Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet

All The Latest News of the Net

February 2015

By Mike Gould

Not a lot of web-shaking new stuff to write about this month (e.g., Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas: useless digital doodads and mammoth new 4K TVs…yawn…), so I thought I would revisit events from the last weeks and bring y’all up to date on recent developments to the ongoing outrages, outages, and outed perps.

Working backwards (a frequent technique around here…), here are some updates to previous articles. Keep in mind that this is being written two weeks before publication and more revelations are sure to come, which may totally negate or confirm the following:

Sony Hack
In our last episode, Sony lay in ruins and law enforcement officials were scrambling to identify the hackers behind the attack. Well, as of mid January 2015, they’re still at it. Now the government is saying North Korea is behind the deed, but private commercial computer security firms are saying no.

The FBI et al are saying “we have proof but we can’t tell you what it is for security reasons; just trust us”. The private sector analysts say it is an inside job by disgruntled former Sony employees, and have even named names of those with motive, opportunity, and skills.

The government is sticking to its guns and has issued sanctions against North Korea, which indicates they are taking the FBI findings pretty seriously. As there are already massive sanctions in place against NK, it remains to be seen how effective these will be. And what happens if the private experts are right and a cabal of former Sony-ites are arrested and found guilty? Are we going to apologize to NK?

There is a good analysis of this over at Wired.com, URL below. Note that the author, a former intelligence network analyst, believes the FBI, not the other experts. Maybe they all did it. I mean the NK and the Sony insiders, not the FBI and private guys. Maybe the disgruntled Sony guys formed a conspiracy with the NK. Sorta like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. (If this turns out to be the case, remember: you read it here first.)

Net Neutrality
Back in December of 2014, I covered the ongoing issues of just how powerful are we going to allow ISP giants like Comcast, Verizon, and the like, to grow. This is a major monopoly/oligarchy/plutocracy debate, involving government control of the Internet.

The FCC, under Chairman Tom Wheeler, hasn’t dropped the other shoe yet, but it is hanging by a shoelace and due to hit the floor in a couple of weeks. The big news about this is that Wheeler was at a Consumer Electronics Association meeting in early January and all but confirmed that the FCC is going to seek Title II classification for the broadband industry. This will be the major political fight of the new year: the Senators and their corporate overlords, the cable industry, who claim that any government interference is bad and will lead to higher cable fees, Vs. other Congress Critters and their content provider sponsors touting a leveled playing field for the ‘Net. Could go either way.

A good round up of this at Ars Technica, URL below.

Apple Pay
Apple Pay (AP) took off in a major way. As of January 6, around 40 major US banks have signed on to the program. As have major retailers: Whole Foods, Staples, McDonalds, and hundreds of other stores and businesses are now onboard. Europe is getting in on the action as well, and the program is slated to hit Canada in March. As online tech news site The Verge put it: “Apple Pay now supports the cards that make up 90 percent of credit card purchases in the US”.

Which is not to say that everything is sailing smoothly in payments land: you still need a fairly advanced phone (and soon, watch) to run it and training of store employees is lagging; lots of checkout personnel are stymied when confronted with an Apple Payer. One possibly apocryphal story concerns a person who went to McDonald’s and tried to pay using Apple Pay, but the cashier literally responded, “I’m sorry, sir, you can’t pay with apples here. We only accept debit, credit, or cash.” Boy, is this going to look quaint in a couple of years.

There are still problems with Apps that use AP internally, and returns can be problematic. And some retailers such as Rite Aid and CVS refuse to use it, having signed up for an even more problematic service (CurrentC) that shuts out competitors. That service is supposed to start this year, but it may be dead out of the gate – edged out by Apple.

Deep Web
This just in: Ross Ulbricht has admitted to setting up the Silk Road, but denies being the Dread Pirate Roberts. As you may recall, I covered this back in Sept. 2014. The Silk Road was/is (versions of it still exist in the dark net) an online marketplace for illegal substances and was run by someone calling himself the Dread Pirate Roberts. The FBI nabbed Ulbricht and accused him of being DPR in October of 2013, and his trial is just beginning. In the recent opening moments of the trial, the defense attorney laid out their case: that Ulbricht was a fall guy for the real criminal mastermind. Good article about this at the Forbes site, URL below.

This trial will be history-making in a lot of ways, in that it will reveal a lot about how the low-life members of Internet society do their business. There will be some major melodrama here, which I can guarantee you will end up in a major motion picture. Just not produced by Sony.

Sony Hack: http://www.wired.com/2015/01/feds-got-sony-hack-right-way-theyre-framing-dangerous/

Net Neutrality: http://arstechnica.com/business/2015/01/on-net-neutrality-internet-providers-are-betrayed-by-one-of-their-own/

Apple Pay: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/16/dozens-more-companies-sign-up-for-apple-pay/

Deep Web: http://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahjeong/2015/01/14/defense-attorney-ross-ulbricht-created-the-silk-road-but-a-different-dread-pirate-roberts-committed-the-crimes/

Mike Gould does his level best to keep on top of all this, was a mouse wrangler for the U of M for 20 years, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Training/Digital Photography mega-mall, builds laser display devices, performs with the Illuminatus 3.0 Laser Lightshow, and welcomes comments addressed to mgould@mondodyne.com.

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