30 June, 2009

Europe getting a universal cell-phone charger

a Mobile phone TimelineImage by KhE 龙 via Flickr

June 29, 2009 -- Updated 1627 GMT (0027 HKT)

Story Highlights

Apple, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson agree to charger deal

Mountains of incompatible chargers have been generated by wireless industry

Universal adaptor to be introduced in Europe on January 1, 2010

Rest of the world is unlikely to lag behind Europe in adopting universal charger

Most cell phones currently rely on different chargers, causing mountains of waste electronic.

(CNN) -- The frantic hunt for the right cell-phone charger will soon be a thing of the past -- in Europe at least -- as major manufacturers on Monday agreed to introduce a universal adaptor within six months.

Industry leaders, including Apple, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, have struck a deal with the European Union to introduce the one-size-fits-all charger by January 1, 2010, offering a solution to one of modern life's chief frustrations.

As the number of cell phones has exploded over the past few years, so have the number of chargers -- generating mountains of waste technology as users change or upgrade handsets.

Now the cell phone industry has agreed to standardize its chargers, making all handsets compatible with a micro-USB plug already standard on handsets such BlackBerrys.

Last year an estimated 1.2 billion cell phones were sold worldwide, according to University of Southern Queensland data reported by industry umbrella group GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association), generating up to 82,000 tonnes of chargers.

With concerns over the level of waste generated by redundant or outmoded chargers, European legislators had, prior to Monday's agreement, considered forcing manufacturers to adopt universal technology.

"I am very pleased that industry has found an agreement which will make life much simpler for consumers," Gunter Verheugen, vice-president of the EU's executive arm, the European Commission, said in a statement.

"This also means considerably less electronic waste, because people will no longer have to throw away chargers when buying new phones."

With the Europe-wide agreement in place, the rest of the world is unlikely to lag behind.

GSMA, which represents 750 of the world's cell-phone operators, has already pledged a January 2012 deadline for introducing a universal charger.

From CNN.com; see the source article here.

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Jackson's death sparks barrage of online scams

Michael Jackson StarImage via Wikipedia

And so, beware. Needless to say, keep enough sense and watch out for anything suspicious…

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06/30/2009 | 08:15 AM

SAN JOSE, California — Minutes after any big celebrity dies, Internet swindlers get to work. They pump out specially created spam e-mails and throw up malicious Web sites to infect victims' computers, hoping to capitalize on the sudden high demand for information.

Michael Jackson's death was no different, and security experts say the fraud artists are just getting started.

The scams started cropping up almost instantaneously as Jackson's death was still hitting the news. As days have gone by, they've gotten more sophisticated — and dangerous.

Jackson's death "took a lot of people by surprise — the spammers, too," said Dermot Harnett, principal analyst for anti-spam engineering at Symantec Corp., a security software maker. "It might take them some time to really pounce on this issue. They are catching up pretty quickly, though."

Any major world event, such as the recent protests in Iran, triggers a barrage of Internet attacks. Security experts say the malicious traffic associated with Jackson's death will likely match and perhaps exceed those of other big spamming campaigns, such as those connected with the swine flu outbreak and Saddam Hussein's execution.

Spam is the most common way for fraudsters to find victims after these types of events. They can use a shotgun approach with a boilerplate message about Jackson, taking advantage of people's interests in the topic to improve their batting average over their usual spam campaigns.

By enticing users with such messages and tricking them into clicking on e-mail attachments, scammers can easily infect victims' computers and take command of them for more nefarious activities.

The spam about Jackson's death gets more convincing every day.

One message promises a YouTube video showing the exclusive "last work of Michael Jackson." Instead, victims get a malicious program that steals their passwords. Another promises to show the "latest unpublished photos" of Jackson if you click on a link — one that also tries to install a password-stealing program on your machine.

Others purport to be from legitimate news outlets and may contain accurate enough information to convince viewers they're real enough to click on. Others promise access to secret songs.

The effects of specific spam campaigns, like the one surrounding Jackson's death, are hard to quantify, though. Spam levels are already so high that there might not be a noticeable increase in overall spam levels, Harnett said. By some estimates spam accounts for more than 90 percent of all e-mail sent around the world, though the bulk of the messages get filtered out before ever reaching the user.

Celebrity deaths are a gold mine for criminals because lots of people go online looking for news. Google Inc. says the spike in searches for news stories about Jackson's death was so sharp the company initially mistook it for an automated attack.

Many of the information-seekers can be tricked, via e-mail, into visiting malicious Web sites. That opens the door to all kinds of nastiness, like spying on what someone's typing or using the hijacked machine to send spam.

There are also so many more Web sites about celebrities after their deaths that it's hard to figure out which ones are legitimate fan sites, and which ones were created by criminals.

Registrations of domain names related to Jackson have spiked since the pop icon died Thursday afternoon. A leading registration company, GoDaddy.com, said it registered about 7,500 such names since then. Actress Farrah Fawcett, who died the same day, got about 100 domains in the same period. GoDaddy said, however, that it had yet to get any complaints that any of those addresses were used for scams.

Within minutes of Jackson's death hitting the news, scammers started sending out spam e-mails with links purportedly to provocative news stories or videos about Jackson. The news stories, of course, never appear. Instead, people who click on those links are often directed to sites that try to install viruses.

Another thing to remember: It's not wise even to just "check out" a link you're interested in if you suspect the site might be bogus. Sometimes just visiting a malicious Web site is enough to get you infected, and you don't need to actively download anything at all.

Many scams do ask people to download a video player or other piece of software — supposedly so they can see the video or hear the audio — that winds up being a piece of malicious software.

The lesson for users is, as always, avoid unsolicited links from senders you don't know, and don't install any programs that an unknown site is telling you need. – AP

From GMANews.tv; see the source article here.

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28 June, 2009

Who moved my 'Delete' key? Lenovo did. Here's why...

06/26/2009 04:21 PM

Lenovo put nearly a year of research into two design changes that debuted on an updated ThinkPad laptop this week. No, not the thinner, lighter form or the textured touchpad — rather, the extra-large "Delete" and "Escape" keys.

It may seem like a small change, but David Hill, vice president of corporate identity and design at Lenovo, points out, "Any time you start messing around with the keyboard, people get nervous."

Computers get smaller and faster every year, but keyboard design remains largely stuck in the 19th century. When Beijing-based Lenovo, which bought IBM Corp.'s personal-computer business in 2005, looked into improving the keyboard on the new ThinkPad T400s, a $1,600-and-up laptop for businesspeople, it knew it had to proceed with caution.

To understand Lenovo's concern, turn the clock back to the 1800s.

Back then, fast typing would jam typewriters, so a keyboard layout that slowed down flying fingers was devised. The commonly used "A'' key, for example, was banished to the spot under the relatively uncoordinated left pinky.

Typewriter technology evolved. Mainframe computing led to function keys and others of uncertain use today. The PC era dawned. Yet many laws of keyboard layout remain sacred, like the 19-millimeter distance between the centers of the letter keys.

Tom Hardy, who designed the original IBM PC of 1981, said companies have tried many times to change the sizes of keys. That first PC had a smaller "Shift" key than IBM's popular Selectric typewriter did, and it was placed in a different spot, in part because the industry didn't think computers would replace typewriters for high-volume typing tasks.

IBM reversed course with the next version to quiet the outcry from skilled touch-typists.

"Customers have responded with a resounding, 'Don't fool with the key unless you can improve it,'" said Hardy, now a design strategist based in Atlanta.

PC makers relearned this lesson in the past year, as netbooks – tiny, cheap laptops – have become popular with budget-conscious consumers. Early models boasted screens measuring as little as 7 inches on the diagonal, requiring shrunken keyboards that many people found to be too small. Some even repeated IBM's mistake by cutting the size of the "Shift" key.

The computer makers have largely shifted focus to 10-inch (25-centimeter) or larger netbooks, so that there'd be room for near-standard keyboards or better.

Push-back from consumers hasn't stopped companies from testing and even manufacturing keyboards with unconventional designs over the years, in some cases demonstrating that people could learn to type faster than on standard QWERTY keyboards, so-called because of the arrangement of the top row of letters. During Hardy's time at IBM, researchers came up with ball-shaped one-handed keyboards that he said were faster than standard ones.

"A lot of those things never passed the business planners and the bean counters because they were concerned about manufacturing something that was just basically an experiment," Hardy said.

Ones that did get made have remained niche.

Paul Bradley, an executive creative director at the global design group Frog Design, said makers of ergonomic keyboards that also improved typing speed were counting on concern over carpal tunnel syndrome during the dot-com boom of the 1990s to drive demand, but the market never materialized.

If ever there were a time to make radical changes to the keyboard, now might be it. As evidence, Bradley noted the high tolerance many younger people show for tapping out cell-phone messages on tiny keypads using only their thumbs.

Lenovo is on a more conservative course. In designing the new ThinkPad, it installed keystroke-tracking software on about 30 employees' computers (They volunteered). On average, they used the "Escape" and "Delete" keys 700 times per week, yet those were the only "outboard" keys, or non-letter keys, that hadn't been enlarged.

Lenovo made those two keys about twice as long in the vertical direction to fit the way people reach up, rather than to the side, and then deliberately whack those keys, said Hill, the Lenovo executive who was at IBM for nearly 20 years before the 2005 sale to Lenovo. The new design cuts down on accidental taps of the "End" and "Insert" keys, too.

The new keyboard isn't perfect. Hill called "Caps Lock" a frustrating hangover from typewriter days, a key that can introduce garble, emulate shouting, or foil password entries without the user noticing.

"I think maybe sometime in the future, we should maybe entertain removing it," he said. "It's one of those things you kind of have to approach with caution. There might be some people out there who just really like their 'Caps Lock' key for whatever reason." - AP

From GMANews.tv; see the source article here.

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26 June, 2009

News of Jackson's death first spread online

06/26/2009 | 10:44 AM

NEW YORK — It was a where-were-you moment in a digital age: Michael Jackson's death was not learned from a fatherly TV news anchor. Instead, the news first spread online.

Some of the initial reports from various outlets were confusing: Was Jackson still alive? Was he in a coma? They spread like wildfire across news sites, social media networks and Twitter.

The celebrity Web site TMZ.com. site broke the news of Jackson's death at 5:20 p.m. EDT (2120 GMT) Thursday.

It was a huge scoop for the AOL-owned TMZ, though many did not believe TMZ's report until it was matched by more established news organizations.

"Everything starts with a tip," said Harvey Levin, managing editor of TMZ. "We wouldn't have put it up if we weren't positive."

Jackson's death was confirmed by the Los Angeles Times and then The Associated Press just minutes before the nightly network news began. The anchors relayed the news at the top of their broadcasts, though CBS and ABC quickly moved on to their prepared obituaries for Farrah Fawcett, who died earlier Thursday.

MTV, the channel that had so much to do with Jackson's incredible rise to fame, played Jackson's iconic music videos "Beat It" and "Thriller," and continued with a Jackson marathon.

On Twitter, the dialogue took strange forms. As times Thursday night, Jackson-related search topics were the most popular on the site. The service was slowed for a time following Jackson's death, but it did not appear to crash. (Twitter did not immediately respond to an e-mail Thursday.)

Celebrity users on Twitter — including Lindsay Lohan, Ashton Kutcher, John Mayer, Ryan Seacrest and ?uestlove of the Roots — posted their remembrances.

"I will be mourning my friend, brother, mentor and inspiration," tweeted MC Hammer. "He gave me and my family hope. I would never have been me without him."

Comedian Rob Corddry, the former "Daily Show" correspondent, joked: "I wish it had been Michael Jackson that broke the story of TMZ dying."

Others sought to corrupt the memorializing of Jackson. A false rumor was spread that actor Jeff Goldblum had died. His publicist had to release a statement saying that Goldblum was fine.

So many people wanted to verify the early reports of Jackson's death that the computers running Google's news section interpreted the fusillade of "Michael Jackson" requests as an automated attack from about 5:40 p.m. through 6:15 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT through 2015 GMT).

As a defense mechanism, Google's news section responded to requests for information about Michael Jackson with squiggly letters known as a "captcha." Just as online ticket buyers regularly do to complete their purchases, the Michael Jackson searchers had to enter the letters correctly to see Google's new results.

Searches made through Google's main search engine were unaffected, according to company spokesman Gabriel Stricker.

On YouTube, traffic flowed to music videos of Jackson, while thousands posted videos of themselves sharing their thoughts on Jackson. – AP

From GMANews.tv; see the source article here.

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Not just porn, no to 'health' sites too

google in chinaImage by El Tipo Gráfico via Flickr

05:55 AM Jun 26, 2009

BEIJING - China's crackdown on Internet pornography will be extended to health-related sex information, according to new regulations that tighten supervision of such content.

The authorities will monitor such information to prevent obscene content from slipping through and stop pornographic operations posing as health websites, said the rules posted on Wednesday on the health ministry website.

"It is strictly forbidden to disseminate vulgar content in the name of spreading sexual knowledge," it said.

The new regulation comes as China steps up a campaign to wipe out Internet pornography. The government has told computer makers that all personal computers sold from July 1 must be shipped with anti-pornography software.

United States trade officials sent a letter to their Chinese counterparts on Wednesday urging them to revoke an order that requires a controversial Internet filtering software to be installed on computers.

The new regulation applied to websites that bill themselves as health-based, including those run by research institutes and private companies. Violators face fines of 3,000-10,000 yuan ($640-$2,130) in the case of non-commercial websites and more than 10,000 yuan for commercial sites.

However, the paper said authorities should make sure access to legitimate sex information is not cut off, calling it a key sexual education tool.

Yesterday China accused Google of spreading pornography after Chinese users were unable to connect to the search giant's site. "We have found that the English version of google.com has spread lots of pornographic, lewd and vulgar content, which is in serious violation of Chinese laws and regulations," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

He said the authorities summoned Google representatives and told them to "remove the material immediately". He did not respond to questions on whether the government was responsible for the outage. Agencies

From TODAY, World – Friday, 26-Jun-2009; see the source article here.

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Google briefly cut off in China

Posted: 25 June 2009 1350 hrs

BEIJING: Google's main English-language website was inaccessible for more than two hours in China, state media reported, as Beijing continued to pressure the Internet giant to eliminate pornography.

The outage occurred Wednesday night, the China Daily newspaper said, adding that its Chinese-language website google.cn was unaffected.

A Google China spokesperson could not immediately be reached by AFP.

However, the company's China public relations firm confirmed that Google had received complaints from Internet users.

"Google did receive reports from users yesterday that google.com was not accessible for some time. But we have no further comment on that," said a spokeswoman with Ogilvy, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official China Daily said a Google spokesman confirmed the service cut in comments to the newspaper but would not speculate on the cause.

The paper said the outage also cut off access to Gmail, Google's email service.

Google's sites in both languages appeared to be working normally on Thursday.

Google promised last week to work harder to eliminate pornography from its Chinese Web searches after a government Internet watchdog accused the firm of continuing to allow such results.

China has vowed to crack down on Internet content that it deems unhealthy, which has included pornography and information critical of authorities, a censorship system dubbed the "Great Firewall of China".

Computer makers were notified by the government recently that all personal computers sold from July 1 must be shipped with anti-pornography software, a move that has led to widespread censorship fears both inside and outside China.

China has the world's largest online population at nearly 300 million Web users and the country's Communist Party rulers have struggled to control a proliferation of online content in recent years.

- AFP/yt

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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Not Yahoo!'s job to 'fix China', says CEO

Image representing Carol Bartz as depicted in ...Image via CrunchBase

Posted: 26 June 2009 0646 hrs

Pedestrians walk past a Yahoo! billboard in Beijing. (file pic)

WASHINGTON: Yahoo! chief executive Carol Bartz staunchly defended the Internet company's business practices in China on Thursday and said it was "not our job to fix the Chinese government".

Bartz, appearing at her first shareholders meeting since taking over the Sunnyvale, California-based company in January, said Yahoo! respects human rights.

"We actually hosted a business and human rights summit for high tech companies a month or so ago," she said. "Yahoo! has gone overboard on this point to really be sympathetic, serious and so forth.

"We have done a lot," she said.

"The board does its best, the company does its best to run a good business, to look out for our population around the world, both the people who work for us and the people who come to visit us," she said. "That's our commitment."

Bartz added that Yahoo! "was not incorporated to fix China".

"It was incorporated to give people a free flow of information," she said.

A number of US companies, including Microsoft, Cisco, Google and Yahoo!, have been hauled before the US Congress in recent years and accused of complicity in building what has been called the "Great Firewall of China".

Yahoo! was thrust into the forefront of the online rights issue after the company helped Chinese police identify cyber dissidents whose supposed crime was expressing their views online.

Alluding to the case, Bartz said: "Ten years ago the company made a mistake, and you can't hold us up as the bad boy forever.

"We have worked better, harder, faster than most companies to respect human rights and to try and make a difference," she said.

"But it is not our job to fix the Chinese government, it's that simple.

"We will respect human rights, we will do what's right, but we're not going to take on every government in the world as our mandate," she said. "That's not the mandate that the shareholders gave us."

Yahoo!, other technology giants and a coalition of human rights and other groups unveiled a code of conduct last year aimed at safeguarding online freedom of speech and privacy.

China exercises strict control over the Internet, blocking sites linked to Chinese dissidents, the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Tibetan government-in-exile and those with information on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

China and Google are currently engaged in a dispute, with Beijing accusing the Internet giant of providing links to pornography in its Web searches.

And the United States called on China on Wednesday to drop a new requirement for all computers to carry Internet filtering software.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said China may be violating World Trade Organisation obligations by requiring that all computers sold in the country from July 1 have the "Green Dam" program.

Beijing said the software will filter out pornography, protecting young people within the world's largest online population.

- AFP/so

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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24 June, 2009

China says unpopular filtering software optional

china dailyImage by doubleaf via Flickr

Late post, but this is the other side of the coin…

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05:55 AM Jun 17, 2009

BEIJING - China appeared to cave in to public pressure yesterday by announcing that computer users are not required to install Internet-filtering software - though it will still come with all PCs sold on the mainland.

When contacted, a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology official said that use of the Green Dam Youth Escort software is "not compulsory".

This apparent reversal by the government, which said the new software must be packaged with all computers sold in China beginning July 1, marked a small victory for a burgeoning anti-censorship movement in China.

The government says the software is aimed at blocking violence and pornography, but users who have tried it say it prevents access beyond those topics to discussions of homosexuality, images of comic book characters, mentions of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group and, according to Hong Kong media reports, images of pigs because the software confuses them with naked human flesh.

The official China Daily newspaper trumpeted the news on its front page, quoting an official as saying the government's role was "limited to having the software developed and providing it free''. AP

From TODAY, World – Wednesday, 17-Jun-2009; see the source article here.

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The future of TV looks like this...

Singapore Telecommunications LimitedImage via Wikipedia

05:55 AM Jun 17, 2009

Imagine trying to explain the unique Peranakan culture to friends around the globe, as you watch an episode of The Little Nyonya in an online setting. You'll share your thoughts in a chat-box as the show runs on a souped-up television set, or a computer, or even a mobile device hooked up wirelessly to the Internet.

The work seems cut out for the consortium of companies that will be part of the FutureTV initiative aiming to make such scenarios a reality, under the Singapore Media Fusion Plan - a new national blueprint by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

MDA chief executive Dr Christopher Chia told Today this builds on the previous Media 21 blueprint launched in 2003. He said: "It gears Singapore companies to respond to fresh opportunities in today's new world order by enabling the creation of new Asia media - be it content, services or applications - that resonate with the world, while leveraging on Singapore's strengths and strategic location as an East-West gateway."

Along with $230 million worth of funding from the Government, the new plan outlines three key strategies: Creating a conducive environment for media businesses; leveraging research and development to help the media sector take advantage of new opportunities in digital media; and finally, to make Singapore-made content, media applications and services shine in the global spotlight.

Major players in the technology, infocomm and media sectors have formed the FutureTV consortium that will use Singapore as a test-bed for a new generation of visual media experiences and applications.

It includes media companies like MediaCorp and PGK, telcos SingTel and StarHub, and technology companies like Microsoft and Motorola.

The consortium will be launching the first call for proposals to local technology and media companies to submit novel ideas, technologies and business models.

Mr Shaun Seow, MediaCorp's deputy chief executive, said: "It holds out the promise of a new television viewing experience that's more engaging and interactive, delivered online or via the next generation broadband network that's being built."

The media sector will also see MDA and SingTel partnering to link Mediapolis@one-north - an upcoming self-contained 19-hectare media park incorporating a soundstage, digital production studios and other facilities - with a broadband connection to the telco's Broadcast Innovation Centre at its Satellite Earth Station in Bukit Timah.

This will provide the companies at the media park a digital communications gateway to distribute their content cost-effectively to over 40 major media centres in the world, via satellite and terrestial fibre networks. With this in place, the MDA aims to extend the reach of local media companies and facilitate worldwide access for Asian content. HEDIRMAN SUPIAN

From TODAY, Hot News – Wednesday, 17-Jun-2009; see the source article here.

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Intel forms strategic alliance with Nokia

Posted: 24 June 2009 0758 hrs

WASHINGTON: US semiconductor giant Intel and Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia announced Tuesday that they had entered into a "strategic relationship" to develop futuristic mobile computing devices.

Intel, the world's biggest computer-chip maker, and Nokia, the largest mobile phone manufacturer, said their partnership would seek to "define a new mobile platform beyond today's smartphones, notebooks and netbooks."

The alliance between the leaders in their respective fields would enable "the development of a variety of innovative hardware, software and mobile Internet services," they said in a statement.

Intel dominates the chip market for computers but has had little success in its attempts to break into the mobile phone arena.

The Santa Clara, California-based Intel and Helsinki-based Nokia did not unveil plans for any specific products but said they would collaborate in developing operating systems for the future mobile computing devices using open-source Linux software.

"With the convergence of the Internet and mobility as the team's only barrier, I can only imagine the innovation that will come out of our unique relationship with Nokia," said Anand Chandrasekher, a senior vice-president at Intel. "The possibilities are endless."

"Today's announcement represents a significant commitment to work together on the future of mobile computing, and we plan to turn our joint research into action," said Kai Oistamo, an executive vice-president at Nokia.

"We will explore new ideas in designs, materials and displays that will go far beyond devices and services on the market today," Oistamo said.

Intel's tie-up with Nokia comes slightly more than two weeks after the semiconductor maker announced that it has agreed to buy software company Wind River Systems for 884 million dollars in a bid get its chips into more devices.

Intel said that its takeover of Wind River is part of its strategy to grow beyond its traditional personal computer and server markets and into mobile handheld devices and other systems.

- AFP/yt

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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22 June, 2009

Twitter message could be cyber criminal at work

By Kevin Voigt, CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Some officials say cyber crime has eclipsed drug trade as a money maker
  • Latest ploy is planting malicious software in intriguing Twitter topics
  • Some companies give in to extortion and remain silent, officials say
  • Skimmed credit card numbers can be found for sale on Web sites

TwitterMsg Savvy cyber criminals are taking advantage of our increasing reliance on computers and the Internet.

(CNN) -- Cyber criminals are setting snares that move at the speed of news.

Panda Security, a Spain-based antivirus maker, has been monitoring an onslaught of links with malicious software, or "malware," on Twitter that tag hot topics such as the Air France crash, the NBA finals, "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert and the new iPhone.

"Cyber criminals have been targeting Twitter users by creating thousands of messages (tweets) embedded with words involving trending topics and malicious URLs," Sean-Paul Correll, a threat researcher for Panda Labs, wrote recently on a blog for the company.

The growing sophistication of malware attacks mirrors the growing threat -- and cash -- generated by online crime. Already, cyber crime is estimated to cost companies and consumers more than $100 billion worldwide. Some officials claim it has now eclipsed illegal drugs as a criminal moneymaker.

"It's very seldom reported ... if discovered by companies, they generally don't want the public to know they've been had," said Eugene Spafford, a computer security specialist at Purdue University who has advised two U.S. presidents and numerous companies and government agencies.

Cyber crime is one of the few industries benefiting from the financial crisis. Last year, antivirus maker McAfee saw a 500 percent increase in malware types -- more than the company had seen in the previous five years combined. In the United States, the FBI reported a 33 percent increase in Internet crime last year.

Companies lost an average of $4.6 million in intellectual property last year, according to a survey of 1000 firms worldwide by Purdue University and McAfee.

"As the economy has declined, we've seen the threat landscape increase," David DeWalt, president and CEO of McAfee, recently told Richard Quest for CNN International's "Quest Means Business."

That increase has helped antivirus makers such as McAfee snare record returns -- the company's first quarter profits were 21 percent higher than same period last year.

But companies and governments find themselves in a losing war with Web-savvy criminals, experts say.

"The fundamental fact is cyber criminals are highly organized with sophisticated corporate structures and business chains," said Michael Fraser, director of the Communications Law Centre at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia.

"They have R&D departments, strong distribution networks and Web sites for the discerning cyber criminal," Fraser said.

On these Web sites, would-be criminals can purchase toolkits to learn how to side step security measures or create their own "botnet" -- referring to software that can, unbeknownst to victims, turn their computers into spamming foot-soldiers for criminal networks. One Web site advertises software that can capture information for a popular Internet secured-payment provider for $500 -- discounted to $400 for the first 100 buyers.

Skimmed credit card numbers and other personal-identity information stolen from computers also can be found for sale on Web sites, Fraser said. "When police shut these Web sites down, they just mushroom up some other place," he said.

Although the techniques of cyber crime have evolved, online criminals pray on human vulnerabilities like criminals throughout the ages. In the digital age, that means tempting with free downloads, money schemes and pornography.

The range of tools used by cyber criminals reveals the quick evolution of the industry. Viruses -- the first generation of the computer culprits -- are used for the computer equivalent of vandalism, as the malicious programs replicate, spread and damage computers.

"When the company was set up, we were seeing two or three new viruses a week," said Mahendra Negi, chief financial officer of Tokyo-based antivirus maker Trend Micro. "Now there's a new one every two-and-a-half seconds.

"With the arrival of spam in 2001 and 2002, the big difference was it was commercial malware," Negi said. "Once money became involved, the level of sophistication raised a hundred-fold."

Now the biggest threats include "phishing" schemes and "botnet" attacks.

Phishing is where criminals masquerade as a legitimate business or Web site and trick victims into revealing passwords, credit card information and other personal data.

Botnet attackers commandeer personal computers as part of a large network of "zombie" computers that, on command, target companies for spam attacks to cripple IT capabilities. Botnets -- some of which are large enough to deploy tens of billions of spam e-mails a day -- are often used in extortion schemes.

"They ring up the IT manager of a company and say, 'Pay us a million or we'll take you down'," said Fraser, who has worked with companies victimized by botnet attacks.

Companies often pay up and shut up, computer experts say, rather than report the crime and garner publicity that may hurt their corporate reputation.

And unlike prankster virus-makers, these malware makers are determined to stay hidden.

"Once it became a business, then (cyber criminals) began to look at what companies like us were doing, and figure out weaknesses," he said. "They are very customer friendly ... they sell updates, they will highlight what the product does and what antivirus software can't detect them.

Adding to the difficulty is the legal situation that in many jurisdictions, it is not illegal to create or sell malware.

"It's like the arms industry ... it's not a crime to build and sell them," Negi said.

And because of the transnational nature of the crime, it's extremely difficult to prosecute. A scan of 500 headlines on Internet-related arrests from newspapers around the world the past two years found about 90 percent were related to child-pornography cases.

"Child pornography is easier to prosecute because it is possible to find the evidence on the perpetrator's computer systems," said Spafford of Purdue University.

Cyber-criminal networks are as porous as the Internet itself.

"There are multiple jurisdictions and unless it's an ongoing crime that uses the same path all the time, the trail goes cold quickly," Spafford said. "I may be able to trace back to a computer system, if I'm lucky, or trace it back to a cyber cafe -- but how do I know who was behind it?"

Often criminal networks are run in countries such as Russia and China, where government officials turn a blind eye to these activities -- so long as their victims reside outside the host country, Spafford said.

"For the host countries, that's dangerous ... it's kind of like breeding tigers in the back yard and saying, 'Well, they haven't hurt anyone here yet,'" he said. "Mexico is a wonderful example ... they tolerated drug smugglers for years, and now it's such a major problem and incredibly painful and costly to run them out.

"I'm not saying (cyber criminals) are involved in physical violence, but it's not out of the realm of possibility," he said. "What are they doing with all that money?"

From CNN.com; see the source article here.

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One million of new iPhone model sold in 3 days

Posted: 22 June 2009 2109 hrs

NEW YORK - Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs, in his first statement since taking a medical leave of absence in January, announced on Monday that the company has sold more than one million of its new iPhone model in three days.

"Customers are voting and the iPhone is winning," Jobs said in a written statement.

iPhone3GS He said over one million iPhone 3GS models had been sold through Sunday and six million customers have downloaded the new iPhone 3.0 software in the first five days since its release.

"With over 50,000 applications available from Apple's revolutionary App Store, iPhone momentum is stronger than ever," Jobs said.

The statement came two days after The Wall Street Journal reported that Jobs had received a liver transplant about two months ago in Tennessee.

Jobs's health, and the secrecy surrounding it, has been the source of intense speculation over the past year, often causing swings in the price of Apple stocks.

- AFP/ir

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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.NET Framework multiple versions installed - need to clean-up?

I was thinking, since the alert from Secunia Personal Software Inspector keeps on coming back, telling that MS .NET FW 1.x is posing a security threat, and that when running windows update, it is not reported as a security threat. That's my first roadblock.

 

I went in, and found that several versions of the .NET framework are installed in my development PC. For Java versions, I know that I am supposed to uninstall the older versions manually, as this is not done by the updater program, but what about MS .NET FM older versions?

 

I browsed through the wide networld, and found some answers.

 

I'm sharing to all who might be encountering the same problems and asking the same questions.

 

Read the articles to gain some nifty insights as provided by the authors.

 

Link 1: http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2007/08/31/4678599.aspx

Link 2: http://cybernetnews.com/2008/12/18/remove-or-reinstall-net-framework/

Link 3: http://kbalertz.com/938244/Availability-services-Messaging-hotfix-rollup-package.aspx

Link 4: http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/08/17/33OPsecadvise_1.html

 

I am linking directly to the tool provided by MS for cleaning up .NET FM versions, and as always - USE WITH CAUTION.

Uninstall Cleanup Tool for Microsoft .NET Framework versions

 

Or course, there are a lot more articles and discussions on "removing older versions of the .NET framework", and these are yours for the browsing…

 

Ciao!

 

21 June, 2009

Google vows to fight porn in China after govt rebuke

Posted: 20 June 2009 1512 hrs

090620-GoogleToFightPorn Chinese youths play online games at a Internet cafe in Beijing

BEIJING: Internet giant Google promised to work harder to eliminate pornography from its Chinese Web pages as state media reported authorities had shut down some of its search services.

"Google has continually taken measures against vulgar content, particularly material that is harmful to children, on the Internet in China," a statement by the company said.

"Google is currently stepping up its efforts in this regard."

Xinhua news agency reported that the government had already "stopped some of Google China's searching businesses and asked it to clear up its lewd content."

"Google China was ordered to suspend its overseas web-page searching services and associated word-search services," Xinhua said.

The report gave no other details.

Neither Google officials nor authorities that handle Internet supervision could immediately be reached to confirm the report.

A nonprofit group devoted to "traditional American values" on Friday followed in China's footsteps, calling on Google to be more vigilant about limiting access to online porn.

The Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute released a self-conducted study to back a demand for Google-owned YouTube to be more "family friendly."

The study indicated that YouTube searches turned up pornography, crude commentary, and videos that serve as teasers for sex websites.

"There's sexual material, including soft-core porn, all over the site," Matthew Philbin and Dan Gainor wrote in report findings.

Media Research Center founder L. Brent Bozell III and institute vice president Dan Gainor signed a letter asking Google chief executive Eric Schmidt to personally look into the group's concerns.

The letter asked Google to explain what further actions it will take to "make objectionable material inaccessible to children."

The China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre (CIIRC) slammed Google China on Thursday, saying the US-based portal was continuing to facilitate searches for pornographic material.

"Google China's website has not installed filters to block pornography in accordance with the laws and regulations of our nation," the centre had said in a statement.

It said the centre "strongly condemns Google China and demands that it thoroughly clean up the pornographic and vulgar content on its sites."

"CIIRC calls on concerned departments in charge of implementing the law to punish (Google China) in accordance with the law," Thursday's statement added.

China has vowed to crack down on Internet content that it deems unhealthy, which has included pornography and information critical of authorities.

Computer makers were notified by the government recently that all personal computers sold from July 1 must be shipped with anti-pornography software, a move that has led to widespread censorship fears both inside and outside China.

China has the world's largest online population at nearly 300 million web users.

Authorities have a history of blocking websites they deem politically unacceptable or offensive, a censorship system that has been dubbed the "Great Firewall of China".

Google's statement said the company "strictly abides by all rules and regulations in China and will work to eliminate vulgar content."

Google was among 19 large Internet portals that the government named in January as continuing to provide links to pornography, ordering them to clean up.

At the time, Google was singled out as having failed to take action on government complaints that its search engine results contained a "massive number of links to pornographic web sites."

Xinhua reported separately on Friday that Beijing plans to recruit an "army of tens of thousands of volunteers" to scour the Internet for porn and report back to authorities in the capital.

- AFP/yb

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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