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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Sep 2012

Microsoft researchers have discovered computer systems infected with botnet malware before they're even taken out of the box.

By David Jeffers, PC World

 

It is rare to find a new PC that doesn't come with additional bells and whistles in addition to the operating system itself. The "bloatware" that PC vendors add on often includes useful tools like third-party security software. It seems, though, that some PCs also come with something more insidious--pre-installed malware.

Microsoft researchers investigating counterfeit software in China were stunned to find that brand new systems being booted for the first time ever were already compromised with botnet malware right out of the box. Microsoft has filed a computer fraud suit against a Web domain registered to a Chinese businessman.

BACKGROUND: Microsoft takes down another botnet, Nitol

The suit alleges that the Nitol malware on the new PCs points the compromised systems to 3322.org. Microsoft believes the site is a major hub of malware and malicious online activity. Microsoft claims that site in question hosts Nitol, as well as 500 other types of malware. A Washington Post report states that it's the largest single repository of malicious software ever encountered by Microsoft.

Most users--particularly most users of the Microsoft Windows operating systems--are aware of the many online threats. They've been conditioned to install antimalware and other security software, and update it frequently to ensure it can detect and block the latest, emerging threats. It's a problem, though, if the PC is already compromised with malware before the antimalware software is even installed or enabled.

Part of the concern lies in how the pre-installed malware works, or how deeply embedded it is. Most malware can still be identified and removed by security software after the fact. However, malware threats that are planted at the kernel level of the operating system, or in the PC BIOS operate at a level that is too deep, and can avoid detection by most antimalware tools.

Malicious software is big business, and the criminals running the business are often quite clever and innovative when it comes to finding new ways to spread it. Planting malware in PCs, smartphones, or tablets before they're even purchased and unboxed is certainly one way to go about it.

What can you do then to defend against these threats? For starters, buy your PC, tablet, or smartphone hardware from established, respected vendors. If you buy an HP, Dell, Acer, Sony, or other such brand name PC the odds of it being compromised with pre-installed malware out of the box are pretty low. If you buy an Apple iPad, Google Nexus 7, or Amazon Kindle Fire you will most likely get a device free of malware infections. But, if you go bargain shopping online and buy a PC or knock-off tablet from a shady, unknown site the risk is higher.

Regardless, don't assume that just because your PC or mobile device is brand new that it must be safe and free from malware. And, you might not want to trust the pre-installed security software, either, since you can't verify that it's legitimate and free from malware itself. Make sure you install a reliable cross-device security tool to detect and identify malware that may already be present.

September 14, 2012

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Sep 2012

16 Sep, 2012, 1102 hrs IST, Avinash Celestine, ET Bureau - economictimes.com
 

 

Part of the problem for Apple, and its chief executive Tim Cook, was meeting the burden of expectations. This was one of the first really big launches since Cook took over and he was always going to be compared to Steve Jobs and the huge anticipation caused when the late Apple founder walked onstage.

Also check: Full coverage Apple's new iPhone

Couple that with the fact that this was an iPhone launch, and following just weeks after a major legal ruling in which a US court decided that arch-competitor Samsung infringed Apple phone patents when building its line of Android phones.

In retrospect, no one, not even Apple, could match the burden of expectations it seems, and they must have realised this early on. And this was why, in the weeks leading up to the event, there were leaks galore among the tech blogs and tech press about what the new iPhone 5 would have — in retrospect it all looked an awful lot like expectation management. When it finally came out, the iPhone 5 was a damp squib.

Mat Honan described the iPhone 5 in Wired magazine as "completely amazing, and utterly boring". "It is the Toyota Prius of phone updates. It is an amazing triumph of technology that gets better and better, year after year, and yet somehow is every bit as exciting as a 25 mph drive through a sensible neighbourhood at a reasonable time of day....The iPhone 5 can simultaneously be the best phone on the market and really, really boring. And that has almost nothing to do with Apple and everything to do with our expectations."

 


Five Blades, Up From Four

Its always a problem when a satirical show unwittingly, but near-perfectly, anticipates your product launch by years. In 1975, the popular Saturday Night Live show in the US, featured a mock triple-blade razor 23 years before Gillette released the real thing. And the Onion did it again to Gillette, when, following the release of the four bladed-version, it parodied the launch of a five-bladed one.

 


And sure enough, Gillette, on cue, went on to release the five-bladed razor. Apple, and to be fair, the rest of the smartphone industry, is having its own little Gillette moment in a way. Innovation as of now, is fairly predictable —bigger screens. Check. Sharper, more higher resolution displays. Check. One more photography app. Check.

It doesn't help that a large chunk of the smartphone business simply copied, sorry, was influenced by, Apple's design. Perhaps the biggest innovation that Apple bought to the business with the first iPhone was touch, especially 'capacitive' touch. Till the iPhone, touch screens existed, but were a pain to use, depending as they did, on responding to the level of pressure that a human finger put on the screen.
 

Modern smartphone screens, beginning with Apple, abandoned such 'resistive' screens altogether, leading to a quantum jump in the ease and comfort with which such screens could be used. It was a genuinely new, and far more intuitive way for users to interact with their phones.

And because of the new way of user interaction, it led to a whole set of other changes — screens could become larger without allowing an increase in the size of the phone. This meant a much better experience for customers, for the uses for which smartphones are put to nowadays such as video or gaming. Of course, smartphone manufacturers, not being content with the automatic increase in screen size from moving to a touch-based phone, have gone ahead and built bigger phones anyway. And Apple, a laggard in this area, has jumped on the bandwagon, by increasing the size of the iPhone 5.

 


It is a mark of a big innovation, such as capacitive touch, that it is followed by several less substantial and more incremental innovations. Interacting and moving between apps and screens now involves more intuitive hand gestures, rather than pressing buttons. There was a lot of hoopla over Swype — a new keyboard on Android phones that, rather than forcing you to type out each letter of a word on your phone, allowed you to input a word with one continuous motion of your finger across the keyboard, making input faster.

 


The Nokia N9, the Finnish phonemaker's still-born experiment with a brand new mobile operating system to succeed its Symbian OS, did away with physical buttons on the phone altogether, such as the kind of home buttons that you find on an iOS or an Android device.

But incremental innovations also add complexity, gilding the lily as it were. There's now a wide range of touch gestures which make your interaction with the phone much more simpler and quicker. The key problem of course, especially for a new user, is remembering all of them (though it gets better with practice). This is more than reminiscent of the vast range of keyboard shortcuts available on desktops and laptops today. Who, beside really professional applications users, can remember all of them?

 


The bottomline is that, like the five blade-razor, innovation in the user interface seem to have run its course at least for now. If there is a next big leap in smartphone innovation, it will be in this area. Apple made a start with Siri — its voice activated phone assistant. But Siri has not (yet) dramatically shifted the way that users use smartphones, unlike touch.
 

 

Who Cares?

But really, who cares? Even those most critical of Apple's latest launch concede that the iPhone will be a huge seller, like all its predecessors. Its one thing, to bring in a radical new innovation, but even investors, who are notoriously high-maintenance, don't expect you to do it every year.

And indeed the comparison with Gillette is not all bad. For decades, till it was taken over by P&G, Gillette dominated the market for men's razors (as well as a range of other products which were household names).

In the 80s, it suffered what in retrospect was a short-term rout, when it didn't anticipate the shift towards disposable razors. It was in 1989, that Warren Buffett, made a $600-million investment in the company. By 2005, at the time of Gillette's acquisition by P&G, his holding in the company was worth around $5 billion. Gillette is a stock that has famously been beloved of smart, savvy investors.

The real difference between Apple and Gillette of course is also the most obvious. Apple operates in a sector that is highly volatile, and subject to technological disruptions that can seemingly come from nowhere. Apple was a disruptor when it entered the smartphone business — it, more than any other company, knows that it has to constantly watch its back to avoid being disrupted.

 

 

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Sep 2012

Significant impact on Windows XP, which cannot run newer IE9 or the upcoming IE10
By Gregg Keizer - Computerworld.com
September 15, 2012

 

Computerworld - Google will drop support for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) for its online apps and services in mid-November, effectively ending support for many users of Windows XP.

"Internet Explorer 10 launches on 10/26/2012, and as a result, we will discontinue support for Internet Explorer 8 shortly afterwards, on 11/15/2012," the company wrote on a Friday blog. "After this date, users accessing Google Apps services using Internet Explorer 8 will see a message recommending that they upgrade their browser."

Because IE8 is the newest Microsoft browser that runs on Windows XP, and because Google had previously abandoned IE7 and IE6 -- the other versions that run on XP -- the move significantly impacts Windows XP users locked into Internet Explorer by corporate or organization policies.

Neither IE9, which Microsoft launched in March 2011, or IE10, which will debut alongside Windows 8 in late October, runs on Windows XP.

Browser warsGoogle adds 'Do Not Track' to Chrome precursorGoogle to drop support for IE8 on Nov.15As Chrome turns 4, Google's browser in fluxMozilla acts as plumber, plugs add-on memory leaks with Firefox 15Google boosts bonuses for Chrome bug bounty huntersGoogle builds stronger Flash sandbox in ChromeMicrosoft will give Windows 8 users 'Do Not Track' options for IE10Chrome up, Chrome down in browser share battleSilent update speeds Firefox 14 uptakeMozilla ships Firefox 14, patches 18 bugs, encrypts searchMore: Browser Topic Center
VideoSponsored by IntelPreventing Stealthy Threats
See how rootkits and other stealthy threats have significantly changed today's threat landscape. Then, discover more in the companion white paper.After Nov. 15, users running IE8 may have trouble with some features in Google Apps. And if past practice is any clue, other sites and services, including Gmail and Google Calendar, may also be affected. At some point, those apps may stop working entirely in IE8.

This wasn't the first time that Google has warned users to upgrade to a newer browser. In July 2011, the company said it would dump IE7 from its list of supported browsers; in January 2010, it announced it would no longer support IE6, Microsoft's 2001 browser.

Google's policy is to support only the current version of a browser, and its immediate predecessor.

Giving up on IE8, however, is markedly different than dumping IE7.

Last year, when Google said it would stop supporting IE7, that edition accounted for just 7% of all browsers used worldwide, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications.

IE8, on the other hand, was the most widely-used browser edition in the world last month, with a usage share of 25%. Of those who ran one version or another of IE, nearly half, or 47%, ran IE8 in August.

Windows XP faces its own end-of-life cutoff; Microsoft will serve users with that operating system's final security update in April 2014. But like IE8, Windows XP remains a major presence. Last month, Net Applications measured XP's global usage share at 42.5%, just behind the three-year-old Windows 7's 42.8%.

Google is the first major online software maker to drop 2009's IE8 from a support list. Microsoft, for instance, has committed to supporting IE8 on Windows 7 until 2020.

IE8 users, particularly those running Windows XP, can switch to another browser, including the most recent versions of Mozilla's Firefox, Google's own Chrome or Opera Software's Opera, to run Google Apps.

The end-of-support plan for Google Apps will not disrupt access to its search site using older browsers.

 

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Sep 2012

Spirit Of  The Age - The Week

The end of the church plate is nigh. A recent report by JustGiving has found that gifts to churches are booming, but they are mostly done on line by tech-savvy pensioners choosing the inbox over the collection box. One retired bishop said that if churches wanted to survive they would have to invest in credit card swipe machines.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Sep 2012

CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Monday, Sep. 10, 2012


A British teen has captured stunning images of earth from space with little more than a camera bought off eBay for $50 and a balloon.

University of Nottingham student Adam Cudworth’s photos were taken with a Canon A570 camera he bought off eBay 18 months ago.

The 19-year-old says he spent roughly 40 hours fashioning his photography device, which is made up of the camera, balloon and a box containing a GPS tracker, radio and microprocessor. He also put a small video camera in the box, along with two temperature sensors and two solar panels.

Cudworth attached a high-altitude latex balloon with a parachute to the box. He calls his contraption HABE 5, which stands for High Altitude Balloon Experiment 5.

The enterprising student attempted similar projects on four previous occasions, dating back to HABE 1 in 2011.

HABE 5 was launched on Aug. 31 and reached an astonishing altitude of 33,592 metres – three times the height a commercial plane travels at.

After floating up into the earth’s stratosphere for two-and-a-half hours, Cudworth’s device started to record breathtaking images of the planet from space.

The photos, posted to Cudworth’s Flickr account, document HABE 5’s ascent, with the first few pictures showing aerial views of grassy fields. The images progress into photos of the cloud-covered planet.

The photos taken from the highest altitude show stark white and blue clouds covering earth, radiating out into the black atmosphere.

A built-in circuit board allowed Cudworth to record the HABE 5’s speeds, G-force and altitude at all times.

The teen based in Worcester, a city about 200 kilometres northwest of London, also used the GPS tracker to follow the camera’s progress and used the radio transmitter to find it when it fell back to earth.

After the balloon burst, HABE 5 landed just 50 kilometres from Cudworth’s home in the town of Broadway.

He said he was stunned at the quality of the images and video HABE 5 managed to capture.

Cudworth estimates he spent around $300 total on his project, proof that it doesn’t take NASA’s millions to go into space, he said.

Cudworth, who is studying economics in school, said the idea came to him in 2009 after seeing others attempt a similar project.

Cudworth says he has no background in astrophysics, but describes himself on his website as a “Nottingham University studying economics. Exploring near space with high altitude balloons. Trading FX. Creating innovative solutions to everyday problems. Striving to make a change.”

Cudworth is now working on a new project which will allow him to control where the box lands as it falls back to earth.

 

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/u-k-teen-captures-images-in-space-with-50-camera-1.950332#ixzz26GaCgSDC

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Sep 2012

by Daniel Rubino on 9/10/2012 - wpcentral

 

President Barack Obama has been known to be a die-hard BlackBerry fan for years now, even as the Waterloo company is scrambling for its life to stay afloat. While he can wait for BlackBerry 10 to arrive sometime next year, we think he should start considering other options. (After all, that platform won’t have 100,000 apps, right?)

In a somewhat humorous moment this past weekend, the President started to use an iPhone, presumably either as a backup, transition device or just someone else’s. Either way, he evidently wasn’t at all familiar with neither the phone nor the OS and he scrambled a bit when trying to dial out. 

The Lumia 920: A phone fit for a president?

It goes to show you that iOS isn’t automatically the most intuitive OS, even if we’re seeing seniors using them left and right these days.

For that reason, Mr. President, may we suggest a nice shiny new Lumia 920? It has style, it’s fast, it’s easy to use and with Windows Phone 8, you’ll have that security you so much covet in your old BlackBerry. Plus you can wear gloves while using it in the cold D.C. winters, take great photos of your family and won’t have to worry about being just another iPhone users—now’s the time to think different! 

Take it easy folks. We're all in this together. (And if you have time, read this: 'The Online Disinhibition Effect'

Source: Washington Times; via: CrackBerry

 

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Sep 2012

By Mat Smith posted Sep 11th 2012  - engadget

 

Finally, after gaining approval from UK regulator Ofcom, Everything Everywhere announced today that it's calling its incoming 4G service EE. It's a new company, new network and a new brand, we're being told here at London's Science Museum. Officially formed of the combined network might of Orange and T-Mobile, the union has been allowed to use 4G services on its 1800 MHz spectrum starting today, although we're still waiting to hear precisely what hardware will be compatible with the UK's first LTE network. EE will also start offering a fiber service.

Orange and T-Mobile will still exist, with the colored carrier concentrating on giving customers "more from their phone" (whatever that consists of), while T-Mobile will appeal to customers chasing value. We've been told both 4G and fiber offerings will be launching soon, though this will also depend on hardware availability. We're also hoping there will be more on the cards than just a WiFi dongle, but more as we get it. The first cities to get the service are London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol, with 16 more launching by the end of the year -- including the likes of Manchester and Southampton. EE puts that at covering a third of the population of the UK.

We were given an ever-so brief glimpse at incoming devices for the new 4G service -- Brits can expect to pick up devices from Samsung, Nokia, Huawei and more "in the coming weeks" -- the same timeframe that with encompass the launch of the network to its customers after testing. (The offering from EE will also include MiFi and USB dongles.) It even dropped a iPhone-tinged "one more thing" that more devices are incoming. Possibly something we'll hear about tomorrow.

 

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Thu 6th Sep 2012

by Sarah Shearman

Microsoft has unveiled a revised logo as it seeks to unify its brand identity, ahead of what it is claiming will be one of its "most significant" waves of product launches in its history.

The update, which is the first for the company in 25 years, is a simplified version of its previous logo. The typeface is Segoe font, used for its products and marketing communications. The symbol, which consists of squares of different colours, is now square, rather than wavy.

From today (24 August), the logo will be used more prominently and will appear on the company’s website, and in three retail stores in the US, rolling out to all its stores over the next few months.

It is also feature in all of Microsoft’s global marketing, and will be used to sign off all forthcoming TV ad campaigns.

Writing on the company's official blog yesterday, Jeffrey Meisner, general manager, brand strategy at Microsoft, said that "now is the perfect time" for a new logo, as it gears up to launch its Windows 8 operating system, Windows Phone 8, its next version of Office, and its debut tablet, the Surface, in the next few months

He claims the new logo will give a common look and feel to its products and a "seamless" user experience, waiving in a "new era" for the company, which is facing tough competition from Apple and Google in internet and technology market.

The new logo comes shortly after Microsoft announced it was scrapping its web-based email brand Hotmail, in favour of its other email brand, Outlook.
  

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 4th Sep 2012

 By Thomas Newton on Thursday, 17th May 2012 - Recombu

 

It’s (almost) as bad as we feared; rollout of 4G across the 800MHz spectrum will hobble Freeview broadcasts signals in 1.9 million UK homes, Ed Vaizey confirmed to the Government yesterday.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, responding to questions from MPs John Mann and Anna Soubry about the 4G/Freeview face-off said that:

“Ofcom estimated that the number of households using signal amplifiers was 9 million of which up to 945,000 could be affected and the number of households using a communal aerial system was 5.6 million of which up to 953,000 households who use communal aerial systems could be affected.”

This works out at 1,898,000 homes which stand to lose access to Freeview. That's quite a few less houses than the 2.3 million claimed in the earlier VLV report.

The homes which stand to lose out are in areas where there’s already low Freeview signal (necessitating the use of a signal amplifier) or in apartments with a single master aerial.

A partial solution to the problem is the formation of MitCo, a company which will supply “information and providing DTT receiver filters to households proactively and reactively. Platform changes will also be offered to households where filters do not solve the issue of interference.”

MitCo: UK mobile networks using 4G to pay for Freeview outage
MitCo will be funded by a £180 million pot which will come from “the new 800 MHz licensees” (i.e. O2, Everything Everywhere, Vodafone and Three). The Government will bear the brunt of any overspend and any money left over will be split halfway between the Government and the networks.

£20 million of the £180 million will be spend on installation support of filters and equipment to “vulnerable customers.”

The ‘Platform changes’ above presumably refers to Freesat, the free-to-air platform that offers much of the same channels as Freeview. As Freesat is satellite-based it won’t be affected by the 800MHz signal crossover.

There’s a potential problem here if the landlord of a communal property won’t consent to a dish being fitted.

Vaizey mentioned an Ofcom estimate that the numbers of affected households could fall to 5,100 and 3,400 households for the respective groups once “a mixture of consumer based and selective mobile network based mitigation methods are applied.”

So once MitCo has done all it can, the total number of households affected falls to 8,500. That’s a small customer base that Sky or Virgin Media could potentially muscle in on, again, depending on landlord’s willingness to install dishes and the reach of Virgin’s cable network.

Ofcom is “currently considering all responses” and is expected to publish a statement in the summer. The full Hansard report can be found here.

Freeview currently broadcasts on the 600MHz, 700MHz and 800MHz frequencies. It's also a concern that the launch of mobile broadband on the 700MHz spectrum could reduce Freeview to a rump of 20 channels in 2018.

 

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 4th Sep 2012

August 31, 2012 - Netimperative 

Facebook is launching a new ad targeting tool that uses email addresses, phone numbers and game and app developers' user IDs to larger advertisers. 

The advertisers will work directly with a Facebook sales representative, and in order for a company to track a Facebook user using any of that data, the Facebook user has to have already given the company that data on their own.

It will give advertisers the ability to use phone numbers, email addresses and the “UID” code that Facebook users generate when they install apps on the network.

The idea is that advertisers hand over that data to Facebook, which will match with the user data it already has.

For example, if Virgin America could advertise to people who have already flown on the airline. Both data sets will be scrambled before they’re matched, to ensure neither Virgin nor Facebook would actually know the identity of the people being targeted.

To tackle privacy issues, Facebook says advertisers will have to seek their customers’ permission to use the data for marketing campaigns before they proceed.

"Any personally identifying information will be hashed [scrambled] before being uploaded to Facebook," according to a disclosure on the tool.

The news was initially reported as a ‘glitch’ spotted by blog Inside Facebook, as a new targeting option temporarily appeared in Facebook's Power Editor tool prior to its official release.

Facebook had been planning to roll this out next week, but the glitch caught the social network by surprise, and caused a scramble to explain how it works.

Facebook declined to say which advertisers and how many of them had participated in beta testing in recent weeks.


 

 
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