<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Tech News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:08:09 -0500 Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:08:09 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Ballmer Leaves Microsoft Board]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 22:08:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/Steve+Ballmer+Clips+1.JPG

Steve Ballmer on Tuesday left Microsoft's Board of Directors, citing new commitments as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a day after publicly stepping into his role with the team.

"The fall will be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season so my departure from the board is effective immediately," Ballmer wrote in his resignation letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "I see a combination of the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking a lot of time."

Ballmer, who handed off the reins as CEO to Nadella in February, expressed confidence in the company’s future and said he is proud that "Microsoft has been my life's work."

"I bleed Microsoft -- have for 34 years and I always will," he wrote.

Ballmer bought the Clippers from Shelly Sterling, wife of former owner Donald Sterling, for $2 billion in May.

The deal was approved by the NBA and finalized Aug. 12 after a tumultuous court battle between the Sterlings.

Shelly Sterling said last week she is "thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner."

Ballmer introduced himself to thousands of Clippers fans on Monday during an energetic rally at the Staples Center that also featured several players and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. Ballmer promised to keep the team in LA and to usher in an era of many victories.

"This is an amazing new day in Clippers history," Coach Doc Rivers said at the rally. "I couldn't be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization."

In a response to Ballmer's resignation letter Tuesday, Nadella thanked Ballmer for his time at the company and wished him success.

"I am sure that you will bring the same boldness, passion and impact to your new endeavors that you brought to Microsoft," Nadella wrote.

Ballmer remains a shareholder at Microsoft.

<![CDATA[Security Expert Discovers Hole In Satellite Communications]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 23:10:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Ruben-Santamarta-8_18.jpg

A cyber security expert tells NBC5 Investigates he has found a way to hack into the satellite communications systems used in multiple industries.

"These devices are wide open right now," said Ruben Santamarta, a security consultant based in Madrid, Spain with IOActive.

Pilots, ship captains and military personnel rely on satellite networks to communicate when there are no phone lines or wireless networks available.

"If someone can see the password or that user name it's over," he added. "Those vulnerabilities can be exploited to remotely compromise those devices."

Santamarta said he used something called reverse engineering -- or decoding -- to hack satellite communications equipment used in aerospace, maritime and military industries.

"In the military sector they use satellite terminals for combat units," said Santamarta. "They normally encrypt the radio [transmissions] they send. But we can disrupt the satellite communications channel so we can prevent combat units [from asking] for help if they are being attacked."

And in the maritime sector, satellite communications are used to send and receive vital information that affects the safety of the crew.

"If they are being attacked by terrorists, or they are suffering fire, they can send a distress call," he said. "But we found we can modify the firmware in some of those terminals, so we can prevent a crew from sending a distress call."

Santamarta recently published a 25-page report and went public with his findings at Defcon 22 - the largest hacking conference in the world - held earlier this month in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"For the aerospace sector we can disrupt satellite communications, [and] potentially modify the data that goes through those channels," said Santamarta. "In some cases you need physical access to compromise the devices we analyzed, but in other cases you can use Wi-Fi or the entertainment network to access that device."

His research took place in a lab setting and has not been tested on an actual commercial plane. But his findings have raised concerns in the aviation industry.

"He has uncovered real vulnerabilities in satellite communication systems," said Dr. Phil Polstra, a hardware hacker, security professional and digital forensics professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. "You could use those vulnerabilities to send a bogus message."

Polstra says that while it might be possible to send a fake message - potentially rerouting a plane -- it's unlikely a pilot would act on it.

"You could tell an airplane to reroute or tell them there's bad weather ahead, but what you can't automatically do is take over a new airplane," said Polstra. "There are checks in place and the pilot will verify those messages before acting on them."

As for the claim that it's possible to hack into the satellite communications on a passenger jet through Wi-Fi, aviation experts say that is unlikely.

"If that were even plausible and if someone were able to do that, we monitor the flight's path all the time," said Captain Polly Kadolph, former pilot and aviation professor at University of Dubuque in Iowa. "So if we see the flight path doing something we don't intend or want it to do, in a half second you just click it off and it's ours -- we are just flying it like we have been flying it by hand for thousands of hours

Captain Kadolph says humans, not computers, are the best line of defense against cyber threats.

"One topic that the airline industry is talking about is the over reliance on automation," she said.

As automation in planes increases, the chance of cyber hijacking does as well.

"At this point all those vulnerabilities are really dangerous so they need to change the way they are implementing these devices," said Ruben Santamarta.

But changes may not be happening anytime in the near future. Santamarta says IOActive contacted all of the manufacturers of the satellite communication systems where they found vulnerabilities.

"Some of the vendors state they are not going to budge on anything," said Santamarta. "I think we need time to fix those issues."

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<![CDATA[Inside Defcon: What Happens at the Annual Hacker Convention]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:35:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*213/Defcon-poster-p1.jpg

Ruben Santamarta sauntered into our Las Vegas hotel suite looking more like a sleep-deprived 32-year-old than a highly-regarded international security researcher.

He’s not thrilled with the culture in this desert oasis.

“Too hot, too many parties,” Santamarta, who’s here to deliver a speech, told us in broken English.

The Spanish hacker and his press agent Craig Brophy are in high demand at the myriad of parties going on around Black Hat and Defcon, two conferences that make up a week dedicated to the art and science of hacking.

Santamarta hit parties for Facebook, Google, Rapid 7 and IOActive, among others, but he really just wants to give his talks and then vacation with his girlfriend in Los Angeles.

Why the interest? Santamarta recently released cutting-edge research on how he was able to hack into an airplane navigational system via the airplane’s inflight Wi-Fi signal and entertainment system. The Spaniard also published a 25-page report called “A Wake-up Call for SATCOM Security,” that provided details on what he said were multiple vulnerabilities in firmware used in satellite communications, including aviation, military, maritime transportation, energy and even media communications.

We caught up with the Madrid-based IOActive security researcher right after he spoke at Black Hat, a high-end security conference geared toward corporations, security professionals and FBI types. It costs about $3,000 to get in the door. 

The topic of Satellite vulnerabilities alone was enough to raise concern within the security industry and earn adoration within the hacking world.

Santamarta is something of a rock star. He’s got fans and followers. Many of those acolytes descended on Las Vegas for a chance to see him speak at the Black Hat convention.

Thousands more who want to emulate his skills were in town for Defcon – a very different type of security conference that’s held the first week of August in Las Vegas and stands in stark contrast to the high-priced corporate event.

Nearly 16,000 eager hackers of all ages showed up for Defcon 22 at the Rio Hotel. Some of the attendees include white hat hackers (good guys) and black hats (unscrupulous guys). These hackers mingle with National Security Agents (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agents and other government guys who listen to the speeches, but really want to recruit talent.

The Defcon conference, which is the ultimate assembly of paranoia, costs $220 in cash. No credit cards. No debit cards. No real names.  These are hackers after all, and nothing electronic is safe from the prying eyes of their sniffer programs – bots whose only purpose is to latch onto your personal data.

We were told to put our IDs, credit cards and other chip-embedded cards in some form of protective RFID shielding case while at the conference.

A fast food restaurant nearby the hotel was hacked while we were there. And one Rio hotel staffer told us that employees there were warned not to bring their cell phones, credit cards or anything else for the four-day conference because they could be breached.

For those looking for a Defcon souvenir that has not been hacked from someone, the chaotic vendor area has it all: artists hawking Defcon T-Shirts, security companies pitching the latest and greatest hacking equipment, how-to books and lockpicking kits. And this year an unexpected participant was Tesla, apparently looking to recruit some computer geniuses.

Participants must go through a rigorous review panel of their peers, before earning a coveted spot to speak at Defcon. And while the speeches are a highlight of the event, there are plenty of other unique and unusual things to do at Defcon.

To be precise, there is a lot of hacking to do.

Organizers of Defcon like to challenge attendees with puzzles – either to hone their skills or perhaps to distract them from infiltrating nearby sandwich shops. The first puzzle comes in the form of the coveted electronic Defcon22 badge.

The Defcon conference badge is a miniature circuit board, which lights up in various sequences and many hackers spend the entire conference trying to “crack” the code on the badge.

The most prestigious challenge to win at Defcon is Capture The Flag (CTF). Attendees call it the World Series of hacking and not everyone can play. Competitors must pre-qualify in order to play.

Teams of hackers try to attack other team’s computers by solving complex codes, while also defending their own computer, each time gaining or losing a flag. Many of these hard-core hackers are known as the superstars in the hacking world. And the game is taken so seriously, that many of these players don’t leave the Capture the Flag Village the entire conference. The winners are awarded no cash but the coveted black badge that allows them free entry to Defcon for life.

One guy that some would argue should have a pass for life: Ruben Santamarta.

The unassuming humble hacker who has no idea that he has groupies and that his fan base includes everyone from university professors to aspiring hackers. 

Photo Credit: Eddie Mize]]>
<![CDATA[Uber Driver Arrested After Assault]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:12:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/police-lights-night-shutterstock_54084688.jpg

Police arrested an Uber driver a woman accused of sexually assaulting her earlier this month.

Police charged 31-year-old Reshad Chakari of Alexandria, Virginia, with second-degree sexual abuse.

On July 20, police went to the 1400 block of Rhode Island Avenue NW where a 25-year-old woman reported that an Uber driver sexually assaulted her. She had several drinks at a nightclub while celebrating her birthday and passed out in the car, News4's Darcy Spencer reported. According to the police report, the woman said Chakari touched her while she was sleeping in the car.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh said she wants to make sure these drivers are not preying on women. While Uber is required to perform background checks on drivers, that may not be enough, Cheh said. She said installing panic buttons in cars could help.

"Rider safety is Uber's #1 priority. We take reports like this seriously and are treating the matter with the utmost urgency and care," said Taylor Bennett, spokesperson for Uber Technologies. "It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver’s account following any serious allegations, which we have done. We stand ready to assist authorities in any investigation.”

Stay with News4 and NBCWashington for more on this developing story.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend Web: Samsung's Wristwatch Computers]]> Sun, 27 Jul 2014 10:45:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/samsung_watches.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski shows us the latest "watch style" computers.. that allow you to answer your phone on our wrist as well as take pictures and so much more. All of the devices Charlie showcased in this story are made by Samsung.]]> <![CDATA[Ideas for Parents: Teen Technology]]> Sun, 27 Jul 2014 12:34:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008158377_1200x675_312787011981.jpg Technology is finding an increasingly greater role in all of our lives, so family lifestyle expert Donna Bozzo stopped by to share some ideas on how you can make sure kids keep their devices organized and charged... and help you save money and set limits.]]> <![CDATA[Unlock Your Phone with Motorola's "Digital Tattoo"]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:34:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/moto+x+tattoo.jpg

Say goodbye to unlocking your phone with a fingerprint, and hello to a digital tattoo.

That’s right—Motorola has unveiled new technology that allows Moto X phone users to unlock their phone using a digital tattoo.

Made of "super thin" and flexible materials, based on eSkinTM technology by VivaLnk, each digital tattoo is designed to unlock a phone by touching it to the device. The nickel-sized, shiny tattoo is designed to last for about five days and can withstand showering, swimming and vigorous activities like jogging, the company said in a release.

The new technology is designed to unlock devices faster than the average 2.3 seconds and eliminates the possibility of forgetting your password.

“Digital tattoos make it faster to safely unlock your phone anywhere without having to enter a password,” the company said in the release.

The tattoos are available in packs of 10 on VivaLnk.com.

Photo Credit: Motorola]]>
<![CDATA[Phone Chargers and Adapters Recalled]]> Sat, 12 Jul 2014 16:41:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/recall33.jpg

Two recalls have been issued for chargers that can overheat phones, causing a burn hazard, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The first recall warns about Gemini adapters and chargers that were given away at trade shows between October and April.

The company has received one report of a consumer who was burned on their hand, according to the CPSC. All chargers of this brand should be thrown out. About 31,000 chargers are affected.

The second recalls warns about Lifeguard Press charging kits. Seven models of charging kits with universal serial bus (USB) connectors that are used to recharge Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod devices are affected by the recall, according to CPSC.

They were sold under the brands Ban.do, Jonathan Adler, and Lilly Pulitzer between February and June.

Lifeguard Press has received six reports of the wall chargers emitting smoke and sparking and six reports of prongs detaching from the plug, according to CPSC. No injuries have been reported.

Consumers may contact the company for a refund. About 25,400 are included in the recall.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Kardashian Game Propels App Company]]> Sat, 12 Jul 2014 14:26:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/KK11.jpg

Kim Kardashian is money.

Glu Mobile knows.

The app-maker is the publisher of "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood," a free-to-play game downloadable from Apple's App Store. And Glu Mobile is also enjoying a wave of success after its stock shares jumped 42 percent in recent months thanks to the Kim game, Bloomberg News reported.

San Francisco-based Glu Mobile officials say they're not surprised that Kim's celebrity power could compel hordes of downloads and plenty of in-game purchases, the trick that makes free-to-download games lucrative.

In the game, users try to negotiate their own celebrity landscapes, using advice from Kardashian herself to rise from the "so-called E-list" to the "A-list," the website reported.

Revenue from the game could hit $200 million, an analyst told the website.

Photo Credit: GC Images]]>
<![CDATA[Uber: What to Know About Car Service App]]> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:42:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/451565438.jpg

Summoning a driver at a push of a smartphone button is a lot easier than trying to hail a cab during rush hour, which may explain why Uber, a car service app that connects passengers and car services within minutes, has become so popular.

The San Francisco-based startup, which launched in 2010, is the biggest of the car-hailing apps (others include Lyft, Sidecar and Wingz), operating in 120 cities and 37 countries. Uber relies on a surge-pricing model, which means the fares increase during high-demand periods. The company has come under fire from traditional taxi drivers who say the service is not fair and might even be illegal. This battle between upstart and establishment is likely to continue, and may benefit riders from a cost perspective.

Meantime, here’s what you need to know about Uber:

  • How Does Uber Work?

A customer requests a car using a smartphone app and Uber sends its closest driver to their location, using the phone’s GPS. The fare is charged directly to your credit card. Uber provides five types of services: UberX, the cheapest option which allows for the hiring of livery car drivers with a smartphone; Uber Taxi, which lets you e-hail a yellow cab; Uber Black, a private hire car; Uber SUV, the car seats up to six people and Uber Lux, which features the priciest cars.

  • Who Drives Uber Cars?

UberX drivers are not licensed chauffeurs and they use their own cars. They also use their personal auto insurance policy while driving for Uber and they are not required to get commercial liability insurance. According to the company website, all ride-sharing and livery drivers are thoroughly screened and the company conducts ongoing reviews of drivers’ motor vehicle records throughout their time with Uber.

The review process may be flawed.  A three-month investigation by NBC4's I-Team found that convicted felons passed Uber background checks across the country. And in an undercover investigation, NBC Chicago hired several UberX drivers and ran their own background checks on them and found numerous tickets for speeding, illegal stops and running lights.

  • Is Uber Safe?

States are warning riders who hail an Uber or another ride-sharing cab that they may not be covered by insurance if the driver gets in an accident. But Uber and other ride-sharing companies say that is not the case.

"There's no insurance gap at all on any trip on the Uber system," Uber spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian told NBC News. She said the company's $1 million policy provides sufficient coverage in case a driver's personal insurance fails to do that.

There are other safery concerns as well. A 32-year-old Uber driver in Los Angeles was arrested in June on suspicion of kidnapping a woman and taking her to a motel room, police said.

And a California couples told NBC4 an Uber driver stole $2,500 in cash and personal items from them after he picked them up from LAX and dropped them off at their West Hollywood condo.

  • How Much Is Uber Worth?

Uber was valued in June at $18.2 billion, less than a year after being valued at $3.5 billion. The valuation was the highest-ever for a venture-backed start-up and experts say Uber is positioned to become one of the most powerful companies in the world.

  • Uber Capping Fares in Emergencies

Uber announced Monday that it will cap fares during emergencies and disasters in all U.S. cities. The company said prices may still rise higher than usual during an emergency, but the increase will be limited. The price will always stay below that of the three highest-priced, non-emergency days of the preceding 2 months, according to Uber's website.

The company was accused of price gouging when it applied surge pricing after Hurricane Sandy, in some cases doubling the normal fares.

  • Uber Slashing Fares in Some Cities

Uber also said Monday that it was temporarily cutting UberX rates by 20 percent in New York City, making its service cheaper than taking a yellow taxi.

An UberX ride from New York’s City’s Grand Central Terminal to the Financial District will now cost about $22, down from about $28. The same ride in a city cab will cost about $24, according to Uber’s blog.

Uber has also reduced fares in Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.

  • Uber Banned in Some Cities

While taxi operators often shell out more than $1 million for a medallion to operate in some cities, Uber drivers don’t. At least six cities (Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Ann Arbor, Michigan; San Antonio and Austin, Texas; and Miami) as well as the state of Virginia have banned ride-sharing companies. Another seven cities and three states (California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania) are trying to regulate them.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Becoming An Elementary School Entrepreneur]]> Sun, 06 Jul 2014 16:32:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/SEE+PROGRAM.png The students at Nettelhorst Elementary School, on the northside of Chicago, are getting valuable class time learning how to create and market their ideas. The Science Entrepreneurial Exchange (SEE) program is Making A Difference in the lives of these bright young students. NBC 5's Art Norman reports.]]> <![CDATA[30 Md. Cab Companies Suing Uber]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:40:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Uber-Council-102313.jpg

More than 30 Maryland cab companies are suing Uber, saying the company is hampering their ability to do business.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court, reported the Baltimore Sun. The lawsuit claims Uber's surge-pricing model is similar to price fixing, and the car service is creating an unfair marketplace.

Taxi companies have begun to fight Uber, a popular ride-sharing company that uses an app to summon rides. In D.C., taxis affiliated with the D.C. Taxi Operators Association closed down Pennsylvania Avenue last month in a protest against Uber that gridlocked traffic.

Virginia has barred Uber from operating in the state, and in San Francisco, the head of one of the oldest cab companies in the city has said that traditional taxis may not survive 18 months in the face of competition from Uber.

Maryland has become a new battlefront for the dispute, with cab companies lobbying against proposals to regulate Uber differently than cab companies.

The cab companies claim that services like Uber aren't regulated the same way that taxis are. Uber has countered that the ride-sharing model isn't a taxi service, and pointed to the consumer demand for the product.

Two of the companies that sued in Maryland -- Barwood Tax and Sun Cab -- are based in Montgomery County.

An Uber spokesperson says it's too early to comment on this lawsuit, but the company will defend itself if it has to.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Is Oakland the New Silicon Valley?]]> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:35:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/219*120/jacklondonsquare.jpg

Tech companies are now branching out into the East Bay, favoring Oakland after being priced out of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley.

Erik Collier serves as one of the general managers of Ask.com, a search engine company that moved into Oakland's City Center from Emeryville in 2004.

"We knew it was cool before it was cool," Collier said. "We were looking for more space. Oakland seemed to be a great spot, a central location to transportation."

Other startups and tech companies moving into Oakland point to the cheaper costs of doing business, especially compared to San Francisco or on the Peninsula.

The average price for an apartment in San Francisco is $3,500. Oakland's average rent is about $2,000 a month for an apartment.

"All the young techies want to be in the East Bay," Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney said. "It is so hot. They don't want the sterile environment of those isolated campuses of the old tech."

McElhaney considers old-tech powerhouse companies to be the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple, all of which helped make Silicon Valley famous, simultaneously driving up rents south of the City in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, neither of which have much in the way of rent control.

She is touting Oakland as the next big thing for the tech industry.

"At this point, Silicon Valley is old money," McElhaney said.

The Sears and Roebuck building in Oakland will soon become part of  the city's renaissance. The building has been sold and the new owner plans to turn the building into retail and office space for more start-up companies.

Oakland restaurateur Irfan Joffrey, owner of Camber, said the upswing seems to be gaining momentum.

"A lot of new businesses are moving in," he said, "just because other businesses are coming into town so they can benefit from the economy."

<![CDATA[SF Parking App Makers Threatened With Fines, Lawsuit]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 09:32:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/06-23-2014-parking-app.jpg

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who think they can solve San Francisco’s parking woes – and make some cash at the same time – are busy launching new apps that match drivers in need with much-coveted parking spots in the city.

But these tech companies could fold just as quickly as they started – or face possible fines or lawsuits – if they choose to go through with their business plans. 

On Monday, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a cease-and-desist letter to MonkeyParking, claiming the app is illegal because it attempts to lease public, on-street parking spots.

Herrera also sent a similar letter to Apple, asking the Cupertino-based giant to remove the app from its store. Herrera also vowed to send out two more letters to ParkModo and Sweetch, companies with similar business models that charge consumers money to find empty spaces in parking-starved San Francisco.

Herrera’s letter said the companies will face a $2,500 fine, and a lawsuit, if they don’t stop operations by July 11. And his letter brought up issues of safety, logistics and equity regarding the controversial apps in a city where parking is in short supply.

In an email, MoneyParking CEO Paolo Dobrowolny said he wasn't allowed to say too much because he hadn't yet time to consult with his lawyers. But in general, he said, he believes his company is "providing value to people," where users can "make $10 every time you leave a parking spot" by holding that spot until the next person comes. He said he feels his service should "regulated and not banned."

But, in an interview on Monday, Sweetch founders insisted that they’re not selling public spaces, they’re selling information. And the founders – French students who developed the app while taking an entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley – vigorously defended their business model.

In fact, Sweetch Co-Founder Hamza Ouazzani said his company attorneys told his San Francisco-based team that the app is “perfectly legal.” He explained that Sweetch’s goal mirrors Uber and Lyft, which also attempt to match people through the “sharing economy." Those two companies have been visible players in the ongoing conflict between tech ventures and public entities.

The Sweetch app, which charges users $5 to park, and pays users $4 to sell their spot to someone new, aims to make parking smarter, Ouazzani said, by providing a lower cost option for people who want to decrease the time they spend hunting for a place to park.

Ouazzani said while he’s not worried about Herrera’s threats, his team is now in consultation with attorneys to decide what the next move is for Sweetch.

The next move, at least on the city attorney’s behalf, will be to start fining, or suing, the companies who don’t heed his warnings. Herrera’s office noted, however, that Sweetch’s app, with its set-price model, does not appear to be as egregious as the other two apps, which encourage online bidding wars over parking spots.

City attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey said his office isn't buying the app makers' logic. He said companies that claim to be selling “parking information," as opposed to the spot itself, are giving consumers a line that is “patently false.”

Companies like these are “holding on-street parking hostage,” Dorsey said in a phone interview. He added that San Francisco police code clearly bans the buying and selling of public spots to drivers. “It’s like selling off Muni seats,” he said.

Plus, Dorsey is skeptical that the information the companies are selling is even useful.

 “In the Mission District,” he said, “That information isn’t going to be good for very long.”

Herrera’s office is also arguing that drivers using these apps will make the roads more unsafe.

“Presumably, you’re still on your iPhone while you’re driving,” Dorsey said.

And, on a social justice level, Dorsey said the city attorney is concerned that the apps might "fly in the face of San Francisco values," making parking even more difficult for those without parking app access.

“It’s not fair that people with the ability to pay have a better chance to find parking in San Francisco than you or I might,” he said. “It’s already a city with affordability problems.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sweetch]]>
<![CDATA[Daughter's Letter Gets Dad Week Off of Work at Google]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:15:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_07_google_car.jpg

A little girl's summer wish came true, thanks to a letter she wrote to Google.

Katie wanted her dad, who works at Google, to spend more time with her, so she wrote the Mountain View company a letter asking for him to have Wednesday off. 

"Can you please make sure when daddy goes to work, he gets one day off," she wrote in the letter, which is going viral on Twitter.

"P.S. It is daddy's birthday. P.P.S. It is summer, you know," she added.

The letter worked, according to "The Today Show," as Google responded with a letter thanking Katie for the note and giving her dad the first week of July off as vacation time.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

<![CDATA[Google Doodle Takes on Office Workers Sneaking Peeks at World Cup ]]> Mon, 23 Jun 2014 12:36:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/worldcupgoogledoodle.jpg

Google outted office workers around the world with a doodle that features the iconic "Google" letters sitting around a conference table watching a World Cup game.

The animated letters are seen switching from the game to a graph presentation when a stern looking letter "B" walks by with a clipboard in hand. Once the B-is-for-Boss is gone, the PowerPoint presentation switches back to what appears to be an exciting match as the Google letters cheer and fist pump.

Users who click on the Doodle were taken to coverage of Monday's Netherlands vs. Chile match.

Researchers have yet to calculate the estimated loss of work productivity during the 2014 World Cup, but the U.S. economy in 2010 took a $121.7 million hit due to the 21 million soccer-loving Americans who watched for 10 work minutes a day during the South Africa games, according to NBC News.

<![CDATA[Facebook Down for the Second Time This Week]]> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 17:03:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP120112075763.jpg

Facebook appeared to be experiencing an outage on Friday afternoon. Users attempting to log on would see either a blank screen or an error message.

This is the second time this week the popular social networking site went off the grid. Facebook suffered its longest and biggest outage in the middle of the night on Thursday as millions of users around the world found themselves unable to access their accounts for about half an hour starting at 4 a.m. ET.

The latest service disruption started at about 1:13 p.m. ET, according to downrightnow.com, a website that monitors web services. Facebook was back up by 6:00 PM ET.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Target Fixes Glitch That Caused Delays at Checkout]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 11:29:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/target9.JPG

Target says it has fixed a glitch that caused delays at checkout stands at some of its U.S. stores Sunday.

The company said it identified the source, and that it was not a security-related issue.

“We sincerely apologize to anyone inconvenienced by this issue,” said Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman.

One customer told NBC4 on Twitter that a Target store in Tustin was unable to process debit cards. The store handed out coupons for $10 off to customers, she said.

Last December, Target announced it was the victim of a cyber attack that resulted in the theft of at least 40 million payment card numbers and 70 million other pieces of customer data.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tesla to Open Up Its Electric Car Patents]]> Fri, 13 Jun 2014 07:49:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tesla_models_car_red.jpg

Electric car maker Tesla Motors is sharing its technological brainpower with the world and will open up all of its patents in an effort to boost electric car production.

"Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a blog post announcing the decision Thursday.

Musk said he hopes encouraging other electric car manufacturers to use Tesla's technology will help make cars less reliant on gasoline.

"Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis," Musk wrote in his blog post.

"Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day," he added.

Musk said his new business strategy was based on open source philosophy, which encourages the free and open development of technology, and said sharing Tesla's technology "will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard."

The announcement came the heels of Monday's reveal that Tesla also planned to encourage standardized electric car specifications by opening Tesla's Supercharger system to other auto makers, Engadget first reported. The Supercharger lets Tesla drivers charge half the car's battery life in about 20 minutes.

Photo Credit: Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[TweetDeck Security Issue Gives Hackers Access to Accounts]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 12:27:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*160/tweetdeck18.jpg

Users of Twitter's popular web app TweetDeck are encouraged to log out of their account right away.

Users reported on Wednesday morning that the app was creating pop-up alerts all by itself. The issue seemed to be affecting those who use TweetDeck on Google Chrome, but some reports show that other versions were affected as well, according to the tech blog Gigacom.

Mashable reported that the service has a security flaw that could allow hackers to gain access to user accounts. TweetDeck confirmed on Twitter in the afternoon that the issue has been fixed.

In addition to logging out of and logging back into the app, users are encouraged to remove access to TweetDeck from the Twitter app before using the service again.

<![CDATA[Groupon's "Freebies" Goes Mobile]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 10:03:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/groupon_logo.jpg

Groupon is upping its couponing game.

The coupon company announced Wednesday that it would add its “Freebies” feature to iOS devices.

Launched in 2013, Groupon’s Freebies include more than 30,000 digital coupons, promotion codes, sales, giveaways and samples from more than 6,000 national brands.

The addition of Freebies to mobile users makes Groupon the most widely distributed mobile coupon destination in the United States, the company said.

“By adding Freebies to our popular mobile app, we’re giving shoppers more ways to save money on the go without having to clip any coupons,” said Sean Smyth, Groupon’s vice president of global partner marketing and business development. “And, with more than 80 million downloads globally, we’re giving brands an enormous platform to drive customers to their mobile app, online store or physical location.”

Freebies is currently available in the United States, but the company said it plans to expand to international markets by the end of 2014. It also plans to include Android devices and location-based alerts later this summer.

<![CDATA[Local Company Touts "Ultimate TV" Ahead of Father's Day]]> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 16:27:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/samsung+tv+110.jpg

Looking for the ultimate Father's Day gift? This could be it-- if you're looking to spend $150,000 on dear old dad.

Local company Abt Electronics and Appliances is touting Samsung's 110-inch Ultra HD TV as the perfect, yet pricey, gift for dad this year.

The 304-pound television is the largest TV on the market and includes built-in WiFi and a full web browser, according to a spokesman for the company.

The television, dubbed the "ultimate TV," went on sale Tuesday at Abt Electronics and Appliances in Glenview. The retailer will be the exclusive seller of the television for the next six months, the company said.

Officials said one television has already been sold to a North Shore resident.

Photo Credit: Abt]]>
<![CDATA[LAPD Drones Raise Privacy Concerns]]> Sun, 01 Jun 2014 18:58:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/lapd+drone+web+copy.jpg

The Los Angeles Police Department’s recent acquisition of two drones has the ACLU concerned over potential privacy issues.

While the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California applauded the LAPD for being transparent about the department’s acquisition of the Draganflyer X6 drones, the group “questions whether the marginal benefits to SWAT operations justify the serious threat to privacy,” said executive director Hector Villagra.

“They can be used for completely surreptitious surveillance that a helicopter could never perform,” Villagra said in a statement. “Drones equipped with facial recognition software, infrared technology, and speakers capable of monitoring personal conversations would cause real harms to our privacy rights.”

For now, the LAPD has not decided whether or not to use the unmanned vehicles. The drones are being held by a federal law enforcement agency and is pending review by the LAPD and the Board of Police Commissioners, a five-member group that is set in place to serve as the citizen’s voice in police matters.

The drones would be used in narrow cases such as to “prevent imminent bodily harm” or “a hostage situation or barricaded armed suspect,” according to a news release from the LAPD.

The drones were originally purchased by the Seattle Police Department with federal grants and were given to the LAPD free of cost. 

Photo Credit: draganfly.com]]>
<![CDATA[Are They Here Yet? App Tracks Your Guests' Arrival]]> Sat, 24 May 2014 12:24:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/driver_generic.jpg

With so many people scheduled to hit the road on Memorial Day, a smartphone app is putting the days of trying to gauge when your guests will arrive behind us.

Chicago-based Glympse is a location-sharing app that allows you to alert your friends and family of your location when you're on the open road.

It uses your phone's GPS capability to share your location in real time, including the speed you're traveling and your estimated time of arrival.

You can share your location with another Glympse user, or simply send a url to an individual so they can track you through a web or mobile browser.

A company spokesman says one of the best advantages of the service is eliminating the need for direct communication while on the road -- essentially no temptation to text or call while driving.

The app also offers a group function that could serve you well for purposes other than driving. Think about that next pub crawl or a friend running a road race.

AAA projects more than 36 million Americans will travel during the Memorial Day weekend.


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Photo Credit: clipart.com]]>
<![CDATA[Groupon Among Worst for Password Security]]> Thu, 22 May 2014 12:10:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/password.jpg

As online users continue to face password and security threats, most recently highlighted by this year’s Heartbleed scare, it has become even more important to ensure your passwords aren’t so easy to crack.

According to a new survey from Dashlane, a password management company, many of today’s popular websites, including Chicago's Groupon, aren’t setting the bar very high when it comes to password requirements.

The study used 22 password criteria to judge more than 80 websites and researchers found more than 86 percent had “subpar” policies.

“Many failed to implement even the bare minimum standard security practices, leaving consumer data across the web dangerously susceptible,” Dashlane said in a release.

Among one of the lowest ranked sites was Groupon, which even allowed “password” to be a user’s password.

Some of the other sites to receive a low grade in the study included Match.com, Hulu, Overstock, Amazon, Orbitz, US Airways and Victoria’s Secret.

Match.com, 1800Flowers and Fab even allowed users to create new accounts using only the letter “a” as the password.

Apple had the highest rating in the study and was the only website to receive a perfect score. Hotmail, Microsoft Store, UPS, Target, GoDaddy and Yahoo Mail also ranked high in the results.

The study found that 66 percent of the websites reviewed don’t require alphanumeric passwords, and 51 percent don’t lock accounts after 10 failed login attempts.

In a time when security breaches are on the rise, it's ever more important to rely on a complex password, and apparently not on the requirements from a website.

That means no more "abc123."

<![CDATA[Top Google Doodles]]> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 17:02:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Google-Doodle-Winner.jpg Since 1998, Google has created over 1000 colorful and imaginative doodles to commemorate important holidays and people. Take a look back at some of the most iconic designs from around the world.]]>