Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri was swatted last November

Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram and a longtime Facebook employee, became a target of an anonymous online attacker who called in a fake hostage situation at his San Francisco home last November. The phone calls eventually led a SWAT team to Mosseri’s door, according to a new report in The New York Times that was published on Thursday.

The practice, known as swatting, has long been a particularly extreme form of online attack, and in some situations, it has even led to violence. After a Kansas swatting attack over an online match of Call of Duty led to the accidental police shooting of a 28-year-old Wichita man in 2017, the perpetrator — a serial swatter who had also called in numerous bomb threats in years prior — was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Two other men were charged with crimes related to the incident.

According to the NYT, which cites conversations and records with local police departments, swatting and similarly extreme online harassment has become more common in the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle where many wealthy tech executives reside. The report says people have been using swatting, in particular, to target Facebook employees.

The NYT says dedicated swatting forums, many hidden from public view on the dark web, contain sensitive information about Facebook employees. Conversations on those forums seem to indicate that Facebook and Instagram employees are prime targets due to both companies’ policies on cracking down on fake accounts and certain types of speech.

Samsung’s T7 Touch puts a speedier SSD in a smaller, more secure case

A good portable SSD should be small, fast, and able to connect to devices through the almighty USB-C port. Samsung’s new T7 Touch checks all of those boxes, plus another big one: it’s more secure than your average SSD. There’s a capacitive fingerprint reader built into the top of the drive, which works like the one you might have on your phone or laptop. After you’ve enrolled a fingerprint via the free companion app, it will require authentication before it mounts to your computer or phone. This feature — backed by AES 256-bit hardware encryption to lock down your biometric data and the drive’s contents — makes it so that not just anyone can plug it in and see what you have stored. It works exactly like I thought it would.

Samsung’s software for the SSD (compatible with Windows 10, macOS, and Android) is simple to use. The software even comes loaded onto the drive for easy installation, with the exception of the Android version, which is available from the Google Play Store. You’ll need to create a password in the software to use the sensor, and you can enroll up to four fingerprints that can unlock it. The most obvious choice might be to log a few of your own fingers. But if you plan to share this with a classmate, your family, or colleagues at your company, the better move is to register other people’s fingerprints with the drive, too. That way, it can be passed back and forth without much worrying.

As you probably expected, activating the T7 Touch’s security settings in the app means that you’ll need to authenticate your fingerprint each time you connect the drive to a phone or computer. The LEDs behind the sensor blink repeatedly while it waits for you to verify your identity, and until you do, it mounts as a mostly useless read-only drive that supplies a download of Samsung’s SSD software.

It’s a little more useless in this read-only state than I’d like. Samsung doesn’t let you create a customized message that appears automatically, like one to point people in the right direction to return the drive should it get misplaced. Also, if you don’t have a fingerprint logged and you forget the password for the drive, simply resetting it isn’t an option. It will permanently stay in read-only mode, and you will have to contact Samsung to arrange a manual reset.

I tested the 500GB model that costs $129.99. Samsung also offers a 1TB version that costs $229.99 and a 2TB drive that costs $399.99. That’s getting up there in price for a drive that doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3’s faster transfer speeds, though to the T7 Touch’s credit, it’s not far off what the previous generation T5 sold for. In addition to the new fingerprint security, the T7 is also considerably faster than the T5.

For those who aren’t familiar with the T5, Samsung’s 2017 portable SSD, the T7 Touch still looks and feels like a compact business cardholder. It’s easy to pocket, and its slim design lets it slide easily into practically any bag. This new model is wrapped in aluminum that Samsung says makes it shockproof from a drop of up to six and a half feet in height. In the box, you’ll find a USB-C to USB-C cable as well as a USB-C to USB Type-A cable in case you need to connect it to a device that doesn’t have a USB-C port.

Similar as they might look, the T7 Touch’s NVMe solid-state drive amounts to a huge boost in transfer speeds compared to the SATA drive used in the T5. We compared several USB-C drives last year to find out what kind of portable drive you should be spending your money on, and those with NVMe storage inside came away the clear winners — even though they cost a premium. This is the technology you want inside of your laptop, your next-gen gaming console, and definitely what you want inside of your next portable drive.

The T7 Touch is thinner than the T5, but it’s also taller.

Of course, just how fast this (and any) drive transfers relies entirely on what kind of computer you’re plugging it into. Samsung’s T7 Touch uses the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface with 10Gbps bandwidth (same bandwidth as USB 3.1 Gen 2, different name). Samsung claims up to 1,050MB/s read and 1,000MB/s write speeds, and it’s possible to achieve something close to those marks if these criteria are met:

  • Your laptop or desktop has a USB Type-A or USB-C port that supports the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface or faster
  • Your laptop or desktop has an NVMe drive inside, not a slower SATA drive. (Most SSDs on the market use SATA, though NVMe is lowering in cost, and therefore picking up in popularity.)

I tested this drive out with a 2019 MacBook Pro, which features two Thunderbolt 3 ports that can handle far more bandwidth than Samsung’s T7 Touch is capable of piping through. Using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, the T7 Touch boasted an average write speed of 807MB/s and read speed of 903MB/s. That’s below what Samsung advertises above, but it’s what I expected. It’s possible that the larger-capacity models in this lineup could perform slightly better since large-capacity solid-state drives are allegedly faster, thanks to having more NAND layers to write to. But overall, these numbers are on par with performance from a 1TB Intel 660p NVMe SSD fitted in an enclosure.

Arbitrary read and write speeds are nice to have, but the most transparent kind of test is seeing how long it takes to transfer a large file from the drive to the laptop and from the laptop back to the drive. It took nine seconds on average to copy a 13GB file on the MacBook Pro, roughly a 40 percent improvement compared to the T5 SATA SSD doing the same test. To copy the file to the T7 Touch, it took 11 seconds on average, an approximate 35 percent increase in speed compared to the T5. I also ran this test with the aforementioned Intel 660p NVMe SSD mounted in an enclosure, and the results were within a second of what the T7 Touch managed.

At first, the takeaway here doesn’t look great for Samsung; a large 1TB NVMe drive and an enclosure to pop it into costs just a bit more than this 500GB drive, yet performs just about the same — if not slightly better. Building your own drive will afford you more storage for less money, but so long as you’re all right with taking a hit in storage capacity, Samsung’s latest portable drive gets you added security and a more compact design.

Having a fingerprint sensor won’t make this a must-have product for everyone. But if you’re sold on the form factor and the speed improvements Samsung made here, you should know that a version of the T7 that won’t support biometrics is coming in Q2 2020. It will likely be slightly more affordable (though Samsung hasn’t yet confirmed the price) and will even out the value better compared to a DIY NVMe drive. Still, for the time being, Samsung’s new model isn’t much more expensive than its predecessor, and the added features and faster transfer speeds amount to a product you likely won’t regret buying.

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Tetris returns to Android and iOS after EA’s version shuts down

Just days after EA announced that its mobile Tetris games will shut down on April 21st, new Tetris developer N3twork released an officially licensed version of the popular puzzle game for both Android and iOS. It’s already available to download today for free.

The new N3twork app isn’t the 100-player Tetris Royale app that the developer is also working on; rather, it’s an extremely basic mobile Tetris game. “We’re launching Tetris with a traditional solo gameplay mode, but we want fans to know that we’ve got so much more in store for them, and this is just the foundation of an incredible Tetris app experience we’re building at N3twork,” commented CEO Neil Young.

Unlike EA’s old app, there’s a single mode (for classic Tetris) and a handful of alternative skins. There are also ads, although a single-time $4.99 purchase will remove those. It’s not exactly a groundbreaking iteration of the series, but if you just want to play some Tetris on your commute, it’ll get the job done.

The history of Tetris on smartphones — particularly the iPhone — largely mirrors the trends of mobile gaming in general. EA (which, up until recently, had the license for official Tetris games) first released Tetris for iOS in 2008 for an unheard-of $9.99. It had no ads or annoying in-app purchases; you paid money, and you got to play Tetris.

As TouchArcade recounts, in 2011, EA pulled that original app from the store and replaced it with a new (still paid) version that revamped the app with new features and game modes, but it was packed with in-app purchases. That version would actually be a harbinger for the future of mobile gaming, offering purchasable currencies and monthly and annual subscription passes. A free version of that app would be introduced later that year, too, with ads added in.

But with EA seemingly out of the Tetris business, it’s a new era for the series on mobile devices. With the launch of the new 2019 Tetris (as well as the upcoming Tetris Royale), we’re starting to see what N3twork’s vision of the franchise looks like.

Pokémon Go’s live events drove nearly $250 million in tourism revenue last year

Niantic Labs says its live events for augmented reality hit Pokémon Go contributed $247 million in tourism revenue last year across three cities. The announcement on Wednesday was paired with the new schedule for 2020 events across Pokémon Go, Ingress Prime, and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

“Over the last 7 years, live, real-world events have been central to Niantic’s goal in leveraging technology to create interactive experiences that foster exploration and discovery, active and healthy lifestyles and lasting friendships,” Michael Steranka, Niantic’s senior manager for live events, said in a statement. “Niantic’s large-scale real-world events have had a true and clear positive economic impact on tourism, bringing people from around the world together for a weekend of adventure.”

Niantic says the biggest revenue generator was last year’s Pokémon Go Fest Chicago, which drove an estimated $120 million in tourism expenditures from attending players, which included 64,000 attendees across the four-day event. That’s triple the number of participants from the inaugural Pokémon Go Fest Chicago in 2017, which suffered from severe cellular connection issues that made accessing accounts and playing the game difficult.

Niantic has greatly improved its live events infrastructure in the years since, and its events now go off largely without any issues. Another Pokémon Go Fest, this one in the German city of Dortmund, drew even more players last year, totaling more than 86,000 attendees, although it ultimately generated just under $60 million in tourism revenue, Niantic says.

Still, the company has proved that it’s capable of handling large-scale events now. It’s planning more festivals for the game in St. Louis and Philadelphia later this year, as well as one in Liverpool, England. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is also getting its second fan festival, while Ingress will have a series of events that happen concurrently across three days in the first half of the year.

Correction: Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is hosting its second fan festival in the first half of 2020; an early version of this story said it was its first.

Motorola’s foldable Razr will launch on February 6th after delay

After a slight delay last month, Motorola’s highly anticipated foldable Razr now has a release date: it’ll be out on February 6th for $1,499, with preorders starting on January 26th.

The new preorder date is exactly a month after the originally planned December 26th date, which Motorola changed due to demand for the foldable device being higher than it had anticipated.

Preorders will be available exclusively at Verizon, Walmart, and on Motorola’s website. The phone will also be available in stores starting on February 6th. However, it’s not clear how easy or difficult it’ll be to just walk in and buy one on the release date; the delay due to demand could suggest that there will be fewer units available.

The resurrected Razr was announced last year, making it Motorola’s first foldable smartphone. The design is inspired by the original Moto RAZR flip phone, but it has a flexible 6.2-inch display and modern Android specs. But the poor cameras and midrange Snapdragon 710 are less than ideal on a premium-priced device like this. As previously announced, the Razr will be sold exclusively on Verizon in the United States. (International carriers and details are still to come.)

The release timing is key for Motorola, given that it’s rumored to be getting some big competition in the clamshell-style foldable space in February in the form of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip. If the rumors are true, Samsung’s next foldable could be announced on February 11th — just days after the Razr’s launch.

Google is giving free $130 Stadia gaming kits to new Verizon Fios subscribers

Google has found its first major partner to help push the company’s nascent Stadia game streaming service in the United States: Verizon. Tonight the companies announced that new Verizon Fios customers who sign up for the Gigabit plan will get a Stadia Premiere Edition and a three-month Stadia Pro subscription. They’ll also receiver a Stadia controller and a Chromecast Ultra for using the service on a TV.

The deal kicks off on January 29th. Once the three months are up, you’ll start getting charged Stadia’s normal $9.99/month subscription, but the gadgets are yours to keep. The Stadia Premiere Edition usually goes for $130.

Fios gigabit packages start at $79.99 per month, and the company recently unveiled a new “mix and match” approach to internet service that lets customers opt for a bundle of Fios internet and TV — or just the former combined with a streaming TV service like YouTube TV. Verizon and Google have already partnered up on that front, giving Fios customers a free month of the subscription TV service / cable alternative.

If Stadia is going to credibly challenge game consoles, Google will need more deals like this that bring the service greater exposure. Verizon says it’ll have additional Stadia promos for 5G Home customers, and also notes that the Stadia offer can be stacked with the free year of Disney+ that is also being gifted to Fios subscribers. Definitely check out Verizon’s news release for all the fine print, however.

Venmo will soon let you add GIFs to Venmo notes

Venmo will soon let you add custom animated GIFs to your transaction notes, the payment company announced today. If your Venmo feed is anything like mine, it’s already chock-full of flying dollar bill and pizza emoji, so GIFs seem like a fun way to make Venmo feeds even more lively.

You can get an idea of the style of the GIFs, which it made in partnership with animated sticker company Holler, with some examples below. I think they look really fun:

Yes, that last one does have an IKEA logo on it — there will also be a sticker made in partnership with Subway to start.

And here’s how the GIFs will likely look in the app:

Venmo says its app will utilize Holler’s keyword suggestion technology to suggest GIFs as you’re writing transaction notes, which sounds pretty similar to how the app already recommends emoji. It seems like you can only add the Venmo and Holler-made GIFs to your Venmo notes right now, though, so you’ll have to share your Baby Yoda GIFs with your friends a different way.

Holler tells The Verge that some users will get the GIFs starting tomorrow and that they’ll be rolled out to everyone by January 31st. If you want to, you can also add Bitmoji to your Venmo notes, an option the company added last May.

Samsung names Roh Tae-moon new smartphone boss

Samsung Electronics has appointed Roh Tae-moon its new mobile chief, taking over from co-CEO DJ Koh, who’ll continue to lead the chaebol’s IT and mobile communications division. Roh, 52, is said to be “an engineering maven,” according to Bloomberg, “who’s meticulous about phone features.”

Roh joined Samsung in 1997 and has been a key player in the research and development of the Galaxy device lineups. He’s also been instrumental in cutting costs, according to Reuters, through the outsourcing of handset production to better compete with Chinese handset makers like Huawei.

Samsung continues to dominate mobile handset marketshare globally, but has seen an increase in competition at the low- and mid-tier levels from Chinese competitors like Huawei, Vivo, and Oppo. Roh will be tasked with growing important markets like China and India as well as making foldables successful, after Samsung stumbled with the Galaxy Fold.

Samsung is expected to unveil its second-generation foldable alongside its new Galaxy S20 flagship series of phones at an event on February 11th in San Francisco.

Netflix will nearly double the number of French language originals

Netflix today signaled a significant new investment in France with the opening of its new Paris office and a content roadmap that will see the streaming service nearly double the number of French language originals it has produced so far. Since 2014, Netflix has produced 24 productions in French, including six films and nine television series. But the new plan is to add 20 new productions, and to grow its new corporate presence in Paris consisting of 40 employees to one nearly three times the size.

Netflix is doing similar expansions across the globe, including elsewhere in Europe and in South America. The company has plans to open offices in Germany and Italy, and last year it opened a large office in Mexico City. It also has offices in England, the Netherlands, and Spain.

The goal is to diversify its lineup of shows and movies to attract more international customers, especially as growth in its US subscriber base has hit its upper limit and competition from domestic giants like Disney and HBO heats up. Last July, the number of Netflix customers in the US declined For the first time ever. That’s made Netflix’s focus on international expansion more crucial than ever before.

Netflix has had successful run with foreign language shows, including Spanish language crime thriller hits like Narcos and Money Heist and German language sci-fi show Dark. It’s also struck gold with some of its foreign language films, including Oscar nominated Roma from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón. And Netflix is investing heavily in Japanese language content, including securing the worldwide streaming rights to the legendary Hideaki Anno anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, as another segment of the streaming wars now includes an escalating bidding war for sought-after animated films and shows both new and old.

Yet while expanding its presence in a country like France is arguably good for business, there’s also a legal reason at play. The European Parliament finalized in October 2018 new regulation regarding Netflix and other streaming services’ presence in the EU that mandates that at least 30 percent of all content carried on the platform be originally produced in the region. Amazon, Netflix, and other companies have until September 2020 to hit that quota. So it’s likely Netflix’s new investments in Germany, Italy, and France will help it do so.

There’s also Netflix’s somewhat contentious relationship with the French cinema community, after the company’s high-profile showdown with the Cannes Film Festival over contest eligibility requirements. Netflix was banned back in 2018 from competing for the festival’s most prestigious awards due to its limited theatrical runs, which ran afoul of France’s new rules around local releases and, more broadly, the country’s cultural commitment to cinema as an institution.

Netflix then pulled out of the festival officially, and it did not submit any films for the 2019 Cannes. So a new, dedicated presence in Paris and a substantial increase in its investment in local productions may help smooth over that once-soured relationship.

Huawei P40 Pro leak shows off five-camera bump and ceramic body

New renders from Evan “Evleaks” Blass give us what may well be our best look yet at Huawei’s next flagship phone. This is the P40 Pro, according to Blass, who says that the phone will make use of ceramic in its build. As with a previous leak, it looks like the front glass and back panel will curve on all four edges.

The most prominent design feature revealed in the images is the colossal camera bump that houses five lenses, one of which is a periscope-style telephoto camera. The Leica branding and technical details describe the array as covering 18-240mm equivalence, which between the ultrawide and telephoto should amount to more than 13x zoom reach. It’s likely, though, that Huawei is relying on software enhancements to arrive at that figure.

On the front of the phone you can see a notchless screen with a hole-punch cutout for two selfie cameras. The power button and volume rocker are on the right edge, the top and left sides are essentially blank, and there’s a USB-C port and speaker on the bottom. No headphone jack, unsurprisingly.

Huawei’s last two P-series flagship phones have been announced in Paris in March, so an official launch shouldn’t be far away. The difference this time, of course, is that Huawei may again be forced to release its phone without onboard support for Google services, as was the case with last year’s Mate 30 Pro.