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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Researchers Report Hacker Attack Campaign against US, EU Targets

Security vendor FireEye has uncovered a series of attacks against targets in Europe and the US that occurred between 29 April and 27 May. FireEye says a group of Middle East-based hackers called the Molerats are responsible for the attacks, launched via remote-access tool exploits known as Poison Ivy. The group, which also engages in phishing attacks, is become more active, according to researchers, who traced Molerats attacks to campaigns launched against the BBC, an unnamed US financial institution, and government organizations in Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Turkey, the UK, and the US. Although the attackers typically use free, commonly available malware, FireEye says the group appears to be adapting its attacks to be increasingly difficult to detect. (SlashDot)(eWeek)(FireEye)

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Friday, June 27, 2014

US Secret Service Seeks Sarcasm-Detection Software

The US Secret Service has issued a request for proposals to develop software able to detect and analyze written sarcasm with a goal of fully automating its social-media monitoring in real time. The intent of the software is, in part, to eliminate false positives and wasted time associated with law enforcement officers following erroneous leads that might have been the result of someone posting a joke or flippant message on social message. The goal of the US Secret Service and its social-media monitoring program are to find credible threats from people intending real harm. The call raised privacy concerns that such technology would stifle free expression among people that would fear that their sarcastic comments would bring them to the Secret Service’s attention. Some people expressed doubt that the technology would be effective. (The Washington Times)(Engadget)(TIME)(US General Services Administration)

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

US Hacker Set Free after Helping Authorities

US authorities have freed a computer hacker who helped them prevent numerous cyberattacks on high-profile targets such as the US Congress and NASA after serving seven months in prison. Hector Xavier Monsegur —a member of LulzSec, a splinter group of the hacker organization Anonymous arrested in June 2011—pleaded guilty in August 2011 to 12 criminal counts related to hacking, fraud and identity theft in connection with cyberattacks on organizations including the US Senate, Sony and PayPal. These charges ordinarily carry a sentence of 21 to 26 years in prison. However, because of his cooperation with federal officials—including assistance in detecting and stopping at least 300 attacks and providing information about the inner workings of LulzSec and Anonymous—prosecutors asked that his sentence be reduced to the seven months he had already spent in prison during his pretrial detention. His sentencing was repeatedly delayed to allow him to continue cooperating with the government, according to the New Yorker. Monsegur says he is not the same person he used to be and would like to work as a systems administrator or teacher. He and some family members have been relocated as a result of physical and death threats based on his cooperation with law-enforcement officials. (The Associated Press -- 1)(CNET)(CNET @ Scribd)(The Associated Press -- 2)(The Los Angeles Times)(WIRED)(New Yorker)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

EU Approves Irish Mobile Deal

The European Union has cleared Hutchison Whampoa, a Hong Kong-based telecommunications firm, to move forward with its planned $1 billion purchase of Telef√≥nica’s Irish mobile-communications operation. The EU’s approval was contingent on Hutchison Whampoa selling 30 percent of the newly-formed company’s networking capacity to two mobile virtual-network operators, which are companies that use other firms’ networking infrastructures to offer services. Hutchison Whampoa must also continue to participate in a network-sharing agreement with Irish telecommunications provider Eircom. Hutchison Whampoa, which already operates in six European countries, is expanding its holdings in the region. Regulators have been closely monitoring the European telecommunications market in recent months given ongoing consumer concern about consolidation causing rate increases. The EU’s approval of the Hutchison Whampoa deal could clear the way for Telef√≥nica to enter the German market based on its divestiture of this unit. (Reuters)(Businessweek)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dish Network Begins Accepting Bitcoins for Payments

Satellite-services provider Dish Network has announced that it will let customers pay their bills with bitcoins starting 1 July 2014. It will use the services of bitcoin exchange Coinbase to process payments made via the virtual currency. “We always want to deliver choice and convenience for our customers and that includes the method they use to pay their bills,” said Dish executive vice president and chief operating officer Bernie Han . “Bitcoin is becoming a preferred way for some people to transact, and we want to accommodate those individuals.” Despite concerns from government officials and the financial sector about the virtual currency because of problems such as the recent closure of the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, several online retailers and organizations such as, Zynga, and the Sacramento Kings US professional basketball team are accepting it for payment. (Reuters)(Wall Street Journal)

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Monday, June 23, 2014

UK Government Amending Law, Wants Life Sentence for Malicious Hackers

The UK government wants to amend its current laws to let judges give a life sentence to computer hackers whose misdeeds result in loss of life or threaten national security. The 1990 Computer Misuse Act now gives hackers a maximum sentence of ten years. In the newly introduced Serious Crime Bill, cyberattacks resulting in loss of life, serious illness or injury, or serious damage to national security carry a life sentence while those resulting in serious economic or environmental damage carry a 14-year sentence. “Malicious hackers who risk triggering deadly civil unrest by cutting off food distribution, telephone networks, or energy supplies by sabotaging computer networks could be sentenced to life in prison,” according to the Telegraph. (SlashDot)(

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Intel Unveils Wireless Docking Station

The future of personal computing does not include wires and cables, according to Intel. With this in mind, the company is showing its WiGig docking station that provides power to mobile devices and other technologies. The technology is based on the high-speed WiGig wireless-communications standard, which enables data transmission at speeds up to 7 Gbits per second, and immediately connects to any devices within its short range, confined to a single room.  Intel expects to introduce the technology commercially by 2016. (ValueWalk)(Gizmodo)(CNET)

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Europe’s “Right to be Forgotten” Is Proving Difficult to Execute

Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled that individuals have the “right to be forgotten,” which holds that search-engine operators should delete outdated, inaccurate, or irrelevant information from the results they return. However, search-engine operators are finding this hard to accomplish, particularly because they have received huge volumes of deletion requests from users. . For example, Google says it is fielding an average of 10,000 requests per day. The right to be forgotten has proven to be controversial. Proponents say it is necessary to protect individual privacy. Opponents say that it is a form of censorship, will be too time-consuming and expensive to comply with, and will balkanize search result by creating one set for Europe and one for the rest of the world. Issues surrounding the European Court of Justice’s decision led to two days of meetings by EU data-protection authorities. The group of 28 data authority leaders is scheduled to produce an agreement specifying compliance requirements in September of this year. (TIME)(Reuters)

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Sprint Nearing Purchase of T-Mobile US

Sprint and Deutsche Telecom are concluding a deal that would sell T-Mobile US to its market rival at roughly $40 per share in July. Sprint and T-Mobile are the third- and fourth-largest US wireless carriers, respectively. The companies are working on terms such as the final price, financing, and which of them would pay the termination fee if US regulators block the deal. T-Mobile US is now owned by Deutsche Telekom, which would retain a 15 to 20 percent stake in the new Sprint. This is one of many recently announced mergers within the US telecommunications market. AT&T is courting satellite TV operator DirecTV, and Comcast is trying to buy Time Warner. Market analysts say US government regulators—who rejected a deal between AT&T and T-Mobile US three years ago—may well prevent the Sprint and T-Mobile merger. (Reuters)(Bloomberg)

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Report: Half of US Residents’ Data Stolen this Year

About half of the adults in the US had data stolen within the last 12 months according to a new report by the Ponemon Institute research organization and CNNMoney. About 47 percent of all adults in the US had some piece of personal data taken and 432 million of their accounts were hacked in the last year, according to estimates based on data from the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit consumer-assistance organization. Cyberattacks are growing so numerous, according to CNN, that the US public has grown numb to them. Among the high-profile incidents have been attacks against major companies such as AOL, Adobe, eBay, Michaels, Neiman Marcus, and Target. (Digital Trends)(CNNMoney)(Ponemon Institute)

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yet Another OpenSSL Vulnerability Is Found

A security researcher has discovered a new, remotely exploitable vulnerability in OpenSSL that could let an attacker intercept and decrypt traffic between vulnerable clients and servers. The Heartbleed flaw in the popular OpenSSL Internet security protocol, found earlier this year, forced many website operators to update their software and advise millions of users to change their passwords. The new vulnerability—which Masashi Kikuchi, a researcher with IT consultancy Lepidum Co., found—affects all OpenSSL versions. To exploit the bug, an attacker must first have a man-in-the-middle position on a network. (SlashDot)(Threat Post)(Computerworld)(OpenSSL Security Advisory)(Lepidium Co.)

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Chrome Encryption Extension Promises Better Privacy

Google now offers an extension for its Chrome browser designed to provide easy e-mail encryption to users. The company is touting the End-to-End extension for its simplicity of use compared to similar open source tools such as PGP and GnuPG. Google is basing End-to-End on the OpenPGP standard. The tool is in alpha, meaning the code is available for testing and evaluation now at . Google also is offering bounties for any bugs found in End-to-End through its Vulnerability Reward Program. (Businessweek)(PC Mag)(TIME)(Google Online Security Blog)

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Intel Offers Do-it-Yourself Robot Kits

Intel has announced plans to offer a kit that will let consumers make their own robots. The $1,600 package, which includes a motor and other parts, enables users to customize and print 3D components to create a small robot powered by the Intel Quark chip. Users can program these devices to complete tasks and can share their software with other robot owners via downloadable applications. Intel, which has begun courting do-it-yourself and hobbyist consumers, says it hopes the kit will cost less than $1,000 within five years. (PC World)(Reuters)(Intel)

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bug Leaves Linux, Open Source Users at Risk

Security researchers have discovered a new vulnerability in open source software that attackers could exploit to launch malware attacks. Developers have since released a patch for the bug in the GnuTLS cryptographic code library, which could place Linux and other open source software users at risk for problems such as buffer overflow attacks. GnuTLS is an open-source implementation of Internet encryption protocols including Secure Sockets Layer; Transport Layer Security; and Datagram Transport Layer Security, used in various Linux distributions. An infected server could exploit the vulnerability during the handshake between the Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security, culminating in the crash of vulnerable clients. It could also allow attackers to execute code on the system. The vulnerability was reported by Joonas Kuorilehto, a principal systems engineer at Codenomicon, the same vendor of vulnerability-testing tools responsible for finding the Heartbleed flaw in the OpenSSL Internet-security protocol earlier this year. (Ars Technica)(PC World)(Red Hat Bug Tracker)

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Apple Allowing Virtual-Currency Transactions in Applications

Software developers can now offer virtual-currency transactions in their Apple-based applications for iPhones and iPads. Apple revamped its App Store guidelines to permit applications to process transactions with, according to the Apple developer blog, “approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.” Apple has not yet released a list of “approved” virtual currencies. Apple previously removed applications using virtual cash from its online store. In response, some developers reportedly deleted virtual currency coding from their programs so that they could remain in the store. Google Android currently supports transactions using several different types of virtual currency. (Reuters)(BBC)(Apple)

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Japan’s SoftBank Moves into Consumer Robotics

Japanese telecommunications and Internet company SoftBank plans to sell robots designed for consumer use, to function as babysitters, nurses, emergency medical workers, and companions, said CEO Masayoshi Son. Son recently demonstrated a prototype robot called Pepper, which will cost ¥198,000 ($1,931). It will be sold at Softbank Mobile stores starting in February 2015. The company has not unveiled plans for introducing Pepper outside Japan. (Reuters)(Associated Press @ Washington Post)(ZDNet)

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Google Planning Satellite Constellation for Internet Access

Google is planning a comprehensive satellite network to provide Internet connectivity to areas without such access. The plan calls initially for 180 small, high-capacity satellites in low Earth orbit, with more possibly launched in the future. Previous attempts to launch similar projects were reportedly fraught with both financial and technical problems. Google hired Greg Wyler, founder and former CEO of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks, to lead the venture, estimated to cost between $1 and $3 billion, a price tag that could increase based on factors including the number of satellites ultimately used. (SlashDot)(MarketWatch)

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Acer Enters Cloud Computing with Services Offering

Acer has begun developing and selling cloud-computing software and services. The Taiwan-based firm has long made PCs but has been hurt by that market’s contraction. In fact, the company’s ranking among the world’s PC makers recently fell from second to fourth. By entering the cloud market with its Build Your Own Cloud (BYOC) service, Acer will now compete with Amazon and Google, as well as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard, the latter two of which which recently announced billion-dollar initiatives. “The computer is still our foundation, but BYOC is a new platform for integration, cross-compatibility, and convenience,” stated Acer founder and chair Stan Shih. The company is positioning the service for implementation with the Internet of Things by, for example, enabling users to control home appliances or automobiles via their smartphones. (Reuters)(AFP @ PhysOrg)

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Baked Robots: Hot, Fresh Approach to Self-Assembly

A new approach for self-assembling robots uses heat to help the objects form properly. MIT professor Daniela Rus used materials that change shape when heat is applied. Manufacturers could use heat to make a plastic sheet with carefully located creases and slits fold into a 3D robot’s body. Rus is scheduled to demonstrate her approach during the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation this week in Hong Kong. (SlashDot)(Tech Crunch)(MIT News Office)

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Demand for NoSQL, Big Data Skills Rises

Recent technology-job postings show that employers are increasingly seeking job candidates with -database skills. Posting for NoSQL skills increased 54 percent “year over year,” according to the career website, which provided no specific time frame details. Demand for these skills is increasing because corporations are collecting more data from both internal and external sources, according to the site. Other increases in popular skills were 46 percent for those related to Big Data, 43 percent for those specifically related to Apache Hadoop, 27 percent for those related to cloud computing, 20 percent for those related to software as a service, and 16 percent for those related to Python. Other types of jobs growing in popularity include those using analytics or open-source software. (SlashDot)(

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Autodesk Announces First Hardware Products

Autodesk, a 3D software developer, announced it is launching its first 3D printer. The company is enabling other manufacturers to make their own versions of the printer or use its Spark software at no cost. The printer uses a laser to harden liquid plastic in a process known as stereolithography rather than the extrusion process most low-cost 3D printers rely on. The laser traces the design on a layer of resin, turning it solid. Unused materials are discarded. The process continues iteratively until the object is formed. This particular process will enable users to choose their own materials, allowing them to formulate and experiment with different polymers, says Autodesk. The printer is being targeted at professionals wishing to make small items, namely medical devices or jewelry. Pricing details have not been finalized, but it may cost roughly $5,000. The hardware offering is designed to increase interest in Autodesk’s new Spark software. Analysts have noted 3D printer adoption is growing as hardware prices decline. Most of the purchases are being made by businesses. An estimated 56,000 printers under $100,000 were sold in 2013, according to Gartner analysts. (SlashDot)(BBC)

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Citizen Scientists Sought to Donate Idle Computer Time to Alzheimer’s Researchers

A newly launched project seeks volunteers willing to lend their idle computing power to help researchers with computationally difficult problems. The Compute Against Alzheimer’s Disease project is being developed by George Mason University and Parabon Computation. Participants will download software that works only when the computer is not otherwise in use. The spare computational cycles will be tasked with molecular modeling at the cellular level. This form of distributed computing approach has been used by groups including Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The researchers are trying to find what causes Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. (EurekAlert)(George Mason University)(Compute Against Alzheimer’s Disease)

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Samsung Issues Apologies for Worker Deaths, Illnesses

Samsung issued a public apology in connection with the illnesses and deaths of some workers exposed to chemicals at its facilities in South Korea. The company says it will compensate those former manufacturing plant employees affected by leukemia and other blood-related cancers; however, those parties are also seeking compensation from a government insurance fund. “It is truly sad and heart-breaking for us,” the company said in a statement. “We feel regret that a solution for this delicate matter has not been found in a timely manner, and we would like to use this opportunity to express our sincerest apology to the affected people.”  Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS), an advocacy group, say 26 individuals who worked in Samsung’s Gi-Heung and On-Yang semiconductor plants have reported leukemia and lymphoma and of those, 10 people have died. A third-party investigation commissioned by Samsung in 2011 reportedly found no connection between the manufacturing plants and leukemia. (PC World)(Bloomberg)(The Associated Press)

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Comcast: Data Caps Probable in Five Years

Comcast executive vice president David Cohen predicts bandwidth caps will be in place within five years. Cohen, who made the comments in an investor call, says the company is reportedly determining what the best possible “usage based billing” or cap should be before instituting any changes. Comcast told Ars Technica in 2012 ”98 percent of our customers nationally don’t use 300GB/month,” which the publication speculates may mean an eventual increase of the monthly limit  to 500 GB. The company has established caps in several of its southern US markets, including Atlanta and Memphis. Customers exceeding the limit pay an additional $10/month for 50 GB. As the new caps are rolling out, Comcast is allowing users to exceed the cap for three of 12 months without any additional fees. (SlashDot)(Tech Crunch)(Ars Technica)

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Target CEO Resigns amid Continuing Data Breach Fallout

Department-store chain Target’s board of directors has announced the resignation of CEO Gregg Steinhafel, the latest move to occur in the wake of the huge 2013 data breach from which the company is still recovering. Steinhafel, a 35-year Target employee of the company who also served as its president and a board member, had said that he held himself personally accountable for the data breach. Chief financial officer John Mulligan is acting as interim CEO and president, and board member Roxanne S. Austin will serve as non-executive board chair. Steinhafel remains with Target in an advisory capacity. During the December 2013 breach, hackers stole credit- or debit-card information on up to 110 million people who purchased items at Target. Since then, Target has reported that its revenue during the Christmas 2013 shopping quarter was 5 percent less than in 2012. The company also reported paying $61 million in hacking-related expenses, with insurance covering $17 million. The company plans to use chip-and-pin technology from MasterCard in its new company-branded credit and debit cards, due for release in early 2015. (The Los Angeles Times)(Businessweek)(USA Today)(Target)

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Sony Financial Losses Mount

Sony forecast its losses for the current fiscal year should reach ¥50 billion/ $490 million when it ends March 2015. This is the sixth annual loss for the company in seven years. It expects to remain unprofitable until it finally exits the personal computing market. Although it has undertaken some restructuring in its business units and manufacturing, Sony chief financial officer Kenichiro Yoshida says it is now time for Sony to leave entire businesses behind and it will spend 135 billion yen as it leaves the PC business and on additional restructuring. One of which may be its television products operation, which continues to bleed cash. The announcement took analysts by surprise. The average profit for this fiscal year expected by 19 analysts polled by Bloomberg was ¥57.1 billion. “A lot of additional money-losing businesses remain for Sony to dump, though,” noted Bloomberg Businessweek. “The company hasn’t made a profit on TVs in years, and with stiff competition from South Korea and China, exiting the TV business is probably vital to any Sony turnaround. In its futile attempt to remain a player in TVs, Sony has lost ¥790 billion over the last 10 years, the company revealed today.” Based on its losses,  PC market may see similar fiscal issues if it attempts to shed that portion of its business. It is focusing on products such as smartphones, cameras and game consoles. (BBC)(Bloomberg)(Bloomberg Businessweek)

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

EU Court Backs “Right to Be Forgotten”

The top EU court has ruled that individuals may legally demand the removal of any links or information returned via search-engine results that could jeopardize their privacy. This is commonly referred to as “a right to be forgotten” and applies to “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data returned in search results. The case originated with a Spanish man who sought to have Google Spain delete a 1998 Catalonian newspaper article regarding his home being auctioned for failing to pay taxes. He argued the matter had been resolved and the material should no longer be linked to him. The new European Court of Justice ruling applies to all 28 EU member countries and all search-engine operators. Opponents say the ruling represents censorship. Attorneys practicing in the EU are concerned compliance could prove difficult because of the thousands of individual requests that could potentially be received by search engines and the need to carefully evaluate each of these. Others say the new rule could result in balkanized search results, with search results differing in Europe. Regulators throughout Europe have expressed concern about the way information on search engines, particularly Google, affect privacy. French, Italian, and Spanish officials have fined Google in the past over privacy matters. (Businessweek)(The Guardian)

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