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November 2016 Newsletter

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How the Internet of Things Took Down the Internet

by Jamie Condliffe for “Technology Review”

In a worrying trend, our smart devices are being commandeered to launch massive cyber-assaults.

When the internet apocalypse comes, your smart thermostat may be to blame. That’s the lesson from the epic internet outage, in which attackers used Internet-connected devices inside people’s homes to bring a large chunk of the Web to its knees in late October.

The outage, which mainly affected the East Coast of the U.S., struck on the morning of Friday, October 21, but was felt into the weekend. It was caused by a large distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, leveled at the servers of the domain name system host Dyn, which overwhelmed servers with data requests and made it impossible for users to fetch the files of web pages. [Dyn]

But according to staff at Dyn who spoke with the New York Times, the takedown was facilitated by hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices—from web cameras to routers—that had been hacked to contribute to the attack. When mobilized together, these pieces of innocent hardware can be used to send web page requests to servers at such a rate that genuine requests are completely ignored. Sometimes, servers even fail altogether.

October’s attack comes less than a month after the website of security expert Brian Krebs and servers of the French web hosting provider OVH were taken offline by DDoS attacks. Those were also orchestrated using as many as one million internet-connected devices, such as digital video recorders or printers.

Hackers have been installing malware on PCs for years in an attempt to control them to take down web servers. But as we install ever more internet-connected devices in our homes, we increase the number of potential tools available to people looking to turn them into weapons.

October’s assault was more significant. Security expert Bruce Schneier argued not long before the incident that someone, somewhere “is learning how to take down the internet” using these kinds of attacks. He reckons that hackers are slowly evaluating servers around the globe to identify their weak spots and the best ways to bring them down.

Who’s behind the attacks remains unclear, though it could be a nation-state, such as China or Russia—because there’s little motivation for most criminals to bother. But what does seem certain is that it will happen again.

Jamie Condliffe is the associate editor of news and commentary for MIT Technology Review Read more

Classic Movies You Can Stream on the New Netflix Competitor for Film Fans – Filmstruck

by Jason Guerrasio for Business Insider (adapted)

Business Insider introduces us to the newest streaming video service

If you’ve been waiting patiently for hard-to-find movies from Stanley Kubrick and Akira Kurosawa to finally be available to stream, wait no more — FilmStruck is here!

The new streaming service developed and managed by the cinephiles at Turner Classic Movies, FilmStruck will provide hundreds of classic Hollywood, indie, foreign, and cult hits on a subscription basis. Available titles include Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush,” Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” Kubrick’s “The Killing,” and Robert Altman’s “The Player.”

It will also provide the largest streaming selection of Criterion Collection titles (and the company’s incredible special features).

FilmStruck just went live November 1st. Prices vary:
$6.99 per month for FilmStruck
$10.99 per month for FilmStruck and Criterion Channel
$99 per year for the annual subscription to FilmStruck and Criterion Channel.
Here are 6 classic titles that you can stream right now (with the FilmStruck/Criterion Channel package):

“Blood Simple” (1984)

The directorial debut of the Coen brothers (“The Big Lebowski,” “No Country for Old Men”) is a gritty neo-noir that showcases many of the hallmarks the duo would master in their movies to come. From the camerawork to the writing, there’s a lot to love about this movie.

“The Gold Rush” (1941)

In the film that Charlie Chaplin said numerous times he wanted to be remembered for, he stars as a prospector in search of gold and comes across a lot more. The “roll dance” scene is one of the most memorable in movie history.

“The Grifters” (1990)

It’s a movie that get better every time you see it. John Cusack plays a small-time conman who is up against his biggest challenge, his mother, played incredibly by Anjelica Huston. There are mind games aplenty in this one.

“Mad Max” (1980)

It’s the movie that made Mel Gibson a star and launched an unlikely franchise. The original “Mad Max” still has the thrilling car chases like its sequels, but there is a bit more suspense as we see Max (Gibson) at a point in his life where he still has a family.

“The Player” (1992)

With 65 celebrity cameos, Altman’s satire on Hollywood is the ultimate insider movie about the business. In it, Tim Robbins plays a studio executive who begins to receive death threats. But as his day consists of rejecting and disrespecting people, there’s a big list of possible suspects.

“Seven Samurai” (1954)

The movie that inspired the two “Magnificent Seven” Westerns, Kurosawa’s epic follows seven masters of the steel who agree to help a poor village from bandits.

Read the entire article.

Black Friday 2016 Sales Predictions: Cyber Monday Likely To Eclipse Pre-, Black Friday, Thanksgiving Day Revenue

Cyber Monday will at least match or edge out both the Thanksgiving Day sales (also known as Gray Thursday) and Black Friday 2016 this holiday shopping season, according to a new report by “Fluent,” a consumer research firm.

About 40-percent of Americans says that they will be shopping online on Cyber Monday this year, as opposed to 39-percent who indicated that they plan on heading to the physical stores for Black Friday 2016. By all accounts, it’s the big crowds that scare away the in-store bargain hunters. Just about two out of three consumers said that the great deals and discounts were not worth dealing with the long lines and crowds.

Regardless, millions of American shoppers will be doing their product research online and this year’s Cyber Monday will be a massive shopping day. Around 22-percent of consumers say they will make the majority of their purchases online, including in-app. American consumers are growing more comfortable with online shopping using handheld mobile and tablet devices with nearly two in five saying they will make purchases with their smartphones. However that’s largely propelled by younger shoppers.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is predicting an overall pick up in holiday spending in Black Friday 2016 sales. This year, the NRF projected that holiday sales will skyrocket 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion, as compared to last year’s 4.1 percent increase. However, that isn’t the case for everyone, as 26% of shoppers said they will spend less this year during Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day sales.

While consumers are spending plenty of time on social media and news websites doing product research, “Fluent” found that shoppers said ads on social media didn’t entice them to make purchase decisions. TV commercial advertisements and print ads are still the most effective forms of advertising.

A number of major retailers will also likely remain open on Thanksgiving Day to attract shoppers with early access to Black Friday 2016 deals. Many opened at 6:00 p.m. last year, and will likely mirror that strategy this year. Some retailers are fighting against the push to kickoff sales earlier by not opening their stores at all on Thanksgiving Day.

Read more.

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