and T-Mobile responded Tuesday to requests from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) for more details on how they use Carrier IQ software.

In its letter to Franken, T-Mobile revealed that it uses the device on some of its premium smartphones including the HTC Amaze and the Samsung Galaxy S II. It estimates that 450,000 of its customers “use devices that contain Carrier IQ’s diagnostic software,” which collects some information, such as the telephone numbers a user dials and the phone numbers from incoming calls. T-Mobile said it does not collect the content of text messages sent or received, the content of e-mails sent or received, the URLs of Web sites visited, information from users’ address books or any other keystroke data.

Motorola replied that it installs software on four models — the Admiral, Titanium, Bravo and Atrix 2 — at the request of its carrier partners, AT&T and Sprint.

Yahoo’s future: Yahoo shares spiked in late trading after reports from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal indicated that the company may be considering a sale of its Asian assets to Alibaba.

The Times, citing people “briefed on the matter,” reported that Yahoo’s board is considering selling its holdings in the Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan for $17 billion to Alibaba and Softbank — Yahoo Japan’s majority owner. The Journal report backs up that figure.

RIM turns down takeover overtures: As Research in Motion works to recover from a year of hard knocks, media reports indicate that other technology heavyweights have been considering snapping up the struggling BlackBerry maker.

Reuters reported Tuesday that RIM wasn’t interested in merger talks with Amazon. Citing unnamed “people with knowledge of the situation,” the report said that the two companies were in casual talks over the summer, but Amazon never made a formal offer. It is unclear if pricing discussions ever took place, the report said.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft and Nokia also “flirted” with the idea of a joint offer for RIM, but only in informal discussions.

Verizon hit with outage: Verizon Wireless has released a statement saying that its 4G network was back to normal after reports that users were having connectivity problems on Wednesday morning.

“Verizon Wireless 4G LTE service is returning to normal this morning, after company engineers worked to resolve an issue with the 4G network during the early morning hours today,” said Verizon spokeswoman Melanie Ortel. “Throughout this time, 4G LTE customers were able to make voice calls and send and receive text messages. The 3G data network operated normally.”

Verizon customers across the country reported data outages Wednesday, as they woke to find they had trouble accessing the company’s data networks.

By  |  10:25 PM ET, 12/21/2011

 
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