Vote Now For The Tom’s Hardware Community Choice Storage Awards

We’re resurrecting our annual Readers’ Choice awards as the monthly Community Choice awards! For our first edition, your task is to select your favorite storage devices and brands.

Over the past year, our dedicated team of reviewers has evaluated hundreds of individual hardware products, summarized in our Best Picks. Now, it’s your turn to pick the best PC components and peripherals.

Our voting system does not require a log in. We offered some of our best picks to get you started, but we decided to include an optional “Other” field in case your favorite storage product is not listed.

Our Community Choice Awards ballot box for the Storage category will be open from now until April 16th. Here’s a direct link to the survey.

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Google Bans Cryptocurrency Mining Extensions From Chrome

Google has banned all cryptocurrency mining extensions from Google Chrome. In a blog post, the developers explained that crypto-mining extensions that made their purpose adequately clear to prospective downloaders had been allowed until now. Any extension created for crypto-mining was also barred from having any other function. These two restrictions were meant to prevent the creation of stealth mining extensions. Some websites implement a simple form of cryptojacking by trying to trick visitors into installing such extensions.

Google has found that over 90% of crypto-mining extensions have failed to follow these policies, however, so it’s banning all crypto-mining extensions from Chrome. Mining extensions already on the Chrome Web Store will be removed in June. The developers said the following about their actions:

The extensions platform provides powerful capabilities that have enabled our developer community to build a vibrant catalog of extensions that help users get the most out of Chrome. Unfortunately, these same capabilities have attracted malicious software developers who attempt to abuse the platform at the expense of users. This policy is another step forward in ensuring that Chrome users can enjoy the benefits of extensions without exposing themselves to hidden risks.

This story follows Google’s earlier announcement that the company will soon ban all cryptocurrency-related material from its advertising platforms. Facebook also announced similar plans. With increasing negative press and talk of government regulation, cryptocurrencies have faced some new realities this year. Despite this, the crypto-mining craze hasn’t shown signs of slowing, yet. It has already moved beyond affecting PC hardware markets, and is even affecting some people’s power bills already.

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Group Steals 5 Million Credit Cards From Saks Fifth Avenue

A a cyber crime group called JokerStash (also known as Fin7) announced the release for sale of five million credit cards obtained from the “Saks Fifth Avenue” luxury department store and the “Lord & Taylor” stores.

How The Theft Was Done

According to Gemini Advisory, a cyber security firm specializing in tracking stolen financial data, the credit card data was stolen by installing malicious software in the cash registers of the stores. The software has been siphoning credit card data from May 2017 until last month.

Gemini researchers said that the entire network of Lord & Taylor was compromised along with 83 stores of Saks Fith Avenue. The majority of credit cards were stolen from store locations in New York and New Jersey.

The JokerStash group is known for also hacking into Whole Foods, Chipotle, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Trump Hotels, and other large companies. However, its latest hack of the Saks Fith Avenue and Lord & Taylor stores seems to have been one of more the most profitable, with the group obtaining over 5 million credit cards.

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), a Canadian retail group owns both Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor stores, along with other retail brands, such as Galeria Kaufhof, Home Outfitters, and Gilt.com, a popular online shopping site. However, these last three companies don’t seem to have been hacked by JokerStash.

Ignoring Security Upgrades Gets You Hacked

As Maersk’s chair recently said, it’s imperative for companies to strive to secure their devices and networks as much as possible. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before they get hacked, too.

Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor seem to have also learned this lesson the hard way. The two companies are among the few that have held out on upgrading their cash registers to using only EMV “chip and PIN” cards.

Now, the two companies not only have to deal with the negative press and their customers’ anger, but they are also liable for this data breach. A law passed in 2015, shifted liability to retail stores in case of credit card data breaches, unless said stores used EMV chip and PIN cards, in which case the liability would remain with the banks.

Gemini researchers recommended customers of the two retail chains to either replace their cards or setup transaction alerts to monitor for suspicious activity. The cyber security company anticipates a significant surge in fraudulent in-person purchases in the coming months using those stolen cards.

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Apple’s plan for Mac processors built in-house is reportedly code-named ‘Kalamata’

Apple is reportedly deep into plans to replace the Intel processors that it currently places inside its iMac and MacBook computers with chips of its own, according to Bloomberg sources

The initiative to make this change happen is reportedly known internally as ‘Kalamata’, is in developmental stages. However, generating new processor designs and then fabricating them successfully takes more than a year and a half practically.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, this is part of a larger strategy to make all of Apple’s devices work more seamlessly together and will likely be carried out over multiple phases.

More affirmation of a monumental shift

This news follows previous reports that Apple has been planning to rid itself of reliance on Intel regarding its computers. Even without those previous reports, Apple’s intent to do this has been made quite obvious by previous hardware designs.

Apple is now two generations into integrating its own co-processor for Mac computers, the T1 and the T2. The former being found in the 2016-onward MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, controlling its Touch ID function, and the latter being inside the new iMac Pro, managing its secure enclave and webcam performance.

It’s obvious that Apple, with its gobs of cash on hand, would be interested in spending said cash to eliminate ways in which it is losing cash. Providing Intel with 5% of its annual revenue – by Bloomberg’s measure – is revenue Apple would surely much rather keep in its pocket.

Any details as to what these processors may be, e.g. whether ARM-based or x86-based designs, are not known at the moment. However, judging from Apple’s deep, intense experience with ARM processors, we have a solid guess.

Further to that point, Apple’s plan to bring iOS apps to Mac has been reportedly given the ‘Marzipan’ codename internally, and using ARM processors – even co-processors – would sure make that easier.

Of course, both Intel and Apple refused to comment. Here’s to one or two more years of Macs with Intel processors inside – get to collecting, Apple geeks.

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Zotac Magnus EK71080 Mini PC Giveaway

Spring is in full swing in most parts of the northern hemisphere, that is unless you’re located near the Tom’s Hardware offices, which had the extreme displeasure of suffering yet another snow storm. If you’re like us and suffering from terrible weather, fear not! The Tom’s Hardware team is here to brighten up your day with another fantastic giveaway. We’ve teamed up with Zotac to present to you an EK71080 Mini PC sweepstakes. Up for grabs is the aforementioned EK71080 Mini PC. Despite its diminutive size, the EK71080 packs a punch, featuring an Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU and Intel’s mobile CPU powerhouse, the i7-7700HQ.

To enter, head to the forums and follow the instructions on the giveaway widget. Here’s a direct link.

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Giveaway is only open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States, District of Columbia, and the United Kingdom, 18 or older. For a complete list of rules please see the terms and conditions on the Gleam Giveaway Widget.

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Biostar Jumps The Gun With Intel B360-Based Motherboards Announcement

Biostar announced four new Intel B360- and H310-based motherboards, the B360GT5S, B360GT3S, B360MHD Pro, and H310MHD Pro, which are the first budget-oriented ATX and M-ATX motherboards in the company’s Intel Coffee Lake lineup.

Intel’s lower-end chipsets for Coffee Lake, the H370, B360, and H310, have been circling in the rumor mill for many months already. They are expected to launch alongside the second round of Coffee Lake CPUs. Together, the two groups of products should bring some price balance to Intel’s 8th-gen desktop product line, which has so far been supported by only the high-end Z370 chipset. Biostar has jumped the gun, however, and released some B360- and H310-based motherboards ahead of Intel’s official announcement for the chipsets.

Starting with the highest-end product, the B360GT5S ATX motherboard give us an early look at what the B360 chipset is potentially capable of. The B360GT5S features three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, which are wired in a x16/x4/x4 configuration, and three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. One of the PCIe x4 slots shares its bandwidth with the first M.2 slot, and a second M.2 slot is multiplexed with a SATA port. For general I/O, the board has a total of one USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port, one USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port, four USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports (two are internal), and six USB 2.0 ports (four are internal). There are also six SATA ports for storage, and an HDMI 1.4 port for video output.

Biostar’s M-ATX B360 motherboard, the B360GT3S, loses one PCIe x16 slot and two PCIe x1 slots. The smaller board still fits two M.2 slots, however. One slot has a dedicated PCIe x4 connection, whereas the other is still multiplexed with a SATA port. Both the B360GT5S and GT3S support DDR4 memory speeds up to 2,666MHz by default, which is in line with Z370-based motherboards.

Moving on to the lower-end boards, the B360MHD Pro and H310MHD Pro are both M-ATX boards without any M.2 slots. They have the same x16/x1/x1 PCIe slot configuration and an almost identical layout. As a result, we can’t glean much about the differences between B360 and H310 from these boards.

The Biostar B360GT5S and B360GT3S will be available for $110 and $95, respectively. We do not have pricing information on the B360MHD Pro and the H310MHD Pro.

Biostar Manual Confirms Z390 Chipset

Although we haven’t gleaned too much about the real differences between B360, H310, and their predecessors, Biostar’s early announcement does come with one more interesting tidbit of information. The manual of the B360GT5S shares some common pages with another motherboard–the Z390GT5.

Those who’ve been following rumors will know the Z390 as the alleged replacement of the Z370. As the story goes, the Z370 was a stop-gap solution for Intel’s decision to rush 6-core Coffee Lake CPUs out early. However, the manual does little more than confirm the existence of Z390. Going through the document reveals that it is possibly in need of some corrections. The full specs of the Z390GT5 are listed, but they are nearly identical to the B360GT5S. For example, we find it highly unlikely that Biostar will have chosen to equip its flagship motherboard with a x16/x4/x4 PCIe slot configuration as the B360GT5S.

Product

B360GT5S

B360GT3S

B360MHD Pro

H310MHD Pro

Socket

LGA 1151

LGA 1151

LGA 1151

LGA 1151

Chipset

Intel B360

Intel B360

Intel B360

Intel H310

Form Factor

ATX

M-ATX

M-ATX

M-ATX

Memory

4 x DDR4 DIMM

4 x DDR4 DIMM

2 x DDR4 DIMM

2 x DDR4 DIMM

Expansion Slots

3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16/x4/x4), 3 x PCIe 3.0 x1

2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16/x4), 1 x PCIe 3.0 x1

1 x PCIe 3.0 x16, 2 x PCIe 3.0 x1

1 x PCIe 3.0 x16, 2 x PCIe 3.0 x1

Storage

6 x SATA, 1x PCIe M.2 (Optane-enabled), 1 x SATA M.2

6 x SATA, 1x PCIe M.2 (Optane-enabled), 1 x SATA M.2

4 x SATA

4 x SATA

Rear I/O

1 x PS/2, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 type-C, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 type-A, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x VGA, 1 x RJ-45

1 x PS/2, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 type-C, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 type-A, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x VGA, 1 x RJ-45

2 x PS/2, 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x VGA, 1 x RJ-45

2 x PS/2, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x VGA, 1 x RJ-45

Dimensions (W x L)

234 x 305mm

244 x 230mm

228 x 177mm

228 x 177

Price

$110

$95

Unknown

Unknown

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Research: Grindr Is Sharing HIV Status Data With Third Parties

Research done by the Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF revealed that Grindr, a gay dating application similar to Tinder, has been sharing highly sensitive information such as HIV status data with at least two other companies.

Grindr’s Privacy Leaks

On Februayr 7, SINTEF conducted an experiment for a local Norwegian show to analyze privacy leaks in the Grindr dating application. That’s when the nonprofit discovered not only that Grindr was using many trackers, but also that it was directly sharing user data, including its users’ HIV status, with two other companies.

According to SINTEF, sharing the HIV status with analytics companies was unnecessary and those companies were not certified to hold medical data. Additionally, Grindr users were likely unaware that this sort of information was shared with third parties.

Unencrypted Sharing

Grindr wasn’t just sharing highly sensitive information with other companies, but it was also doing it via unencrypted channels. That means other malicious groups or governments may have been able to acquire that sensitive information about Grindr’s users, too.

These groups could have been listening on networks to discover who is using Grindr (and therefore learn about their sexual preferences), where the users may be located during the day, how they look, what they like, and what they browse. All of that information could have been exposed because of Grindr’s poor data protection policies.

Existing Privacy Policies Are Not Enough

All of these recent leaks and stories of abused data policies seem to show us that it’s not okay for companies to pretend that if their users installed theirs app and use them, then they must have agreed to all the terms of these companies’ privacy policies.

The reality is that the vast majority of users will never read or understand these legal documents. Therefore, either companies will need to have a higher standard for consent, or the U.S. government may need to follow in the European Union’s footsteps with its own protection law that requires proper consent from users before companies are allowed to collect or share certain types of sensitive data with third parties.

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