MediaFile

Tech wrap: Liberty Media eyes Nook e-reader

Some see e-readers as the poor cousin to more glamorous tablets, but that may soon be about to change. Billionaire media mogul John Malone, whose Liberty Media owns DirecTV Group and the QVC shopping channel, may be interested in buying the Barnes & Noble chain specifically for its Nook e-reader, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking behind the deal.

The Nook is now the second biggest e-book seller, behind Amazon, which only yesterday announced is now selling more e-books than print books. With Liberty as a backer, Barnes & Noble and the Nook may be well positioned to compete against Amazon and Apple.

Hackers set their sights on Sony – again, this time hacking into the company’s Internet service provider So-Net, stealing virtual points worth $1,225 from account holders. This after Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that Sony was considering re-starting its U.S. based online games service on Tuesday, after shutting it down last month when the company discovered hackers had accessed the accounts of more than 100 million users.

An explosion at a Foxconn factory in China shook Apple shares slightly, sending them one percent lower after local news media said the factory was involved in the production of the iPad2.

And the Reuters Global Technology Summit wrapped up with word that American consumers can soon expect to swipe their cellphones to pay for things as companies will soon begin to roll out their “virtual wallet” technology.

Tech wrap: Sony’s new security setback

Mere days after Sony began restoring access to its PlayStation Network, the company said it had discovered a security flaw on one of the websites set up to help the millions of users affected by April’s massive data breach reset their passwords.

The “security hole“, as Sony spokesman Dan Race termed it, could allow the hackers who perpetrated the April breach to access the accounts using the data they had stolen. Sony shut the webpage down in response. No hacking had taken place prior to taking down the page, Race noted.

Hacking occupied the minds of executives at the Reuters Global Technology Summit as well. Mobile hacking in particular was a hot topic of discussion, with executives at software giants and startups alike expressing their desire to cash in on ways to help smartphone users protect themselves as hackers increasingly target mobile devices.

Tech wrap: RIM’s Playbook recall

Research in Motion shares neared a two-year low after the BlackBerry maker said it has recalled about 1,000 of its Playbook tablets due to an operating system bug. Most of the devices affected remain in the distribution channel and haven’t yet been sold to customers, the Canadian company said in a statement posted on CrackBerry.com.

RIM said it will replace faulty tablets and prompted customers who had received one to contact the company for help. Engadget, the technology blog that first broke the news over the weekend, has compiled a spreadsheet of the 935 alleged serial numbers affected by the recall.

Sony began restoring access to its PlayStation Network games service over the weekend, nearly a month after it was shut down due to a massive security breach that exposed personal details of 100 million users. The Japanese electronics and entertainment company apologized to customers for the service disruption and said it had implemented a new early warning system that would help prevent similar attacks in the future. Sony will phase in service on a country by country basis with the aim of having the process completed by May 31.

Sony not out of the woods

Sony cranked up its video game networks over the weekend starting with the Americas after an unprecedented breach led to the theft of personal information from more than 100 million user accounts.  But experts continued to  criticize the Japanese electronics giant for failing to plug other potential holes in its vast global network.

Using little more than a web browser, a search engine and a basic understanding of security systems, one researcher found more than five entryways into Sony’s systems in the United States and elsewhere shortly after the story went to press. ”"Sony still has several external security issues that need to be addressed,” John Bumgarner, chief technology officer for the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, tells Reuters’ Jim Finkle.

Bloomberg weighed in on Monday to lay out how hackers of Sony’s networks and others have Amazon.com’s cloud computing services to launch attacks, citing unnamed sources.

Tech wrap: Facebook smear campaign blows up

Facebook admitted to hiring PR firm Burson-Marsteller to plant negative stories about Google, The Daily Beast reported. Burson urged journalists to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy and offered to help privacy advocate Christopher Soghoian write an op-ed on the matter for national newspapers. The plot backfired when Soghoian rejected Burson’s offer and posted online an email exchange between them.

Facebook adopted a warning service to help users avoid clicking on dubious Internet links. The new warning service by Finnish startup Web of Trust calculates the reputation of 31 million Web pages and updates the ratings twice an hour, based on feedback from some 20 million users.

The recent hacker attack at Sony and other corporate data breaches are attracting more class-action lawyers eager to score a payday, though huge monetary settlements may be elusive, writes Dan Levine. At least 25 lawsuits have been filed against Sony in U.S. federal courts over the theft of user data from the PlayStation game network, according to Westlaw, a Thomson Reuters legal database. The challenge for plaintiffs’ lawyers lies in establishing a loss of value or additional costs suffered because of a hack, Levine adds.

Tech wrap: Google unveils Chromebook

Google took the wraps off two Chromebook laptop PCs after nearly two years of delays and touts of its Chrome operating system as an alternative to Microsoft Windows. Samsung and Acer laptops using Chrome OS will go on sale June 15, as the world’s No. 1 Internet search engine tries to entice people to do more on the Web. As with Android, Chrome software will be free, but is expected to spur people to use the Internet more often and search for more things, potentially boosting Google’s Internet ads business.

Despite recent indications that Google is priming Chrome for use in tablets, Google says that it is “fully focused on notebooks” for the foreseeable future, writes Mashable’s Ben Parr.

Facebook users’ personal information could have been accidentally leaked to third parties, in particular advertisers, over the past few years, Symantec said in its official blog. Third-parties would have had access to personal information such as profiles, photographs and chat, and could have had the ability to post messages, the security software maker said.  Facebook had taken steps to resolve the issue, the blog post said.

Tech wrap: Microsoft’s Skype deal roasted

Microsoft’s move to buy money-losing Internet phone service Skype for $8.5 billion was immediately skewered by critics and investors, who questioned the logic of the deal and suggested the software giant is paying far too much. The price is about double the expected value of Skype if it had gone ahead with its planned IPO.

“They really have to do some explaining as to how this company merited that price and how they’ll return the value to shareholders,” said Kim Caughey Forrest, at Fort Pitt Capital Group, which holds Microsoft shares.

The deal was a fresh reminder that Microsoft has no record of making acquisitions pay off. Its 2007 deal to buy online ad firm aQuantive for $6 billion was a flat-out failure, writes Bill Rigby.

Tech wrap: Sony CEO says sorry to gamers

Sony CEO Howard Stringer broke his silence on the biggest Internet security break-in ever, apologizing to users of the PlayStation Network and other online services. Stringer did not specify when services would resume.

One analyst said security concerns could weigh on sales of Sony’s gadgets and hurt growth prospects for its network services. “The network business itself still only makes a small direct contribution to earnings, but we see a potential drop in hardware sales as a concern,” analyst Kota Ezawa at Citigroup Global Markets Japan, wrote in a note ahead of the comments from Stringer.

But Peter Walshe at brands research agency Millward Brown said the main Sony brand should bounce back, although PlayStation specifically might suffer. “People may shout: ‘I’m never going to buy Sony again,’ but in our experience that doesn’t tend to happen.”

Tech wrap: Facebook, Google mull Skype tie-ups

Facebook and Google are separately considering a tie-up with Skype after the Web video conferencing service delayed its initial public offering, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions told Reuters. A Skype deal could be valued at $3 billion to $4 billion, the first source said.  The discussions are in early stages, and it is not clear which option the companies favor, the first two sources said.

The Internet vigilante group Anonymous denied responsibility for a cyber-attack on Sony’s networks that exposed the personal data of more than 100 million video gamers. “Let’s be clear, we are legion, but it wasn’t us. You are incompetent Sony,” the group Anonymous said on its blog on Thursday.

Sony said the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the first PlayStation phone, is not affected by the massive data breach of PlayStation user accounts.

Tech wrap: Sony says Anonymous set stage for breach

Sony said that its video game network was breached at the same time it was defending itself against a major denial of service attack by the well-known Internet vigilante group Anonymous. The group attacked the two credit card companies with “denial of service” attacks in December that overwhelmed their servers for blocking payments to WikiLeaks. The company also said it waited two days after discovering data was stolen from its PlayStation game network before contacting law enforcement and didn’t meet with FBI officials until five days later. The theft prompted the Justice Department to open an investigation, officials said on Wednesday.

Intel took the wraps off next-generation technology that crams more transistors onto microchips, hoping it will help the chipmaker catch up in a red-hot tablet and smartphone market. Intel expects to start production of its first PC and server chips using new technology — code named Ivy Bridge — by the end of 2011 and said that it would also make new processors for mobile devices.

Shares of Renren, China’s largest social networking company, surged more than 50 percent in its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in the latest sign investors are eager to snap up stock in social media companies.