Monthly Archives: August 2016

Spurring Evacuation of Galaxy Note7 Snaps Plane

Southwest Airlines on Wednesday evacuated a plane in Louisville, Kentucky, after a Samsung Galaxy Note7 began popping and issuing thick smoke.

Samsung last month began replacing Galaxy Note7s globally, following reports of several of the devices catching fire or exploding. It blamed the problem on an “isolated” faulty battery cell issue.

The device involved in the Southwest Airline incident reportedly was a replacement phone, according to owner Brian Green.

Samsung has said it will verify whether the phone actually was a replacement.

The latest incident throws a pall over the future of the Galaxy Note series, which had been Samsung’s flagship line.

“Wall Street and some retailers might understand that the problem may not have been created by Samsung, but they will not care,” said Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University.

“Consumers will certainly care less,” he told TechNewsWorld. “All will hold Samsung responsible for its supply chain — and as a result, all will now rethink buying anything Samsung.”

Samsung officials may “be in denial, since they will likely view it as not their fault — but they specified the battery and chose the suppliers, and they cannot ignore the lingering impact on the Samsung brand and reputation,” Chiagouris said.

No End in Sight

“We are still investigating the Southwest Airlines 944 incident,” said Tammy Jones, a spokesperson for the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

“The FAA has issued safety alerts for operators and advisory circulars advising the airlines that they must have procedures for fighting these in-cabin fires,” she told TechNewsWorld.

The FAA previously issued advisories to airlines and passengers about the Galaxy Note7 in response to Samsung’s recall.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has begun looking into the issue, and has reached out to the FAA and Samsung.

The problem with the Note7 “may drag on for several months,” said Neil Mawston, a research executive director at Strategy Analytics.

The company “has millions of models in many countries to replace,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Dell’s big recall of millions of laptop batteries in 2006 took around six months.”

As smartphones become more complex, product glitches and recalls will become more common, Mawston predicted. “The iPhone, for example, was recently accused of ‘touch disease’ for a display glitch.”

The Fiery Fallout

Airlines have begun telling passengers on all flights that they must shut off their Samsung phones for the entire flight based on government directives, Chiagouris noted.

“In effect, the entire flying public is being constantly reminded about Samsung’s problems,” he said.

Samsung “will have to retire the Galaxy brand and Note models and introduce new ones to replace them,” Chiagouris suggested. The company also may have to offer longer warranties and rebates to regain consumer trust.

Samsung has two issues to fix, according to Mawston. “First, its quality control during design and production needs improving. Second, it needs better contingency plans for product recalls when things go wrong. It was caught on the hop by the Note7 recall.”

“Samsung’s base is now pretty much gone,” observed Will Stofega, a research program director at IDC.

Proportional Response

The Obama administration on Tuesday indicated it was considering a proportional response to retaliate against Russia for its efforts to influence the United States election process.

The administration last week officially linked Russian operatives to a series of cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee and other organizations, which apparently were designed to influence the November presidential race.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed that leaks to WikiLeaks, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 were “consistent with methods and motivations of Russian efforts” during a press gaggle on board Air Force One on Tuesday, when President Obama was en route to Greensboro, North Carolina.

“The intelligence community has assessed that the theft of this information and its disclosure is an attempt to interfere with the U.S. political system,” Earnest said.

Russia has used similar tactics in the past to try to destabilize democracies in other parts of the world, but those other countries were not as “durable and resilient” as the U.S., he added.

Any U.S. response would be “proportional,” Earnest said, noting that it was “unlikely that our response would be announced in advance,” and that President Obama might choose options that would not be disclosed.

Asked by a reporter whether those options would include sanctions or retaliatory activity against Russia, Earnest said he would not be specific in terms of foreshadowing potential responses, but that a range of options, including the two mentioned, were on the table.

Battening Hatches

The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week issued a joint statement saying they were confident that the Russian government was behind various hacks designed to interfere with the U.S. election.

The hacks included scanning and probing of election-related systems in Illinois and Arizona.

Based on the hack attacks’ scope and sensitivity, it appears they were authorized by senior-level officials in the Russian government, the joint statement says.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this week said that 33 states and 11 county or local agencies had requested cybersecurity services from DHS to defend against further hacks.

The services range from cyberhygiene scans on Internet-facing systems to risk and vulnerability assessments, DHS officials said. The hygiene scans are done remotely, and state and local officials are given a report showing vulnerable areas, along with recommendations for improving online voter registration systems, election night reporting systems, and other systems connected to the Internet.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. — who joined Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in pushing the Obama administration to go public with the allegations — praised the official release of the evidence linking Russia to the hacks.

“We should now work with our European allies who have been the victim of similar and even more malicious cyber interference by Russia to develop a concerted response that protects our institutions and deters further meddling,” he said in a statement.

Hold Fire

The process of naming Russia as the culprit has become heavily politicized, observed Martin Libicki, an adjunct management scientist at the RAND Corporation and a distinguished visiting professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. One side of the U.S. political aisle is calling out the Russians, while the other side is disputing the level of certainty.

“A U.S. administration response cannot help but play into the election season with the other side screaming bloody murder,” Libicki told TechNewsWorld.

It might make sense to wait until after the election to respond, he suggested. However, the Russians might then lose interest until the next presidential cycle.

It’s difficult to know definitively what specific evidence points directly at the Russian government, but it’s unlikely the hacks will change the outcome of the race, said Troy Hunt, a Microsoft regional director.

Flashy New Computers

Watch out, Apple. HP on Wednesday introduced a new generation of premium computer products that could generate the kind of excitement in the market that’s usually the domain of the folks at One Infinite Loop.

Among the new HP offerings are a new tablet-laptop convertible, a svelte laptop, an innovative all-in-one model, and a 4k display designed for dual screen setups.

“HP has absolutely raised their bar in design, quality and performance,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

The new HP machines target the premium end of the PC market, he told TechNewsWorld.

“The target market for these are consumers who care a lot about design and performance and are willing to pay for it,” said Moorhead. “HP has been gaining premium PC market share in U.S. retail, so they must have obviously cracked the code there.”

Convertible and Laptop

HP’s convertible offering is the Spectre x360 (pictured above), which is 2 millimeters thinner than its predecessor and now weighs less than 3 pounds. It has a 13.3-inch FHD IPS display, four speakers and is offered with either an i5 or an i7 seventh-generation Intel Core processor.

It supports log-in via facial recognition and has up to 15 hours of battery life. What’s more, the battery can be charged 90 percent in 90 minutes via a quick-charge function.

The Spectre x360, available immediately, sells for US$1,049.99.

HP’s laptop offering, the Envy, offers more battery life than its predecessor — it has a runtime of up to 14 hours — but at 14mm thick and 3.15 pounds, it’s not as thin and light. It has a 13.3-inch display with a touchscreen option and an extra-wide glass touchpad.

All-In-One and Monitor

The Envy AIO 27 is HP’s all-in-one desktop unit. It has a 27-inch QHD 3.6 million-pixel display that is just 15mm thick, because all the computing and storage power resides in the monitor’s base.

The display supports a “low blue light” mode for improved eye comfort. The base has a sound bar with four speakers tuned by Bang & Olufsen.

Other features include a webcam that pops into the display when not in use, support for sixth-generation Intel quad core i5 or i7 desktop processors, storage on a solid state drive of up to 256 gigabytes, a hard drive of up to 2 terabytes, and HDMI in and out ports.

The AIO 27 sells for $1,299 and will be available this month.

HP’s new monitor is the 27-inch Envy 27. It supports 4K video and has a micro-edge bezel. Its RGB color accuracy exceeds 99 percent and includes a Display Port, HDMI and USB C, which can be used to charge devices.

The Envy 27 will be available Dec. 4 for $499.99.

Apple Dropped the Ball

The new HP offerings meet an unfulfilled need in the market, said Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.

“These are premium-looking and well-configured products,” he told TechNewsWorld, “and given how Apple has dropped the ball advancing the Mac, there’s an opportunity on the premium side of PCs.”

Sinking PC shipments have spurred computer makers to intensify their efforts to impress.

“It’s become more incumbent upon the companies staying in the market to drive more profit from the premium end,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research.

“Of course, Apple has been strong in that segment of the market,” he told TechNewsWorld.

However, Apple is expected to pick up the ball again at the end of the month with a refresh of its Macintosh line of computers.

“It’s too early to tell if HP has upstaged Apple until we see what Apple comes out with next,” Moorhead said. “It does set a higher bar for Apple to cross, though.”

Waves of Internet Out Ages

Hundreds of websites — including those of biggies such as Netflix, Twitter and Spotify — on Friday fell prey to massive DDoS attacks that cut off access to Internet users on the East Coast and elsewhere across the United States.

Three attacks were launched over a period of hours against Internet performance management company Dyn, which provides support to eight of the top 10 Internet service and retail companies and six of the top 10 entertainment companies listed in the Fortune 500.

The first attack against the Dyn Managed DNS infrastructure started at 11:10 a.m. UTC, or 7:10 a.m. EDT, the company said. Services were restored at about 9:00 a.m. Eastern time.

The second attack began around 11:52 a.m. EDT and was resolved by 2:52 p.m. The third attack, which started around 5:30 p.m., was resolved by about 6:17 p.m., according to Dyn’s incident report.

“This is a new spin on an old attack, as the bad guys are finding new and innovative ways to cause further discontent,” said Chase Cunningham, director of cyberoperations for A10 Networks.

“The bad guys are moving upstream for DDoS attacks on the DNS providers instead of just on sites or applications.”

Dyn “got the DNS stuff back up pretty quick. They were very effective,” he told TechNewsWorld.