In the news: 5 tech news stories worth another look

Debbie Thomson

Debbie Thomson monitored May’s tech industry developments and recaps five tech news stories that stood out to her.

Time Warner Cable is on the verge of being acquired for the second time this year. But is the $56 billion deal doomed?

Reuters reported some analysts are slightly more optimistic Charter Communications will clear the regulatory hurdles that cost U.S. cable giant Comcast. An approved merger that also includes Bright House Networks makes the combined company a worthy rival in the competitive U.S. broadband Internet market. (Re/code reported Comcast now has more high-speed Internet subscribers than cable TV customers.)

“It’s a smaller company so some of the concerns that were raised about potential abuses of a larger company don’t pertain here,” Time Warner CEO Rob Marcus said.

Meanwhile, America’s largest wireless company made headlines. Verizon is buying AOL for $4.4 billion.

“It’s part of Verizon’s plan to dominate a future in which all content – from TV channels to publications – are streamed over the Internet,” CNNMoney reported.

How far we’ve come since the sound of AOL dial-up defined our online experience.

What else made this round-up? Read on:

Sudden loss

The month started on a somber note: Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Goldberg died while exercising during a family vacation in Mexico. The SurveyMonkey CEO and husband of Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, was 47.

Mexican authorities said the cause of death was head trauma from an apparent fall off a treadmill. But an autopsy suggests the cause was heart-related.

Goldberg’s memorial service was attended by influential people from technology, entertainment and government. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff called Goldberg’s death “a ‘huge loss’ for Silicon Valley, and ‘by far the biggest loss since Steve Jobs,’” CBS News reported.

Late last year, Fortune reported that Goldberg’s online survey company was worth nearly $2 billion.

Breaking down barriers

Facebook’s Sandberg was also in the news for an uplifting reason: She is the most influential female in technology, placing eighth overall on the Forbes 100 most powerful women list.

The list recognizes 18 women in tech. Six follow Sandberg in the top 25:

  • 9. Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO
  • 13. Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO
  • 14. Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard
  • 22. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO
  • 24. Safra Catz, Oracle co-CEO
  • 25. Angela Ahrendts, Apple Senior VP Retail

As the article says, “these leaders continue to be the face of success in a tech culture that has gained a reputation for being unwelcoming to women.”

Not much ‘middle ground’

With one guess, a hacker has a one-in-five chance of correctly answering the security question “What is your favorite food?” The finding is part of a Google report that studied the effectiveness of online account security questions – or lack thereof.

“Our findings … led us to conclude that secret questions are neither secure nor reliable enough to be used as a standalone account recovery mechanism,” Google says.

Simple answers, while easy to recall, are also easy for attackers to guess. But difficult answers aren’t any better as users often fail to remember them.

“There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground,” TechCrunch says.

What can users do? The last section of Google’s post offers some suggestions to strengthen security.

“Hello, Twitter!”

There’s an acronym for the leader of the free world. And on May 18, it became the handle for the verified Twitter account of America’s Commander in Chief.

POTUS – short for “President of the United States” – is Barack Obama’s personal account intended for his exclusive use. As you’d expect, Obama’s first tweet did not go unnoticed. Mashable reported Obama set a Guinness World Record for reaching 1 million followers in less than five hours.

If you’re wondering, nobody has more followers than pop star Katy Perry (70 million). Maybe Obama has one more campaign in him?