‘What? No Netflix?’ – and four more news stories from February

Marc Thaler

Marc Thaler rounds up five tech stories that caught his eye during 2015’s second month.

Let the record show that February 3, 2015, was the day mankind persevered in the face of conditions so severe, that life as we know it hung in the balance.

That’s the day Netflix – the video streaming giant with 33 million subscribers worldwide – inexplicably crashed. The outage reportedly occurred at 3:40 p.m. Pacific Time (6:40 p.m. ET) and lasted more than an hour for some unlucky online streaming buffs. Netflix members in North and South America, and to a lesser degree Europe, were forced to somehow, some way, deal with the downtime. What did they do?

They took to social media, of course.

Commentary on Twitter was amusing. CNBC rounded up a number of witty tweets for its story. “Netflix is down and the Internet is losing its mind” was the humorous headline.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Some users were able to get past the log-in screen, pick a TV series title and head to a specific episode…”

At that point, they received this panic-inducing prompt:

Netflix

Does that message look familiar? While you mull it over, consider these stories that also made the cut:

‘As bad as they get’

Shortly after the Netflix crash, a truly troubling situation unfolded. Anthem insurance suffered a data breach of unprecedented proportions for US healthcare. The hack compromised up to 80 million records.

CBS News reported why it’s so horrific. These are the first and second paragraphs from the report:

“Not all data breaches are created equal, and the Anthem health insurance hack is about as bad as they get for consumers.

“Why? This time the crooks got Social Security numbers. For identity thieves, the Social Security number is the key that unlocks the vault, and they now have millions of them.”

Cybercriminals stole it all. In addition to Social Security numbers, consumers’ birthdays, email addresses, medical IDs, names, street addresses and employment information were reportedly exposed.

Double-digit drops

Good news for smartphone users in San Francisco, New York and London: Those major cities reported a drastic drop in stolen phones, the result of manufacturers installing a “kill switch.”

According to PC World, “The kill switch is a software lock that can be remotely activated when a phone is lost or stolen. It can wipe personal data from a phone and ‘brick it’ so it can’t be reused or reprogrammed.”

All three cities reported double-digit drops in smartphone thefts and robberies from 2013 to 2014. London (40%) led the way, followed by San Francisco (27%) and New York (16%).

Touch-y subject

Sure, passwords can be a pain. But when it comes to bank account access by smartphone, do you feel comfortable gaining entry via fingerprint recognition technology?

BBC News reported UK customers of two banks, RBS and NatWest, use Apple’s “Touch ID” (for the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus) after initially inputting their security information. At that point, passcodes are only necessary after three consecutive invalid login attempts:

“While Apple insisted that Touch ID was secure, it said it was not a total replacement for traditional security measures and was meant to make unlocking the phone more convenient. In a similar vein, the banks have now said they wanted to make it ‘even easier and more convenient for customers.’”

The question is: At what cost?

Gimmick-free TV

The hit ABC television comedy “Modern Family” lived up to its name on Feb. 25. Technology that’s so prevalent today – smartphones, tablets and laptops – was the star.

“Connection Lost” was shot entirely with Apple devices. And it played out on the computer of character Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), who waited for her flight at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

“The digital medium offered a fresh, clever way of storytelling — with jokes and plot twists not possible with the documentary-style approach that ‘Modern Family’ typically uses,” the Associated Press review explains.

Missed the episode? Fear not. Hulu has it (sorry, Netflix).