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Did Kaspersky Hack NSA Staff

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Kaspersky has denied it played a role in hacking into the personal computer of a US National Security Agency (NSA) worker.

Kaspersky Lab has published a report detailing an internal investigation it launched examining allegations that its software was used to compromise an NSA employee’s home computer.

In early October, a report published in the Wall Street Journal claimed that the firm’s software was used to download confidential data from an American agent’s home computer.

However, later reports circulated accusing the firm of deliberately taking files from the PC. Following the incident, Kaspersky conducted a full investigation to gain additional evidence of the incident and explore how it happened.

Researchers at the company confirmed that Russian cybercrooks installed software on an NSA contractor’s computer to access and steal sensitive data.

The user, according to the company, was able to download and install pirated software on the machine. The researchers identified a compromised Microsoft Office ISO file, as well as an illegal Microsoft Office 2013 activation tool.

They were able to install the pirate copy of Office 2013 after disabling the Kaspersky security product. If the latter had been left on the PC, it would have identified the illegal activator tool.

This illegal tool was infected with malware, and this was left on the PC while the Kaspersky software was inactive. The malware meant other third-parties could access the user’s machine, causing major security concerns.

However, when the company’s antivirus software was re-enabled, it detected the software with the verdict Backdoor.Win32.Mokes.hvl and stopped it from contacting a dodgy command and control software.

This backdoor approach was first identified in October 2014, but it’s still being used by cybercriminals looking to steal important data. Kaspersky researchers said the antivirus software detected other variants of the Equation APT malware too.

Various variants of the malware, including a 7zip archive, was sent to the Kaspersky Virus Lab for analysis. Researchers found that it contained a number of source codes and classified documents.

At the request of the firm’s CEO, these files were removed from its servers.

“The reason Kaspersky Lab deleted those files and will delete similar ones in the future is two-fold: first, it needs only malware binaries to improve protection and, secondly, it has concerns regarding the handling of potentially classified material,” the firm wrote.   

“Because of this incident, a new policy was created for all malware analysts: they are now required to delete any potentially classified material that has been accidentally collected during anti-malware research.”

“To further support the objectivity of the internal investigation we ran it using multiple analysts including those of non-Russian origin and working outside of Russia to avoid even potential accusations of influence.”

Speaking about other findings, the firm said: “One of the major early discoveries of the investigation was that the PC in question was infected with the Mokes backdoor – a malware allowing malicious users remote access to a computer.

“As part of the investigation, Kaspersky Lab researchers took a deeper look at this backdoor and other non-Equation threat-related telemetry sent from the computer.

Courtesy-TheInq

Will Ransomware Reach Epidemic Levels In 2018

November 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Sophos expects that ransomware will become a fully fledged epidemic in 2018.

While 2017 has already seen some major outbreaks, Sophos believes that ransomware will continue to grow in 2018, affecting more companies and platforms. Cybercrooks, it said, are becoming more sophisticated.

Throughout 2017, there have been a string of global IT security crises, from WannaCry to NotPetya. According to Sophos, attackers have been able to perfect their ransomware delivery techniques to cause such outbreaks.

While most ransomware hits Windows users, the report found that other platforms aren’t immune. Attackers have also been targeting mobile devices, particularly Android.

Ransomware, the firm says, is a “vexing problem” for businesses. Generated in May 2017, WannaCry was the biggest ransomware to affect customers – beating previous leader Cerber, which appeared in early 2016.

WannaCry made up 45.3 per cent of the ransomware tracked by Sophas, with Cerber accounting for 44.2 per cent.

Dorka Palotay, a researcher at the firm, said cybercriminals will likely launch more complex ransomware attacks in the future.

“For the first time, we saw ransomware with worm-like characteristics, which contributed to the rapid expansion of WannaCry,” he said.

“This ransomware took advantage of an old Windows vulnerability to infect and spread to computers, making it hard to control,” he added.

“Even though WannaCry has tapered off and Sophos has defenses for it, we still see the threat because of its inherent nature to keep scanning and attacking computers.

“We’re expecting cyber criminals to build upon WannaCry and NotPetya and their ability to replicate, and this is already evident with Bad Rabbit ransomware, which shows many similarities to NotPetya.”

The report also explored the rise and fall of NotPetya, which made headlines in June 2017. Sophos said this attack was far less damaging than WannaCry, and it suspects cybercriminals were merely “experimenting”.

“NotPetya spiked fast and furiously before taking a nose dive, but did ultimately hurt businesses. This is because NotPetya permanently destroyed data on the computers it hit. Luckily, NotPetya stopped almost as fast as it started,” said Palotay. “

“We suspect the cybercriminals were experimenting or their goal was not ransomware, but something more destructive like a data wiper.

“Regardless of intention, Sophos strongly advises against paying for ransomware and recommends best practices instead, including backing up data.

Android ransomware is also on the rise, according to the research. The report has revealed that the number of attacks on users using Google’s mobile platform grew month-on-month during 2017.

The firm said that by the end of the year, its systems will have identified an estimated 10 million suspicious Android apps. In comparison, 8.5 million were processed in 2016.

Rowland Yu, a SophosLabs security researcher focusing on mobile malware, said: “In September alone, 30.37 per cent of malicious Android malware processed by SophosLabs was ransomware.

“One reason we believe ransomware on Android is taking off is because it’s an easy way for cybercriminals to make money instead of stealing contacts and SMS, popping ups ads or even bank phishing which requires sophisticated hacking techniques.

It’s important to note that Android ransomware is mainly discovered in non-Google Play markets – another reason for users to be very cautious about where and what kinds of apps they download.” 

Courtesy-TheInq

US Government Agencies Start To Give Kaspersky The Boot

November 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

US federal government agencies have met the first three deadlines of the September directive calling for the removal of Kaspersky Lab security products from all government systems and networks. 

In September, the US government ordered the removal of all Kaspersky software from federal agencies due to fears of influence from Russian president Vladimir Putin. Agencies were given 90 days to do this.

Following this directive, an official working at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that the “vast majority” agencies have removed all Kaspersky software.

Michael Duffy, who leads cybersecurity and communications at the DHS, explained that fewer than half of their agencies were using Kaspersky’s anti-virus software.

He didn’t give a specific percentage about how many agencies have actually met the DHS deadline or how many have been using Kaspersky software but said they’re moving in the right direction.

Kaspersky has faced a lot of pressure from the US government over the past few months amid claims the Kremlin is using its software to conduct cyber espionage.

Of course, Kaspersky has flatly denied these claims, but that hasn’t stopped US officials from making new ones. Duffy spoke to reporters at the 27 October meeting of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board.

He said the agency won’t comment on any individual cases, but each agency was given an ample timeframe to remove the software. This task is lengthy due to the complex nature of Kaspersky’s products.

There are many other systems that are based on Kaspersky anti-virus and its application programming interface, cautioned Duffy.

While US government agencies work to banish the software, some traces of it will still be left behind, a former DHS official told FCW.

John Norton, who worked at the agency when George W. Bush set it up, said: “Probably the best example is anybody who has a home computer and has tried to remove some kind of app they didn’t want anymore. It’s still in there in some form. It’s difficult to clean that up.”

Responding to the directive in September, a spokesperson for Kaspersky said: “Given that Kaspersky Lab doesn’t have inappropriate ties with any government, the company is disappointed with the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“No credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization as the accusations are based on false allegations and inaccurate assumptions, including claims about the impact of Russian regulations and policies on the company.

“Kaspersky Lab has always acknowledged that it provides appropriate products and services to governments around the world to protect those organizations from cyberthreats, but it does not have unethical ties or affiliations with any government, including Russia.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Can Kaspersky’s Western Business Be Saved

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Eugene Kaspersky, the co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, which is at the center of US government security claims, has revealed further details about plans to have its software examined and audited in an independent code review.

However, the former deputy director of the US National Security Agency (NSA), Rick Ledgett, claims that this is not enough.

Kaspersky Lab said on Monday that it will ask independent parties to review its products in a process starting in the new year. The initiative is part a bid to distance itself from allegations that it allows the Russian government to use its popular anti-virus software to conduct cyber espionage.

The company is planning to provide software regulation and review bodies with the source code of current and future products, working with “the broader information-security community and other stakeholders”, Kaspersky said in a statement.

In addition, the company will also give outside organizations access to other aspects of its business, including software development. These reviews will begin in the first quarter of next year.

It said the aim of this is to “verify the integrity” of its solutions and processes. The company’s products are used on around 400 million computers worldwide.

Kaspersky is calling this a “global transparency initiative”, although it hasn’t yet named the outside reviewers that it will employ. Instead, it said that it is working with parties that sport “strong credentials in software security and assurance testing for cyber-security products”.

Distancing itself from Russia, the company will open specialist centers throughout Asia, Europe and United States. Here, customers, governments and other organizations will be able to access the results of the reviews.

And it’ll expand its independent security research program, paying specialists as much as $100,000 if they find security vulnerabilities in its products.

However, writing today, Ledgett claimed that the initiative won’t address the core problem.

“On the face of it this sounds like a good move, but in reality it doesn’t address the alleged activity,” Ledgett claimed.

He continued: “When you download any anti-virus software and click on the very long end-user license agreement, somewhere in there you agree to give that software access to all the files on your computer and all the files that will be sent to and from your computer…

“This all makes perfect sense for legitimate anti-virus companies, but it’s also a potential gold mine if misused. Instead of looking for signatures of malware, the software can be instructed to look for things like ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ or ‘proprietary’ – literally anything the vendor desires. Any files of interest can be pulled back to headquarters under the pretext of analyzing potential malware.”

He concluded: “Eugene Kaspersky’s proposal to have experts analyze Kaspersky anti-virus code is irrelevant in this case, because the code is doing exactly what it has been designed to do, but in a way that is inconsistent with what customers expect and are paying for. It’s not the code itself, it’s the use of the code…

“If Eugene Kaspersky really wanted to assuage the fears of customers and potential customers, he would instead have all communications between the company’s servers and the 400 million or so installations on client machines go through an independent monitoring center.

“That way evaluators could see what commands and software updates were going from Kaspersky headquarters to those clients and what was being sent back in response.”

Just last month, the use of Kaspersky products was banned throughout US government agencies amid fears that the company has been working with the Kremlin.

Despite this, the company has denied any involvement with the Russian government, adding that it doesn’t work with any governments in order to engage in espionage.

Co-founder Eugene Kaspersky said: “Internet balkanization benefits no one except cybercriminals. Reduced cooperation among countries helps the bad guys in their operations, and public-private partnerships don’t work like they should.

“We need to re-establish trust in relationships between companies, governments and citizens. That’s why we’re launching this Global Transparency Initiative: we want to show how we’re completely open and transparent.

He added that the company is ethical in its practices. “We’ve nothing to hide. And I believe that with these actions we’ll be able to overcome mistrust and support our commitment to protecting people in any country on our planet.” 

Courtesy-TheInq

Will PC Sales Ever Make A Comeback

October 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Beancounters at Gartner have been adding up some numbers and reached the conclusion that sales of traditional PCs are still falling.

Things might pick up next year, but PC sales have continued to fall and analyst always say “things will get better next year.”

Gartner said that PC shipments will drop by nearly eight percent this year, and another 4.4 percent in 2018. By 2019, 16 million fewer traditional PCs and notebooks will be sold than were shipped this year.

However, much of this will be offset by the rise in spending on high-end notebooks so that the overall PC market will by 2019 be at pretty much the same level it was last year.

Tablets — defined by Gartner as basic and utility ultramobile devices — will also decline over the period to 2019.

But despite the declines in traditional PC sales, Gartner said it was a misconception that everyone has gone mobile, noting that its own research found that users depend just as much on PCs or tablets as they do on smartphones. One big difference between smartphones and PCs is that people are replacing their handsets much more regularly.

Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner Atwal said: “Users holding onto their PCs for longer remains a major issue for the PC market. In contrast, users continue to replace their smartphone quite frequently.”

Business PC shipments could return to growth by the end of this year, driven by faster Windows 10 replacement in many regions — especially in Western Europe.

“Despite the fact that prices have been rising due to higher component costs, Windows 10 replacements have kept the PC market relatively stable through 2017,” said Atwal. “We estimate that the PC market (desk-based, notebook and ultramobiles) is set to return to 0.8 percent growth in 2018,” he continued. According to Gartner, this trend would be driven by growth in Russia and China.

Courtesy-Fud

Does Kaspersky Have Ties To The Russian Government

August 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The Untouchables are briefing private sector companies on intelligence claiming to show that the Moscow-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab is an unacceptable threat to national security.

Apparently the FBI’s goal is to have US firms push Kaspersky out of their systems as soon as possible or refrain from using them in new products or other efforts, the current and former officials say.

The FBI’s counterintelligence section has been giving briefings since beginning of the year on a priority basis, prioritising companies in the energy sector and those that use industrial control (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.

The FBI has focused on this sector following the cyber attacks on the Ukraine power grid which were believed to be a test run by Russian spooks. However the move also comes as Russia is engaged in its own push to stamp American tech giants like Microsoft out of that country’s systems. Rather than being security issues, it is also possible that it is a form of tit-for-tat trade war.

However  Businessweek claims to have seen emails which “show that Kaspersky Lab has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia’s main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted”.

Kaspersky Lab says that the company does not have “inappropriate” ties with any government, adding that “the company does regularly work with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world with the sole purpose of fighting cybercrime”.

Courtesy-Fud

Is The Locky Ransomware Back To Wreak Havoc

August 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Locky Ransomware is back from the dead with two new strains, security researchers at Malwarebytes have warned.

Locky was one of the three most widely distributed forms of malware in 2016, along with Cryptowall and Cerber, but although ransomware has boomed during 2017, Locky has been largely quiet.

But on 9 August, Locky made a dramatic return, using a new ransom note and file extension, ‘.diablo6’, which it followed up a week later with another variant, with the extension ‘.Lukitus’.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the method of distribution.Rather than rifling through the trove of spilt US National Security Agency exploits, as the groups behind WannaCry and NotPetya did, Locky is distributed via phishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office files or zipped attachments containing a malicious script.

The new Locky variants, adds Malwarebytes, callback to different command and control servers (C2) and use the affiliate id: AffilID3 and AffilID5.

“Over the last few months, Locky has drastically decreased its distribution, even failed to be distributed at all, then popped back up again, vanished and reappeared once more. The ups and downs of Locky remain shrouded in mystery. One thing time has taught us is that we should never assume Locky is gone simply because it’s not active at a particular given time,” the company warned in a briefing note. 

In 2016, a US hospital was forced to pay $17,000 in bitcoin in order to recover devices that had fallen victim to the Locky ransomware.

Locky is a variant on the Dridex banking Trojan, which is believed to have been behind the theft of around £20m from bank accounts in the UK alone, refitted for ransomware rather than stealing online banking credentials. Both are associated with the Necurs malware distribution botnet.

Back then, security researchers at Proofpoint pointed out the connection between Dridex and Locky.

“While a variety of new ransomware has appeared since the end of 2015, Locky stands out because it is being delivered by the same actor behind many of the Dridex campaigns we have tracked over the past year,” warned the company in an advisory.

“The actors behind Locky are clearly taking a cue from the Dridex playbook in terms of distribution. Just as Dridex has been pushing the limits of campaign sizes, now we’re seeing even higher volumes with Locky, rivalling the largest Dridex campaigns we have observed to date.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Microsoft Continues Windows XP Patches Over ‘WannaCry’ Concerns

June 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is following May’s unprecedented release of security updates for expired operating systems, including Windows XP, by issuing another dozen patches for the aged OS.

The Redmond, Wash. company cited fears of possible attacks by “nation-states,” a label for government-sponsored hackers or foreign intelligence services, for the updates’ release. “In reviewing the updates for this month, some vulnerabilities were identified that pose elevated risk of cyberattacks by government organizations, sometimes referred to as nation-state actors, or other copycat organizations,” said Adrianne Hall, general manager, issues and crisis management, for Microsoft.

The updates for Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003 — which were retired from support in April 2014, June 2016, and July 2015, respectively — made it two months running that Microsoft has delivered fixes for bugs in obsolete software.

In May, Microsoft broke with policy and practice by offering patches to protect the same trio of operating system versions from the fast-spreading “WannaCry” ransomware campaign. This month’s move was taken for a reason less concrete.

“As part of our regular Update Tuesday schedule, we have taken action to provide additional critical security updates to address vulnerabilities that are at [heightened] risk of exploitation due to past nation-state activity and disclosures,” wrote Eric Doerr, general manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), in a post to a company blog.

Hall was somewhat more explicit. “Due to the elevated risk for destructive cyber-attacks at this time, we made the decision [to issue updates for older versions] because applying these updates provides further protection against potential attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCrypt,” she wrote in a separate post to a company blog. Hall also noted that the additional updates were distributed to all versions of Windows, not just those previously retired.

Microsoft tagged last month’s malware as “WannaCrypt;” most settled on the alternate “WannaCry” as the name.

Although owners of unmanaged Windows XP and Windows 8 systems must manually retrieve the updates from Microsoft’s download website or the cumbersome Update Catalog, enterprises and organizations using WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) or another patch management platform can automate the downloading and installation of the older editions’ updates as if they were for editions still in support.

Will HTC Ever Return To Profitability

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

HTC, the original equipment manufacturer that designs its own mobile devices and Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, has announced net losses of $66.12 million for the first quarter of 2017. The company’s latest financials are the latest in a series – it’s had eight consecutive losses over the past two years.

Like many smartphone and VR headset manufacturing companies, HTC had hoped that 2017 would turn out to be a much better year than 2016. The Taiwanese company’s earnings report for Q1 2017 gives mixed results this quarter. Revenues were $NT14.5 billion ($480.2 million), which is down 33 percent from the NT$22.2 billion ($720.7 million) it posted in Q4 2016. However, losses of NT$2 billion ($66.2 million) aren’t as bad as the NT$3.09 billion ($102.4 million) it posted the previous quarter, or about 55 percent. These are also up from NT$2.61 billion ($86.5 million) in the previous year.

HTC plans to streamline operations, reduce operating losses

In Q1 2017, HTC says it continued to realign its organizational structure to help reduce overhead expenses by nearly 20 percent. This is similar to what Sprint has been doing since October 2015, when it announced a $2.5 billion cost cutting plan to streamline company operations. HTC’s gross margins climbed to 16.3 percent versus 10.45 percent in Q4 2016, and 9.36 percent year-over-year.

The company worked to lower its operating costs to $NT12.2 billion ($403 million) from NT$13.4 billion ($444.9 million) a year earlier. Given that the company has not turned a profit in over a year, the plan is to continue lowering operating costs to reduce its operating losses. HTC launched two smartphones in the first quarter – the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play – but only the first device is available in the US. Then there was a report in February stating the company plans to exit the entry-level smartphone business in 2017 as it begins to focus on “high-margin” and “high-profit” devices. The company has been notorious for announcing products at its own events that aren’t necessarily in line with usual CES and MWC unveils from manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola and others. While this strategy can work well in some circumstances, it only works when people are made aware of the announcements.

Opinion: HTC U 11, Pixel shipments may return profitability for second half of 2017

The company now wants to introduce an additional four to five high margin smartphone devices over the course of the next year, starting with the long-awaited HTC U 11 that will be announced on May 16th. The device’s flagship feature, Sense Touch, is a new concept that allows using the side frame as an input method. However, it is unclear whether the HTC U 11 will be available in the second or third quarter, and whether it will be available internationally.

Within six weeks of the HTC U Ultra’s release in the US, the company slashed its price from $749 down to $599 after reviewing outlets had a hard time recommending the device over similar Android Nougat counterparts. This move did not speak well of the device’s sales, though it has been able to make some profit from Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL sales since their October debut from much higher consumer demand. Google managed to sell an estimated 552,000 units before the end of 2016, and FierceWireless reported those devices accounting for 9.5 percent of smartphone sales at Verizon in January.

Google is not expected to announce refreshed Pixel devices until later this fall, but those sales will certainly aide HTC’s path to becoming a premium-focused smartphone brand and hopefully reduce its operating losses.

Courtesy-Fud

China Hit Hard By ‘WannaCry’ Ransomware

May 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The WannaCry ransomware has infected tens of thousands of Windows PCs in China, where Windows XP runs one in five systems, according to local reports.

More than 23,000 IP addresses in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) show signs of infection, the country’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center (CNCERT) told Xinhua, the state-run news agency, on Monday.

“Intranets in many industries and enterprises involving banking, education, electricity, energy, healthcare and transportation have been affected in different extents,” CNCERT said.

The Hong Kong-based Southern China Morning Post upped the ante in its report Monday, claiming that tens of thousands of businesses and organizations had been hit by the ransomware, which has been dubbed “WannaCry” by most security experts, “WannaCrypt” by a few outliers.

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), for example, took some 20,000 gas stations offline early Saturday, forcing customers to pay in cash as credit card purchases could not be processed. By mid-day Sunday, some 20% of the stations were still disconnected from the Internet, but efforts were continuing to restore payment options, the company said in a statement.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that PCs in the PRC were hit hard by WannaCry: Although security experts have yet to identify the original infection vector, the ransomware spreads rapidly by exploiting Windows vulnerabilities in a baked-in file sharing protocol.

Microsoft patched the flaws in March when it issued MS17-010, one of its last-ever security bulletins. But because Microsoft only supports — patches, in other words — newer editions of its operating system, the 16-year-old Windows XP and the 5-year-old Windows 8 were not bolstered with the same fix.

China is at greater risk of attacks against unpatched Windows XP PCs than most countries because a larger percentage of the nation’s systems run the obsolete OS than the global average.

According to Baidu, the PRC’s largest search provider, 19% of all personal computers using its service last month were powered by Windows XP. That was almost double the share of Windows 10, but less than a third of the share of Windows 7.

Windows XP’s worldwide share was about 7% in April, said U.S. analytics vendor Net Applications earlier this month, about one-fourth the share of Windows 10 and a seventh the share of Windows 7.

Over the weekend, Microsoft issued security updates for Windows 8, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, which had had been banished from the patch list one, two and three years ago, respectively. “This decision was made based on an assessment of this situation, with the principle of protecting our customer ecosystem overall, firmly in mind,” Phillip Misner, a principal security group manager at the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRM), said in a post to a company blog.

Is The Pentagon Still Running Windows 95 And XP?

May 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The US government might have the latest in military technology, but the computers behind the whole thing are older than some of the soldiers it sends to fight.

The army is proud of the fact that it is going to complete a Windows 10 transition by the end of this year, but 75 per cent of its control system devices still run Windows XP or other older versions. There are some sites running Windows 95 and 98.

The logic is that while a lot of these systems are still Windows 95 or 98, that’s OK – because they’re not connected to the internet.

A Pentagon official now wants the bug bounty program of the top U.S. Defence agency expanded to scan for vulnerabilities in its critical infrastructure.

DefenceOne raises the possibility of “building and electrical systems, HVAC equipment and other critical infrastructure laden with internet-connected sensors,” with one military program manager saying

Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, “the Defence Department is paying Microsoft to continue providing support for the legacy OS” it no longer even thinks about Windows 95 or 98.

Courtesy-Fud

Are Motherboard Shipments Decreasing?

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

With the global decline in PC shipments finally showing signs of slowing, motherboard vendors are expecting to see a correlated slowing of overall volume in 2017, with some estimates hovering near 10 percent from last year.

Last month, a market research report from Global Information Inc showed the global volume of motherboard shipments in Q4 2016 dropping 5.2 percent from Q3 and 13.6 percent year-over-year. Total shipments for 2016 were estimated to be less than 50 million units, and this was even forecasted at the beginning of the year. As the fourth quarter approached, vendors said that sales of Kaby Lake motherboards were not living up to expectations, while the overall market remained in a state of weaker demand. The report covered vendors including AMD, ECS, Foxconn, Gigabyte, Intel, Jetway, Microstar, Pegatron, QCI, T&I, and Wistron.

Notebooks, exchange rates and component shortages to blame

According to the latest report, three problems are affecting the ability of motherboard vendors to increase sales numbers. First, sources within the motherboard industry have pointed out that notebooks have gradually taken market share from the build-it-yourself PC market, mainly as a result of “better specifications, smaller form factors, and cheaper prices”. Second, the vendors have experienced a large exchange rate hike over the past two years, from 6.2 percent in April 2015 to 6.8 percent in April 2017. Finally, rising component prices and various component shortages have also contributed to difficulties in production operations. So in order to remain profitable, some vendors have focused on reducing shipments and changing their focus to other product segments, including gaming notebooks and mobile devices.

Sources within the industry note that even while Intel’s Kaby Lake processor lineup and Z200 series chipset have not sold as much volume as anticipated, it is possible that the imminent thread of AMD’s Ryzen 5 and 7 lineups has continued to stimulate prices cuts across the board to keep up on platform sales. Many retailers have now begun offering more serious price cuts when bundled with compatible motherboards, and this trend is expected to continue with the release of AMD’s Ryzen 3 and Intel’s Z300 and X299 series chipsets later this year.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Microsoft Blocking Kaby Lake And Ryzen From Users?

March 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Software king of the world Microsoft is locking down system updates for those using AMD’s Ryzen and Intel’s Kaby Lake processors on Windows 7 and 8.1.

Users are now starting to encounter the following error message: “Your PC uses a processor that isn’t supported on this version of Windows.”

This message appears when a user attempts to update their OS and a quick look at Microsoft’s support page reveals upgrading to Windows 10 is the only way to fix the problem.

Microsoft’s support page on the matter says that Windows 10 is the ‘only’ OS to support these updated hardware configurations. You will need Windows 10 if running Kaby Lake or newer, AMD’s Bristol Ridge or newer (this includes Ryzen), or the Qualcomm 8996 and want to receive important updates to remain secure.

Those who own these chips should not be surprised, and indeed those who spend money on getting the latest chips should probably not be using Windows 7 or 8 anyway. AMD warned that this would be happening in February.

At the time, it said it would not be releasing drivers for Ryzen running on Windows 7. Intel hinted that something similar would happen for Kaby Lake support last year.

The question really is one of ethics. Windows 8.1 won’t hit its end of life until next year, Vole is switching off its support early for new chips.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Facebook’s Oculus Losing Steam?

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift virtual-reality demo stations at Best Buy locations across the US.

Apparently the move is because of poor “store performance” which is spin for the fact that few people are even trying the technology out.

Business Insider claims it is common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration.

Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert insisted that the closings were due to “seasonal changes”.

“You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the US and Canada. We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo,” she enthused.

Best Buy said stores that no longer offer demos will continue to sell the Oculus Rift headset and accompanying touch controllers. But it apparently interests in the headsets dried up after Christmas.

Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.

Courtesy-Fud

Is HTC Committed To Virtual Reality?

January 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The company behind HTC Vive is setting up a new program to fund VR projects centred around improving lives around the world – with $10m to be shared among the successful applicants.

Announced at the World Economic Forum, the VR For Impact initiative will shared the same objectives as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 platform, Upload VR reports. These goals include no poverty, zero hunger, quality education and gender equality.

Vive is looking for experiences that will “improve awareness, education and lead to action”, whether that’s through virtual reality games, films or other cotnent.

“HTC Vive will fund the best ideas using Virtual Reality that truly drive awareness and positive change in our world,” said Cher Wang, the company’s CEO and chairwoman. “We encourage all players in the VR eco-system to join as only together can we drive real impact.”

Vive is now calling for ideas that could become part of VR For Impact, with plans to announce the chosen projects on April 22nd, Earth Day. Developers can apply at www.vr4impact.com. The initiative has already gained the interest of other organisations, such as the World Food Progam.

The power of virtual reality to immerse users in someone else’s story or situation is a major driver for the technology, and exploring the medium’s abilities to convey some of the world’s biggest crises to more people can only be a good thing.

Courtesy-GI.biz

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