The moment I heard about the Boston Marathon bombing, I did what many people did: I immediately sought out as much information as possible online. I watched the now widely dispersed videos of the bomb exploding, I looked at the gruesome pictures of victims of the attacks, and I read countless articles about the unfolding tragedy. It is of course trite to observe that the internet has fundamentally altered the way people consume news, breaking or otherwise, but the importance of this fact, however obvious it may be, was made especially vivid to me as I watched the story of the Boston Marathon bombing unfold over the last few days from England, where I am currently in graduate school.
The Boston Marathon bombing, like most tragedies, has prompted countless reflections and questions; some of this soul-searching has been quite general – how is humanity capable of both ruinous evil and heroic good? – and some of it is quite specific – how many people where injured, who are they, exactly how did they get hurt? The much-discussed topic of how technology and social media have impacted the response to the Boston Marathon killings is both general and specific. It is general in that people are asking expansive questions about what role, if any, amateurs armed with computers and an internet connection should play in an active terrorist investigation, and it is specific in that, regardless of how you answer the first question, amateurs are playing a role in an active terrorist investigation, zeroing in on the minutest details of the thousands of photos of the crime scene floating around the internet. We’ll attempt to navigate between the two poles, exploring the intersection of technology, social media, and the Boston Marathon bombing details that have emerged so far.
Things are not looking good for Zynga, the developer of popular Facebook games like Farmville, Mafia Wars, and Hidden Chronicles. At the close of the market yesterday, the value of Zynga stock had decreased by more than a third, to $3.18 a share, which likely led to a devaluation of Facebook stock, down eight percent after late trading yesterday. Zynga is doing no better today: at the close of the market, the value of Zynga is hovering around $3.17 a share. Shortly after the Zynga IPO that took place last December, Zynga stock was worth nearly four times as much.
Grum, the world’s third-largest botnet, has been shutdown, according to one of the security researchers who helped take the botnet offline, Atif Mushtaq. Mushtaq, who works for the “malware intelligence lab” FireEye, announced the good news on the security company’s blog yesterday after two intense days battling Grum. You may see less spam related to cheap “Cilais,” “Vigara,” or “Levtira” (misspellings of Cialis, Viagra, and Levitra, respectively) and fewer unwanted messages advertising Rolex watches as a result of the Grum botnet shutdown. With a command and control server in the Netherlands, and additional servers in countries such as Panama and Russia, taking down Grum required international coordination and effort.
It seems like every week brings news of a new hacking, which in turn means that usernames, email addresses, and passwords are constantly being posted online by hackers, and this inevitably leads to a simple question: when should you change your password? Or, to frame the question in a slightly different way, how often should you change your password? In general, you should change your password about as frequently as you can tolerate changing your password. As long as you can keep track of your various passwords, there isn’t any disadvantage associated with changing it (besides the fact that changing your password can be a bit of a pain). Now, however, there is at least one definite answer to the question posed above: you should change your password when ShouldIChangeMyPassword.com tells you to.
There was talk over the last week or so that Yahoo had been hacked, but what wasn’t mentioned during this period of speculation was that the potential hacking not only affected Yahoo users, but also users of Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, MSN, Comcast, Verizon, SBC Global, Live.com, and BellSouth. Today, Yahoo confirmed that it has in fact been hacked, indicating that a file with over 400,000 usernames and passwords – taken from various accounts, not just Yahoo accounts – was compromised by a group of hackers known as D33D Company and posted online. The data has since been taken offline.
A couple of weeks back, the hacker group Rex Mundi blackmailed AmeriCash Advance, demanding that the payday lender give the group around $20,000. If AmeriCash Advance didn’t pay up, Rex Mundi would publish the thousands of loan-applicant records it stole from the payday lender. Now, a couple of weeks later, AmeriCash Advance hasn’t paid the extortion fee, so Rex Mundi did in fact publish all those loan-applicant records. This is a newsworthy story in its own right, but what really makes it important is that it reveals how utterly unsecured so much of our private information (Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, banking data, etc.) is. And our private information and other data are not just vulnerable to skilled hackers – it’s vulnerable in general because it is often so poorly protected.
Lots of people love Apple, but not Sahar Sabet and Zack Jafarzadeh, two potential customers at different Apple stores in Georgia who were prevented from buying an iPad and iPhone, respectively, for fear that they (the Apple products) will end up in Iran. Iran and the United States are not close, which is why the U.S. holds a complete embargo against Iran, placing it in the company of Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. This means that U.S. goods, like iPads and other Apple products, cannot be exported or sold from the United States to these countries, and a U.S. person is prohibited from doing the same no matter where they are in the world.
Google is hard at work on a lot of things, including one of the most important and difficult things of all: improving Internet security. Five years ago, Google introduced Safe Browsing, an effort designed to protect Internet users – people who browse with Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, as well as anyone who searches the Web with Google – from malware and phishing. Through this effort, Google detects, among other things, 9,500 malicious sites every day. Allow us to repeat that: Google detects 9,500 malicious sites every day.
Reveal Day is today, and, not surprisingly, much was revealed today. In particular, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced not only some of the new top-level domain names, but also which companies applied for them. By as early as the start of next year, a host of new top-level domain names – like .app, .news, .music, and .movie – will join the ubiquitous .com at the end of URLs. We have all grown accustomed to writing “.com” at the end of URLs (and occasionally “.net” and “.org”), but once these new TLDs (as “top-level domains” are often called) are brought online by ICANN, the average users’ Internet experience may become more complicated.
As goes Facebook, so goes the world of social media – perhaps not the whole world of social media, but certainly those companies intricately intertwined with Facebook, like Zynga, the creator of popular (at least for now) Facebook games like “Farmville,” “Hidden Chronicles,” and “Mafia Wars.” Zynga shares have declined steadily over the last few months as fewer Facebook users play games through the social media platform. This week has been particularly unkind to Zynga, whose share price dropped 10 percent on Tuesday alone. What’s wrong with Zynga? Are Zynga shares not worth what they once were? Will Zynga shares continue to decline in value?
Investors who bought stock in Facebook are upset, leading them to do what upset investors do best: file a lawsuit against the person and/or company that allegedly wronged them. In this case, the person is CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and the company is Facebook (along with a few banks that helped with the Facebook IPO), and the wrongdoing alleged is insider trading, and failure to disclose relevant information (i.e., that Facebook was not worth as much as the IPO price suggested). Not long ago, Zuckerberg and his brainchild Facebook were widely admired and praised. He was the king of technology – a Harvard dropout turned billionaire - but uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Now Zuckerberg, having officially been sued for insider trading in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, has lost much of his esteem.
To anyone who follows technology in particular or business in general, it has become clear that the Facebook IPO (Initial Public Offering) was, to put it lightly, a major disappointment. The Facebook IPO was supposed to be a financial victory that fit neatly into the timeline (no pun intended) of one of the most successful technology companies in history. But since going public, the value of Facebook shares (and by extension, of course, the value of Facebook as a company) have plummeted. This is not how things were supposed to go. But Facebook is young and the company has plenty of time to recover, so we wanted to cut through the negative press about the IPO to examine where Facebook shares are potentially going and where they have been. Basically, what is Facebook worth, and just as importantly, what should Facebook be worth?