In the fleeting hours of the year 2013, it’s hard to believe that Father Time is getting ready to advance our calendars once again.  Luckily for us though, the world of tech waits for no man and we have several exciting stories for This Week in Technology for December 30th, 2013.  While most of us were celebrating the winter holidays and gearing up for our annual New Year’s celebrations, the tech world around us has been business as usual with a few notable developments.  You may have already heard that a US District Judge has ruled that the NSA’s phone tapping surveillance is indeed constitutional, and we have additional coverage on what this ruling will mean moving forward.  We will also take a closer look at the encrypted credit card PINs stolen from Target and some of the best innovations planned by the US military for 2014 as well.  So for the last time this year, place your cabin trays in the upright position and buckle up for This Week in Technology!

 

NSA Phone Taps Deemed Legal

wire tapping

In our lead tech story of the week, the American Civil Liberties Union had their day in federal court to present evidence claiming that NSA wire-tapping violated American’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.  US District Judge William Pauley oversaw the case and ultimately ruled that preventing terrorist attacks was a worthwhile tradeoff for minor levels of surveillance, meaning that the Constitution has not been violated so far.  Judge Pauley also went a step further in his ruling by stating-

“There is no evidence that the Government has used any of the bulk telephony metadata it collected for any purpose other than investigating and disrupting terrorist attacks.  While there have been unintentional violation of guidelines, those appear to stem from human error and the incredibly complex computer programs that support this vital tool.  And once detected, those violations were self-reported and stopped.  “

It appears that one of the deciding factors behind the judge’s ruling stemmed from evidence that this type of surveillance could have completely prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and Americans are better off with additional levels of protection.  While virtually every phone call in the United States is being recorded at this time, the only calls being analyzed are those that may have ties to terrorism.  Even though we may not like it, the NSA has logged a serious victory here that gives them precedence moving forward.  We will certainly revisit this topic often in 2014 as developments unfold.

Target Credit Card Pins Hacked

Target Data Breach

In other technology news, retailer Target has announced that over 40 million of their shoppers have had their secret PIN numbers stolen by online hackers.  While little detail is being provided about the actual crime at this time, Target has released multiple statements assuring their consumers that all credit card data is strongly encrypted at the register during the point of sale and it remains that way throughout the approval process.  They believe that the stolen PIN numbers are worthless to the thieves due to the military levels of encryption used by financial institutions.

JP Morgan Chase did not initially agree with Target’s statement, however, and they immediately reduced the limits on the amount of cash that could be taken out at ATM’s.  Consumers were directed to visit one of Chase’s local branches for a replacement card that would not have the limit restrictions in place, which caused quite a bit of commotion from holiday shoppers that did not want the extra hassle.  Security experts believe that the bank was irrationally taking extreme measures in this case, but only time will tell if the encrypted data can be accessed.

Military Beefing Up in 2014

military

Our final tech story for the week takes a look at the US military and their many toys that will be unveiled in the coming months.  For starters, the USS Ponce will be equipped with a state-of-the-art, $32 million dollar solid-state laser weapon to be used against enemy aircraft.  The X-47B fighter drone may also make it into the Navy’s standard arsenal at sea, while other troops will see new tech toys like the XM-25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement weapon system.  It allows troops to detect enemies behind walls and in underground bunkers, while taking them down with surgeon-like precision.

Then there’s the USS Zumwalt, one of the most advanced Destroyers that have ever been created.  The Army is also excited about the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle meant for extreme mobility and an explosive-resistant core; it will also become a game-changer once put into action.  From mobile capabilities to embracing the tech savvy, the US military is going all-in for the 2014 year and they plan on hiring thousands of professionals to empower tomorrow’s high-tech battles.

The year 2013 has been a wild ride and we’ve officially reached the end of our last This Week in Technology for 2013.  Our very first New Year’s resolution is to bring you even more backstage coverage of the world of tech moving forward though, so at least we’re saying goodbye on a happy note.  See you next year tech fans!