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Facebook Gives Preview Of Futuristic Brain-to-text Program

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has provided a peek inside a secretive unit headed by a former chief of the Pentagon’s research arm, disclosing that the social media company is studying ways for people to communicate by thought and touch.

Facebook launched the research shop, called Building 8, last year to conduct long-term work that might lead to hardware products. In charge of the unit is Regina Dugan, who led a similar group at Alphabet Inc’s Google and was previously director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Dugan told software developers at Facebook’s annual F8 conference that the company was modeling Building 8 after DARPA, a government office founded in the 1950s that gave the world the internet and the miniaturized GPS receivers used in consumer devices.

Any hardware rollouts are years away, Dugan said in a speech. Potential products could, if successful, be a way for Facebook to diversify beyond its heavy reliance on advertising revenue.

One example of Building 8’s work so far, Dugan said, was an attempt to improve technology that allows people to type words using their minds.

“It sounds impossible, but it’s closer than you may realize,” Dugan said.

Using brain implants, people can already type eight words a minute, she said. Facebook’s goal, working with researchers at several U.S. universities, is to make the system non-invasive, as well as fast enough so that people can type 100 words a minute just by thinking.

Possible uses include helping disabled people and “the ability to text your friend without taking out your phone,” she said.

Another Building 8 project, she said, was trying to advance the ability to communicate through touch only, an idea with roots in Braille, a writing system for the blind and visually impaired.

A video played at the conference showed two Facebook employees talking to each other through touch. As one employee, Frances, wore an electronic device on her arm, the other, Freddy, used a computer program to send pressure changes to her arm.

“If you ask Frances what she feels,” Dugan said, “she’ll tell you that she has learned to feel the acoustic shape of a word on her arm.”

In December, Facebook signed a deal with 17 universities including Harvard and Princeton to allow swifter collaboration on projects with Dugan’s team.

 

Are Macs Virus Free

April 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The myth that Macs are somehow more secure than other operating systems appears to be a myth according to a Threat Report by McAfee Labs.

Attacks on Macs have risen by 744 percent in 2016 and there are more than 460,000 malware samples on Mac machines found. Although this is not a particularly high number you have to acknowledge that this is one security company and on a single machine.

It appears that after years of leaving Macs alone, virus writers are suddenly taking an interest in knocking them over and the security by obscurity measures, along with faith-based defences are not working.

The Tame Apple Press has rushed to say that “despite the dramatic increase in macOS malware attacks, Mac owners need not be too alarmed”.

One newspaper even said that the attacks were just irritating and not like the “true malware attacks” that Windows users have to suffer.

Most of the attacks were just adware which automatically generates and displays advertising material, including banners or pop-ups, whenever a user is online, the Tame Apple Press  tried to reassure Apple fanboys.

Last summer, Mac owners were warned about a new malware dubbed Backdoor.MAC.Elanor – a nasty piece of code that infects the OS X operating system and gives hackers complete access to the files on the computer.

Courtesy-Fud

Microft Sets Retirement Date For First Windows 10 Release

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

True to form, Microsoft has announced May 9 as the date it will issue the final updates for the debut edition of Windows 10 that launched in 2015.

Two months ago, Microsoft had extended support for Windows 10 version 1507 — Microsoft labels feature upgrades by year and month — from March to May, but did not specify the date in the latter month.

The May 9 retirement was quietly announced on several support documents, including the “Windows lifecycle fact sheet,” which lists several kinds of deadlines for various versions of the operating system.

Another document put it plainly. “The time has now come to end servicing for version 1507,” the support document read.

Stopping support for Windows 10 editions — Microsoft released the fourth on Tuesday — is an important part of the company’s software-as-a-service model. The company has pledged to support an individual edition, such as 1507, not for 10 years, as policy required for, say, Windows 7 or 8.1, but only for 18 months or so. That mandate insured Microsoft would not need to craft security patches, fix other bugs or add new features for an increasing number of versions.

By the time Windows 10 1507 slips off the list, it will have been supported for about 21 months. Part of the reason it lasted longer than Microsoft’s stated norm was because the firm issued just one feature upgrade — v. 1607 — in 2016.

The next Windows 10 edition, v. 1511, could be purged from support as soon as early October. That’s because Microsoft has committed to simultaneously supporting just two Current Branch for Business (CBB) builds. At the release of N+2 onto CBB, the company starts a 60-day-or-so countdown. At the end of the 60 days, N drops off the support list. N+1 then becomes N and N+2 morphs into N+1.

Under that policy, N would be 1511, N+1 version 1607 (released in August 2016) and N+2 1703 (this month’s feature upgrade). Version 1703 will likely be promoted to the CBB in four months, or August; two months more would put 1511’s support demise in October.

Users running 1507 must have upgraded to 1511, 1607 or 1703 by May 10 to receive future security patches, and other fixes or enhancements. Windows 10 1507 will not suddenly fail to boot, however, or degrade, as do copies that have not been activated with a product key.

The only exceptions will be customers whose devices are running v. 1507 from the Long-term Servicing Branch (LTSB), a special release track available only to organizations using Windows 10 Enterprise.

Ant Financial Sweetens Bid For MoneyGram

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s Ant Financial has increased its bid for MoneyGram International Inc by over a third, beating a competitor’s offer to gain approval from the U.S. electronic payment firm’s board, although it still faces regulatory hurdles.

Ant’s plans to expand globally with the acquisition of one of the biggest firms in remittances hit a major snag last month when U.S.-based Euronet Worldwide Inc made an unsolicited offer and openly lobbied U.S lawmakers, saying Ant’s proposal created a national security risk.

The finance affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd hiked its bid 36 percent to $18 per share in cash, valuing MoneyGram at around $1.2 billion.

The new offer handily beats the $15.20 per share proposed by Euronet and represents a 9 percent premium to MoneyGram’s last traded share price on Thursday. Euronet declined to comment on Ant’s fresh bid.

MoneyGram’s global remittance channels for sending money overseas would help Ant build a cross-border network after a string of recent investments in Asia. But the deal must first clear the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), which looks at acquisitions for national security risks.

CFIUS has been a stumbling block for several Chinese deals in the United States and a deal with Euronet is likely to be more agreeable to U.S. policymakers amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and foreign policy.

Analysts said, however, that while CFIUS could certainly hold up any agreement, it wasn’t necessarily a deal-breaker given MoneyGram is likely to push for the deal given the sweetened offer.

“CFIUS may lengthen the process…I don’t think CFIUS would be a deal killer” said Jeffrey Sun, Shanghai-based partner with law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

Euronet has said Chinese ownership could compromise the relationship between law enforcement and MoneyGram when investigating money laundering and “terrorist financing”.

Ant has sought to allay those fears, reiterating on Monday that any data collected on MoneyGram users in the U.S. will continue to reside on U.S.-based servers and that MoneyGram will operate as an independent unit.

Ant and MoneyGram said in a joint statement they have made progress towards obtaining regulatory approvals, including winning U.S. antitrust clearance and are confident the deal will close this year.

The news comes one day after sources said China’s Anbang Insurance Group will let a plan to acquire U.S. annuities and life insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life for $1.6 billion lapse, after failing to secure necessary regulatory approvals.

Hacked Dallas Emergency Sirens Add Extra Encryption

April 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Dallas city officials have put in place additional encryption and other security measures to the outdoor warning sirens hacked last week.

The hack also prompted the city to evaluate critical systems for potential vulnerabilities, City Manager T.C. Broadnax said in a statement late Monday. City officials are reviewing security for financial systems, a flood warning system, police-fire dispatch and the 911/311 system.

Broadnax told reporters separately on Monday that the hack came over a radio frequency and not over a wired computer network. The attack was “not a system software issue; it was a radio issue,” he told the Dallas Observer and others.

The city believes the hack came from the Dallas area, but officials haven’t detailed how it occurred. Dallas police are working with the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to validate what they think happened and find the source. The hack caused all 156 emergency sirens to activate for about 90 minutes, scaring some residents and doubling the number of calls to 911.

Radio security experts theorized the incident may have been a simple “replay attack” where the hacker recorded the radio signal sent out on April 5 at noon as part of a monthly test of the emergency siren system. Then, the hacker could have played that signal back repeatedly early Saturday. It would take a hacker with a software defined radio (SDR) or other off-the-shelf radio frequency test equipment to pull off the attack, said Chris Risley, CEO of Bastille Networks, a company that remediates radio frequency vulnerabilities.

Frequencies used for outdoor sirens are public and are managed by the FCC. Various security techniques, including encryption, are used to protect signals sent by radio.

Even if a “replay attack” was not used, the regularly scheduled siren test would allow an attacker to make multiple recordings of the “activate sirens” radio stream over several months and then analyze it for specific commands to trigger the alert, he added. SDRs are becoming cheaper and more capable and there is an abundance of open source software that can decode activation protocols.

Risley said other cities are probably just as vulnerable as Dallas.

The Dallas incident highlights how vulnerable and unprotected U.S. enterprises and government authorities are, said Matt Little, chief product officer for encryption provider PKWare. “Traditional security perimeters are breaking down. This attack reaffirms how necessary encryption is,” he said.

Many siren systems are decades old and Dallas may have been relying on low-level encryption, perhaps even 64-bit encryption based on the Data Encryption Standard (DES) from the late 1970s, he said.

“Sirens are analogous to a lot of aging critical infrastructure that was built for high availability, and always has to be online, so security took a back seat to that,” Little said.

Dallas may have decided after the hack to upgrade encryption or improve the authentication system regarding who gets access to encryption keys, Little said.

Microsoft Word Being Used To Transport Malware

April 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cybercriminals have been exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft Word for the past few months to compromise computers and infect them with malware.

The first report about the attacks came from antivirus vendor McAfee after the company’s researchers analyzed some suspicious Word files spotted a day earlier. It turned out that the files were exploiting a vulnerability that affects “all Microsoft Office versions, including the latest Office 2016 running on Windows 10.”

The flaw is related to the Windows Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) feature in Microsoft Office that allows documents to embed references and links to other documents or objects, the McAfee researchers said in a blog post.

When the rogue documents used in this attack are opened, they reach out to an external server and download an HTA (HTML Application) file that contains malicious VBScript code. The HTA file is disguised as an RTF (Rich Text Format) document and is automatically executed.

“The successful exploit closes the bait Word document, and pops up a fake one to show the victim,” the McAfee researchers said. “In the background, the malware has already been stealthily installed on the victim’s system.”

By searching back through its data, McAfee has tracked down attacks exploiting this vulnerability to late January.

Following McAfee’s report, security researchers from FireEye also confirmed that they’ve been aware of these attacks and exploit for several weeks and have coordinated disclosure with Microsoft.

According to FireEye, the malicious Word documents are sent as email attachments. The company hasn’t provided examples of the malicious emails, but because this is a previously undisclosed, zero-day vulnerability, the attacks are likely targeted toward a limited number of victims.

Both McAfee and FireEye noted that the exploit can bypass most memory-based mitigations included in Windows. That’s because the vulnerability is a logic bug rather than a programming error.

Microsoft is scheduled to release its monthly security updates on Tuesday, but it’s not clear if a patch for this vulnerability will be included. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the meantime, users should be wary of documents received from untrusted sources and should enable the Office Protected View mode because it can block this attack.

The Witcher Franchise Goes 25 Million Units

April 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt continues to pay off for CD Projekt. The Polish publisher today reported its financial results for calendar year 2016, and the hit 2015 role-playing game loomed large over another successful campaign for the company.

CD Projekt said its revenues “continued to be dominated by ongoing strong sales” of The Witcher 3 and its two expansions. While the base game and its first expansion debuted in 2015, the second and final expansion pack, Blood and Wine, arrived last May and helped drive revenues of 583.9 million PLN ($148.37 million). That was down almost 27 percent year-over-year, but still well beyond the company’s sales figures prior to 2015. Net profits were likewise down almost 27%, with the company posting a bottom line gain of 250.5 million PLN ($63.65 million).

The company also announced a new milestone for the Witcher franchise, saying the three games have now cumulatively topped 25 millions copies sold, a number that doesn’t include The Witcher 3 expansions packs. That suggests 2016 saw roughly 5 million copies sold over the 20 million reported in CD Projekt’s 2015 year-end financials.

Even if this year saw overall sales take a dip for CD Projekt, its GOG.com online retail storefront still managed to post its best year ever. The company reported GOG.com revenues of 133.5 million PLN ($33.92 million), up 15% year-over-year.

CD Projekt is currently testing its Gwent free-to-play card game in closed beta, and intends to open it up to the public this spring. It is also working on its next AAA game, Cyberpunk 2077, thought it has no release date as yet.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Fidelity Investments Jumps Into Blockchain Alliance

April 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Fidelity Investments Inc has become the first financial institution to join the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies & Contracts, a group of academic institutions and technology firms exploring the development of blockchain-based technology.

Fidelity Labs, the innovation arm of asset manager Fidelity, will be a member of IC3 along with Cornell University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, the Technion, IBM Corp and Intel Corp, the company said in a statement.

The Boston-based fund manager will collaborate with the group to develop blockchain programs to help make financial systems more efficient and secure.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system underpinning cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a distributed record of transactions that is maintained by a network of computers, rather than a centralized authority.

Over the past two years, financial institutions have been ramping up their investments in the technology in the hopes that it can help the make some of its processes simpler and cheaper. Potential use cases range from systems to manage international payments, to programs to settle securities trades.

In a bid to accelerate development and adoption of blockchain, companies have been joining forces in several industry consortia and groups.

Banks have been more vocal about their efforts than asset managers, with most large lenders having joined a group led by New York-based startup R3. Most recently a group of 30 companies, including several banks, launched a new blockchain consortium called the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.

“What IC3 brings is that academic computer science legacy that can help us explore how this technology can be applied,” said Hadley Stern, senior vice president at Fidelity Labs, explaining why the asset manager had chosen the group.

Use cases the asset manager is interested include the settlement of repurchase agreements transactions, Stern said.

Despite the excitement around blockchain, the technology is still in its early days and proponents warn that it may take years before financial institutions can fully reap its benefits.

IC3, which is based at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech in New York City, conducts research aimed at developing blockchain that meets the standards needed to be deployed by businesses.

“Expected outcomes of our work include new blockchain and smart contract technologies that are secure, incrementally deployable, and efficient to meet the industry’s needs,” said Emin Gün Sirer, co-director of IC3 and a professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

Will Online Security Get Better?

April 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Big Blue has issued a warning about the poor state of online security and claimed that things are getting worse.

In its IBM Security 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, Big Blue said that the number of hacked records grew 566 percent in 2016 from 600 million to more than four billion.

In one case, a source leaked more than 1.5 billion records which was probably the Yahoo breach, only that was a few years ago.

In the first three months of 2016, the FBI estimated cybercriminals were paid a reported $209 million via ransomware. This would put criminals on pace to make a billion dollars from their use of the malware just last year.

In 2016, many significant breaches related to unstructured data such as email archives, business documents, intellectual property and source code were also compromised.

IBM said that the most popular malware in 2016 was Android malware, banking Trojans, ransomware offerings and DDoS-as-a-service vendors.

IBM said that while the healthcare industry continued to be beleaguered by a high number of incidents, attackers hit on smaller targets resulting in a lower number of leaked records.

In 2016, only 12 million records were compromised in healthcare – keeping it out of the top five most breached industries..

In 2016 more than four billion records were leaked, more than the combined total from the two previous years, redefining the meaning of the term “mega breach”.  In one case, a single source leaked more than 1.5 billion records, IBM wrote.

Caleb Barlow, Vice President of Threat Intelligence, IBM Security said: “While the volume of records compromised, last year reached historic highs, we see this shift to unstructured data as a seminal moment. The value of structured data to cybercriminals is beginning to wane as the supply outstrips the demand. Unstructured data is big-game hunting for hackers and we expect to see them monetize it this year in innovative ways.”

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Unveils Windows Insider Program For Business

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Business will finally gain access to their own version of the Microsoft Windows 10 beta program this week. On Friday, Microsoft rolled out the Windows Insider Program for Business, alongside its first post-Creators Update Windows 10 beta.

The program will let business users sign up for beta updates with their Azure Active Directory credentials, rather than a personal Microsoft account. The new feature is designed to provide IT professionals with a path for giving Microsoft business-specific feedback on Windows 10 features. That, in turn, should help business users shape feature development.

Creating a business Insider Program is Microsoft’s response to IT pros’ requests for a connection with the Windows development team. Windows 10 got off to a rocky start with some systems administrators who weren’t thrilled by Microsoft’s policy of only providing cumulative updates to the operating system rather than letting administrators pick and choose which patches to apply.

In a support document, the company said this program isn’t separate from the main Insider Program, but instead a way for businesses to better engage with the existing community of people testing new versions of Windows. In addition, Microsoft believes the new program will help businesses with their internal testing of Windows updates by giving early access to future patches.

Microsoft plans to do more to engage with IT teams in the future, Windows Insider Program chief Dona Sarkar said in a blog post.

Friday’s update starts laying the groundwork for Microsoft’s next major Windows 10 update, which is expected to arrive later this year. It comes four days before the company is slated to roll out the Creators Update, which will bring a flotilla of new features and functionality, to non-beta users.

The new bits released to members of the Windows Insider Program’s Fast ring don’t add much in the way of functionality to Windows 10. For the most part, the release is focused on updates to OneCore, the appropriately named systems at the core of Windows 10.

As is the norm with many Insider releases, there is a fleet of known issues in build 16170. Users can expect to see issues including one bug that prevents Windows Defender from opening when double-clicked. Right clicking it and choosing “open” will still launch the app.

Users who want to avoid bugs can move over to the Windows Insider Program’s Slow ring, which will give users increased reliability in exchange for delayed access to new updates.

 

Data Breaches Appear To Be On The Rise

April 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Analyst at Gemalto have released the findings of the Breach Level Index revealing that 1,792 data breaches led to almost 1.4 billion data records being compromised worldwide during 2016, an increase of 86 per cent compared to 2015.

Identity theft was the leading type of data breach in 2016, accounting for 59 per cent of all data breaches. In addition, 52 per cent of the data breaches in 2016 did not disclose the number of compromised records at the time they were reported.

The Breach Level Index is a global database that tracks data breaches and measures their severity based on multiple dimensions, including the number of records compromised, the type of data, the source of the breach, how the data was used, and whether the data was encrypted. By assigning a severity score to each breach, the Breach Level Index gives a comparative list of breaches, distinguishing data breaches that are a not serious versus those that are.

According to the Breach Level Index, more than seven billion data records have been exposed since 2013 when the index began benchmarking publicly disclosed data breaches. Breaking it down that is over 3 million records compromised every day or 44 records a second.

Last year, the account access based attack on AdultFriend Finder exposing 400 million records scored a 10 in terms of severity on the Breach Level Index. Other notable breaches in 2016 included Fling . Philippines’ Commission on Elections, 17 Media and Dailymotion.

The top 10 breaches in terms of severity accounted for over half of all compromised records. In 2016, Yahoo! reported two major data breaches involving 1.5 billion user accounts, but are not accounted for in the BLI’s 2016 numbers since they occurred in 2013 and 2014.

Gemalto’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Data Protection Jason Hart said: “The Breach Level Index highlights four major cybercriminal trends over the past year. Hackers are casting a wider net and are using easily-attainable account and identity information as a starting point for high value targets. Fraudsters are also shifting from attacks targeted at financial organizations to infiltrating large data bases such as entertainment and social media sites. Lastly, fraudsters have been using encryption to make breached data unreadable, then hold it for ransom and decrypting once they are paid.”

In 2016, identity theft was the leading type of data breach, accounting for 59 per cent of all data breaches, up by 5 per cent from 2015. The second most prevalent type of breach in 2016 is account access based breaches.

The incidence of this type of data breach decreased by three per cent, it made up 54 per cent of all breached records, which is an increase of 336per cent from last year.

This highlights the cybercriminal trend from financial information attacks to bigger databases with large volumes of personally identifiable information. Another notable data point is the nuisance category with an increase of 101 per cent accounting for 18 per cent of all breached records up 1474 per cent since 2015.

Malicious outsiders were the leading source of data breaches, accounting for 68 per cent of breaches, up from 13 per cent in 2015. The number of records breached in malicious outsider attacks increased by 286 per cent from 2015. Hacktivist data breaches also increased in 2016 by 31per cent, but only account for three per cent of all breaches that occurred last year.

The technology sector had the largest increase in data breaches in 2016. Breaches rose 55per cent, but only accounted for 11 per cent of all breaches last year. Nearly 80 per cent of the breaches in this sector were account access and identity theft related. They also represented 28per cent of compromised records in 2016, an increase of 278 per cent from 2015.

The healthcare industry accounted for 28 per cent of data breaches, rising 11 per cent compared to 2015. However, the number of compromised data records in healthcare decreased by 75 per cent since 2015.

Education saw a five per cent decrease in data breaches between 2015 and 2016 and a drop of 78per cent in compromised data records. Government accounted for 15 per cent of all data breaches in 2016. However, the number of compromised data records increased 27 per cent from 2015. Financial services companies accounted for 12 per cent of all data breaches, a 23per cent decline compared to last year.

All industries listed in the ‘Other’ category represented 13per cent of data breaches and 36 per cent of compromised data records. In this category, the overall number of data breaches decreased by 29 per cent, while the number of compromised records jumped by 300per cent since 2015. Social media and entertainment industry related data breaches made up the majority.

Last year 4.2 per cent of the total number of breach incidents involved data that had been encrypted in part or in full, compared to four per cent in 2015. In some of these instances, the password was encrypted, but other information was left unencrypted. However of the almost 1.4 billion records compromised, lost or stolen in 2016, only six per cent were encrypted partially or in full (compared to two per cent in 2015).

Courtesy-Fud

Opera’s VPN Product Sees Boost In Use After ISP Privacy Law Changes

April 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Opera Software is boasting that the number of new U.S. users of its browser has more than doubled days after Congress voted to repeal restrictions on broadband providers eager to sell customers’ surfing history.

Opera debuted a VPN — virtual private network — a year ago, and finalized the feature in September. A VPN disguises the actual IP address of the user, effectively anonymizing the browsing, and encrypts the data transmitted to and from sites, creating a secure “tunnel” to the destination.

By using a VPN, U.S. users block their Internet service providers (ISPs) from recording their online activity.

“The average number of daily new Opera users in the U.S. has more than doubled since Congress decided to repeal certain internet privacy protections last Tuesday,” claimed the company in a statement. As support, it offered a graph illustrating a 109% increase in new U.S. users from March 28 to March 30.

“We integrated a free, no-log VPN directly into the browser to bring everyone, not just savvy users, a simple tool for protecting their privacy,” Krystian Kolondra, the head of engineering for the desktop version of Opera, said in a statement. “The usage statistics for the past few days show that users are becoming even more conscious about their potential privacy issues when online.”

VPNs have been a hot topic since March 28, when the U.S. House of Representatives followed the Senate to overturn privacy rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed last year. By repealing the rules — which had not taken effect — Congress allowed broadband providers to sell recorded customer data, including browsing history, location, even what apps had been used, without customer consent.

Opera’s claim of more new users, however, was not confirmed by browser activity tracking, including the numbers posted daily by Irish analytics company StatCounter.

According to StatCounter, which measures what Computerworld calls usage share, Opera accounted for 0.72% of all browsing in the U.S. during a five-day stretch from March 29 to April 2. But the usage share for the preceding five-day spans in March — from a Wednesday to the following Sunday — were little different: They ranged from 0.74% to 0.76%.

Intel, McAfee Break-up Nearly Complete

April 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel is finally de-coupling from McAfee after seven up and down years, which included a lawsuit last year from John McAfee, after whom the company is named.

The chip maker has divested its majority holdings in McAfee to investment firm TPG for $3.1 billion.

McAfee will now again become a standalone security company, but Intel will retain a minority 49 percent stake. The chip maker will focus internal operations on hardware-level security.

For Intel, dumping majority ownership in McAfee amounts to a loss. It spent $7.68 billion to acquire McAfee in 2010, which was a head-scratcher at the time. Intel’s McAfee acquisition will stand as one of the company’s worst acquisitions.

The chip maker had the right idea when it acquired McAfee — to add layers of security to hardware and components. Intel embedded McAfee technology in firmware at the PC and server chip level, and developed security management tools.

McAfee technology was also used in hardware using real-time operating systems. However, McAfee had few ties to Intel’s core hardware strategy.

Intel was running a parallel hardware security strategy that had little to do with McAfee, which was renamed Intel Security. The chip maker was developing trusted boot systems and partnering with other companies on server security and secure payments.

The McAfee acquisition gave Intel deep insight into the security arena, said Doug Fisher, senior vice president and general manager of the Software and Services Group at Intel.

Separating the companies will put McAfee in a better position to grow in the software area, which is its core competency, Fisher said. It also leaves Intel in a better position to grow in hardware-level security at the chip and firmware levels, he added.

Intel’s focus will be on putting instructions and hooks on its silicon to protect users. It is already providing secure areas in its chips where user authentication data can be stored. For example, its SGX (Software Guard Extensions) feature can authenticate users so content providers can stream 4K video to authorized PCs. It wants to use similar features to ensure secure payments from PCs.

Security is also a big concern in IoT devices, but Intel will rely on partnerships. Intel is a member of Open Connectivity Foundation, and will work with industry partners to develop IoTivity protocols, which aim for secure connectivity between devices with multiple OSes and wireless technologies.

Intel also is expanding into self-driving cars, where security is a big consideration. Hacking into the software controls of a self-driving car could be disastrous, and Intel is putting supercomputers in vehicles that will need to be secured.

Another area of focus is the ability to securely deliver over-the-air updates to self driving cars, Fisher said.

Intel will deliver a reference architecture to harden edge devices and gateways for automobile security. There will also be automobile security standards that could protect self-driving cars from hacks, Fisher said.

VR is still in its infancy, and so are the security considerations. In virtual worlds, security could be much like it is in the real world, where certain virtual areas are cordoned off from unauthorized users. Also, Intel wants to cut the cord from VR headsets with secure wireless connections to PCs, Fisher said.

The fate of some products like True Key — which allows users to log into Windows PCs via biometric authentication — are not yet known. True Key is a competitor to Microsoft’s Windows Hello. Intel will also work with Microsoft to promote Windows Hello.

WhatsApp Exploring Digital Payments Service

April 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Instant messaging app WhatsApp, owned by Facebook Inc, is exploring a foray into digital payment services in India, its first such offering globally, and has advertised to hire a digital transactions lead in the country.

A WhatsApp move into digital payments in India, its biggest market that is home to 200 million of its billion plus global users, would replicate similar moves by messaging apps like Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat in China.

WhatsApp is working to launch person-to-person payments in India in the next six months, news website The Ken reported earlier on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.

A job advertisement on WhatsApp’s website said it was looking for a candidate with a technical and financial background – who understands India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and the BHIM payments app that enable money transfers and merchant payments using mobile numbers – to be its digital transactions lead for the country.

“India is an important country for WhatsApp, and we’re understanding how we can contribute more to the vision of Digital India,” a WhatsApp spokesman said, referring to a flagship government program that aims to boost the use of Internet-based services in the country.

“We’re exploring how we might work with companies that share this vision and continuing to listen closely to feedback from our users,” the spokesman said, declining to elaborate further.

Digital transactions in India have surged after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shock ban of certain high-value bank notes in November that accounted for more than 80 percent of the country’s currency in circulation at the time.

In February, WhatsApp’s co-founder, Brian Acton, had told local media that the app was in early stages of investigating digital payments in the country and that he had talked to the Indian government about the matter.

Just last week, Swedish communications app Truecaller, which has a large user base in India, started a mobile payment service in the country based on the UPI platform.

Is Microsoft Moving Windows Into Cars?

April 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft said that it will begin licensing some of its intellectual property (IP) for internet-connected automobiles in an effort to usher in a new wave of real-time communications, roadside assistance, infotainment services, and self-driving features for consumers over the next few years.

The big push for connected automobiles has been in development since at least 1996, when Cadillac announced the 1996 DeVille with OnStar cellular systems and GPS location services. Seven years later, connected car services were updated to include vehicle health reports, turn-by-turn directions and basic network features. Then in 2014, General Motors debuted the first 4G LTE connected services to a range of its automotive brands, along with Audi, and then Tesla the following year.

With extensive investments in R&D, the Redmond software giant now wants to develop customized solutions for other automotive manufacturers that seamlessly integrate the car into the digital life of their customers. The idea is to deliver a set of Internet connected experiences that are “safe, productive, and fun”. The company will introduce five key areas for its auto partners to deploy in their own lists of connected vehicle features – in-car productivity, customer engagement and insight, telematics, connected ADAP support, and advanced contextual navigation.

Connected Vehicle Platform – runs on AI, machine learning, and Azure cloud service

Microsoft claims that its customers want a connected car that represents their individual brands, and it wants to focus on being their underlying platform provider. The company’s platform essentially runs on a series of developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning algorithms, its own Azure cloud platform to integrate with a driver’s personal Microsoft devices and services and deliver the in-car connected experience that integrates personal data with the vehicle’s dashboard environment.

Using the Cortana intelligence suite, for instance, a driver will be able to ask a Microsoft-connected vehicle to schedule a meeting to his or her calendar, email a document created with Office365, access brand-specific infotainment services using the Azure cloud platform, and dial a contact over Skype.

Toyota will be first Microsoft CVP partner

The company has reached an agreement to license its intellectual property to Toyota as its first partner in the launch of the new Connected Vehicle Platform. The agreement builds on the strong existing partnership between Microsoft and Toyota, which has included their collaboration on the Azure-based Toyota Big Data Center. The Japan-based facility will become part of the company’s Toyota Smart Center pilot program, which launched back in April 2011 as a plan to build a program for next-generation telematics services using the Azure cloud platform.

During CES 2016, Toyota announced that certain 2017 model year vehicles would see the installation of new Data Communication Modules (DCMs) connected to LTE. These modules would quietly analyze and process data collected from vehicle alert notifications and transmit information back to the TBDC under high-level information security and privacy controls.

The IP licensing program will eventually span to other automakers as well, and the goal is for partnering automakers to actuate their own connected transformations by developing completely customized services and app suites. “Automakers can focus on what matters most to their customers while launching the smart mobility services of the future,” says Microsoft.

Courtesy-Fud

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