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Satellite connectivity ambitions go up in smoke

It’s been an incendiary week in IT, and in some cases we mean that literally. Fires of all kinds are raging at Facebook, Apple, Dropbox and Samsung. Read all about it in our tech roundup.


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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was upset this week after SpaceX lost his communication satellite. A Falcon 9 rocket belonging to Elon Musk’s private space company exploded during routine test firing in Florida, taking with it the onboard satellite that the social media giant was to launch in partnership with Eutelsat.

The satellite would have brought wireless connectivity to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, in a partnership that Facebook’s Internet.org initiative had crafted with local service providers. This is likely to set back Zuck’s mission to spread Internet access to parts of the continent, although it still has its Aquila solar-powered drone, which was successfully tested last month.

Samsung’s latest tech just a little too hot for comfort

Samsung had its own explosion controversy this week, after reports that batteries in some of its new Galaxy Note 7 smartphones were exploding while being charged. It delayed shipments in the South Korean market after a local news outlet showed pictures of fried phones. It probably couldn’t come at a better time for Apple, which is expected to launch the iPhone 7 next week.

Dropbox dropped 68M account details

More hackery was afoot this week. Cloud storage firm Dropbox found that a 2012 data breach was more extensive than first believed, and that hackers had obtained login and password pairs for more than 68 million accounts. That represents more than two-thirds of its active users at the time, said reports.

Attackers hack the vote

The FBI is also worried that hackers may threaten democracy, after revealing that foreign attackers intruded on state election databases recently. The agency’s cyber division issued a ‘flash’ alert, warning officials to secure their systems. Sources familiar with the alert said the attackers had hit voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois, causing the latter to shut down the voter registration system for 10 days after data on up to 200,000 state voters was compromised.

Feds put Guccifer on ice

Hackers had better beware, because the U.S. government is not playing around. Romanian hacker Marcel Lehel Lazar, who hacked Hillary Clinton’s email server under the nickname ‘Guccifer,’ was sentenced to 52 months in prison this week. George W Bush, Robert Redford and Steve Martin were among his other targets.

Dingbat of the week

Maybe we should call this week’s dingbat the Grinch of the week. Apple CEO Tim Cook was hurling insults at the EU after the trading block ordered the company to pay €13 billion (Cdn$19 billion) in back taxes. The executive called the move “total political crap,” having accrued an unprecedented pile of cash — $281.3 billion — overseas as a means of deferring U.S. tax. The company had been paying just 0.005% tax in Ireland in 2014, revealed lawmakers.

Other commentators in Silicon Valley were irate at the EU, arguing that it shouldn’t be applying new policies retroactively. They also suggest it will damage Silicon Valley’s relationship with Europe.

Perhaps that’s why Cook now expects to repatriate a substantial amount to the U.S. next year, in spite of his outright refusal to do so in the past. Apparently, though, this won’t happen before he’s had a chance to consult with his key financial advisors, including the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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