Bloomberg reported that IBM supplies server equipment to the Pentagon and that national security concerns have been raised.
The inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) is set to investigate whether Chinese technology company Lenovo is a safe buyer for a company that builds products to process so much potentially sensitive data.
Application for the $2.3bn purchase, which was announced on 23 January, has been made to the CFIUS, however investigations might take up to 75 days.
Concerns might be alleviated by the decision to keep the IBM server business as a separate subsidiary for five years, with a possible extension. In the past, this was not the case as IBM’s personal computer division was rebranded by Lenovo soon after its acquisition in 2005.
US officials will also have to consider the future safety of US utilities, weapons systems and other critical infrastructure to ensure that there is no potential risk of malware or hijacking.
This is not the first time that CFIUS has intervened in Chinese acquisitions in the computing sector, with Huawei and ZTE both having been subjected to mutterings about “deep concerns” when they began accelerated trading in the US in 2012.
The IBM deal is just one part of Lenovo’s recent spending spree after it bought Motorola from Google at a cost of $3bn to gain a stronger foothold in western markets.
The latest development was spotted by security vendor Symantec, which has periodically warned about a type of malicious software it calls “Ploutus” that first appeared in Mexico.
The malware is engineered to plunder a certain type of standalone ATM, which Symantec has not identified. The company obtained one of the ATMs to carry out a test of how Ploutus works, but it doesn’t show a brand name.
Ploutus isn’t the easiest piece of malware to install, as cybercriminals need to have access to the machine. That’s probably why cybercriminals are targeting standalone ATMs, as it is easy to get access to all parts of the machine.
Early versions of Ploutus allowed it to be controlled via the numerical interface on an ATM or by an attached keyboard. But the latest version shows a remarkable new development: It is now controllable remotely via text message.
In this variation, the attackers manage to open up an ATM and attach a mobile phone, which acts as a controller, to a USB port inside the machine. The ATM also has to be infected with Ploutus.
“When the phone detects a new message under the required format, the mobile device will convert the message into a network packet and will forward it to the ATM through the USB cable,” wrote Daniel Regalado, a Symantec malware analyst, in a blog post on Monday.
Ploutus has a network packet monitor that watches all traffic coming into the ATM, he wrote. When it detects a valid TCP or UDP packet from the phone, the module searches “for the number “5449610000583686 at a specific offset within the packet in order to process the whole package of data,” he wrote.
It then reads the next 16 digits and uses that to generate a command line to control Ploutus.
So, why do this? Regalado wrote that it is more discrete and works nearly instantly. The past version of Ploutus required someone to either use a keyboard or enter a sequences of digits into the ATM keypad to fire up Ploutus. Both of those methods increase the amount of time someone spends in front of the machine, increasing the risk of detection.
Now, the ATM can be remotely triggered to dispense cash, allowing a “money mule,” or someone hired to do the risky job of stopping by to pick up the cash, to swiftly grab their gains. It also deprives the money mule of information that could allow them to skim some cash off the top, Regalado wrote.
“The master criminal knows exactly how much the money mule will be getting,” he wrote.
Symantec warned that about 95% of ATMs are still running Windows XP, Microsoft’s 13-year-old OS. Microsoft is ending regular support for Windows XP on April 8, but is offering extended support for Windows XP embedded systems, used for point-of-sale devices and ATMs, through January 2016.
Still, Symantec warned that “the banking industry is facing a serious risk of cyberattacks aimed at their ATM fleet.”
The company, headquartered in Washington, D.C. and launched in January, is targeting people using major email providers who want stronger privacy controls for more secure communication.
The service is designed to be easy to use for end users who may not have the technical gumption to set up PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a standard for signing and encrypting content.
Virtru is compatible with most major webmail providers, including Google’s Gmail, Yahoo’s Mail and Microsoft’s Outlook webmail, which replaced Hotmail.
Emails sent using Virtru through those services would look like gibberish, providing a greater degree of privacy. Law enforcement or other entities would not be able to read the content unless they could obtain the key.
Virtru uses a browser extension to encrypt email on a person’s computer or mobile device. The content is decrypted after recipients receive a key, which is distributed by Virtru’s centralized key management server.
Although Virtru handles key management, the company is working on a product that would allow that task to be managed on-site for users, as some administrators would be uncomfortable with another entity managing their keys.
Virtru has said it put aside funds to contest government orders such as a National Security Letter or law enforcement request that are not based on a standard of probable cause.
Pandora Media Inc will raise fees for its ad-free service by $1 a month to almost $5 a month in May, a move to cover the increasing cost of licensing tunes that may annoy some longtime fans of the popular music-streaming service.
The company, which streams music from virtual radio stations to mobile devices such as Apple Inc’s iPhone or Google Android smartphones, said in an earlier blog post that royalties paid to artists had risen 53 percent over the past five years and will rise another 9 percent in 2015.
The increase of $1 to $4.99 a month takes effect for new subscribers in May. Existing monthly subscribers will not be forced to accept the higher charges for now, it said without elaborating.
Annual subscriptions will be discontinued however. Yearly subscribers paying $36 a year currently will move to a monthly, “loyalty” $3.99 plan once their memberships expire.
Pandora said the fee hikes should affect an estimated 3.3 million listeners, out of 250 million registered users, the bulk of whom tune in to the free, ad-supported service.
“The costs of delivering this service have grown considerably,” Pandora said in a blog post on Tuesday. “We hope that you understand why we have taken these steps. Our goal is to continue to be your go-to internet radio destination.”
Pandora is already one of the world’s most popular streaming music services though it has plenty of competitors, including Spotify and Apple Inc’s iTunes Radio. It’s also aggressively investing in local sales forces to sell ad spots and on expanding its four-year-old service.
The company said that active listeners in January fell to 73.4 million from 76.2 million in December, due to normal seasonality.
However, year-over-year active users were up 12 percent.
Using mobile devices for one-off printing tasks on office printers may not be a big deal, but Hewlett-Packard is trying to minimize any security risk through direct wireless printing features it is bringing to enterprise printers.
HP is adding NFC (near-field communication) and Wi-Fi Direct to its new color LaserJet printers so mobile devices can establish a wireless connection directly to a printer without being logged into an office network. The printer establishes a peer-to-peer connection to tablets or smartphones, and users can send a print command direct to a printer within proximity.
The goal is to provide everyone in an office easy access to a printer, and keep rogue smartphones and tablets from a corporate network, said Todd Gregory, director at HP’s Personal and Printing Systems group.
Increasingly, office printers are being used to print personal documents, but rogue devices can be a security hazard in bring-your-own-device environments, Gregory said. The new peer-to-peer printing features can make BYOD environments easier to manage while ensuring document security on corporate networks.
“There is this balance between how do we protect the environment and how we enable access for temp employees, contractors, or even our own employees that have certain types of work that I don’t want floating around,” Gregory said.
Many printers are usually connected behind a firewall to the document workflow system, with security measures in place to print and access documents. A direct connection to printers through NFC or Wi-Fi Direct is independent of the firewall, and also spares system administrators from putting permissions in place in mobile-device-management software.
The new color laser printers introduced by HP on Monday have an independent module with Wi-Fi Direct and NFC that physically attaches to the printer and can be easily snapped out. Once snapped out, the peer-to-peer printing features cannot be used.
One of the new printers is the Color LaserJet Enterprise MFP M680. The printer can render 45 pages per minute, and costs $0.01 per grayscale page and $0.07 for each color page. New algorithms and technologies help squeeze more pages per cartridge, HP said. It has a keyboard and an 8-inch color touch panel. The printer will ship next month and be priced between $3,649 and $5,899. The MFP can also scan, copy and fax.
NFC features are also in the Color LaserJet Enterprise M651, which is only for printing. It will be available next month starting at $1,349.
HP is also offering software to secure printing. HP announced the ePrint Enterprise 3.2 app for mobile devices, which adds security layers before users are allowed to print either through a peer-to-peer connection or over a Wi-Fi network.
In addition, the new printers also support Mopria, a plug-in designed to make wireless printing via Android 4.4 easier.
It is starting to look like chip makers are having cold feet about moving to the next technology for chipmaking. Fabricating chips on larger silicon wafers is the latest cycle in a transition, but according to the Wall Street Journal chipmakers are mothballing their plans.
Companies have to make massive upfront outlays for plants and equipment and they are refusing, because the latest change could boost the cost of a single high-volume factory to as much as $10 billion from around $4 billion. Some companies have been reining in their investments, raising fears the equipment needed to produce the new chips might be delayed for a year or more.
ASML, a maker of key machines used to define features on chips, recently said it had “paused” development of gear designed to work with the larger wafers. Intel said it has slowed some payments to the Netherlands-based company under a deal to help develop the technology.
Gary Dickerson, chief executive of Applied Materials said that the move to larger wafers “has definitely been pushed out from a timing standpoint”
It seems that Intel has elbowed its way under the bonnet of the high profile Nexus 8 tablet. Word on the street is that the Moorefield chip which is said to make a top speed of around 2.33 GHz, when the wind is behind it, has kicked Qualcomm’s tried and tested Snapdragon chip out of the Nexus range.
The move would give the Nexus 8, some good GPU power thanks to the PowerVR G6430 graphic engine. Google may unveil the actual tablet during the Google I/O event as well as the next big upgrade to the Android software dubbed lollipop. Still it is starting to look like Intel may really become a force to be reckoned with in mobile after all.
However, we should point out that Nexus 8 CPU rumors are nothing new. There was talk of Intel, Qualcomm and even Nvidia over the past couple of months – but we are still not entirely certain what’s under the bonnet.
The radio service, announced last Friday, is available for free, with no ads, and users don’t need a log in to use the service, said Daren Tsui, vice president of music at Samsung Media Solutions.
The Milk application is available through the Google Play store, and will initially work with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones and tablets. The company is, however, thinking about expanding its use to competing mobile devices, Tsui said.
The service will initially be available in the U.S., and will be expanded worldwide at a later date. It has 200 radio stations and 13 million songs, and in addition to functioning as a jukebox, allows users to create customized stations based on artist or genres.
Milk is targeted at competing music service like Apple’s iTunes Radio service, which is available for free with ads and ad-free for $24.99 via the iTunes Match service. Samsung is not yet providing an option to buy music, but Tsui said that idea is being researched. Meanwhile, the service could be one way to sell more tablets and smartphones. The app works with the AllShare feature, which allows streaming of music to TV sets and other Samsung devices.
Samsung worked with popular radio service Slacker — which is ad-based and has a database of 10 million songs — to develop the service. Samsung will also compete with other ad-supported free music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.
Milk covers a range of genres and songs, and has an interface designed to make it easy to find songs, Tsui said.
The Milk interface is centered around a dial — which looks much like the software version of dials found on Apple’s iPod Classic and Shuffle — which can be customized to include favorite genres. The dial can’t fit all 17 genres provided in the app, so users can select up to nine genres to fit on the wheel. The dial can be turned around to switch on a music stream from a specific genre such as dance, electronica or indie.
Users can also customize radio stations by searching for songs or artists. Samsung has music licensing deals directly with labels, Tsui said.
The move to LTE has killed Intel’s pretense of interest in the baseband market. According to the Motley Fool, ever since the handset market began its shift to LTE, Intel has handed its part of the industry to Qualcomm and Mediatek.
Intel was once the Number two player in baseband, albeit with roughly 12 per cent share against Qualcomm’s commanding 60 per cent share. However, Intel’s smartphone apps processors were greeted by a yawn by the industry and as its LTE rollout was delayed. As a result, its baseband share has plummeted over the last few years from a reasonable about to sod all.
Intel must be gutted. The global cellular baseband market in 2012 was worth $17.8 billion, according to Strategy Analytics.
MediaTek and Qualcomm’s have knocked Intel down to a dismal 8 per cent of the market. This poor performance was driven largely by a declining 3G market, of LTE multi-mode, coupled with a hostile pricing environment within 3G. Intel hopes that as 2014 rolls along, its LTE products will begin undoing the damage to its revenue caused by the 3G decline. If this is the case we will not see an improvement for Intel until 2015.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty took to the Mobile World Congress stage and announced a global competition to spur developers to create mobile consumer and business apps powered by its Watson supercomputer platform.
Watson is the heart of the company’s cognitive computing technology. IBM is pulling out all the stops to make Watson a success. Last month, the company set up a new division, the Watson Business Group, to create and run cloud-based cognitive applications and services for enterprise users.
“By 2016, a quarter of the apps in the world will be in the cloud,” Rometty said. These apps are generating massive amounts of data, she said.
“You can’t program enough to make sense of all the data in the world,” Rometty said, adding that the vast amount of data generated every day is leading to a new era of computing.
“The new era is cognitive, of teach and learn,” Rometty said.
“I want to make an offer to you,” Rometty said. “We’re gonna offer the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge.”
The competition is taking place under the newly formed IBM Watson Group. It aims to encourage development of cognitive computing apps.
Watson cognitive computing comprises services, software and apps that analyze and improve by learning. The idea is to answer complex questions derived from massive amounts of disparate data, Rometty said.
IBM is setting up the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge specifically to seed efforts to develop cognitive apps that can change the way consumers and businesses interact with data on their mobile devices, Rometty said.
Over the next three months, the global challenge will invite mobile developers and entrepreneurs to share their best ideas to build and develop mobile apps into prototypes.
IBM will invite three winners to join the Watson Ecosystem Program, in which the company is assembling content providers and independent software vendors to collaborate on the development and release of “Powered by IBM Watson” applications.
“We’ve already got thousands of applicants,” to be part of the ecosystem, Rometty said.
The winners of the challenge will work with IBM’s recently launched global consulting practice, IBM Interactive Experience, to receive design consulting and support from IBM experts to develop a commercial app, IBM detailed in a statement accompanying Rometty’s talk.
IBM is serious about encouraging the development of applications that run in the cloud. For IBM, more applications mean more data generated, and more of a need for the analytics software and services that it sells.
“We have a big-data analysis business of $16 billion,” Rometty said.
On Monday, IBM announced it will spend $1 billion on its platform-as-a-service (PaaS) strategy, separate from the money it is investing in Watson, to encourage software makers to build cloud apps.
As part of that announcement, made at its Pulse event in Las Vegas, IBM will become a major contributor to the Cloud Foundry, an open source PaaS that is run under the aegis of Pivotal, a spinout from VMware and EMC.
IBM first developed Watson as a research project to compete against humans on the game show “Jeopardy.” Watson can come up with answers to questions using a range of sources in various formats. It was able to hone its answers by learning how to formulate the best responses in an iterative, trial and error process.
Because this approach to problem solving emulates how humans think, it is known as cognitive computing.
After Watson beat human contestants in “Jeopardy” in 2011, IBM has worked to commercialize Watson technologies.
China’s anti-monopoly regulator on Wednesday said Qualcomm Inc. is under suspicion for overcharging and abusing its market position, allegations which could see the U.S. chip giant slapped with record fines of more than $1 billion.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also said it was in talks with another U.S. technology firm, InterDigital Inc, about a possible settlement to a separate anti-monopoly probe as the regulator focuses on the rapidly evolving information technology market.
Foreign firms from drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to Apple Inc are facing tougher scrutiny in the world’s second-biggest economy as China targets key industries to protect consumers from bloated prices and second-rate products.
In its first public statements about the Qualcomm investigation, the watchdog said it began making inquiries after receiving complaints that the San Diego-based company was charging higher prices in China than it does in other countries.
“We received reports from relevant associations and companies that Qualcomm abuses its dominant position in the market and charges discriminatory fees,” Xu Kunlin, who heads the NDRC’s anti-monopoly and price supervision bureau, told a press conference in Beijing.
The NDRC dual investigations are part of a focus on information technology providers, especially companies that license patent technology for mobile devices and networks.
Industry experts say the NDRC, which is also the government’s main economic planning body, is trying to lower domestic costs as China rolls out its faster 4G mobile networks this year.
Earlier this month, the China Mobile Communications Industry Association said it had filed a complaint against Qualcomm for overcharging for use of its patents.
Under the anti-monopoly law, the NDRC can impose fines of between 1 and 10 percent of a company’s revenues for the previous year. Qualcomm earned $12.3 billion in China for its fiscal year ended September 29, or nearly half of its global sales.
LinkedIn launched Intro last October, as part of a larger push into becoming a “mobile first” company. The service was made for the iPhone, and was designed to grab LinkedIn profile information and insert it into emails received on phones. The service displayed that information to the recipient from the email’s sender if the sender was also on LinkedIn.
Intro was meant to add more professional context to email and draw more users to LinkedIn.
But it quickly sparked questions from security experts, who were concerned about the way the service routed emails through LinkedIn’s servers. The security consulting firm Bishop Fox said that the service essentially amounted to a “man-in-the-middle attack,” and that it was only a matter of time before someone used it to launch a phishing attack.
LinkedIn, in its announcement Friday of Intro’s closure, did not say anything about security. The decision was about “focus,” LinkedIn said. “We are making large, long-term investments on a few big bets, and in order to ensure their success, we need to concentrate on fewer things,” wrote Deep Nishar, senior VP of products and user experience.
Intro will be shut down as of March 7, LinkedIn said. The company did not say what it would be doing with Intro users’ email data that it might have stored on its servers. LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Upon receiving word of LinkedIn’s announcement, Bishop Fox said that it was unlikely that LinkedIn shut down the service for security reasons alone. “Tech products come and go these days and many have short lifespans,” said Vincent Liu, a partner at the firm, via email.
“But this app exemplifies why it’s important to pay attention to privacy and security when installing features, whether short lived or not, on your mobile devices,” he said.
LinkedIn also said it would be shutting down some other services. Slidecast, which let people upload digital presentations with audio, is going away as of April 30. Support for the LinkedIn iPad app on iOS versions older than 6.0 will also be eliminated as of Feb. 18, the company said.
Mark Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook” from his dorm room at Harvard University on Feb. 4, 2004. The site was conceived as a way to connect students, and let them build an online identity for themselves.
It has since expanded to cover a large swath of the planet, with more than 1.2 billion people — one-seventh of the world’s population — using its site on a monthly basis, according to the company’s own recent figures.
Zuckerberg reflected on the 10-year milestone at an industry conference in Silicon Valley this week. Not surprisingly, at the start he never envisioned Facebook becoming so large or influential. After launching the initial version, “it was awesome to have this utility and community at our school,” he said at the Open Compute Project Summit.
He figured at the time that someone, someday would build such a site for the world. “It didn’t even occur to me that it could be us,” he said.
Since then, Facebook’s site and its business, now a public company, have changed dramatically. There are now more than a trillion status updates, text posts and other pieces of content stored within its walls — the company is trying to index them as part of its Graph Search search engine.
The company was slow to react to the important mobile market, and when it went public in 2012 investors were skeptical it would be able to monetize its service on smaller screens. But this week it reported that more than half its ad revenue now comes from mobile devices.
All the while, Facebook is making its ad business smarter, using targeting tools to show ads it deems most relevant.
The company is also experimenting with new ways to present content. Next week it will release Paper, an iPhone app that provides a new way to share photos and published articles.
It’s part of a larger effort Facebook hinted at this week to release a variety of standalone apps for different tasks.
The company is also trying to bring the Internet to more people in the world, an effort that’s part philanthropy and part business sense as Facebook aims to reach its next billion users. Asked this week why he launched the project, called Internet.org, Zuckerberg suggested he feels a weight of responsibility.
“There aren’t that many companies in the world that have the resources and the reach that Facebook has at this point,” he said.
China’s Lenovo Group Ltd has restarted discussions to purchase International Business Machines Corp’s (IBM) low-end server unit, a source familiar with the matter said, a purchase that would bolster its efforts to diversify beyond a shrinking PC market.
A deal for IBM’s x86 servers, which power corporate data centers, fits in with Lenovo’s attempts to remold itself as a growing force in mobile devices and data storage servers. It also helps IBM’s shift away from hardware towards software and services.
The two companies failed to reach an agreement last year after differing on pricing. Media reports then put IBM’s hopes at between $4 billion to $6 billion for the unit, while Lenovo was said to be only willing to offer $2.5 billion.
Analysts now estimate the sale of the IBM unit to Lenovo could be worth between $2.5 billion and $3 billion. That would make it the biggest ever deal in China’s IT sector, outpacing Badu Inc’s acquisition of 91 Wireless from NetDragon Websoft Inc for $1.85 billion last year.
“Everybody wins because even if IBM could double the profitability it’s still not good enough for IBM. On the other hand, Lenovo doubling the server business margins is a good deal for Lenovo,” said Alberto Moel, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.
Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC maker, said on Tuesday it was in preliminary talks about an acquisition. It declined to name the seller but said it was making the statement in response to reports about its potential acquisition of a server business.
It added that it had not entered into any definitive agreement and that no material terms had been agreed to.
An IBM spokesman said on Monday the company wouldn’t comment on the matter.
Dell Inc, which went private in a $25 billion deal last year, has also been cited in media reports as a potential suitor for the business. A Beijing-based spokesman for Dell declined to comment.
Lenovo’s purchase of IBM’s Thinkpad PC business in 2005 for $1.75 billion became the springboard for its leap to the top of global PC maker rankings.
Moel, who estimates IBM’s low-end server business could be worth between $2.5 billion to $2.9 billion, said IBM was likely more eager now to do a deal than last year after several quarters of weak earnings.
But any deal would also likely invite scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) as servers were more directly related to data security than PCs and phones, he added.
Lenovo could finance the deal through a combination of cash, debt and converts, said Nicolas Baratte, a Hong Kong-based analyst with brokerage CLSA. The company has $3 billion in cash, and very little debt, and IBM is a very willing seller, he added.
“If IBM sells all its server business, except the top-end servers, the deal is worth $2.5 to $3 billion,” Baratte said.
“There is no financing problem for $3 billion, but I don’t think it will be one hundred percent cash.”
Wi-Fi is becoming an increasingly important access technology to operators, either to offload their cellular networks or, as in this case, to offer subscribers data access when traveling. Universal Wi-Fi is specifically aimed at multinational enterprises.
The service uses more than 1.3 million hotspots at locations such as airports and hotel chains, including Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and Sheraton. To get that many hotspots, Telefonica is collaborating with iPass and Swisscom, for example.
It has also partnered with Gogo to offer in-flight coverage. Gogo has put Wi-Fi on 6,000 planes from Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Virgin America.
Telefonica didn’t immediately reply to questions about what the service will cost. Users will pay a fixed cost for access using up to five devices, according the operator.
Competitor Boingo Wireless charges $59 per month for up to 2,000 minutes of worldwide Wi-Fi access per month on up to four different laptops and mobile devices. It also works with Gogo’s in-flight service.
From 2013 to 2017, operators are expected to spend $8.5 billion on carrier Wi-Fi equipment, led by mobile operators using the network technology for data offload, Infonetics Research said in a recent report.