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Microsoft To End Detailed Security Bulletins

January 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft discontinue issuing detailed security bulletins in February, which for nearly 20 years have provided individual users and IT professionals information about vulnerabilities and their patches.

One patching expert crossed his fingers that Microsoft would make good on its pledge to publish the same information when it switches to a new online database. “I’m on the fence right now,” said Chris Goettl, product manager with patch management vendor Shavlik, of the demise of bulletins. “We’ll have to see [the database] in February before we know how well Microsoft has done [keeping its promise].”

Microsoft announced the demise of bulletins in November, saying then that the last would be posted with January’s Patch Tuesday — the monthly round of security updates for Windows and other Microsoft software — and that the new process would kick in on Feb. 14, next month’s patch day.

The web-based bulletins have been a feature of Microsoft’s patch disclosure policies since at least 1998, and for almost as long have been considered the professional benchmark by security experts.

 A searchable database of support documents will replace the bulletins; that database has been available, albeit in preview, since November on the portal Microsoft dubbed the “Security Updates Guide,” or SUG.

The documents stored in the database are specific to a vulnerability on an edition of Windows, or a version of another Microsoft product. They can be sorted and filtered by the affected software, the patch’s release date, its CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) identifier, and the numerical label of the KB, or “knowledge base” support document.

“Our customers have asked for better access to update information, as well as easier ways to customize their view to serve a diverse set of needs,” wrote an unnamed member of the Microsoft Security Response Center in November to explain the switch from bulletins to database.

Rovio Seeks New Gaming Path, Opening Studio In London

January 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Finnish mobile games and animation developer Rovio Entertainment is intensifying its search for new hit games by opening a studio in London to focus on multiplayer games that would not rely on the company’s Angry Birds brand.

Privately-held Rovio has struggled in recent years as profits from the Angry Birds franchise dropped, prompting deep job cuts and divestments.

But last year Rovio launched an animated Angry Birds 3D Hollywood film that it said did well at the box office and yielded new licensing deals.

 Rovio is now looking to build a team of about 20 people in London to create “massively multiplayer online” (MMO) games that support a large number of players simultaneously, with a focus on new characters.

“MMO is a genre that is growing in mobile, but it is not fully saturated. We are not looking for a niche position but a very wide, inclusive game,” Wilhelm Taht, head of games, told Reuters.

The original Angry Birds game, in which players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal the birds’ eggs, was launched in 2009 and it remains the top paid mobile app of all time.

Rovio exploited the brand early on by licensing its use on a string of consumer products. But the company’s failure to bring out new hit games resulted in falling profit, prompting Rovio to cut more than 300 jobs in 2014 and 2015.

“In the long term, our new characters may generate intellectual property and even a brand,” Taht said.

Rovio has a series of smartphone games based on Angry Birds characters. In 2015 it published a puzzle game called Nibblers and it will soon put out Battle Bay, a real-time multiplayer game.

Rovio is not looking to launch a large number of games this year, Taht added.

“Perhaps there’s been some change in our thinking here,” he said. “The market is favorable for games that will live long and that are operated with a service mindset.”

Asked about Nintendo’s hit smartphone game Pokemon GO, Taht said the game truly put augmented reality (AR) on the gaming map.

“We will, of course, be following AR as a technology and a tool,” he said.

In the first half of 2016 Rovio booked a small operating profit, compared with a loss a year earlier, help by growth in game sales.

Rovio has around 200 employees spread between its four game studios in Finland and Sweden and about 400 in total.

Airbus Envision’s Flying Cars Prototype By Year End

January 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Airbus Group  is gearing up to test a prototype for a self-piloted flying car as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads by the end of the year, the aerospace group’s chief executive said on Monday.

Airbus last year formed a division called Urban Air Mobility that is exploring concepts such as a vehicle to transport individuals or a helicopter-style vehicle that can carry multiple riders. The aim would be for people to book the vehicle using an app, similar to car-sharing schemes.

“One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the DLD digital tech conference in Munich, adding he hoped the Airbus could fly a demonstration vehicle for single-person transport by the end of the year.

 “We are in an experimentation phase, we take this development very seriously,” he said, adding that Airbus recognized such technologies would have to be clean to avoid further polluting congested cities.
He said using the skies could also reduce costs for city infrastructure planners. “With flying, you don’t need to pour billions into concrete bridges and roads,” he said.

Enders said Airbus, as the world’s largest maker of commercial helicopters, wanted to invest to make the most of new technologies such as autonomous driving and artificial intelligence, to usher in what amounts to an era of flying cars.

“If we ignore these developments, we will be pushed out of important segments of the business,” he said.

A spokesman for Airbus declined to say how much the company was investing in urban mobility.

Can AMD Launch Ryzen This Quarter?

January 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD indicated that the official Ryzen launch date will be sometime before March.

While they haven’t specifically given an exact date, a talk to be given by AMD at the annual Game Developer Conference (GDC) says the following: “Join AMD Game Engineering team members for an introduction to the recently-launched AMD Ryzen CPU followed by advanced optimisation topics.”

Obviously for this to be the subject of the talk Ryzen would have had to be recently launched which means that it is probably timed for that week.

GDC event runs from 27 February to 3 March and has not been put on the schedule yet and it could appear any day during the event.

AMD has not disclosed an exact date either, launching the new set of Ryzen CPUs right in the middle of both GDC and Mobile World Congress would be insane as the news would end up being buried under other GDC and smartphone announcements.

It would make sense to do it the week before all that, if not two.

Courtesy-Fud

Nissan Chooses London For Self-driving Car Tests

January 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Japanese automaker Nissan said it will conduct its first European real-world trials of self-driving vehicles in London, choosing Britain just months after it said it would build two new models in the country despite concerns over Brexit.

The government has said it wants to encourage the development and testing of autonomous driving technology in Britain, helping build an industry to serve a worldwide market it reckons could be worth around 900 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) by 2025.

On Friday Nissan said a modified version of its compact electric LEAF car equipped with autonomous driving technology will be tested in the capital next month, the first such demonstrations on European public roads.

 “With future models secured and cutting-edge innovation being developed right here in the UK, we’re looking forward to a strong future of designing, engineering and manufacturing in the country for customers right across the world,” said Nissan Europe Chairman Paul Willcox.

In October the firm, which builds around a third of Britain’s total car output, said it would expand production at its plant in northeast England with what a source described as a government promise of extra support to counter any loss of competitiveness caused by Britain’s EU exit.

MediaTek Has A Strong Quarter

January 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek, the fabless semiconductor company from Taiwan that provides SoCs for HDTVs, Blu-ray players and wireless products, saw its revenues jump by 29.2 percent year-over-year to a record high of $8.6 billion (¥$275.51 billion), according to the latest industry reports.

Deemed one of the fastest growing chip companies in 2016, MediaTek’s upswing in performance last year is attributed to a larger share of the worldwide smartphone SoC market, along with higher sales in local China and Taiwan markets. In Q4 2016, revenues totaled $2.18 billion (¥68.68 billion) which is down 12.4 percent over the previous quarter, but still falls within the company’s projection of $2.11 and $2.31 billion (¥66.6 to 72.9 billion).

In Q3 2016, revenues totaled $2.49 billion (¥78.4 billion), an increase of 8.1 percent over Q2 and a 37.6 percent increase over the previous year. Net profits also rose to $248.4 million (¥7.83 billion) in Q3, an increase of 18.8 percent over the previous quarter but down 1.6 percent over the previous year.

Going forward into 2017, company officials now want to shift its focus from increasing market share to improving gross margins and profitability. This will include an effort to market its high-end Helio X30 and X35 mobile processors more effectively to compete against the likes of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 830 and 835 and Samsung’s Exynos 8895, as all three companies are now using ARM cores with 10-nanometer designs.

MediaTek MT5597 supports Dolby Vision and HLG

The Taiwanese chip designer was the first to develop an 4K Ultra HD-capable SoC for Android TVs with the introduction of the MT5595 for Android TV 5.0 back at CES 2015. It followed up a year later with the MT5996 for Android TV 6.0, another world’s first featuring four 64-bit CPU cores based on the Cortex A53 design.

Now in 2017, the company is releasing its third-generation Ultra HD SoC for Android TV 7.0, the MT5597. This chip also features a quad-core Cortex A53 design but now includes support for Dolby Vision HDR and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), the standard expected to be used in UHD television broadcasts when providers are ready to roll out HDR terrestrial and satellite services.

Courtesy-Fud

Security Experts Warn Of New Spora Ransomware

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Security experts have uncovered a new ransomware program dubbed Spora that can perform strong offline file encryption and brings several ‘innovations’ to the ransom payment model.

The malware has targeted Russian-speaking users so far, but its authors have also created an English version of their decryption portal, suggesting they will likely expand their attacks to other countries soon.

Spora stands out because it can encrypt files without having to contact a command-and-control (CnC) server and does so in a way that still allows every victim to have a unique decryption key.

Traditional ransomware programs generate an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) key for every encrypted file and then encrypts these keys with an RSA public key generated by a CnC server.

 Public key cryptography like RSA relies on key pairs made up of a public key and a private key. Whatever file is encrypted with one public key can only be decrypted with its corresponding private key.
Most ransomware programs contact a command-and-control server after they’re installed on a computer and request the generation of an RSA key pair. The public key is downloaded to the computer, but the private key never leaves the server and remains in the attackers’ possession. This is the key that victims pay to get access to.

The problem with reaching out to a server on the internet after installation of ransomware is that it creates a weak link for attackers. For example, if the server is known by security companies and is blocked by a firewall, the encryption process doesn’t start.

Some ransomware programs can perform so-called offline encryption, but they use the same RSA public key that’s hard-coded into the malware for all victims. The downside with this approach for attackers is that a decryptor tool given to one victim will work for all victims because they share the same private key as well.

The Spora creators have solved this problem, according to researchers from security firm Emsisoft who analyzed the program’s encryption routine.

The malware does contain a hard-coded RSA public key, but this is used to encrypt a unique AES key that is locally generated for every victim. This AES key is then used to encrypt the private key from a public-private RSA key pair that’s also locally generated and unique for every victim. Finally, the victim’s public RSA key is used to encrypt the AES keys that are used to encrypt individual files.

In other words, the Spora creators have added a second round of AES and RSA encryption to what other ransomware programs have been doing until now.

So far, researchers have seen Spora distributed via rogue email attachments that pose as invoices from an accounting software program popular in Russia and other Russian-speaking countries. The attachments are in the form of .HTA (HTML Application) files that contain malicious JavaScript code.

U.S. Defense Department Testing 3D Printed Drone Swarm

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Department of Defense has been testing low-cost, autonomous, micro-drones for low-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.

The drones, dubbed Perdix, operate as a swarm and are not individually pre-programmed. Instead, they act as a collective organism with one distributed brain for decision-making, the DOD said in a statement on Monday.

“Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team,” says William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office of the DOD.

The drones are meant to be controlled in much the same manner as a coach would guide a sports team. The operator orders a broad objective, and the drones communally decide how best to execute the plan.

The latest test, initially documented on “60 Minutes,” took place at China Lake, California, in October. There were 103 mini remote-controlled vehicles launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Prior tests have also taken place in Alaska and Edwards Air Force Base in southern California.

The DOD says Perdix is in its sixth generation, with a seventh-generation model featuring more advanced autonomy in the works.

 

Instagram Stories To Get Advertising

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc’s Instagram is adding more than 30 advertising partners to one of its fastest-growing features, Instagram Stories, in a bid to boost advertising revenue.

The social media company will become a more important player in maintaining Facebook’s growth in advertising revenue in 2017. During the last two earnings calls, Facebook executives said they may soon reach a limit on the amount of ads they can place before users, one of the factors that had driven ad revenue growth.

Instagram is expected to generate $3.64 billion in worldwide ad revenue this year, nearly double that of 2016, according to eMarketer. That would represent 12.3 percent of Facebook’s global ad business, up from 8.4 percent in 2016. In the United States, eMarketer said it expects Instagram to account for more than 20 percent of Facebook’s ad revenue.

eMarketer also found that 74 percent of U.S. companies plan to use Instagram this year, up from 53 percent in 2016. This level of use would allow Instagram to surpass Twitter.

Media buyers are optimistic about Instagram’s ability to maintain Facebook’s place, second only to Alphabet Inc’s Google, in the digital ad marketplace. “Instagram could end up being as strong a revenue component for Facebook as YouTube has been for Google,” said Noah Mallin, head of social for ad agency MEC Wavemaker.

In Instagram Stories, users and businesses can post a string of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. It launched in August and now has 150 million daily active users, according to Jim Squires, director of market operations for Instagram.

The new ad product will show full-screen ads intermittently as users swipe through photos and videos on Instagram Stories. The company is testing it with major advertisers including General Motors Co, Nike Inc and Airbnb, which is using it to promote its product Trips on Airbnb.

Time Warner Inc’s Turner Sports will test ads for cable network TNT’s airing of the National Basketball Association’s All-Star Game in New Orleans next month.

Companies normally test new advertising products with a select group of advertisers before a wider roll out.

“It’s definitely gained importance,” said Ian Schafer, founder and chairman of ad agency Deep Focus, who said he plans to spend more money with Instagram.

Are Notebooks Making Gains Against Tablets?

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Notebooks, which had been written off by the Tame Apple Press after Steve Jobs showed off his tablets, are now back.

Beancounters working for Deloitte have found that the sales of slates are expected to be down 10 per cent in 2017 compared to last year and there will probably be 165 million units leaving the shops.

This is a third less than the total number of slates shifted in 2014 when 230 million tablets were sold.

PC and laptops however are expected to stay at the same level as last year, and Deloitte has observed that the kids of today don’t want tablets any more. They either want a phablet, or a notebook.

Phablets were the thing that Steve Jobs told the world they did not want and yet it turned out they did. It might have been the reason he was telling us that was because he knew that they would kill off his tablet dream.

Paul Lee, head of TMT research at Deloitte, commented: “There are three consumer devices that are leading tablets by a large margin: TVs, smartphones, and computers. It seems unlikely that the tablet will ever displace these devices.”

IDC’s figures from last summer showed a big slump in tablet shipments, but also found that detachable sales were improving. Most analysts think that hybrid 2-in-1s will represent a fifth of all PCs by the year 2020.

Courtesy-Fud

Twitter Being Sued As ‘Powerful Weapon For Terrorism’

January 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The families of three Americans murdered in ISIS terror attacks have filed suit against Twitter for allegedly knowingly providing support for the terrorist group and acting as a “powerful weapon for terrorism.”

The suit was filed over the weekend in a federal court in New York City on behalf of the relatives of three U.S. nationals who were killed by ISIS in the March 22, 2016, terrorist attacks in Brussels and the Nov. 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris. At least 32 people died in the Brussels attack and about 130 in the attack in Paris.

The suit alleges that Twitter has violated, and continues to violate, the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. The plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial and monetary damages to be determined at trial.

 Twitter did not reply to a request for comment.

“Twitter’s social media platform and services provide tremendous utility and value to ISIS as a tool to connect its members and to facilitate the terrorist group’s ability to communicate, recruit members, plan and carry out attacks, and strike fear in its enemies,” the suit alleges. “ISIS has used Twitter to cultivate and maintain an image of brutality, to instill greater fear and intimidation, and to appear unstoppable …”

The lawsuit also contends that specifically for the Brussels and Paris attacks, ISIS used Twitter to issue threats, as well as to announce and celebrate the attacks.

The lawsuit was filed by the family of siblings Alexander Pinczowski and Sascha Pinczowski, who were killed in Brussels, and the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in Paris.

The Email Privacy Act Re-introduced To Protect U.S. Citizens

January 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A bill has been reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before they dig into users’ emails and other communications in the cloud that are older than 180 days.

The Email Privacy Act, reintroduced on Monday, aims to fix a loophole in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that allows the government to search without a warrant email and other electronic communications that are older than 180 days and stored on servers of third-party service providers such as Google and Yahoo.

“Thanks to the wording in a more than 30-year-old law, the papers in your desk are better protected than the emails in your inbox,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, digital rights organization, said in a blog post Monday.

The bill was passed by the House last year but stalled in the Senate. U.S. Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan) and Jared Polis (D-Colo) said they are reintroducing the legislation because the Senate failed to act on it before the 114th Congress came to a close.

 If the legislation becomes law, government agencies will have to obtain a warrant based on a showing of probable cause to compel service providers to disclose emails and other electronic communications of Americans, regardless of the age of the mails or the means of storage. In the original version of the legislation, the government also had to notify the person whose account is disclosed, along with a copy of the search warrant and other information, within a stipulated period.

Privacy groups and tech companies backed the legislation when it was first introduced. But it failed to clear the Senate as it was bogged down with amendments such as the requirement of mandatory compliance by service providers without court oversight when law enforcement claimed an emergency as an exception for asking for user data. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) proposed an amendment that would expand the information that the FBI can obtain with a National Security letter without prior judicial oversight.

“Government access to communications without oversight of warrants is a dangerous path for any country that supports democratic values,” said Ed Black, CEO and president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, in a statement Monday.

“Rules on how the government can access electronic communications in criminal investigations have simply not kept up with advances in modern technology. Indeed, US law still treats data stored in the cloud differently than data stored on a local computer,” said Information Technology and Innovation Foundation vice president Daniel Castro in a statement.

Opposition to the bill came previously from a number of agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, which uses administrative subpoenas on service providers to work around people under investigation who don’t keep copies of incriminating mail after sending it or decline to share their content with the SEC.

European Automakers Look To Challenge Tesla’s Dominance

January 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Europe’s powerhouse automakers are rallying the full force of the continent’s industrial prowess to build a network of ultra-fast charging stations as they look to stoke demand for electric cars and break Tesla’s stranglehold on the market.

BMW, Volkswagen, Ford and Daimler plan to build about 400 next-generation charging stations in Europe that can reload an electric car in minutes instead of hours.

The long time it takes to charge batteries is one of the main disadvantages of electric cars compared to conventional cars with gasoline tanks that can be filled up in seconds.

 Until now, drivers of electric cars have had to leave their vehicles plugged in for hours at a charging station for a journey between cities, making many long range journeys impractical.

Installing new, faster chargers would spur the overall market, and also help the traditional car manufacturers close the gap with Tesla, the Silicon Valley-based e-car leader, which maintains its own network of charging stations. Tesla’s chargers are the fastest in the industry, and are incompatible with existing electric cars made by rivals.

The carmakers are roping in experts from the European power and engineering industry, including Germany’s Innogy, E.ON and Siemens and Portugal’s Efacec, which are all working on the technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The new 350 kilowatt (kW) chargers would be nearly three times as powerful as Tesla’s.

“This is a structured and concerted effort across sectors to tackle the infrastructure issue in a real way,” one of the sources said.

A spokesman for Ford, speaking on behalf of the consortium, said talks with possible partners had started, adding he expected several energy providers to be part of the planned network, without elaborating further.

Tesla’s tech billionaire CEO Elon Musk has hinted that the company will not be outdone, tweeting that 350 kW chargers are a “children’s toy”. A Germany-based spokeswoman for the company declined to comment beyond Musk’s remarks.

LG Going Totally Wi-Fi

January 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

LG says that all its products will ship with Wi-Fi connectivity from this year.

LG marketing VP David VanderWaal says that “starting this year” all of LG’s home appliances will feature “advanced Wi-Fi connectivity”.

One of the flagship appliances that will make good on this promise is the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, a webOS-powered Internet-connected fridge that among other things supports integration with Amazon’s Alexa service.

While this might be a good thing in cases of flagship devices but just sticking Wi-Fi in everything is going to create a security nightmare. After all how are LG or anyone planning to update their appliances? Most people who don’t use the Wi-Fi are never going to bother connecting to anything and that is just going to be an open port sitting waiting some hacker’s attention.

What is also a problem is that if your whole house gets a virus you are going to have a hell of a job finding out what the source was and what you are supposed to unplug.

Also, there is the small matter of some appliance makers might be a little naughty about using their smart devices to serve up ads or give audio or video recordings to law enforcement.

LG might be more likely than most to know what it is doing, but the life of a fridge or washing machine is a lot longer than a computer. Our fridge is 15 years old and works fine, what will be the state of computer security in 15 years’ time? Many are going to find that their fridge is running the security equivalent of Windows XP.

Courtesy-Fud

IBM Is Still The Patent King

January 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

While the Tame Apple Press is still trying to spin Jobs’ Mob as the most innovative in the world, the crown belongs to the outfit that Steve Jobs mocked – IBM.

IBM received the most patents for the 24th year in a row and broke the US record in 2016.

It had 8,088 patents granted to its inventors over the 12 months covering areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, cloud, health and cyber security.

No other company in US history has managed to get 8,000 patents in a single a single year. And to put that in perspective, that means that IBM invents 22 new things a day.

It also owns a third of the patents relating to AI, cognitive computing and cloud computing alone. The details were released by Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chairman, president and CEO who said:

“We are deeply proud of our inventors’ unique contributions to discovery, science and technology that are driving progress across business and society and opening the new era of cognitive business.”

There are nine other innovative companies in the top ten list and guess what? Apple does not even make the top ten.

The list goes IBM, Samsung, Canon, Qualcomm, Google, Intel, LG, Microsoft, TSMC and Sony.

Courtesy-Fud

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