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SWIFT To Implement New Security Program After Recent Hacking

May 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

The SWIFT secure messaging service that underpins international banking announced that it will launch a new security program as it fights to rebuild its reputation in the wake of the Bangladesh Bank heist.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)’s chief executive, Gottfried Leibbrandt, told a financial services conference in Brussels that SWIFT will launch a five-point plan later this week.

Banks send payment instructions to one another via SWIFT messages. In February, thieves hacked into the SWIFT system of the Bangladesh central bank, sending messages to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York allowing them to steal $81 million.

The attack follows a similar but little-noticed theft from Banco del Austro in Ecuador last year that netted thieves more than $12 million, and a previously undisclosed attack on Vietnam’s Tien Phong Bank that was not successful.

The crimes have dented the banking industry’s faith in SWIFT, a Belgium-based co-operative owned by its users.

The Bangladesh Bank hack was a “watershed event for the banking industry”, Leibbrandt said.

“There will be a before and an after Bangladesh. The Bangladesh fraud is not an isolated incident … this is a big deal. And it gets to the heart of banking.”

SWIFT wants banks to “drastically” improve information sharing, to toughen up security procedures around SWIFT and to increase their use of software that could spot fraudulent payments.

SWIFT will also provide tighter guidelines that auditors and regulators can use to assess whether banks’ SWIFT security procedures are good enough.

Leibbrandt again defended SWIFT’s role, saying the hacks happened primarily because of failures at users. “Many of the less protected banks are in countries were skills are really scarce,” he said, pointing the finger at providers of services to banks.

“We will have to create an ecosystem of providers and partners, for example by introducing certification requirements for third-party providers,” he said.

 

 

Chromebook Outpacing Mac Notebook In U.S. Sales

May 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

More personal computers powered by Google’s Chrome OS shipped in the U.S. during the first quarter than those built on Apple’s OS X in the same period, IDC  has confirmed.

“Chrome PCs overall, including Chrome desktop units like the Chromebox, out-shipped all Apple personal computers, desktop plus notebook, in the U.S. for Q1,” said Jay Chou, one of several IDC analysts who track device shipments, in an email reply to questions.

Chromebooks, the inexpensive notebooks that run Chrome OS, also out-shipped Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks in the U.S. The first-quarter battle wasn’t even close, according to the notebook-only shipment numbers Chou provided.

Apple shipped an estimated 1.17 million Mac notebooks in the U.S. during the first three months of 2016; IDC said 1.6 million Chrome OS notebooks shipped in the same span.

In other words, 37% more Chromebooks shipped than Mac notebooks.

Last week, Tom Warren of The Verge reported that Chrome OS hardware had out-shipped OS X-equipped Macs after speaking with one of Chou’s colleagues. Subsequently, numerous other outlets, including blogs and mainstream media websites, picked up Warren’s report.

IDC’s shipment data for Chrome OS and OS X systems were estimates generated using information from vendors and Asian component suppliers. Google, which developed Chrome OS, does not reveal shipment numbers: Most Chromebooks originate from third-party OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), including Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. And although Apple disclosed global Mac sales in its April 26 earnings call with Wall Street, it did not break down that figure by geographic region.

That IDC’s numbers were estimates only was clear when comparing the research firm’s forecast to Apple’s stated sales for the first quarter. Prior to April 26 — when Apple said it had sold 4.03 million Macs worldwide – IDC had projected global Mac shipments at 4.47 million, or about 10% too high.

 

 

 

Facebook Implement Changes To ‘Trending Topics’ Amid Criticism

May 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc said that it had made some tweaks to the procedures for its “Trending Topics” section after a news report alleging it suppressed conservative news prompted a U.S. Congressional demand for more transparency.

The company said an internal probe showed no evidence of political bias in the selection of news stories for Trending Topics, a feature that is separate from the main “news feed” where most Facebook users get their news.

But the world’s largest social network said in a blogpost that it was introducing several changes, including elimination of a top-ten list of approved websites, more training and clearer guidelines to help human editors avoid ideological or political bias, and more robust review procedures.

Earlier this month, a former Facebook contractor had accused the company’s editors of deliberately suppressing conservative news. The allegations were reported by technology news website Gizmodo, which did not identify the ex-contractor.

The report led Republican Sen. John Thune to write a letter demanding that the company explain how it selects news articles for its Trending Topics list.

Two days after Thune’s letter, Facebook published a lengthy blogpost detailing how Trending Topics works even though it rarely discloses such practices. Previously, it had never discussed the inner workings of the feature, which displays topics and news articles in the top right hand corner of the desktop homepage for its more than 1.6 billion users.

Facebook said its investigation showed that conservative and liberal topics were approved as trending topics at nearly identical rates. It said it was unable to substantiate any allegations of politically motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.

But it did not rule out human error in selecting topics.

“Our investigation could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies,” Colin Stretch, Facebook’s General Counsel, wrote in a company blogpost.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg met last week with more than a dozen conservative politicians and media personalities to discuss issues of trust in the social network.

 

 

Microsoft To Make Switching Between IE11 And Edge Browsers Easier

May 24, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft announced that it will introduce changes in this summer’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update to simplify switching from Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) to Edge, and back.

The changes will be aimed at enterprises, the only customer group Microsoft recommends running IE11 in the new operating system.

“We recognize that some enterprise customers have line-of-business applications built specifically for older web technologies, which require Internet Explorer 11,” the company said in a blog post.

Previously, Microsoft included “Enterprise Mode” in Windows 10, a feature that lets an IT staff limit IE11′s operation to specific legacy websites or web apps.

Starting with the Anniversary Update — Microsoft’s name for the one major upgrade it will deliver for 10 this year — the “interstitial” page, one that pops up between running Edge and IE11 when Enterprise Mode kicks in, will vanish.

Currently, a switch from Edge to IE11 opens a page that states, “This website needs Internet Explorer 11″ before IE11 fires up. With the Anniversary Update, the interstitial will no longer appear: IE11 will simply open atop Edge when the user steers to a site or app on the Enterprise Mode whitelist.

The same no-interstitial-page behavior will take place when a worker running IE11 types in an URL that is not on the list: Edge will open without a pause.

Microsoft will also introduce a new group policy for IE11 that will limit the browser’s use to only those sites on the whitelist, barring users from running IE11 for the bulk of their browsing. “Enabling this setting automatically opens all sites that are not included in the Enterprise Mode Site List in Microsoft Edge,” Microsoft said.

IE and Edge have a rapidly-shrinking share of the browser market, but the former will remain important to businesses with older apps and customized internal sites, which unless rewritten will require the older browser. Together, IE and Edge were run by 41.3% of the world’s users in April, a new low that dropped Microsoft into second place behind Google’s Chrome browser.

 

 

 

SWIFT Asks Customers To Help Fight Bank Fraud

May 24, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Financial transaction network SWIFT is asking its customers to help it end a string of high-profile banking frauds perpetrated using its network.

The SWIFT network itself is still secure, it insisted in a letter to banks and financial institutions. However, some of its customers have suffered security breaches in their own infrastructure, allowing attackers to fraudulently authorize transactions and send them over the SWIFT network, it said.

That’s the best explanation so far for how authenticated instructions were sent from Bangladesh Bank to the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York over the SWIFT network, ordering the transfer of almost $1 billion. The Fed transferred around $101 million of that before identifying an anomaly in one of the instructions. Only $20 million of that has so far been recovered.

“While customers are responsible for the security of their own environment, security is our top priority and as an industry-owned cooperative we are committed to helping our customers fight against cyber-attacks,” SWIFT said in the letter.

SWIFT wants its customers to come forward with information about other fraudulent transfers made using their SWIFT credentials, to help it build a picture of how the attackers are working.

It’s making more than a polite request: It reminded its customers that they have an obligation to provide such information under the terms of their contract, and also to help SWIFT identify, investigate and resolve problems, including by providing diagnostic information following an incident.

SWIFT promised its customers it would share new information about malware or other indicators of compromised systems. It said it would add such information to a restricted section of its website, tacking it onto knowledge base tip number 5020928, “Modus Operandi related to breaches in customer’s environment.”

 

 

Nokia Slashes Another 1,000 Jobs

May 23, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia is eliminating 1,032 jobs in Finland as part of a cost-cutting plan following its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, the telecom network equipment maker said in a statement last Friday.

Finland’s biggest company has cut thousands of jobs in its home country over the past decade as its once-dominant phone business was eclipsed by the rise of smartphone rivals.

Nokia started the latest cost cutting program in April and is targeting 900 million euros ($1 billion) of operating cost synergies from the Alcatel deal by 2018.

The company has declined to give an overall figure for global job cuts, but has said it in talks with employee representatives in about 30 countries.

Nokia employs about 104,000 people worldwide, with about 6,850 in Finland, 4,800 in Germany and 4,200 in France.

 

 

Hacker Offering 167 Million LinkedIn User Records For Sale

May 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A hacker is attempting to sell a database dump containing account records for 167 million LinkedIn users.

The announcement was posted on a dark market website called TheRealDeal by a user who wants 5 bitcoins, or around $2,200, for the data set that supposedly contains user IDs, email addresses and SHA1 password hashes for 167,370,940 users.

According to the sale ad, the dump does not cover LinkedIn’s complete database. Indeed, LinkedIn claims on its website to have more than 433 million registered members.

Troy Hunt, the creator of Have I been pwned?, a website that lets users check if they were affected by known data breaches, said it’s highly likely for the leak to be legitimate. He had access to around 1 million records from the data set.

“I’ve seen a subset of the data and verified that it’s legit,” Hunt said.

LinkedIn suffered a data breach back in 2012, which resulted in 6.5 million user records and password hashes being posted online. It’s highly possible that the 2012 breach was actually larger than previously thought and that the rest of the stolen data is surfacing now.

LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attempts to contact the seller failed, but the administrators of LeakedSource, a data leak indexing website, claim to also have a copy of the data set and they believe that the records originate from the 2012 LinkedIn breach.

When the 6.5 million LinkedIn password hashes were leaked in 2012, hackers managed to crack over 60 percent of them. The same thing is likely true for the new 117 million hashes, so they cannot be considered safe.

Worse still, it’s very likely that many LinkedIn users that were affected by this leak haven’t changed their passwords since 2012. Hunt was able to verify that for at least one HIBP subscriber whose email address and password hash was in the new data set that is now up for sale.

Many people affected by this breach are also likely to have reused their passwords in multiple places on the Web, Hunt said via email.

 

 

 

 

Google Unveils A.I. Challenger To Amazon’s Alexa

May 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Alphabet’s Google Inc  introduced us to its answer to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant along with new messaging and virtual reality products at its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, doubling down on artificial intelligence and machine learning as the keys to its future.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai introduced Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant, along with the tabletop speaker appliance Google Home.

He also unveiled Allo, a new messaging service that will compete with Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger products and feature a chatbot powered by the Google Assistant. Allo, like WhatsApp, will also have end-to-end encryption when it is rolled out this summer.

Amazon’s Echo, a surprise hit that has other tech giants racing to match it, uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, a cloud-based system that controls the Echo speaker and responds to voice-controlled commands by users.

Like Alexa, Google Assistant can search the internet and adjust your schedule. However, Pichai said Google Assistant can use images and other information to provide more intuitive results.

“You can be in front of this structure in Chicago and ask Google who designed this and it will understand in this context that the name of that designer is Anish Kapoor,” said Pichai, pointing toward a photo of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture.

For Google Home, the Google Assistant merges with Chromecast and smart home devices to control televisions, thermostats and other products. Google did not offer a specific release date or pricing for Google Home, saying only that it will be available later this year.

 

 

Apple Goes Further With Intel

May 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Intel has scored a more significant chunk of the upcoming iPhone 7 which is due to be released this year.

Digitimes deep throats claim that Intel will  supply half the modem chips for use in the new iPhones slated for launch in September 2016.

Intel will itself package the modem chips for the upcoming new iPhones, but have contracted Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and tester King Yuan Electronics (KYEC) to manufacture the chips, the sources said.

Qualcomm is currently the supplier of LTE modem chips for the iPhone, but Apple has been keep to avoid focusing on one supplier. Still, the figure of half the iPhone 7′s is much more than many expected. It is a pity for Intel that the iPhone 7 is not expected to be a big seller – mostly because there is little new under the bonnet and it looks the same as the iPhone 6S.

Courtesy-Fud

 

IBM Develops Cheaper DRM

May 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The ever shrinking Biggish Blue is working on a cheaper alternative to DRAM by making it denser.

Dubbed phase-change memory (PCM) the technology could give enterprises and consumers faster access to data at lower cost. IBM says it’s achieved a density rating of three bits on each cell, which is 50 percent more than the company showed off in 2011 with a two-bit form of PCM. The denser the RAM is the more capacity can be squeezed out of the pricey tech.

PCM works by changing a glass-like substance from an amorphous to a crystalline form using an electrical charge. Like NAND flash, it keeps storing data when a device is turned off. PCM responds to data requests faster than flash: In less than one microsecond, compared with 70 microseconds.

It also lasts longer than flash, to at least 10 million write cycles versus about 3,000 cycles for an average flash USB stick.
Three-bit PCM could find its niche as a faster tier of storage within arrays, including all-flash arrays, so the most-used data gets to applications faster. It could also take the place of a lot of the DRAM in systems, cutting the cost of technologies like in-memory databases.

IBM said that a customer who stores their OS on three-bit PCM would have their phone up and running a few seconds.
Three-bit PCM needs the backing of a chip maker. IBM wants it for its Power architecture, but that will make it less popular.

Biggish Blue isn’t predicting when three-bit PCM will be in mass-market systems, partly because the company doesn’t make memory and will have to find a partner. It might take two to three years for large-scale availability, the company said.

Courtesy-Fud

 

ARM Acquires Computer Visual Technology Firm Apical

May 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

ARM has purchased Apical, a U.K. designer of embedded computer vision technology, and will incorporate that technology into future ARM microprocessor and system-on-chip designs, it has announced.

The move will open up new opportunities for designers of autonomous vehicles and security systems, among other connected things, according to ARM CEO Simon Segars. Computer vision is in its early stages, and Apical is at the forefront of embedding such technology, he said.

Apical’s technologies is already used in 1.5 billion smartphones, according to ARM, although many of those phones may be using nothing more sophisticated than a display brightness control Apical calls Assertive Display. That technology also turned up in Samsung Electronics’ new laptop, the ATIV Book 9.

Assertive Camera is another of Apical’s developments: It’s a range of software packages and silicon-based image signal processors for reducing image noise, managing color and shooting high dynamic range images.

ARM makes its money by designing chips that others manufacture, or licensing its chip modules for others to incorporate in their own designs.

In that context, Apical’s Spirit silicon building blocks are perhaps where ARM sees the most opportunity for growth. The Spirit silicon blocks process raw sensor data or video into a machine-readable representation of an image in an energy-efficient way, so ARM and its partners can use them to add computer vision capabilities to future low-power devices.

Putting image analysis and interpretation capabilities in hardware could accelerate and simplify the design of a whole host of products, including self-driving cars and security systems.

ARM paid US$350 million for Apical, closing the deal Tuesday, it said.

 

 

Microsoft Exiting Feature Phone Market, Sales Division

May 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft Corp has announced that it is selling its entry-level feature phone assets to FIH Mobile Ltd and HMD Global Oy for $350 million.

FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Hon Hai/Foxconn Technology Co Ltd, would also acquire Microsoft Mobile Vietnam as a part of this deal, Microsoft said.

The company said its 4,500 employees from Vietnam will transfer to or will have an opportunity to join FIH Mobile or HMD Global Oy.

Microsoft will transfer all of its feature phone assets, including brands, software and services, care network and other assets, customer contracts, and critical supply agreements to both the companies as a part of the deal.

Microsoft will continue to develop Windows 10 Mobile and support Lumia phones from OEM partners, the company said.

 

 

Is AMD’s Project Polaris Plan Starting To Make Sense?

May 19, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s Polaris strategy is becoming a bit clearer and even if we thought that the fabless chipmaker might have dropped the ball a bit, it’s cunning plan is starting to make sense.

Last week we saw Nvidia showing off its next-generation flagship GPU the GTX 1080 and the GTX 1070. The Green Goblin told us shedloads things which if true would clean AMD’s clock in terms performance.

It threw AMD’s decision to focus on the mainstream desktop and notebook markets with upcoming GCN (Graphics CoreNext) 4.0 GPUs, codenamed Polaris 10 and 11 into question.

Normally GPU manufacturers release the flagship or ‘high-end’ products first to get all the attention and then release the mid-range chips for the great unwashed a lot later once they have sorted out yields.

But AMD’s cunning plan suggests that it is going to do the opposite. It is risky, but it could mean that the outfit could make more money quickly. This is because mainstream GPUs account for the majority of GPU sales.

Sure the high-end, flagship level graphics cards carry the largest profit margins, mainstream and performance segment GPUs account for the vast majority of total graphics card sales. But it is not going to sort out AMD’s market share and profit woes.
AMD’s discrete GPU sales increased by 6.69 per cent in Q4 of 2015, which coincides with its release of the performance-segment R9 380X graphics card. Meanwhile Nvidia’s desktop discrete GPU shipments were down by 7.56 per cent from when it released its mainstream GTX 950.

Sure this is small potatoes, but it means that AMD could take roughly 7 per cent of Nvidia’s sales in a single quarter, by releasing a graphics card in a price segment that Nvidia had nothing.

Now Nvidia is going to be focusing on the high-end first and will not release anything for the performance for the mid-range for ages. But AMD will have its Polaris there and ready. In fact it will be about six months ahead of Nvidia which is more than enough time to drain a bit of the Green Goblin’s market share.

Then when AMD releases its flagship graphics card based on the HBM2 powered Vega 10 GPU, possibly as early as October 2016, it will arrive with a spec which is better than the GTX 1080 and is meant to go toe-to-toe with a possible GTX 1080 Ti or Titan X successor.

The plan requires nerves of steel, particularly as AMD’s bottom line is absolute pants at the moment, but it does make sense. However it is not good news for consumers. AMD is deliberately avoiding competition with its plan and this means that it can afford to charge a bit more until Nvidia pulls finger. Good for AMD but means that prices will be higher because AMD does not have to undercut Nvidia.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Is There A ‘For Sale’ Sign In Pandora Music’s Future?

May 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Corvex Management LP disclosed that it owns 9.9 percent of Pandora Media Inc and urged the internet music streaming company to consider being sold instead of pursuing a “costly and uncertain business plan.”

Corvex, a hedge fund run by Keith Meister, a protégé of billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, said it had met with the company’s management and had withdrawn a plan to replace some of its board members. However, it now believes Pandora should hire an investment bank to help the company explore its strategic options including a sale.

“We believe there is likely to be significant strategic interest in the company at a substantial premium to the company’s recent stock price,” Corvex said, adding that large internet companies, handset makers and media companies could be potential buyers.

Pandora’s shares are down more than 25 percent in 2016 and more than 45 percent year-over-year. Corvex owns about 22.7 million shares in the company, making the hedge fund Pandora’s largest shareholder.

Pandora said in response that it is in constant dialogue with shareholders and committed to achieving long-term value for them.

“Pandora has a profitable core business, combined with a strong balance sheet. We are confidently investing to fully capture the massive opportunity ahead of us,” the company said in a statement.

Oakland, California-based Pandora has faced tough competition from music-streaming rivals such as Spotify, Apple Inc , Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com and has failed to turn an annual profit as a public company.

Analysts have said Pandora, which had a market capitalization of $2.29 billion on Monday, could be an acquisition target for larger media or internet companies looking to beef up their online music offerings.

Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren, a former musician who spearheaded Pandora’s music algorithm technology, returned to the company March 28 to become CEO, squashing some investors’ hopes the company could be sold.

Westergren told Reuters on April 15, “If you want to sell a company, you don’t do that by spending half a billion on acquisitions and hiring a new CEO.”

 

 

Researchers Build Tiny Robot That Operates From Inside The Body

May 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

University researchers have constructed a tiny, foldable robot that may one day operate on people — from inside their body.

This tiny robot would be swallowed inside a capsule and then, once inside the patient’s stomach, it would unfold itself and then crawl across the stomach to repair a wound or remove a swallowed button battery, for instance.

“It’s really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care,” said Daniela Rus, an MIT professor who also directs the university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, in a statement. “For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system. It’s really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether.”

So far, the robot has been tested on a synthetic stomach, made of silicone rubber and based on the mechanics of the stomach and esophagus of a pig.

For several years now, robots have been used in operating rooms to assist with surgeries.

This is the first time researchers have closed in on building a robot that could work from the inside of the body.

The research is being done by a group of scientists from MIT, the University of Sheffield, in England, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

MIT reported that the robot moves itself over the surface of the stomach by what they call a “stick-slip” motion.

That means the robot’s appendages are made to stick to the surface using friction, but then slips free when its body flexes to make another move.

But that’s not the only way the robot moves around.

MIT noted that since the human stomach is filled with fluids, 20% of the robot’s forward motion is by propelling water or thrust.

Once in the stomach, the robot doesn’t have to work its way out of the capsule it was swallowed in. The capsule itself is designed to dissolve, automatically freeing the robot.

The robot, rectangular in shape, is designed with accordion-like folds with a magnet on one of the folds that responds to magnetic fields outside the body. Using that magnet, doctors could manipulate the motion of the robot, moving it to where it needs to go.

So what is this robot made of?

It’s built of the same dried pig intestine that is used in sausage casings, according to MIT.