In the news: 5 tech news stories worth another look

Debbie Thomson

Debbie Thomson monitors technology industry developments and recaps five tech news stories from August 1-15 that stood out to her.

Are the Pentagon’s email systems hacker-proof? There’s no doubt now.

U.S. officials told NBC News that Russian hackers orchestrated a “sophisticated cyber intrusion” in late July. Approximately 4,000 military and civilian personnel of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were affected.

Encrypted social media accounts were used to coordinate the attack.

According to the report, “it appears the cyberattack relied on some kind of automated system that rapidly gathered massive amounts of data and within a minute distributed all the information to thousands of accounts on the Internet.”

If there is a silver lining in this story, it’s that the intrusion only affected unclassified accounts. And the attack was quickly detected. As soon as the Pentagon learned of the hack, “the entire Joint Staff unclassified email system and Internet” was shut down.

It’s unclear whether the attack is tied to the Russian government, though officials say “it was clearly the work of a state actor.”

What else made this round-up? Read on:

More Pentagon e-problems

In an unrelated email incident, the Pentagon is also investigating a hack that led to more than 1,400 names, emails and passwords of U.S. government personnel appearing on social media.

Twitter was the platform used by the Islamic State Hacking Division. However, the information uploaded by the pro-ISIS group was outdated or simply wrong.

“‘The passwords listed do not pass in any form our strength test,’ (Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeffrey) Pool said, comparing them to a password the average person would quickly create in order to register online for an event.” SC Magazine reported.

Specifically, Pool said the email addresses ran counter to the current format.

“An older configuration that has been out of use for several years” was applied.

Speaking your language

Microsoft has a new app that may force Google to take notice. The app is called “Microsoft Translator” — and it’s designed for users of iOS and Android devices.

“With the new app, Microsoft is entering into Google territory — the search giant has long offered translation services on the Web as well as for iOS and Android,” CNET reported.

The article says Microsoft already offers language translation in other areas, including its website (bing.com) and Skype Translator program.

“But this is the first expansion of Microsoft's translation app to the world of iOS and Android mobile devices and smartwatches,” the report said.

Microsoft Translator currently works for English, Chinese, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and 43 other languages.

Upon further review

To the delight of millions of Americans, the National Football League preseason is underway. During 20 of the exhibition games, coaches, players and referees will test instant replay directly from Microsoft’s new Surface tablet.

As CNN Money reported, the experiment “will mark a sea change for the way the NFL handles in-game technology.”

For years, “the only way coaches and players could dissect plays was to print out photographs captured from in-stadium cameras, load them into binders and run them down to the sidelines.”

Referees rely on a sideline review station where they dissect replay video and communicate with NFL headquarters. It’s a drawn-out practice.

“The tablets still cannot be used for any purpose other than their NFL-approved tasks,” USA Today reported.

The top 25

Which passwords were most popular in 2014? SplashData provided its annual answer based on millions of stolen PWs.

“This year's list is a particular doozy. It proves, among other things, that there are a lot of Michaels out there, that we're all still hung up on superheroes and that, at the very least, people have the cognitive ability to count to six,” Mashable reported.

The article listed the top 25 and their rankings compared to last year. Here are the top 10:

  1. 123456 (unchanged)
  2. password (unchanged)
  3. 12345 (up 17)
  4. 12345678 (down one)
  5. qwerty (down one)
  6. 123456789 (unchanged)
  7. 1234 (up nine)
  8. baseball (new)
  9. dragon (new)
  10. football (new)

It’s probably a good idea to review the remaining 15, too.