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Dyreza Trojan Appears To Be Targeting Windows 10

November 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



IBM Says 2015 Was The Year Of Ransomware

November 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Is The Steam OS Really Good?

November 19, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Benchmarks for Valve’s Steam machines are out and it does not look like the Linux powered OS is stacking up well against Windows.

According to Ars Technica the SteamOS gaming comes with a significant performance hit on a number of benchmarks.

The OS was put through Geekbench 3 which has a Linux version. The magazine used some mid-to-late-2014 releases that had SteamOS ports suitable for tests including Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Metro: Last Light Redux.

Both were intensive 3D games with built-in benchmarking tools and a variety of quality sliders to play with (including six handy presets in Shadow of Mordor’s case).

On SteamOS both games had a sizable frame rate hit. We are talking about 21- to 58-percent fewer frames per second, depending on the graphical settings. On our hardware running Shadow of Mordor at Ultra settings and HD resolution, the OS change alone was the difference between a playable 34.5 fps average on Windows and a 14.6 fps mess on SteamOS.

You would think that Valve’s own games wouldn’t have this problem, but Portal, Team Fortress 2, and DOTA 2 all took massive frame rate dips on SteamOS compared to their Windows counterparts.

Left 4 Dead 2 showed comparable performance between the two operating systems but nothing like what Steam thought it would have a couple of years ago.



Will AMD Bring Two New GPUs To Market In 2016?

November 18, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMDs’ head graphics guy, Raja Koduri promised that AMD will have two new GPUs out next year.

Koduri was talking to Forbes about how AMD needed to get some new architectural designs and create brand new GPUs into the shops.

He added that this is something that AMD has been pretty pants about lately.

He promised two brand new GPUs in 2016, which are hopefully going to both be 14nm/16nm FinFET from GlobalFoundries or TSMC and will help make Advanced Micro Devices more power and die size competitive.

AMD’s GPU architectures have gotten rather elderly, he said.

AMD also wants to increase its share in professional graphics. Apparently this is so low that any competition it brings Nvidia could significantly help their market share in this high margin business. The company has hired

Sean Burke to help drive this forward. Sean was a president at Flex and Nortek and a senior executive at Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Dell. For those who came in late he was the father of Dell’s Dimension and Compaq’s Prolinea.

Koduri’s cunning plan is to capture consumer and professional graphics will be by providing fully immersive experiences that range from education and medicine to gaming and virtual reality with plenty of overlap in between.

He is also interested in expanding into “instinctive computing” applications which involve medicine, factory automation, automotive and security. These are computing applications that are more natural to the environment and less obvious to the user and should come as natural user experiences.

Koduri has three make attack plans. The first is to gain discrete GPU market share in 2016 and 2017 as well as win the next generation of consoles, which will be 4K. Ironically the AMD chips in the consoles on the market at the moment can handle 4K but they don’t.

Koduri wants console makers will continue to stick with Radeon IP for their next generation consoles and give Advanced Micro Devices an even bigger advantage in the gaming space.

DirectX 12 in the latest shipping version of Windows does seem to give Radeon GPUs a significant performance uplift against Nvidia, he said.



Get Ready For Online Fraud Increase, Says Study

November 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

As retailers and consumers gear up for the holiday shopping season, attempts by criminals to steal payment card information to commit fraud online are likely to rise, according to new research by ACI Worldwide.

The move by U.S. merchants and card issuers to switch to more secure chip cards for in-store purchases this year is likely to increase fraudulent attempts on transactions online.

The ACI research showed fraud rates by volume for transactions that don’t involve physically swiping a card have increased in 2015, with one out of every 86 transactions a fraudulent attempt compared with one out of 114 transactions in 2014.

Fraud attempt rates by volume have increased by 30 percent compared with 2014 as consumers shop with more devices online and card issuers are slower to shut down accounts after fraudulent activity.

“When it comes to fraud, 2015 is likely among the riskiest season retailers have ever seen,” said Mike Braatz, senior vice president, Payments Risk Management, ACI Worldwide. “It is critical that they prepare for a significant uptick in fraud, particularly within e-commerce channels,” he said.

ACI, which delivers electronic banking and payment solutions for financial institutions, retailers and processors around the world, said its data is based on an analysis of hundreds of millions of transactions from large global retailers between January and July 2015 compared with the same period in 2014.

The research also forecast a spike in buy online and pick up in-store attempted fraud rates.

That is expected to increase by 28 percent this holiday season as a result of chip-cards being deployed within stores and as retailers do not require consumers to re-run cards when they pick up products ordered online in store.



Google Open Sources TensorFlow

November 13, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Google has announced the open-sourcing of its machine learning engine TensorFlow.

Despite sounding like a sanitary product, TensorFlow is in fact behind some of Google’s biggest recent advances, such as the improvements in speech recognition that have allowed Google Now to expand.

Originally developed by the Google Brain team, as a successor to its preview machine learning platform DistBelief, it has been an internal tool up to now, but as the website explains: “TensorFlow is not complete; it is intended to be built upon, improved, and extended.

“We have made an initial release of the source code, and are currently moving our internal development efforts over to use a public repository for the day-to-day changes made by our team at Google.

“We hope to build an active open source community that drives the future of this library, both by providing feedback and by actively contributing to the source code.”

Everything you need is included, from the source code itself, development kits, Apache 2.0 licenced examples, tutorials, and sample use cases.

Earlier this year, a Tensorflow project made the news when Google’s Deepdream showed us what computer’s dream about. It turns out that when you show them Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, they dream about some quite terrifying stuff that takes it to a whole other level.

The Google Research blog explains: “Today we’re proud to announce the open source release of TensorFlow – our second-generation machine learning system, specifically designed to correct these shortcomings.

“TensorFlow is general, flexible, portable, easy-to-use, and completely open source. We added all this while improving upon DistBelief’s speed, scalability, and production readiness – in fact, on some benchmarks, TensorFlow is twice as fast as DistBelief.”

It’s now available in version 2.0, for absolutely no beans whatsoever.


No More Chrome Updates For Windows XP And Vista

November 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Windows XP will be getting even less secure next year, when Google will discontinue updating Chrome for users of Microsoft’s elderly operating system.

The company just announced that PCs running XP and Vista will be able to keep using Chrome after April 2016, but Google will cease providing updates to its browser, including security-focused patches. That same deal goes for Mac users running OS 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8.

Google said it was turning off the updates because the makers of all five OSs had stopped providing official support for them.

“Such older platforms are missing critical security updates and have a greater potential to be infected by viruses and malware,” Chrome Director of Engineering Mark Pawliger said in a blog post announcing the decision.

Google said earlier this year that it planned to stop supporting old operating systems, and called out XP in particular as a problem. Microsoft’s operating system, while more than a decade old, is still clinging to life on computers in homes and organizations large and small. Microsoft ended support for XP last year, but some organizations (including the U.S. Navy) haven’t completely made the jump yet.

This is also especially bad news for people who want to keep old Macs with PowerPC processors running. Those computers are stuck on OS 10.6.8, because it’s the last version of the OS that Apple put out which is compatible with those processors. That said, people still love their PowerBooks and Power Macs, and this change is likely going to hurt for those folks who want to keep browsing like it’s 2005.

It’s a tough spot to be in, but come April, there won’t be much of a choice for those people who want their old computer to still have a secure version of Chrome. Either they update their hardware, or they get left behind.




Will AMD Go Back To Black In 2016

November 12, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s EMEA component sales manager Neil Spicer is “confident” his outfit can return to profitability in 2016.

Talking to CRN Spicer said he is sure that profitability will return as long as the company sticks to its principles.

“From a personal stance, I am confident [AMD can be profitable]. I believe we are working with exactly the right customers, and over the last few years we have become much simpler to execute and do business with.”

He said that in order to achieve profit, the company must ensure it is investing in the right areas.

“Moving forwards to 2016, we have to have profitable share growth,” he said. “So it’s choosing the right business to go after, both with the company itself and the ecosystem of partners. There is no point in us as a vendor chasing unprofitable partners.

“We want to focus [in the areas] we are good at – that’s where we are going to invest heavily. That’s things like winning the graphics battle with gaming and so forth, and we want to be part of this Windows 10 upgrade cycle.”

Spicer so far has been a little optimistic this year. He thought that Windows 10 would drive an upgrade refresh, particularly as AMD works so well with the new OS.

He also thinks that the combination of Windows 10, the advent of e-sports – competitive online gaming – and new technology and products AMD is launching, means “PC is an exciting market”.

Of course Spicer was extremely enthusiastic about Zen which he thinks will help its play in the high-end desktop space, and the server area. More cynical observers think that Zen will be AMD’s last roll of the dice.



Hackers Take Down Swedish Bank

November 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Swiss bank Swedbank has had its website taken offline by hackers after suffering a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Friday.

Details remain thin on the ground, but the attack means that customers are unable to to carry out online transactions or contact the bank through its website.

The site is still down, and the bank admitted to CBR that, while it probably knows who is behind the attack, “our method to cope with it hasn’t really succeeded yet”.

There’s no word as to when the website will be back up and running, but the bank has confirmed that its mobile applications are still working.

This isn’t the first time that Swedbank has fallen victim to hackers. The company admitted in a statement given to Reuters that this was the second attack in as many months, and – clearly not very confident in its own security – that it will probably happen again.

“The website was also hit by a hacker attack in October. It is not the first time and it will probably not be the last,” a spokesperson said.

News of the attack on Swedbank, which also operates in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, comes just hours after encrypted email company ProtonMail admitted that it had also been struck by a major DDoS attack.

ProtonMail said that, in a bid to get back to business, the company “grudgingly agreed” to pay 15 bitcoins, or $6,000, to the hackers in a bid to get them to stop the attack.

However, after handing over the cash, ProtonMail said that the DDoS attack, which was “unprecedented in size and scope”, continued, although it appears to have now stopped.

ProtonMail warned that the costs involved in avoiding another such attack are crippling and could put the firm out of business.



Google Seeking Test Pilots For Drone Delivery Service

November 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is looking test pilots for its Project Wing drone delivery project and Project Titan airborne Internet service.

The jobs, both posted on Google’s website, are additional signs of the rapid pace of research and development into aerial automation going on at the Mountain View, California, company. Google recently said it hopes to start commercial drone delivery operations in 2017.

For Project Wing, the company is looking for an expert remote-controlled aircraft pilot who “will act as chief test pilot that will help the team execute flight tests on custom UAS platforms.”

“We’ve built a prototype to show how such a system can work and are now developing the next generation to be ultra reliable and ready for service,” the job posting says. “We tackle performance, autonomy, costs, security, reliability, and above all, safety.”

U.S. law heavily restricts the type of drone flight that can be conducted by companies. One of the stipulations in all drone flight licenses is that a human operator must remain in control and the drone must be within his or her sight at all times.

Project Titan drones operate at altitudes higher than commercial aircraft and aren’t bound by the same human-operator rules, but Google needs a flight test pilot for that project too.

Candidates should have “extensive experience in flying prototype air vehicles” including unmanned and electric aircraft, and could end up in one of several roles including air vehicle operator, external pilot, observer and chase pilot, the job posting says.

The two job postings also expose a difference in the level of technology and research taking place within the two projects. While the delivery drone project is open to anyone, the Titan project job ad hints at requiring a government security clearance “to access the technical and defense data necessary for this job” and is restricted to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.




AT&T Begins Sales Of BlackBerry’s Android-Based Priv Phone

November 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

AT&T began sales of BlackBerry’s first Android-powered smartphone, a slider called the Priv, on Friday for $250 with a two-year contract, a price that could entice buyers who are reluctant to pay BlackBerry’s own $699 off-contract price.

Pre-orders for the slider smartphone with a 5.4-in. display, started two weeks ago. A BlackBerry spokeswoman declared in an email that pre-orders for the Priv “far surpassed” pre-orders for BlackBerry’s Classic and Passport phones, but she declined to offer any numbers.

While her statement sounds positive for Priv, it might not mean very much. Both earlier smartphones, which run on the BlackBerry OS, were “not tracking anywhere close” to what BlackBerry expected, according to Morgan Stanley analysts in March.

BlackBerry hasn’t broken out sales figures for any of its devices, but the company recently said it generated revenues from shipping just 800,000 phones in the quarter that ended Aug. 29, down from 2.1 million a year earlier.

Its dwindling smartphone sales left BlackBerry with just 0.3% of the total global smartphone market in the second quarter, according to IDC. Presumably,selling an Android phone could help BlackBerry, because Android is now positioned at 83% of the global market.




Microsoft To Block SHA-1 Hashing

November 9, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Software Giant Microsoft has joined Mozilla and will consider blocking the SHA-1 hashing algorithm on Windows to keep the US spooks from using it to spy on users computers.

Redmond had earlier said that Windows would block SHA-1 signed TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificates from January 1, 2017, but is now mulling moving up the date to June.

There have been concerns about the algorithm’s security as researchers have proven that a forged digital certificate that has the same SHA-1 hash as a legitimate one can be created. Users can then be tricked into interacting with a spoofed site in what is called a hash collision.

In October, a team of cryptoanalysts warned that the SHA-1 standard should be withdrawn as the cost of breaking the encryption had dropped faster than expected to US$75,000 to $120,000 in 2015 using freely available cloud computing.

Programme manager for Microsoft Edge Kyle Pflug wrote in his blog that Redmond will coordinate with other browser vendors to evaluate the impact of this timeline based on telemetry and current projections for feasibility of SHA-1 collisions.

Mozilla said in October that in view of recent attacks it was considering a cut-off of July 1, 2016 to start rejecting all SHA-1 SSL certificates, regardless of when they were issued, ahead of an earlier scheduled date of January 1, 2017.



Britain’s New Surveillance Plans Raise Ire Of Privacy Advocates

November 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Britain has announced plans for sweeping new surveillance powers, including the right to find out which websites people visit, measures ministers say are vital to keep the country safe but which critics denounce as an assault on freedoms.

Across the West, debate about how to protect privacy while helping agencies operate in the digital age has raged since former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of mass surveillance by British and U.S. spies in 2013.

Experts say part of the new British bill goes beyond the powers available to security services in the United States.

The draft was watered down from an earlier version dubbed a “snoopers’ charter” by critics who prevented it reaching parliament. Home Secretary Theresa May told lawmakers the new document was unprecedented in detailing what spies could do and how they would be monitored.

“It will provide the strongest safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements,” she said. “And it will give the men and women of our security and intelligence agencies and our law enforcement agencies … the powers they need to protect our country.”

They would be able to require communication service providers (CSPs) to hold their customers’ web browsing data for a year, which experts say is not available to their U.S. counterparts.

“What the British are attempting to do, and what the French have already done post Charlie Hebdo, would never have seen the light of day in the American political system,” Michael Hayden, former director of the U.S. National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, told Reuters.

May said that many of the new bill’s measures merely updated existing powers or spelled them out.

Police and spies’ access to web use would be limited to “Internet connection records” – which websites people had visited but not the particular pages – and not their full browsing history, she said.

“An Internet connection record is a record of the communications service that a person has used – not a record of every web page they have accessed,” May said. “It is simply the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill.”




HP Finally Splits

November 4, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The maker of expensive printer ink, HP has formally cut itself in two on Monday in a move to turn around its fortunes.

Now there will be two companies, HP Inc and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Somewhat appropriately HP Inc will be allowed to keep milking the ink business but it will also have to sell the less useful PCs and printers. The smart money is on HPE which has the company’s services and enterprise server hardware.

The plan was similar to a something that ousted CEO Léo Apotheker came up with in 2011. Apotheker, however, planned to sell-off PCs and printers to raise funds for acquisitions in such cool areas Autonomy software. He never got around to selling off the PCs but he did buy Autonomy.

Both companies have similar turnovers of around $57bn, and the bundling of the profitable printers division with struggling PCs will mean that HP ink will not be dead in the water before it starts.

The operational split between the two companies on 1 August also went smoothly, so really today’s announcement is more just formal.

Some think that there will be some more fine tuning to come with a few more sell offs. Last week, HP flogged its security business, TippingPoint, to Trend Micro and then announced its decision to exit the public cloud market in favour of partnering with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft.

Still it does mean that the restructuring proceeded OK and on time. What will be more interesting is if the two-headed monster can see off competition better than a bigger beast with only one head and a bit of a limp.


Two Percent Of Smartphone Riddled With Malware

November 4, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Security research has warned that mobile threats are raining down on smartphones and their owners like, well, rain.

The alert comes from a firm called Skycure, which said that two percent of devices are already in trouble and almost half are on the edge of attack.

Problems are caused through the existence of phones, the general availability of willing hackers, and people downloading things from third-party app stores. Skycure said that proprietary studies, its own data and information from other sources have led to the numbers, and a range of other problems.

Skycure data is culled from enterprise users, which makes the third-party download thing even worse. Hardware is not helping out, however, and the firm reckons that some 52 percent of devices do not even require a passcode for entry.

The finger is pointed at people, naturally, but the warning comes with an offer of protection. “Threats to mobile devices are real and, based on this report, people aren’t doing enough to protect themselves,” said Adi Sharabani, chief executive of Skycure.

“Skycure brings invisible mobile threats to the surface so that enterprises can fight the bad guys on a level playing field.”

People who do not update their software are a problem, and the firm found that around 30 percent of people are running out-of-date operating systems. The number for iOS is 26 percent. This puts users at risk from some of the problems with Android and iOS that we have seen recently.

Proper management can save all this, though, and iPhones that are rooted or jailbroken are like honey for the bees.

Skycure’s research reckons that Android users are the ripest for plucking, adding that around a third already run an app with bad intentions and a quarter have third-party app store downloads enabled.