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Amazon Finally Goes Two-Factor

November 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Technology

Amazon is making it a little, or a lot, harder for miscreants to make off with user accounts by adding two-factor authentication.

It has taken Amazon some time to fall into line on this. Two-factor authentication has become increasingly popular and common in the past couple of years, and it is perhaps overdue for a firm that deals so heavily in trade.

Amazon is treating it like it’s new, and is offering to hold punters’ hands as they embrace the security provision.

“Amazon Two-Step Verification adds an additional layer of security to your account. Instead of simply entering your password, Two-Step Verification requires you to enter a unique security code in addition to your password during sign in,” the firm said.

The way that the code is served depends on the user, who can choose to get the extra prompt in one of three ways. They may not appeal to those who do not like to over-share, but they will require a personal phone number.

As is frequently the case, Amazon will offer to send supplementary log-in information to a phone via text message or voice call, and even through a special authenticating app.

It’s an option, and you do not have to enable it. Amazon said that users could select trusted sign-on computers that spare them from the mobile phone contact.

“Afterward, that computer or device will only ask for your password when you sign in,” explained the Amazon introduction, helpfully.

There are a number of other outfits that offer the two-factor system and you might be advised to take their trade and do your business through them. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Facebook and many others offer the feature.

A website called TwoFactorAuth will let you check your standing and the position of your providers.



AMD Appears To Be Pushing It’s Boltzmann Plan

November 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Troubled chipmaker AMD is putting a lot of its limited investment money into the “Boltzmann Initiative” which is uses heterogeneous system architecture ability to harness both CPU and AMD GPU for compute efficiency through software.

VR-World says that stage one results are finished and where shown off this week at SC15. This included a Heterogeneous Compute Compiler (HCC); a headless Linux driver and HSA runtime infrastructure for cluster-class, High Performance Computing (HPC); and the Heterogeneous-compute Interface for Portability (HIP) tool for porting CUDA-based applications to C++ programming.

AMD hopes the tools will drive application performance from machine learning to molecular dynamics, and from oil and gas to visual effects and computer-generated imaging.

Jim Belak, co-lead of the US Department of Energy’s Exascale Co-design Center in Extreme Materials and senior computational materials scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said that AMD’s Heterogeneous-compute Interface for Portability enables performance portability for the HPC community.

“The ability to take code that was written for one architecture and transfer it to another architecture without a negative impact on performance is extremely powerful. The work AMD is doing to produce a high-performance compiler that sits below high-level programming models enables researchers to concentrate on solving problems and publishing groundbreaking research rather than worrying about hardware-specific optimizations.”

The new AMD Boltzmann Initiative suite includes an HCC compiler for C++ development, greatly expanding the field of programmers who can leverage HSA.

The new HCC C++ compiler is a key tool in enabling developers to easily and efficiently apply the hardware resources in heterogeneous systems. The compiler offers more simplified development via single source execution, with both the CPU and GPU code in the same file.

The compiler automates the placement code that executes on both processing elements for maximum execution efficiency.



Dyreza Trojan Appears To Be Targeting Windows 10

November 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A infectious banking trojan has been updated so that it supports financial mayhem on the freshly baked Windows 10 operating system and supporting Microsoft Edge browser.

Microsoft reckons that Windows 10 is installed on over 100 million machines, and this suggests prime picking for people who deploy banking trojans, not to mention the fact that most people will still be getting used to the software and its services and features.

The newest edition to the Windows 10 spectrum is a variant of the Zeus banking malware known as Dyreza. It is related to Dyre, a threat that we reported on earlier this year.

The warning at the time was that as many as one in 20 online banking users could be exposed to the threat, and things look as bad this time around. Heimdal Security said in a blog post that the malware has been strengthened in scale and capability.

“The info-stealer malware now includes support for Windows 10. This new variant can also hook to Microsoft Edge to collect data and then send it to malicious servers,” said the post.

“Moreover, the new Dyreza variant kills a series of processes linked to endpoint security software in order to make its infiltration in the system faster and more effective.”

The threat already has a footprint, and the people behind it have increased it. Heimdal said that, once Dyreza is done with your bank account, it will move you into position on a botnet. The firm estimates that this botnet is currently 80,000-strong.

“By adding support for Windows 10, the Dyreza malware creators have cleared their way to growing the number of infected PCs in their botnet. This financial trojan doesn’t only drain the infected computers of valuable data, it binds them into botnets,” said Heimdal.



Will Microsoft Debut A Lumia Business Phone Next Year?

November 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft surprised the world when its new phone range failed to contain anything to interest business users – now it seems it is prepared to remedy that.

Microsoft promised that its Lumia range would cover the low end, business and enthusiast segments but while the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 650 should cover the low-end segment as well nothing has turned up for business users.

This was odd, given that business users want phones that play nice with their networks, something that Redmond should do much better than Google or Apple.

Microsoft’s CFO Amy Hood told the UBS Global Technology Conference that business versions of the Lumia were coming. She said:

“We launched a Lumia 950 and a 950 XL. They’re premium products, at the premium end of the market, made for Windows fans. And we’ll have a business phone, as well.”

There were no details, but we have been hearing rumours of a Surface phone being sighted on benchmarks. It was thought that his would be a Microsoft flagship, but with the launch of the Lumia 950/950 XL, it is possible that this Surface phone could be aimed at the business user. The word Surface matches nicely with Microsoft’s Surface Pro branding.




Mobile OS Sailfish Continues To Struggle, Layoffs Loom

November 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

With Android and iOS controlling most of the mobile operating system market, it’s tough going for alternatives like Sailfish, now in survival mode as its maker, Jolla, moves to lay off a large part of its workers.

The first smartphone with the Linux-based OS shipped at the end of 2013. Adoption of Sailfish has been weak, however, and Jolla is selling only one smartphone model, via the company’s website, for about $303. It’s a Jolla-branded phone, made by a third-party contract manufacturer. A tablet is also available for preorder.

Jolla is restructuring debt in its home country, Finland, after a round of funding fell through. The company announced Friday that it will lay off “a big part” of its staff, without giving many details of future plans. The company did say it would be tailoring the OS to fit the needs of different clients, and that it has several “major and smaller potential clients.” It also said Sailfish is stable and ready for licensing.

For analysts, Jolla’s collapse wasn’t a surprise. In a copycat market, Sailfish offers cool customization features, for example. But it doesn’t have the backing of device makers or carriers, which is crucial for survival.

The China market was a big focus for Jolla, but Xiaomi took the country by storm with end-to-end offerings including OS, user interface and hardware, along with the creation of a developer ecosystem, said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Many alternative mobile OSes like Ubuntu, Firefox, WebOS, Blackberry and others are in the same boat as Sailfish, trying to find a niche in a market ruled by Apple and Google. The biggest competitor to Android and iOS is Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which had just a 1.7 percent market share in mobile handsets, with 5.87 million units shipping during the third quarter this year, according to Gartner.

A Gartner analyst said Windows Phone could find adopters in the enterprise market. But Jolla doesn’t have the resources of Microsoft, of course, and this raises questions about the future of Sailfish.





IBM Introduces New Technology For Data Protection

November 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

At the beginning of the year IBM announced Identity Mixer, a new technology for protecting users’ personal data during authentication. On Friday, it announced that the technology is now available to developers on its Bluemix cloud platform.

It’s common for apps to require that users prove their identity and other credentials, but all too often that authentication process exposes a raft of unnecessary and potentially sensitive personal information along the way.

To access an online streaming-movie service’s app, for example, users might have to prove that they have a paid subscription and are over 18 years old. Traditionally, that would mean revealing their full date of birth along with assorted other personal details that aren’t necessary for the proof, such as first and last name, address, etc.

When a breach happens, there’s all that much more potentially sensitive information exposed.

Identity Mixer is designed to protect users’ privacy by focusing just on the essentials of the proof. Thanks to a set of algorithms based on cryptography work done at IBM Research, the tool allows developers to build apps that can authenticate users’ identities using what’s known as a “zero-knowledge proof” that collects no personal data.

Specifically, Identity Mixer authenticates users by asking them to provide a public key. Each user has a single secret key, and it corresponds with multiple public keys, or identities. Each transaction a user makes receives a different public key and leaves no privacy “breadcrumbs.”

So, in the streaming service example, users would have both identity and subscription credentials stored in a personal Credential Wallet. To access a movie, they could use that electronic wallet to prove that they’re entitled to watch the selected content without having to expose any other details.

The result, according to IBM, is that users’ privacy is better preserved, and the service provider is spared the need to protect and secure all that extraneous data.




Samsung Debuts 10nm FinFET S-RAM

November 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung appears to have stolen a march on Intel and TSMC by coming up with a 10-nano FinFET processed S-RAM

According to Electronic Times Intel and TSMC’s products are still being processed at 14-nano and 16-nano so Samsung’s 10-nano S-RAM, will open the way for a generation of Giga-Smartphones. S-RAM is faster than D-RAM and is used for CPU’s cache memory.

It means that Samsung’s 10-nano technology will be mass-produced on full-scale in early 2017. The theory is that 10-nano AP will combine Gigabyte modem chips into one faster chip.

Samsung is showing its plans to the ISSCC. They will have a 128 Megabyte (MB) capacity and a cell area of 0.040 µm2. This compares to the 14-nano S-RAM (0.064 µm2) that Samsung Electronics introduced in the past, its cell area is reduced by 37.5 per cent.

In an ISSCC scientific paper, Samsung said that it built a large-scale fast cache memory in the smallest area. An AP for a smartphone with S-RAM, can minimize Die’s area and improve its performance.

All this means that Samsung Electronics has surpassed Taiwan’s TSMC and developed the next-generation system semiconductor.

Intel postponed its schedule for developing next-generation 10-nano system semiconductor from 2016 to 2017 due to increase of production costs. Samsung Electronics is targeting end of next for commercialising 10-nano processing.

Samsung Electronics has also developed 14-nano flat-surface NAND-Flash, and this is also first ever in industries. Toshiba, Micron and others have announced that after they finish developing 15 to 16-nanos, they are giving up on flat-surface NAND-Flash.

It had been thought that 14-nano NAND-Flash, which reduces area of Floating Gate by about 12.5% compared to 16-nano, will greatly contribute to Samsung Electronics in reducing production cost of NAND by reducing Silicon Die’s area.



IBM Says 2015 Was The Year Of Ransomware

November 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM has claimed that sophisticated criminals are responsible for 80 percent of cyber attacks, and that there are probably a lot of kids and amateurs accounting for the remaining 20 percent.

The IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly 4Q 2015 (PDF) described this 20 percent as “script kiddies”, claiming that the attacks reveal their amateurishness. However, when people are not messing about they are able to carry out some catastrophic and expensive hacktrocities.

“The script kiddies scour the internet for ‘low hanging fruit’, the servers that can be compromised quickly and easily, and they use them for a limited time to send spam and scan other servers on the internet,” said the report.

“Or they deface the website and move on to other targets once they are discovered. These script kiddies give little thought to covering their tracks.

“In contrast, stealthy attackers might gain access to a system by exploiting the same vulnerability as the script kiddies, but they use a far more sophisticated combination of commercial tools, malware/rootkits and backdoors to increase their access level on the client’s network and compromise additional systems over several weeks of expansion.”

There is plenty to worry about, naturally, and IBM has plenty of things to spook us with. The report starts with saying that 2015 has been the year of ransomware. The FBI has already reported that such exploits have bagged attackers $18m over the period, and that it expects the problem to extend into 2016.

Take a look around your office before you read alert number two. This is the insider danger. The report said that this trend has played out since 2014, and that 55 percent of all attacks in 2015 were down to insiders, or at least people with inside information.

Perhaps as a result of this – we are not data analysts – IBM has also seen an increase in boardroom involvement and spending. Some 88 percent of respondents to a survey said that their relevant budgets had increased over the period.


Will Dell Sell Parts Of EMC Post Merger?

November 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Michael Dell has confirmed that the has no intention to asset strip EMC and flog off small bits of it.

Reuters had reported that the company could sell off $10bn of assets to reduce the $49.5bn of debt it will be taking on to fund the acquisition.

Logically this would mean Perot Systems, Dell’s own service arm, acquired for $3.9bn in 2009, Quest, which it bought for $2.7bn in 2012; and SonicWall, which it reportedly acquired in 2012 for $1.2bn would be logical sales. Dell’s Equalogic service must also be in doubt given that it overlaps with EMC’s SAN portfolio.

However Dell appeared to deny this.

When asked if he would sell off EMC assets where there was found to be comparable Dell products, Dell said:

“The portfolios of products are highly complementary. There are some overlaps in storage, but Dell product lines and EMC storage product lines are somewhat different. We are going from seven to nine [product lines], which is not a problem, and we’ll continue to enhance them.”

Of course he was not talking about VMware. Dell confirmed that the company has no plans to tie in VMware with Dell.

“We believe in choice and openness. VMware will remain an independent public company. We are not going to disadvantage VMware partners in respect to their relationship with VMware,” he said.



Sprint Introduces New ‘Half Off’ Rate Plan

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint has introduced a new simplified wireless plan offering 50% off competitors’ rates — part of an effort to lure consumers to try its faster LTE Plus network, which promises speeds of 128Mbps or more.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the costs of the new program will be more than offset by revenues from new customers. “There’s absolutely no way anybody can beat this offer,” he said during a briefing with reporters.

Sprint, the nation’s fourth largest carrier with about 59 million customers, has said it must cut up to $2 billion or more in operating expenses for the next fiscal year starting in April and will eliminate thousands of jobs to do so.

Even against that dreary backdrop, Claure said the new rate plan will bring in more customers. He didn’t indicate how many more are expected.

“There’s been a lot of skepticism on our network and the only way to convince them is to have them try,” he said. “Rest assured, we’ve done sufficient analysis and this is very accretive to Sprint” profits.

Sprint’s newest deal allows customers to take 50% off the price of most Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile rate plans. The only rate plan excluded is T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan, which costs $90 a month. Sprint will still offer a $70-a-month unlimited data plan.

Businesses are not included in the deal, a spokeswoman said.

The offer goes into effect for activations beginning this Friday, Nov. 20 until Jan. 7, 2016; the 50% off deal remains in effect until Jan. 8, 2018. Claure said that with a free tablet and a free year of service, along with the half-off pricing, “that’s the bet we’re making” to get new customers.





Survey Says Amazon Is Top Destination For Online Holiday Shopping

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A majority of U.S. consumers plan to go to for most of their online holiday shopping, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, even after traditional retailers have collectively spent billions of dollars to try to capture Web demand.

The survey of 3,426 adults conducted from November 12 to 18 found that 51 percent plan to do most of their online shopping at Amazon this holiday season, compared to 16 percent at Walmart, 3 percent at Target and 2 percent at Macy’s.

A little more than a quarter of respondents said they would use another retailer not listed in the poll.

The poll underscored the hurdles that traditional retailers faced in expanding online. Their own sales data this week showed that such efforts were falling short.

Target Corp said on Wednesday its digital sales grew 20 percent in the latest quarter, missing its expectations for a 30 percent gain. The discount retailer cited weakness in electronics demand.

A day earlier, Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported quarterly online sales growth of 10 percent, slower than its target growth in the mid-to-high-teens this fiscal year. Wal-Mart pointed to sluggish market conditions in China, Britain and Brazil, and said it fared better in the United States.

In contrast, Inc had posted a 28 percent jump in North American sales in its quarterly report last month.

“The Big Kahuna that continues to grab market share is Amazon,” said Craig Johnson, head of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. “Both Wal-Mart and to some extent Target have simply not kept pace enough.”

Johnson added that sluggish spending overall contributed to the weaker-than-expected online sales at Target and Wal-Mart, which also faced increased competition from other online retailers, such as Wayfair Inc.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, 8 percent of adults said they plan to shop only online this year, compared to 6 percent a year earlier. The proportion of respondents who said they would shop mostly online remained steady at 17 percent.

All major retailers are investing in e-commerce.

IBM Speeds Up Power Architecture With nVidia

November 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM has delivered some significant improvements to its collaborative OpenPower initiative along with its partners, including new technologies that the company said will enable faster and deeper data analysis.

The new offerings bring integration of IBM’s open and licensable Power processors with accelerators and dedicated high-performance processors that can be optimized for computationally intensive software code.

The update also provides collaborations and further investments in accelerator-based tools on top of the Power processor architecture. This includes incorporating Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to accelerate Watson’s Retrieve and Rank API capabilities to 1.7 times normal speed.

“This speed-up can further improve the cost/performance of Watson’s cloud-based services. For example, a call centre agent responding to an individual’s health and insurance query can leverage Watson’s natural language processing technology to obtain an answer in real time even faster than before, potentially increasing customer satisfaction and lowering service costs,” explained IBM.

The firm said that the GPU acceleration increases Watson’s processing performance by a factor of 10.

IBM has also ported a series of key Internet of Things (IoT), Spark, big data and Power architecture and accelerators.

“The accelerated Power-based offerings come at a time when clients are seeking the ideal server platform for the IoT, machine learning and other cognitive computing applications,” added IBM.

“Through an open, collaborative model, IBM and more than 90 members participating in the OpenPower Foundation’s Accelerators Working Group are developing and delivering a wide range of accelerator-based solutions.”

The update to the OpenPower initiative also brings a multi-year strategic collaboration with Xilinx to jointly develop data centre and network function visualization solutions. This will bring together the systems, software and management components around Xilinx FPGA accelerators as they focus on emerging workloads including high-performance computing, cognitive computing, machine learning, genomics and big data analytics.

And that’s not all. The OpenPower updates bring a new cluster to the University of Texas in Austin. As a new OpenPower Foundation member, the Texas Advanced Computing Centre will install a Power8-based accelerated computing cluster for academic researchers and developers. IBM said the new cluster is currently running successfully in an early user mode, and will begin accepting requests for access sometime this week.

It was only last month that IBM announced the line of Power processor-based, Linux-tuned machines at LinuxCon Europe.

The Power Systems LC line was introduced by Dr Stefanie Chiras, director and business line executive of IBM scale-out Power Systems, as part of her keynote on the subject of “waitless computing”.

The range consists of three products based on Power 8 processors offering scale-out servers in preconfigured, single-click order, and bespoke options to add to the OpenPower servers launched earlier in the year.

The core product is the S812LC, consisting of a single eight-core 3.32GHz processor or 10-core 2.92GHz processor, up to 1TB of system memory and space for up to 14 3.5in drives for internal storage.



Miles Can Be Used For In-flight Wifi Says United

November 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

United Airlines will begin allowing travelers to redeem frequent-flier miles for Wifi on flights, company officials said.

United, the second-largest U.S. airline by capacity, began testing a web portal on Thursday that lets customers use award miles to access the Internet on their laptops, tablets and smartphones, making it the first U.S. carrier with the feature, a spokesman said.

It hopes to roll out the portal to most U.S. domestic flights by early 2016 and to finish installations on international flights by mid-summer. Regional jets that United contracts for its United Express brand will get the portal later.

The move reflects an ongoing push in the airline industry to treat frequent-flier miles like a currency. Travelers already can redeem miles on U.S. carriers for hotel rooms, theater tickets, goods such as cameras and even identity theft monitoring.

This also marks United’s latest move to win over customers since Oscar Munoz took over as chief executive of parent United Continental Holdings Inc in September.

Munoz has solicited feedback from travelers on how to improve the airline, ranked the lowest in customer satisfaction of the largest North American carriers, according to J.D. Power’s 2015 ranking.

The team overseeing the sale of extra services such as Wifi is now focused on improving travelers’ experience more than maximizing revenue, United’s Vice President of eCommerce and Merchandising Scott Wilson said in an interview.

“There is a bias towards promoting that type of thinking. It’s always existed, but maybe where it was more balanced, it’s shifted a little bit,” he said.




Is Intel Readying It’s Knights Landing Processor?

November 20, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has started sending out its Knight’s Landing version of Xeon Phi and this one has a 72-core coprocessor solution manufactured on a 14nm process using shiny new 3D Tri-Gate transistors.

The coprocessors use Intel’s’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture that stuffs cores into a single chip, which itself is part of a larger PCI-E add-in card solution for supercomputing.

Add-in cards run alongside these engines, such as NVIDIA’s Tesla GPUs to help with the number crunching.

Knight’s Landing succeeds the Knight’s Corner, which has up to 61 cores. Knight’s Landing has double-precision performance which can do more than 3 teraflops and over 8 teraflops of single-precision performance. It also has 16GB of on-package MCDRAM memory, which Intel says is five times more power efficient as GDDR5 and three times as dense.

In making the announcement Charlie Wuischpard, vice president and general manager of HPC Platform Group at Intel said that supercomputing was entering a new era and being transformed from a tool for a specific problem to a general tool for many,”

“System-level innovations in processing, memory, software and fabric technologies are enabling system capabilities to be designed and optimized for different usages, from traditional HPC to the emerging world of big data analytics and everything in between. We believe the Intel Scalable System Framework is the path forward for designing and delivering the next generation of systems for the ‘HPC everywhere’ era.”


SentinelOne Introduces Feature For Ransomware Victims

November 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

SentinelOne has announced a new feature for its endpoint detection products that can restore files encrypted by cybercriminals, a common type of attack known as ransomware.

The “rollback” feature will be available in the 1.6 versions of its Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP) and the Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) products at no charge, said Dal Gemmell, director of product management.

SentinelOne is among several vendors that are trying to displace traditional antivirus vendors with products that detect malware using deep analysis rather than signature-based detection.

The company’s products use a lightweight agent on endpoints such as laptops and desktops, which looks at the core of the operating system — the kernel — as well the the user space, trying to spot changes that might be linked to malware.

The rollback feature leverages built-in capabilities in Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS X. Both operating systems take snapshots of files on a computer. In Windows, it’s known as Volume Shadow Copy Service and on OS X asjournaling.

The technologies are used for restoring systems. The snapshots of the files are kept in a secure area and wouldn’t be affected by ransomware if it infected a machine. Gemmell said. SentinelOne is also adding some anti-tampering defenses to make sure the snapshots aren’t affected.

SentinelOne monitors the files that have been changed on an endpoint, and if someone becomes infected by ransomware, can roll back the changes.

“There are a number of different ransomwares that we’ve tested it out on,” Gemmell said.