Steam Family Sharing Available to Users

Valve has announced that “Family Library Sharing” is now available to all Steam users. The Steam Family Library Sharing allows family and guests to play one another’s games. It is used by players who share computers and who want to share their available library of games with one another. Players can save their own achievements and progress in the game to the Steam Cloud.

How does it work?

Players enable Family Library Sharing on their shared computers. The familiar accounts that log in to them can be authorized for game sharing. A request is made to the friend or family member that you want to share a game with. One you are authorized, the games become available for “access, download and play,” according to Steam.

How much sharing is allowed?

Authorization for Family Library sharing can be given on up to 10 devices at a given time, and for up to five accounts. Simultaneous usage of an account is prohibited. Some Steam community members have begun to complain about this issue. They have suggested that it isn’t sharing when a friend borrows a game and is given a “few minutes” to purchase the game or quit because the owner of the game wants to play it at the same time.

What happens with game data?

Steam allows individual members to save game places, earn achievements and save application data in the Steam Cloud. According to GameSpot, “Lenders can’t access games that aren’t available in their region or games that require a third-party key, account or subscription.”

Is it safe?

Keeping your account and game libraries safe should be a priority. Sharing any kind of data through multiple devices can open the way for hacking to occur. Steam can revoke and close an account if your library is used to cheat.  Make sure the only people you share your game library with are ones that you trust.  Steam recommends that you only authorize familiar computers that are known to be secure and that you never give your password to anyone.

Bitcoins Vanish and Mt. Gox Goes Dark

Bitcoin is a buzz word in the news lately.  Almost half a billion US dollars worth of bitcoins vanished into thin air last week when the bitcoin exchange Mt.Gox went dark.  It helps to understand what bitcoins are to understand why customers are upset about the disappearance of virtual funds.

What are bitcoins?

Bitcoins are virtual currency that approximate cash on the internet. The coins are purely digital and not linked to any government entity. The coins are not backed by any bank or government.  The virtual coins are mathematical algorithms that are exchanged directly between two parties online with no middle man. That means no bank, no government, and no other authority over the printing, distributing or mining of the coins.

What is a bitcoin worth?

According to a Simple Bitcoin Converter, 1 bitcoin is worth $657.60 USD at the time of this post. The exchange rate does fluctuate.

What is the idea behind bitcoins?

The idea behind bitcoins was to create a currency that is completely segregated from a country’s government. For example the United States has no control over the creating, distributing or backing of bitcoins as it does with American currency. Bitcoin was aiming to become a universal currency that changed the current economic system.

What happened?

A rumor appeared that several hundred thousand bitcoins disappeared from one of the dominant exchanges for bitcoin trading.  Slowly the rumor unraveled to become fact. Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles bowed in apology at a news conference in Toyko after revealing that it had lost almost 750,000 of its customers’ bitcoins. On top of the large amount lost, which equates to almost half a billion dollars in US currency, Mt. Gox also lost 100,000 of its own bitcoins.

Karpeles said that technical issues and “some weakness in the system” opened the way for the fraudulent withdrawals.  He did not delve into detail about what the “weakness” or address what the technical issues were.

What is being done for victims of the fraud?

Customers who lost bitcoins have assumed a risk by using a currency not backed by any central bank.  There are no regulations in place. Mt. Gox has shut its operation down and is filing for bankruptcy protection. Some victims are attempting to bring about a class action suit against the once popular exchange.

According to Wall Street Journal, Gregory Green filed a claim with an Illinois District Court seeking damages and restitution.  The claim alleges that Mt. Gox engaged in “unlawful, deceptive, and unfair conduct that is immoral, unscrupulous, and causes substantial injury to consumers.”

Recourse might be very difficult for the victims of the vanishing bitcoins because the exchange was never regulated and never backed by any government or bank. In the meantime, bitcoin enthusiasts believe that the missing coins can be found and are hunting them down themselves.


PSN Hackers Target PS4 Users, Sony Stays Silent

In December of 2013, PlayStation 4 users began seeing a problem with “irregular activity” on their accounts.  Sony reset PlayStation Network passwords after noticing the irregular activity that users were complaining about. Several users saw charges being made to their accounts while their game system was off.  According to Gaming Bolt, users are still reporting the same issues that were reported months ago.  And there seems to be a direct link with FIFA games.  In FIFA games there are several things you can buy with real money. Some users link their credit cards to the games in order to buy the things wanted or needed in the game being played.

Many users have complained that it wasn’t just PlayStation Network hackers targeting PS4 users. Some Xbox 360 users have faced similar hacking attempts. One user claimed, “Something similar happened to me on Xbox 360, was charged $135 and they bought FIFA and season pass and crap. Microsoft cleared it all but it took 3 weeks and they temporarily closed my account during the investigation.”

Sony isn’t talking. Although the hacks began months ago the big gaming giant has yet to say anything about the hack attempts.  No one knows if Sony is working on the problem or whether any effort has been made to make PSN secure.

PSN users need to make sure their accounts can’t get hacked. One way that users can prevent hackers from stealing their information is to create a complex password that isn’t used anywhere else. Users should also change that password frequently. Users should report any suspicious activity as soon as possible and they should never, ever give out personal information like credit card numbers or social security numbers.

U.S. Secret Service Investigating Possible Data Breach at Sears?

Sears Holdings Corp. is launching an investigation in the wake of cyber attacks on other retail stores.  Sears, the retailer run by Edward Lampert, has not revealed any details of an actual attack or security breach.

Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a press statement, “There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach.”

Riefs added that there has been no information to indicate a breach so far which completely contradicts a report made by Bloomberg News.  Bloomberg News, using an un-indentified source, reported that the U.S. Secret Service was involved in investigating a secret breach at Sears.  The U.S. Secret Service is remaining quiet on whether or not it is actually investigating a breach at the retailer.

What is known is that the U.S. Secret Service is leading the investigation into last year’s cyber attack on Target and last year’s attack on Neiman Marcus.  The Target breach lead to the theft of approximately 40 million credit/debit card numbers and over 70 million pieces of personal data.  Neiman Marcus has also faced the harm of a data breach.  The luxury retailer had 1.1 million credit and debit cards hacked by malware that infiltrated terminals point of sale systems.

Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers who have experienced data breaches are attempting to gain back customer support by doing a lot of damage control. Target has offered free credit monitoring  and identity theft protection to customers for free for one year as part of its damage control efforts.

The rumor that Sears is investigating a possible security breach may still harm the retailer.  Lampert has struggled to make Sears profitable after 28 straight quarters of declining sales. A tarnished image from a potential data breach isn’t going to make shoppers rush out to buy anything from the retailer.

Original reports of the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches made clear that it could take months to confirm that breaches were made, how many victims were affected, and account for what data was stolen.