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Manufacturer Coolpad Has Built Backdoor Into Android Devices

December 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Chinese smartphone maker Coolpad has created an extensive “backdoor” into its Android devices that can track users, serve them unwanted advertisements and install unauthorized apps, a U.S. security firm alleged today.

In a research paper released today, Palo Alto Networks detailed its investigation of the backdoor, which it dubbed “CoolReaper.”

“Coolpad has built a backdoor that goes beyond the usual data collection,” said Ryan Olson, director of intelligence at Palo Alto’s Unit 42. “This is way beyond what one malicious insider could have done.”

Coolpad, which sells smartphones under several brand names — including Halo, also called Danzen — is one of China’s largest ODMs (original device manufacturers). According to IDC, it ranked fifth in China in the third quarter, with 8.4% of the market, and has expanded sales outside of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan to Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Western Europe.

Tipped off by a string of complaints from Coolpad smartphone users in China and Taiwan — who griped about seeing advertisements pop up and apps suddenly appear — Palo Alto dug into the ROM updates that Coolpad offered on its support site and found widespread evidence of CoolReaper.

Of the 77 ROMs that Palo Alto examined, 64 contained CoolReaper, including 41 hosted by Coolpad and signed with its own digital certificate.

Other evidence that Coolpad was the creator of the backdoor, said Olson, included the malware’s command-and-control servers — which were registered to domains belonging to the Chinese company and used, in fact, for its public cloud — and an administrative console that other researchers had found last month because of a vulnerability in Coolpad’s backend control system. The console confirmed CoolReaper’s functionality.

 

 

Will ARM Have A Profitable 2015?

December 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

British chip designer ARM could cash in on the mobile industry’s rush to transition to 64-bit operating systems and hardware.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Matt Ramsey argues that ARM is still a ‘Buy’ stock, as it’s trading at $43, while his price target is $54 to $56. Ramsay is upbeat for a number of reasons and the 64-bit craze is one o them.

He pointed out that sales of ARMv8 chips are raping up and are no longer limited to Apple. Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 810 is also based on ARMv8, along with all other upcoming 64-bit SoCs. Ramsey named Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung as the three biggest contributors to ARM’s 64-bit business.

In addition to smartphones, ARMv8 designs are finding their way into enterprise networks and servers, creating even more opportunities. This is good news for ARM, as its royalties for processor designs based on the ARMv8 instruction set are significantly higher than for venerable 32-bit parts.

Courtesy-Fud

HGST Buys Skyera Cloud Services

December 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

HGST has bought flash memory specialist Skyera after weeks of speculation.

Skyera, a startup offering cloud server arrays at prices comparable to those offered by traditional spindle drives, was already considered ripe for a takeover.

The company will be absorbed into HGST, the parent of which, Western Digital, was an early funder of Skyera along with Dell, Toshiba and Micron, giving it unprecedented access to NAND technology from the inside.

Western Digital is clearly pleased with what it has bought its HGST subsidiary for Christmas.

“Western Digital has established a leadership position in the fastest growing areas of the storage industry,” said Steve Milligan, president and CEO of Western Digital.

“The Skyera acquisition supports our strategic growth objectives and plans to deliver long-term value to customers, shareholders and employees.”

The INQUIRER spoke to HGST president Mike Cordano in September, when he warned us that HGST was “no longer your father’s hard drive company”. The combination of the Skyera acquisition and the company’s purchase of the Virident optimisation platform has made it a major force in flash memory at the enterprise level.

HGST is still seeking ways to make the most out of traditional spindle drives, through the use of helium, but is increasingly looking like a company in the midst of a transformation into a flash specialist.

Terms of the deal have not been announced, but it is understood to be an all cash affair with a value reflecting the importance of this transformation.

Cordano also explained that HGST wanted to disrupt the mindset of storage purchasing to look at whole-life costs. With Skyera, which is known for very high density, low-cost systems that reduce total costs, this could certainly help HGST achieve its goal.

Courtesy-TheInq

Study Finds Android Apps Frequently Using Permissions Granted

December 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Android apps really take advantage of those permissions they ask for to access users’ personal information: one online store records a phone’s location up to 10 times a minute, French researchers have found. The tools to manage such access are limited, and inadequate given how much information phones can gather.

In a recent study, ten volunteers used Android phones that tracked app behavior using a monitoring app, Mobilitics, developed by the French National Institute for Informatics Research (INRIA) in conjunction with the National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL). Mobilitics recorded every time another app accessed an item of personal data — the phone’s location, an identifier, photos, messages and so on — and whether it was subsequently transmitted to an external server. The log of the apps’ personal information use was stored on the phone and downloaded at the end of the three months for analysis.

The volunteers were encouraged to use the phones as if they were their own, and together used 121 apps over the period from July to September. A similar study last year used a special iOS app to examine the way iPhone apps access users’ personal data.

Many apps access phones’ identifying characteristics to track their users, the researchers said. One of the few options users have to avoid this tracking is a switch in the “Google Settings” app to reset their phone’s advertising ID. That’s not much help, though, as apps have other ways to identify users. Almost two-thirds of apps studied in the three-month real-world test accessed at least one mobile phone identifier, a quarter of them at least two identifiers, and a sixth three or more. That allows the apps to build up profiles of their users for advertising purposes.

Location was one of the most frequently-accessed items of data. It accounted for 30 percent of all accesses to personal information during the test, and 30 percent of the apps studied accessed it at some point. The Facebook app recorded one volunteer’s location 150,000 times during the three-month period — more than once per minute, on average, while the Google Play Store tracked another user ten times per minute at times. Often, the only use apps make of such information is to serve personalized advertising, as was the case with one game that recorded a user’s location 3,000 times during the study.

 

 

Demand For Solar Power Continues To Rise

December 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Demand for solar power grew at an impressive clip by 16%  in 2014, representing 44 billion watts (gigawatts) of capacity purchased during the year.

At the same time, China, which in past years had flooded the market with solar panels, did not see growth as strong as had been expected. The growth was mainly due to healthy U.S. and Japanese markets, according to the report from EnergyTrend, a research division of TrendForce.

Overall, supply and demand remained stable, according to EnergyTrend.

“At the end of 2014, the overall supply chain maintained a solid utilization rate, while China’s tier-one module manufacturers also continued to break shipment records,” Jason Huang, research manager at EnergyTrend, said in the report.

Ironically, because the price of photovoltaic (PV) modules (the building blocks of solar panels) bottomed out last year, investors worldwide became concerned that profits would also drop. PV prices plummeted after China saturated the market with low-cost solar panel modules. The result: PV capacity rose from 31 gigawatts (GW or a billion watts) in 2012 to a record 39GW last year, even as investments in solar capacity dropped, according to a 2014 report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In 2015, worldwide solar demand is projected to be 51.4GW, with the key markets — China, the United States and Japan — taking up 57% of the overall share.

The rise of emerging markets (the solar installation countries that are not in the top 10) has begun to appear. In 2015, the growth momentum of the emerging markets will become more apparent, and the overall demand will surpass 10GW.

 

 

Red Hat RHEL Adds IBM’s Power 8

December 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Red Hat has announced the availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7.1 Beta with enhancements to improve ease of use, manageability and performance, as well as support for IBM Power8 little endian architecture.

RHEL 7.1 Beta is the next point release following the enterprise Linux vendor’s initial production release of RHEL 7.0 in June.

RHEL 7.1 adds OpenLMI support to streamline system configuration management with thin logical volume manager provisioning, along with kernel and user mode components supporting Ceph block storage devices.

The update also offers support for Microsoft CIFS for mixed vendor data centre environments that need it, providing native access to Microsoft Windows file and print services.

RHEL 7.1 also enhances identity management security with one-time password authentication via LDAP and Kerberos protocols and the FreeOTP standard, and introduces a certificate authority management tool.

In addition, RHEL 7.1 includes Security Content Automation Protocol Security Guides that reduce the complexity of compliance testing and enhance security assurance.

Building on RHEL 7.0 support for Linux containers in physical, virtual and cloud deployments in development, test and production environments, RHEL 7.1 adds access to Docker 1.2 in the RHEL 7 Extras channel.

For users with demanding workload responsiveness requirements, RHEL 7.1 adds real-time dispatching for workloads that require very precise and deterministic processing times. This capability is delivered with Linux kernel enhancements and additional userspace packages that can be added on top of a stock RHEL 7.1 installation.

Finally, RHEL 7.1 includes support for IBM Power8 little endian architecture for customers using the IBM Power8 systems infrastructure.

Running in little endian mode accelerates application portability to the IBM Power8 systems, thus allowing customers using IBM Power8 systems to use the existing ecosystem of Linux applications as developed for the x86 architecture.

Interested users can read the RHEL 7.1 Beta Release Notes, and can download the RHEL 7.1 Beta at Red Hat’s website.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Softbank Decides To Shrink Silicon Valley Presence

December 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Japan’s SoftBank Corp  will soon scale back its Silicon Valley offices, sources with knowledge of the matter said, signaling the company won’t revive efforts to buy T-Mobile U.S. Inc .

SoftBank subsidiary Sprint Corp dropped its bid to acquire the No. 4 U.S. carrier in August but the companies did not rule out future consolidation.

The Japanese telecommunications company is now transferring “the bulk” of manpower out of its West Coast operations, including dispersing development engineers to Sprint headquarters in Kansas, said the people, who declined to be identified because the move has not been made public.

SoftBank is also considering renting out one of two buildings it leased at an annual cost of over $3 million to accommodate a T-Mobile-driven expansion, the people said. The building has stood largely empty, they said.

The failed bid by Japan’s acquisitive No. 3 mobile carrier was a rare setback for founder Masayoshi Son. The billionaire encountered resistance from U.S. regulators, who insisted on keeping the number of major wireless carriers at four.

“There were people sent to Silicon Valley for the purpose of making (mobile phone) platforms, but that job was done and there’s nothing else to do,” said one of the people.

SoftBank spokesman Matthew Nicholson said some SoftBank employees are moving back to Tokyo or going to Kansas as certain joint projects between the company and Sprint have finished. He declined to comment regarding the relationship between the departures and the failed bid to acquire T-Mobile.

SoftBank bought No.3 U.S. carrier Sprint last year for $22 billion as part of an overseas expansion that has included investments across Asia.

 

Facebook Drops Bing From Search Results

December 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Facebook Inc has discontinued including results from Microsoft Corp’s Bing search engine on its social networking site.

The move, confirmed by a company spokesperson, comes as Facebook has revamped its own search offerings, introducing a tool on Monday that allows users to quickly find past comments and other information posted by their friends on Facebook.

The decision may reflect the increasing importance that Facebook sees in Web search technology, a market dominated by rival Google Inc.

Searches on Facebook have long been geared toward helping users connect with friends and to find other information that exists within the walls of the 1.35 billion-user social networking service. But for years, Facebook’s search results also included links to standalone websites that were provided by Bing.

“We’re not currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook,” a company spokesperson told Reuters. “We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.”

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has flagged search as one of the company’s key growth initiatives, noting in July that there were more than 1 billion search queries occurring on Facebook every day and hinting that the vast amount of information that users share within Facebook could eventually replace the need to search the Web for answers to certain questions.

“There is more than a trillion posts, which some of the search engineers on the team like to remind me, is bigger than any Web search corpus out there,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call with analysts in July.

Microsoft’s Bing is the No.2 Web search provider in the U.S., with a nearly 20 percent share of the market according to industry research firm comScore.

Facebook and Microsoft have a longstanding relationship dating back to Microsoft’s $240 million investment in Facebook, for a 1.6 percent stake in the company, in October 2007. As part of that deal, Microsoft provided banner ads on Facebook’s website in international markets.

 

 

Samsung Finally Starts 14nm FinFET

December 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A company insider has spilled the beans in Korea, claiming that Samsung has started Apple A9 production in 14nm FinFET.

The A9 is the next generation SoC for Apple iPhone and iPad products and it is manufactured on the Samsung – GlobalFoundries 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. In the other news, Samsung’s Ki-nam, president of the company’s semiconductor business and head of System LSI business has confirmed that the company started production of 14-nanometre FinFET chips.

The report mentions Austin as a possible site for Apple products but we wonder if the GlobalFoundries Fab 8 in New York State could become one of the partners for the 14nm FinFET manufacturing. Samsung didn’t officially reveal the client for the 14nm FinFET, but Apple is the most obvious candidate, while we expect to see 14 / 16nm FinFET graphics chips from AMD and Nvidia but most likely in the latter half of 2015 at best.

Qualcomm is likely to announce new LTE modem based on 14nm FinFET and the flagship SoC Snapdragon 810 is a 20nm chip. Qualcomm is manufacturing its 810 chips as we speak to meet demand for flagship Android phones coming in Q1 2015. Flagship Samsung, HTC and LG phones among others are likely to use Snapdragon 810 as a replacement for this year’s Snapdragon 801, a high end chip that ended up in millions of high-end phones.

Samsung / GlobalFoundries14nm FinFET process is 15 percent smaller, 20 percent faster, and 35 percent more power efficient compared to 20nm processors. This definitely sounds exiting and will bring more performance into phones, tablets, GPUs and will significantly decrease power consumption. The move from 28nm is long overdue.

We believe that Qualcomm’s LTE modem might be the first chip to officially come with this manufacturing process and Apple will probably take most of the 14nm production for an update in its tablets and phones scheduled for 2015.

Courtesy-Fud

Intel Shows New IoT Platform

December 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel showed off a new platform which it claims makes it easier for companies to create Internet-connected smart products using its chips, security and software.

Intel’s platform is like Lego and based on the chipmaker’s components and software for companies to create smart, connected devices. The only difference is that you can’t enact your own Doctor Who scene from it.

Doug Davis, head of Intel’s Internet of Things business, said at a launch event in San Francisco it will make it a doddle to connect to data centres in order analyse data collected from devices’ sensors.

Intel’s chips should compute capability in end-point devices that scale from its highest performance Xeon processor to the Quark family of products.

Intel’s Internet of Things Group had $530 million in revenue in the September quarter. That accounted for just 4 percent of Intel’s total revenue in the quarter, but it grew 14 percent over the previous year, which was faster than the company’s PC business.

Dell, SAP, Tata Consultancy, Accenture and other companies are working with the new reference model, Davis said.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Instagram Still Gaining Users, Surpassed Twitter

December 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Photo-sharing site Instagram is reporting  that its active monthly user base reached 300 million, a dramatic 50% increase in the past nine months.

Instagram, which launched in 2010, edged past 8-year-old Twitter and its reported 284 million monthly active users.

Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion, has nothing to worry about. In September, the social network reported that its own active monthly user base had hit 1.35 billion.

“Over the past four years, what began as two friends with a dream has grown into a global community that shares more than 70 million photos and videos each day,” wrote Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom in a blog post. “We’re thrilled to watch this community thrive and witness the amazing connections people make over shared passions and journeys.”

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Instagram’s impressive growth stems from its popularity with millennials, who have a strong connection with social networking, selfies and images.

“The younger generation, in particular, is a very visually oriented group that loves selfies,” Kerravala said. “Pictures just say more — they’re fast and easy. Instead of saying, ‘What a great view of the Grand Canyon,’ snap a photo and upload it.”

He noted that Twitter users can upload photos and short videos to the micro-blogging site, but the site is mainly used for its 140-character or less messages.

“I think Twitter is more for information dissemination, where Instagram is more about sharing content,” Kerravala said.

 

 

BitTorrent Releases It’s Maelstorm Browser

December 12, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Bittorrent has announced the alpha release of its latest product, a browser known as Project Maelstrom.

The browser, which is currently invite only, is designed to utilize the BitTorrent protocol to power the web.

The concept is simple. Instead of hosting content on a centralized server, it is distributed peer to peer. This is the latest in a long line of ways to legally utilize the BitTorrent protocol legally, moving its reputation away from the illegal file-sharing days of old.

It’s a little bit like hosting a website using the inbuilt IIS services hidden away in Windows, but with a less linear distribution infrastructure, and the added safety of not giving someone access to data stored directly on your computer.

The company has already launched BitTorrent Sync, a file synchronization system that works across remote locations and BitTorrent Bleep, also currently in alpha, offering peer-to-peer instant messaging. Media file-sharing has found a legal model with BitTorrent Bundles.

In the company blog, CEO Eric Klinker said, “If we are successful, we believe this project has the potential to help address some of the most vexing problems facing the Internet today.

“How can we keep the Internet open? How can we keep access to the Internet neutral? How can we better ensure our private data is not misused by large companies? How can we help the Internet scale efficiently for content?”

Promoting the legal use of BitTorrent is a primary consideration for the company which bears the name of a practice associated with sites like the recently, and possibly permanently erstwhile Pirate Bay.

The move has been sparked, in part by the threats to net neutrality that have come to the forefront of the minds of internet users over the past year. By decentralizing web distribution, BitTorrent hopes to remove the “gatekeeping” aspect provided by the companies who are overstepping their boundaries in attempts to run the web.

Courtesy-TheInq

Intel Unveils Internet of Things Platform

December 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel Corp on Tuesday showed off a new platform to make it easier for device makers to create Internet-connected smart products using its chips, security and software.

Intel’s platform is like a set of building blocks based on the chipmaker’s components and software for companies to create smart, connected devices, Doug Davis, head of Intel’s Internet of Things business, said at a launch event in San Francisco.

It also aims to make it easier to connect to data centers in order analyze data collected from devices’ sensors.

“We’re creating compute capability in end-point devices that scale from our highest performance Xeon processor to the Quark family of products,” Davis said, referring to Intel’s chips.

After moving slowly in recent years to adapt its personal computer chips for smartphones and tablets, Intel is determined to make sure it is on the leading edge of future computing trends, industry experts and company executives have said.

Adding processors, sensors and web connectivity to devices from soccer balls to industrial machinery, an emerging trend dubbed the Internet of Things, has become a new battleground for Intel, rival Qualcomm and other technology companies.

The install base of wireless gadgets will more than double by the end of the decade, with most of the growth coming from smart devices other than PCs and smartphones, according to market research firm ABI Research.

Intel’s Internet of Things Group had $530 million in revenue in the September quarter. That accounted for just 4 percent of Intel’s total revenue in the quarter, but it grew 14 percent over the previous year, which was faster than the company’s PC business.

Dell, SAP, Tata Consultancy, Accenture and other companies are working with the new reference model, Davis said.

 

 

Hacking Could Cost Sony Studios $100 Million

December 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Sony Corp’s movie studio could face tens of millions of dollars in costs from the massive network breach that severely hindered its operations and exposed sensitive data, according to cybersecurity experts who have studied past breaches.

The tab will be less than the $171 million Sony estimated for the breach of its Playstation Network in 2011 because it does not appear to involve customer data, the experts said.

Major costs for the attack by unidentified hackers include the investigation into what happened, computer repair or replacement, and steps to prevent a future attack. Lost productivity while operations were disrupted will add to the price tag.

The attack, believed to be the worst of its type on a company on U.S. soil, also hits Sony’s reputation for a perceived failure to safeguard information, said Jim Lewis, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Usually, people get over it, but it does have a short-term effect,” said Lewis, who estimated costs for Sony could stretch to $100 million.

It typically takes at least six months after a breach to determine the full financial impact, Lewis said.

Sony has declined to estimate costs, saying it was still assessing the impact.

The company has insurance to cover data breaches, a person familiar with the matter said. Cybersecurity insurance typically reimburses only a portion of costs from hacking incidents, experts said.

 

 

Seagate Launching 8TB Magnetic Storage Drive

December 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Seagate has announced its first drive based on shingled magnetic recording (SMR), a new technology that could give mechanical drives another lease on life.

The first Seagate product to be based on SMR technology is an 8TB hard drive priced at $260, which sounds like relatively good value given the pricing of traditional 4TB drives.

Seagate markets the new product as an ‘Archive HDD’ which makes perfect sense – few people would use a huge 3.5-inch unit as their system drive. Such drives are usually used solely for storage, paired with a speedy 250GB-class SSD acting as the system drive.

Another angle is power efficiency. SMR is supposed to deliver superior efficiency, making the drives even more suitable to the archive role.

However, the first drive (ST8000AS0002) is no slouch. It is a 5900rpm unit with 128MB cache, with average read and write speeds on 150MB/s. The MTBF is 800,000 hours, which sounds encouraging.
Seagate is not the only outfit working on SMR drives – in fact all hard drive makers are. The new technology allows Seagate to produce 1.33TB platters, or 33% more than previous generation drives that maxed out at 1TB per platter. The increase in density is made possible by changing the way data is stored compared to perpendicular recording.

This means SMR drives can be slimmer, quieter, more efficient and of course cheaper. It also means that we will get some weird capacities. For example, Seagate is already talking about 5TB drives. The company plans to launch 5TB, 6TB and 8TB models based on SMR.

The trade-off is that SMR drives will end up somewhat slower than perpendicular drives, but then again they will be cheaper. In fact, the new 8TB drive is expected to end up about 10% cheaper than perpendicular 6TB drives.

You can check out Seagate’s video explaining the new technology after the break.

Courtesy-Fud