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Microsoft Updates Office Online

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is updating its Web-based Office Online suite, closing the features gap with the main Office 365 and Office 2013 suites installed on users’ devices.

“We know you want features that allow you to move as seamlessly as possible between Office Online and the desktop,” wrote Kaberi Chowdhury, an Office Online technical product manager, in a blog post Monday.

Improvements to Excel Online include the ability to insert new comments, edit and delete existing comments, and properly open and edit spreadsheets that contain Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code.

Meanwhile, Word Online has a new “pane” where users can see all comments in a document, and reply to them or mark them as completed. It also has a refined lists feature that is better able to recognize whether users are continuing a list or starting one. In addition, footnotes and end notes can now be added more conveniently inline.

PowerPoint Online has a revamped text editor that offers a layout view that more closely resembles the look of finished slides, according to Microsoft. It also has improved performance and video functionality, including the ability to play back embedded YouTube videos.

For users of OneNote Online, Microsoft is now adding the ability to print out the notes they’ve created with the application.

Microsoft is also making Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online available via Google’s Chrome Web Store so that Chrome browser users can add them to their Chrome App launcher. Excel Online will be added later.

The improvements in Office Online will be rolled out to users this week, starting Monday.

Office Online, which used to be called Office Web Apps, competes directly against Google Docs and other browser-based office productivity suites. It’s meant to offer users a free, lightweight, Web-based version of these four applications if they don’t have the desktop editions on the device they’re using at that moment.

 

Google Reveals Email Scanning Practices In Revised Terms Of Service

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc updated its terms of service earlier this week, informing users that their incoming and outgoing emails are automatically analyzed by software to create targeted ads.

The revisions more explicitly spell out the manner in which Google software scans users’ emails, both when messages are stored on Google’s servers and when they are in transit, a controversial practice that has been at the heart of litigation.

Last month, a U.S. judge decided not to combine several lawsuits that accused Google of violating the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of email users into a single class action.

Users of Google’s Gmail email service have accused the company of violating federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws by scanning their messages so it could compile secret profiles and target advertising. Google has argued that users implicitly consented to its activity, recognizing it as part of the email delivery process.

Google spokesman Matt Kallman said in a statement that the changes “will give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we’ve received over the last few months.”

Google’s updated terms of service added a paragraph stating that “our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

 

Mt. Gox Founder Refuses To Appear In U.S. Regarding Bankruptcy

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mark Karpeles, the founder of Mt. Gox, has refused to come to the United States to answer questions about the Japanese bitcoin exchange’s U.S. bankruptcy case, Mt. Gox lawyers told a federal judge on Monday.

In the court filing, Mt. Gox lawyers cited a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which has closely monitored virtualcurrencies like bitcoin.

“Mr. Karpeles is now in the process of obtaining counsel to represent him with respect to the FinCEN Subpoena. Until such time as counsel is retained and has an opportunity to ‘get up to speed’ and advise Mr. Karpeles, he is not willing to travel to the U.S.”, the filing said.

The subpoena requires Karpeles to appear and provide testimony in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

The court papers also said a Japanese court had been informed of the issue and that a hearing was scheduled on Tuesday in Japan.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that, unlike conventional money, is bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network independent of central control. Its value has soared in the last year, and the total worth of bit coins minted is now about $7 billion.

Mt. Gox, once the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan last month, saying it may have lost nearly half a billion dollars worth of the virtual coins due to hacking into its computer system.

According to Monday’s court filings, the subpoena did not specify topics for discussion.

In the court filings, Karpelès’ lawyers asked the court to delay the bankruptcy deposition to May 5, 2014 but said that Mt. Gox could not guarantee that Karpeles would attend that either.

 

BlackBerry Plans To Release Patch For ‘Heartbleed’ Vulnerability

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd said it will release security updates for messaging software for Android and iOS devices by Friday to address vulnerabilities in programs related to the “Heartbleed” security threat.

Researchers last week warned they uncovered Heartbleed, a bug that targets the OpenSSL software commonly used to keep data secure, potentially allowing hackers to steal massive troves of information without leaving a trace.

Security experts initially told companies to focus on securing vulnerable websites, but have since warned about threats to technology used in data centers and on mobile devices running Google Inc’s Android software and Apple Inc’s iOS software.

Scott Totzke, BlackBerry senior vice president, told Reuters on Sunday that while the bulk of BlackBerry products do not use the vulnerable software, the company does need to update two widely used products: Secure Work Space corporate email and BBM messaging program for Android and iOS.

He said they are vulnerable to attacks by hackers if they gain access to those apps through either WiFi connections or carrier networks.

Still, he said, “The level of risk here is extremely small,” because BlackBerry’s security technology would make it difficult for a hacker to succeed in gaining data through an attack.

“It’s a very complex attack that has to be timed in a very small window,” he said, adding that it was safe to continue using those apps before an update is issued.

Google spokesman Christopher Katsaros declined comment. Officials with Apple could not be reached.

Security experts say that other mobile apps are also likely vulnerable because they use OpenSSL code.

Michael Shaulov, chief executive of Lacoon Mobile Security, said he suspects that apps that compete with BlackBerry in an area known as mobile device management are also susceptible to attack because they, too, typically use OpenSSL code.

He said mobile app developers have time to figure out which products are vulnerable and fix them.

“It will take the hackers a couple of weeks or even a month to move from ‘proof of concept’ to being able to exploit devices,” said Shaulov.

Technology firms and the U.S. government are taking the threat extremely seriously. Federal officials warned banks and other businesses on Friday to be on alert for hackers seeking to steal data exposed by the Heartbleed bug.

Companies including Cisco Systems Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, International Business Machines Corp, Intel Corp, Juniper Networks Inc, Oracle Corp Red Hat Inc have warned customers they may be at risk. Some updates are out, while others, like BlackBerry, are rushing to get them ready.

 

Can Micro-Consoles Compete With True Gaming Consoles?

April 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

With Amazon’s Fire TV device the first out the door, the second wave of microconsoles has just kicked off. Amazon’s device will be joined in reasonably short order by one from Google, with an app-capable update of the Apple TV device also likely in the works. Who else will join the party is unclear; Sony’s Vita TV, quietly soft-launched in Japan last year, remains a potentially fascinating contender if it had the right messaging and services behind it, but for now it’s out of the race. One thing seems certain, though; at least this time we’re actually going to have a party.

“Second wave”, you see, rather implies the existence of a first wave of microconsoles, but last time out the party was disappointing, to say the least. In fact, if you missed the first wave, don’t feel too bad; you’re in good company. Despite enthusiasm, Kickstarter dollars and lofty predictions, the first wave of microconsole devices tanked. Ouya, Gamestick and their ilk just turned out to be something few people actually wanted or needed. Somewhat dodgy controllers and weak selections of a sub-set of Android’s game library merely compounded the basic problem – they weren’t sufficiently cheap or appealing compared to the consoles reaching their end-of-life and armed with a vast back catalogue of excellent, cheap AAA software.

“The second wave microconsoles will enjoy all the advantages their predecessors did not. They’ll be backed by significant money, marketing and development effort, and will have a major presence at retail”

That was always the reality which deflated the most puffed-up “microconsoles will kill consoles” argument; the last wave of microconsoles sucked compared to consoles, not just for the core AAA gamer but for just about everyone else as well. Their hardware was poor, their controllers uncomfortable, their software libraries anaemic and their much-vaunted cost savings resulting from mobile game pricing rather than console game pricing tended to ignore the actual behaviour of non-core console gamers – who rarely buy day-one software and as a result get remarkably good value for money from their console gaming experiences. Comparing mobile game pricing or F2P models to $60 console games is a pretty dishonest exercise if you know perfectly well that most of the consumers you’re targeting wouldn’t dream of spending $60 on a console game, and never have to.

Why is the second wave of microconsoles going to be different? Three words: Amazon, Google, Apple. Perhaps Sony; perhaps even Samsung or Microsoft, if the wind blows the right direction for those firms (a Samsung microconsole, sold separately and also bundled into the firm’s TVs, as Sony will probably do with Vita TV in future Bravia televisions, would make particular sense). Every major player in the tech industry has a keen interest in controlling the channel through which media is consumed in the living room. Just as Sony and Microsoft originally entered the games business with a “trojan horse” strategy for controlling living rooms, Amazon and Google now recognise games as being a useful way to pursue the same objective. Thus, unlike the plucky but poorly conceived efforts of the small companies who launched the first wave of microconsoles, the second wave is backed by the most powerful tech giants in the world, whose titanic struggle with each other for control of the means of media distribution means their devices will have enormous backing.

To that end, Amazon has created its own game studios, focusing their efforts on the elusive mid-range between casual mobile games and core console games. Other microconsole vendors may take a different approach, creating schemes to appeal to third-party developers rather than building in-house studios (Apple, at least, is almost guaranteed to go down this path; Google could yet surprise us by pursuing in-house development for key exclusive titles). Either way, the investment in software will come. The second wave of microconsoles will not be “boxes that let you play phone games on your TV”; at least not entirely. Rather, they will enjoy dedicated software support from companies who understand that a hit exclusive game would be a powerful way to drive installed base and usage.

Moreover, this wave of microconsoles will enjoy significant retail support. Fire TV’s edge is obvious; Amazon is the world’s largest and most successful online retailer, and it will give Fire TV prime billing on its various sites. The power of being promoted strongly by Amazon is not to be underestimated. Kindle Fire devices may still be eclipsed by the astonishing strength of the iPad in the tablet market, but they’re effectively the only non-iPad devices in the running, in sales terms, largely because Amazon has thrown its weight as a retailer behind them. Apple, meanwhile, is no laggard at retail, operating a network of the world’s most profitable stores to sell its own goods, while Google, although the runt of the litter in this regard, has done a solid job of balancing direct sales of its Nexus handsets with carrier and retail sales, work which it could bring to bear effectively on a microconsole offering.

In short, the second wave microconsoles will enjoy all the advantages their predecessors did not. They’ll be backed by significant money, marketing and development effort, and will have a major presence at retail. Moreover, they’ll be “trojan horse” devices in more ways than one, since their primary purpose will be as media devices, streaming content from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix and so on, while also serving as solid gaming devices in their own right. Here, then, is the convergence that microconsole advocates (and the rather less credible advocates of Smart TV) have been predicting all along; a tiny box that will stream all your media off the network and also build in enough gaming capability to satisfy the mainstream of consumers. Between the microconsole under the TV and the phone in your pocket, that’s gaming all sewn up, they reckon; just as a smartphone camera is good enough for almost everyone, leaving digital SLRs and their ilk to the devoted hobbyist, the professional and the poseur, a microconsole and a smartphone will be more than enough gaming for almost everyone, leaving dedicated consoles and gaming PCs to a commercially irrelevant hardcore fringe.

There are, I think, two problems with that assessment. The first is the notion that the “hardcore fringe” who will use dedicated gaming hardware is small enough to be commercially irrelevant; I’ve pointed out before that the strong growth of a new casual gaming market does not have to come at the cost of growth in the core market, and may even support it by providing a new stream of interested consumers. This is not a zero-sum game, and will not be a zero-sum game until we reach a point where there are no more non-gaming consumers out there to introduce to our medium. Microconsoles might do very well and still cause not the slightest headache to PlayStation, Xbox or Steam.

The second problem with the assessment is a problem with the microconsoles themselves – a problem which the Fire TV suffers from very seriously, and which will likely be replicated by subsequent devices. The problem is control.

Games are an interactive experience. Having a box which can run graphically intensive games is only one side of the equation – it is, arguably, the less important side of the equation. The other side is the controller, the device through which the player interacts with the game world. The most powerful graphics hardware in the world would be meaningless without some enjoyable, comfortable, well-designed method of interaction for players; and out of the box, Fire TV doesn’t have that.

Sure, you can control games (some of them, anyway) with the default remote control, but that’s going to be a terrible experience. I’m reminded of terribly earnest people ten years ago trying to convince me that you could have fun controlling complex games on pre-smartphone phones, or on TV remote controls linked up to cable boxes; valiant efforts ultimately doomed not only by a non-existent business ecosystem but by a terrible, terrible user experience. Smartphones heralded a gaming revolution not just because of the App Store ecosystem, but because it turned out that a sensitive multi-touch screen isn’t a bad way of controlling quite a lot of games. It still doesn’t work for many types of game; a lot of traditional game genres are designed around control mechanisms that simply can’t be shoehorned onto a smartphone. By and large, though, developers have come to grips with the possibilities and limitations of the touchscreen as a controller, and are making some solid, fun experiences with it.

With Fire TV, and I expect with whatever offering Google and Apple end up making, the controller is an afterthought – both figuratively and literally. You have to buy it separately, which keeps down the cost of the basic box but makes it highly unlikely that the average purchaser will be able to have a good game experience on the device. The controller itself doesn’t look great, which doesn’t help much, but simply being bundled with the box would make a bold statement about Fire TV’s gaming ambitions. As it is, this is not a gaming device. It’s a device that can play games if you buy an add-on; the notion that a box is a “gaming device” just because its internal chips can process game software, even if it doesn’t have the external hardware required to adequately control the experience, is the kind of notion only held by people who don’t play or understand games.

This is the Achilles’ Heel of the second generation of microconsoles. They offer a great deal – the backing of the tech giants, potentially huge investment and enormous retail presence. They could, with the right wind in their sales, help to bring “sofa gaming” to the same immense, casual audience that presently enjoys “pocket gaming”. Yet the giant unsolved question remains; how will these games be controlled? A Fire TV owner, a potential casual gamer, who tries to play a game using his remote control and finds the experience frustrating and unpleasant won’t go off and buy a controller to make things better; he’ll shrug and return to the Hulu app, dismissing the Games panel of the device as being a pointless irrelevance.

The answer doesn’t have to be “bundle a joypad”. Perhaps it’ll be “tether to a smartphone”, a decision which would demand a whole new approach to interaction design (which would be rather exciting, actually). Perhaps a simple Wiimote style wand could double as a remote control and a great motion controller or pointer. Perhaps (though I acknowledge this as deeply unlikely) a motion sensor like a “Kinect Lite” could be the solution. Many compelling approaches exist which deserve to be tried out; but one thing is absolutely certain. While the second generation of microconsoles are going to do very well in sales terms, they will primarily be bought as media streaming boxes – and will never be an important games platform until the question of control gets a good answer.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Federal Gov’t Wants Instagram Data From Facebook Now

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook released its second government requests report covering the second half of 2013, and it expands its scope from the first one in two ways. First, it includes requests to restrict or remove users’ content from the site, whereas the first report was limited to requests for account information. And second, the report now includes data on Instagram, the photo sharing site owned by Facebook.

Facebook is not breaking out the number of Instagram requests; they’re included in the overall tallies. But Instagram’s inclusion speaks to the popularity of the service, which Facebook acquired in 2012 but didn’t include in its government requests report for the first half of 2013.

The report includes data on government requests to receive data about Instagram accounts and to restrict access to its content.

Facebook receives requests to restrict or remove content based on countries’ laws over what can be shared online. When the request is legally sound, Facebook restricts access to content in the specific country whose government objected to it. If Facebook also determines that the flagged content violates its own standards, it removes the content globally. Separately, Facebook also receives requests for account information and data, many of which relate to criminal cases such as robberies or kidnappings.

Facebook does not hand over data every time it receives a government request — sometimes the requests are overly broad or vague, or do not comply with legal standards, the company says.

In the U.S., Facebook received about 12,600 law enforcement requests in the second half of 2013, up from the range of 11,000-12,000 it tallied in its first report. For the second half of 2013, Facebook said it produced data for about 81 percent of the requests.

Regarding U.S. government requests about national security matters, Facebook reported it may have received none or as many as 999, saying it couldn’t be more specific due to U.S. legal restrictions.

Governments in other countries across the world are also interested in Facebook users’ data. India ranked second behind the U.S. with about 3,600 requests targeting more than 4,700 accounts. Facebook produced data for roughly half of those requests.

More than 1,900 requests came from the U.K., while the governments of France, Germany and Italy each served Facebook with more than 1,600 data requests.

Besides Facebook, other companies like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft periodically release their own government request reports, as part of an effort to be more transparent to users. The tallies have taken on increased significance following leaks about U.S. government surveillance made by former contractor Edward Snowden.

 

Amazon Rumored To Launch Smartphone In Time For Christmas Season

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon.com Inc is making plans to unveil its long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people briefed on the company’s plans.

The Internet retailer would jump into a crowded market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The company has recently been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. It intends to announce the device in June and ship to stores around the end of September, the newspaper cited the unidentified sources as saying.

Amazon has made great strides into the hardware arena as it seeks to boost sales of digital content and puts its online store in front of more users. Amazon recently launched its $99 Fire TV video-streaming box and its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets already command respectable U.S. market share after just a few years on the market.

Rumors of an Amazon-designed smartphone have circulated for years, though executives have previously played down ambitions to leap into a heavily competitive and increasingly saturated market.

Apple and Samsung, which once accounted for the lion’s share of the smartphone market, are struggling to maintain margins as new entrants such as Huawei and Lenovo target the lower-income segment.

To stand out from the crowd, Amazon intends to equip its phones with screens that display three-dimensional images without a need for special glasses, the Journal said.

Amazon officials were not immediately available for comment.

 

HP To Shell Out $108M In Corruption And Bribery Case

April 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Hewlett-Packard will pay $108 million in penalties after subsidiaries in Russia, Poland and Mexico were found to have given out bribes to gain business, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

An international subsidiary of HP has agreed to plead guilty to violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and admit to its role in bribing Russian officials to secure a big contract there, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The U.S. is also entering into “criminal resolutions” with HP subsidiaries in Poland and Mexico, relating to contracts with Poland’s national police agency and Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, the DOJ said.

The HP entities will pay a total of $77 million in criminal penalties and forfeiture related to those dealings. HP has also reached a deal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that will cost it a further $31 million.

The subsidiaries created a “slush fund” for bribe payments and set up “an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts” to launder money, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz said in a statement.

HP said it had cooperated with the investigations.

“The misconduct described in the settlement was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company,” John Schultz, HP’s general counsel, said in a statement.

The investigation had been ongoing for some time, and HP said last month it was close to resolving the matter.

The Russian dealings date back to 1999, when the government there announced a project to automate the IT systems at the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation — essentially Russia’s equivalent of the DOJ.

The project was worth more than $100 million, and employees at HP Russia structured the deal to include a fund of several million dollars, at least part of which was intended as bribes for Russian officials, the DOJ said.

The DOJ acknowledged HP’s “extensive cooperation,” and HP said it would set up certain compliance and reporting programs.

It’s not the only company to have run into trouble doing business overseas. IBM and Oracle in the past have also reported potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

 

Google Shows Interest In Service Robots, Invests In Savioke

April 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has put funding into robotic’s company Savioke, which plans to develop a robot that could work in places such as nursing homes and hospitals.

The search engine’s funding arm, Google Ventures, invested an undisclosed sum that’s part of a $2 million seed financing package led by Morado Venture Partners, with AME Cloud Ventures and individuals also pitching in.

Established in 2013, California-based Savioke is led by CEO Steve Cousins, who was in charge of the creation of the PR2 robot and the popular Robot Operating System (ROS) while president and CEO of Willow Garage, an influential robotics firm that spun off eight robotics companies.

Savioke did not give details about its plans to develop a service robot, but said the machine would use the open-source ROS and customer trials would begin later this year.

Its website describes its aspiration to bring robotics to “hotels, elder care facilities, hospitals, restaurants…anywhere people sleep or eat.”

“We see tremendous opportunity by delivering a robot for the services industry,” Cousins wrote in an email. “In the coming months, the information and feedback we receive from our trials will help us determine our first point of entry.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for information about the investment.

With former Android chief Andy Rubin leading its interest in robotics, the search engine has been on a shopping spree for robot companies lately.

It has acquired such firms as Japan-based Schaft, which developed a full-size bipedal humanoid robot that won the prestigious DARPA Robotics Challenge trials in December 2013. The challenge is sponsored by the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an arm of the Department of Defense.

The jewel in Google’s robot crown, however, is Boston Dynamics, a military contractor known for creating both humanoid machines such as the Terminator-like Atlas, and robots inspired by animals, such as BigDog, a cargo-carrying machine funded by DARPA.

Google CEO Larry Page has speculated that Rubin’s robot project could succeed like Android.

 

BlackBerry May Consider Leaving Handset Market

April 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd would think about abandoning its handset business if it remains unprofitable, its chief executive officer said on Wednesday, as the technology company looks to expand its corporate reach with investments, acquisitions and partnerships.

“If I cannot make money on handsets, I will not be in the handset business,” John Chen said in an interview, adding that the time frame for such a decision was short. He would not be more specific, but said it should be possible to make money off shipments of as few as 10 million a year.

At its peak, BlackBerry shipped 52.3 million devices in fiscal 2011, while it recorded revenue on less than 2 million last quarter.

Chen, who took the helm of the struggling company in November, said BlackBerry was also looking to invest in or team up with other companies in regulated industries such as healthcare, and financial and legal services, all of which require highly secure communications.

The chief executive said small acquisitions to strengthen BlackBerry’s network security offerings were also possible.

“We are building an engineering team on the service side that is focused on security. We are building an engineering team on the device side that is focused on security. We will do some partnerships and we will probably, potentially do an M&A on security.”

He said security had become more important to businesses and government since the revelations about U.S. surveillance made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

In a wide-ranging interview in New York, Chen acknowledged past management mistakes and said he had a long-term strategy to complement the short-term goals of staying afloat and stemming customer defections.

“You have to live short term. Maybe the prior management had the luxury to bet the world would come to it. I don’t have the luxury at all. I’m losing money and burning cash.”

In March, the embattled smartphone maker reported a quarterly net loss of $423 million and a 64 percent drop in its revenues, underscoring the magnitude of the challenge Chen faces in turning around the company.

Chen said BlackBerry remained on track to be cash-flow positive by the end of the current fiscal year, which runs to the end of February 2015, and to return to profit some time in the fiscal year after that.

Chen said his long-term plans for BlackBerry included competing in the burgeoning business of connecting all manner of devices, from kitchen appliances to automotive consoles to smartphones.

Chen said he was not sure how long it would take for the “machine-to-machine” or “M2M” world to become a mainstream business, but he said he was sure that was coming.

“We are not only interested in managing BlackBerry devices. We are interested in managing all devices that you would like to speak to each other,” he said. “To achieve our dream of being a major player in M2M requires more partnerships with others,” including telecom companies eager to participate.

 

 

Are Cyber-crimes Taxing Security Vendors?

April 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A surge in cybercrime is forcing security vendors to release security updates every 40 minutes, according to security firm Symantec.

Senior manager for Symantec Security Response, Orla Cox, reported the development during a briefing attended by The INQUIRER.

“We’re seeing more sophisticated attacks than ever before and people want security,” she said. “Nowadays we are rolling out virus signature upgrades around every 40-50 minutes. They are rapid response upgrades that go through partial vetting. We then follow them up with three upgrades per day that are fully certified.”

Cox said Symantec began rolling out the rapid updates to help mitigate the growing number of malware variants and active cyber campaigns targeting its customers.

“It’s been about shaving off minutes for the last couple of years. If you came to us a few years ago it was one [update] and before that it would have taken hours. The rapid updates are for people that need a rapid response, like those suffering an infection.”

She said Symantec blocked 568,700 web attacks on its customers and detected a massive 1.6 million malware variants per day in 2013. But despite helping customers, Cox said the company’s rapid update cycle has increased the risk of pushing out an update with a false positive signature.

“The biggest quality issue we face is the danger of false positive definitions. There’s a risk of detecting something clean as malicious, that’s the big no no in our industry, so it’s as much about building definitions libraries about legit files as malicious,” she said.

False positives are updates from security providers that list legitimate files as malware and block them from running. In the past the faulty updates have caused damage to many companies. In 2013, Malwarebytes crippled thousands of its customers’ machines when it issued a false positive update.

Cox said the influx of new threats has also forced Symantec to expand its analysis procedures in recent years. “We’ve had to evolve how we work, it’s not just about providing protection and moving on any more. Threats and the landscape have changed and to address this we’ve begun doing intelligence work,” she said.

“We do bespoke research on occasion, with both customers and law enforcement. These situations are ones where we have the skills they don’t – that’s the benefit of us being here every day, reverse-engineering malware.

“Doing this over the years we’ve had to develop a number of systems and now we’re trying to understand the individual attacks in the context of who did them and why.”

Symantec is one of many technology firms to begin adopting an intelligence-based approach to cyber defence. Facebook unveiled a new automated ThreatData security service designed to detect and catalogue new malware families earlier in March.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Lenovo Says More Low-priced Android Tablets Coming In May

April 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

More lower priced Android tablets ranging from $129 to $249 are coming from Lenovo.

The new Tab A-series tablets, which will ship next month, have screen sizes ranging from 7-10 inches and are designed for Web surfing and home entertainment, Lenovo said. Other than screen sizes and weight, the tablets have mostly identical features.

The cheapest tablet in the lineup is the Tab A7-50, which weighs 320 grams and starts at $129. The TAB A8 weighs 360 grams and is priced starting at $179. The Tab A10 is much heftier at 560 grams, but has a larger battery that offers a Wi-Fi browsing time of eight hours, Lenovo said in a specification sheet.

All the tablets have screens that can display images at a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. The tablets have Android 4.2, code-named Jelly Bean, which will be upgradeable to version 4.4, code-named KitKat.

Common features also include Wi-Fi b/g/n, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and an SD card slot for up to 32GB of expandable storage. The tablets have a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear camera. Another feature is integrated 3G mobile broadband, though Lenovo did not say whether it was included in the price or is optional.

The tablets will ship in the U.S. Lenovo did not immediately provide information about shipment plans for other countries.

Lenovo offers a range of tablets for Android and Windows 8.1, with models starting at $99. The company is trying to create brands around Android-based Yoga tablets, which are being promoted by actor Ashton Kutcher, and ThinkPad tablets, which run on Windows.

 

Twitter Unveils Redesign Of User Profile Pages

April 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has revealed a redesign of its user profile pages, the latest in a series of steps promised by the company to bring new users to the seven-year-old service.

In response to an all-time low in user growth figures during the recent quarter, Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo informed worried Wall Street analysts that the company would make a number of changes to freshen up the service.

The redesign, while mostly cosmetic, hinted at what Costolo described in February as a willingness to experiment with new ways to organize content. Users can now “pin” a tweet to stay at the top of their feed, a rare instance of Twitter departing from the continuously rolling format that has defined the service.

Tweets that have received more re-tweets or replies will also appear slightly larger to spur more user engagement.

The new layout, which will be available to a small group of users initially, will be widely deployed to Twitter’s 241 million users in the coming weeks, the company said.

Twitter reported higher-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue on February 6, but investors focused on user growth of just 3.8 percent, the lowest rate of quarter-on-quarter growth since Twitter began disclosing user figures. The San Francisco-based company went public in November.

In recent weeks, Twitter has also reportedly been testing a number of new advertising units, such as ads that include download links for mobile apps.

As part of Tuesday’s refresh, Twitter said users will also be allowed to select a large banner picture to display across the top of their profile page, as well as a much larger profile picture, two features that resemble another social network familiar to most of the world’s Internet users: Facebook.

 

Security Bug In OpenSSL Leaves Webservers Vulnerable

April 10, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A critical security bug in OpenSSL that allows encrypted data to be stolen by hackers has been uncovered by researchers and is believed to have exposed millions to cyber spying.

Dubbed Heartbleed, the bug was discoverd in a software library used in servers, operating systems and email and instant messaging systems and allows anyone to read the memory of systems using vulnerable versions of OpenSSL software.

OpenSSL is an open source implementation of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols by which email, instant messaging, and some VPNs are kept secure.

The vulnerability is called Heartbleed because it’s in the OpenSSL implementation of the TLS/DTLS heartbeat extension described in RFC6520, and when it is exploited it can lead to leaks of memory contents from the server to the client and from the client to the server.

The researchers from defense security firm Codenomicon said that attackers could take advantage of the bug to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from server or client systems, and impersonate users and servers.

“This compromises the secret keys used to identify service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content,” the researchers wrote on a website dedicated to the bug.

“Without using any privileged information or credentials, we were able to steal from ourselves the secret keys used for our X.509 certificates, user names and passwords, instant messages, emails and business critical documents and communication.”

Because such attacks are not traceable, it’s not clear how widespread the bug is or was, but it is thought that at least two-thirds of websites could be affected, as the most notable software using OpenSSL are the open source webservers Apache and nginx.

The researchers pointed out that the combined market share of those two webservers was over 66 percent of the active websites on the internet, according to Netcraft’s Web Server Survey released this month.

“You are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly. OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet,” the researchers added.

“Your popular social site, your company’s site, commerce site, hobby site, site you install software from or even sites run by your government might be using vulnerable OpenSSL. Furthermore you might have client side software on your computer that could expose the data from your computer if you connect to compromised services.”

Although an updated version of OpenSSL has been released to patch this security vulnerability, it might take time before some operating system developers and software distributions deploy it.

“Recovery from this leak requires patching the vulnerability, revocation of the compromised keys and reissuing and redistributing new keys,” the researchers said. “Even doing all this will still leave any traffic intercepted by the attacker in the past vulnerable to decryption.”

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Intel Laying Off 1500, Shutting Costa Rican Operations

April 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Chipmaker Intel, grappling with a dwindling PC market, is shutting its assembly and test operation in Costa Rica and eliminating 1,500 jobs.

The closure of the site, which is a significant contributor to Costa Rica’s exports, falls within a larger plan announced by the chipmaker earlier this year to cut spending as it attempts to grow beyond PCs into the mobile market.

“It’s being closed and consolidated into our other operations throughout the world,” spokesman Chuck Mulloy said of the assembly and test operations in Costa Rica.

During the next two quarters, Intel will move assembly and testing from its site in Heredia, where it has been present since 1997, to existing sites in China, Malaysia and Vietnam, Mulloy said.

Costa Rica President Elect Luis Guillermo Solis met with Intel executives on Tuesday morning and they assured him the decision had nothing to do with the election of his new government on Sunday, according to a statement from Guillermo’s office.

“The decision bears no relation to the election of the new Costa Rica government or the market conditions for…potential foreign investment,” the statement said.

Intel will continue to have over 1,000 engineers, finance and human resources employees in Costa Rica and do some research and development there. The chipmaker expects to add another 200 “high-value positions” in Costa Rica later this year, Mulloy said.

Intel dominates the PC chip industry, but it has been slow to adapt its processors for smartphones and tablets, markets now dominated by rivals such as Qualcomm Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The cuts in Costa Rica are consistent with Intel’s announcement in January that it would reduce its global workforce of 107,000 employees by about 5 percent this year, Mulloy said.

Also in January, Intel said a newly built factory in Chandler, Arizona, originally slated as a $5 billion project that in late 2013 would start producing Intel’s most advanced chips, would remain closed for the foreseeable future while other factories at the same site are upgraded.