Contact Me By Email

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring | Danger Room |

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring | Danger Room |

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community.

It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Google Reports Brief Search Outage in China - PCWorld

Google Reports Brief Search Outage in China - PCWorld

Google's search engine in China appeared to have been partially blocked overnight Thursday, but a Google spokeswoman said the service was up and running again by Friday morning local time.

A Google site that monitors the company's services in China indicated that its Web search service had been blocked, along with its image search, ads and mobile services.

Google's services in China are being closely watched for signs of disruption ever since the company stopped censoring its search results there earlier this year.

Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell said the company overestimated the latest disruption, however.

"Because of the way we measure accessibility in China, it's possible that our machines can overestimate the level of blockage," she said. "That appears to be what happened last night when there was a relatively small blockage."

Attempts to use Google's search engine from Beijing Friday morning were successful, though when blockages are in place they can vary by region.

Google Searches Blocked On Mainland China : NPR

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
Google Searches Blocked On Mainland China : NPR

Google Inc. said Thursday that its search engine was abruptly cut off from mainland China, raising more questions about the Internet company's ability to operate in the country while trying to work around the government's online censorship policies.

It's unclear why Google's search engine was suddenly fenced off, or whether China's government was blocking the service with technology tools known as the "Great Firewall."

The notice on Google's website reporting the China barrier provided no details and a spokesman at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters was unable to elaborate.

The blockage could signal China's communist government has finally decided to retaliate against Google for taking a stand against its effort to control what its citizens can see and read on the Internet. If that's the case, Google might have trouble maintaining and cultivating other services, including mobile phones and mapping products, in the world's most populous country.

The relationship between Google and China's government has been tense since the company announced in January that it would no longer censor search results that the ruling party considered to be subversive or pornographic.

Google had cooperated with the government's restrictions for four years, but said it had a change of heart after uncovering a computer hacking attack that it traced to China.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Apple's iOS4 Issues Take Center Stage - PCWorld

Now that Apple has pacified iPhone 4 customers with free bumper cases to alleviate antenna issues, the company is looking into problems with iOS 4 and the iPhone 3G.

For more than a month, iPhone 3G owners have raged on Apple's support forums about the latest operating system update. It's bad enough that the iPhone 3G doesn't support multitasking -- the two-year-old phone just isn't powerful enough -- but slow performance, battery drain and hot hardware are making matters worse.

On YouTube, one user created a parody video showing all the tasks performed in one of Apple's first iPhone ads, except running iOS4. The parody was three times longer than the original 30-second commercial, as the iPhone 3G stuttered its way through music, e-mail, the Internet and a phone call.

Apple told the Wall Street Journal that it's aware of the reports and is looking into the matter, but didn't explicitly say a solution was coming and didn't give a timeline.

This doesn't bode well for a quick fix; iPhone 4 users are still waiting for Apple to address the phone's proximity sensor, which is allowing accidental hang-ups and other commands when the phone is held close to the cheek. Apple promised during its iPhone 4 antenna press conference that it would fix the problem soon, and that was three weeks ago.

Although the sluggish iOS4 performance on the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4's proximity sensor issues are arguably more frustrating to more users, their ability to be fixed with software allowed them to dodge the antenna hysteria. But with Apple putting out the "antennagate" fire, the pressure's on to make things right with iOS4.

Microsoft to Push Harder for Cloud - PCWorld

Microsoft to Push Harder for Cloud - PCWorld

Microsoft is shifting its strategy away from pitching itself as a company that can offer companies a choice of software or hosted services, toward pushing the cloud, an executive said on Thursday at the software giant's annual financial analyst meeting.

A year ago, Microsoft was telling customers that the company is uniquely positioned because it offers a choice of on-premise or cloud-based service, said Kevin Turner, chief operating officer for Microsoft.

"We've changed that. I don't think that was a good move. We're going to lead with the cloud," he said.

Still, while its message to customers may change, the company still expects to sell both software and hosted software.

"Leading with the cloud helps better position Microsoft to sell more on-premise products than ever before," he said.

Microsoft is also doing some "hand holding" to help customers work out implications of the cloud on budgeting. "It's a shift from capex to opex," Turner noted.

The company is also showing companies that they can more easily move to the most recent software by using the cloud, he said. Cloud services "allow us to take that burden off our customers and they are more than willing to give that to us," he said.

Its approach is paying off, he said. Seventy percent of deals for cloud services at Microsoft during its fourth quarter were new customers, Turner said. Those companies were switching from IBM Lotus Notes or other competitive products, he said.
The question si with their late start can they catch up with Google. Microsoft has a large base of enterprise customers who are used to using and are comfortable with Microsoft products. This base of customers will make them very competitive in the world of cloud computing.

John H. Armwood

BBC News - Facebook data harvester speaks out

BBC News - Facebook data harvester speaks out

Facebook torrent

The torrent is attracting hundreds of downloads. The man who harvested and published the personal details of 100m Facebook users has spoken out about his motives.

Ron Bowes, a security consultant, used a piece of code to scan Facebook profiles, collecting data not hidden by the user's privacy settings.

The list, which contains the URL of every searchable Facebook user's profile, name and unique ID, has been shared as a downloadable file.

Mr Bowes told BBC News that he did it as part of his work on a security tool.

"I'm a developer for the Nmap Security Scanner and one of our recent tools is called Ncrack," he said.

"It is designed to test password policies of organisations by using brute force attacks; in other words, guessing every username and password combination."

By downloading the data from Facebook, and compiling a user's first initial and surname, he was able to make a list of the most common probable usernames to use in the tool.

The three most common names, he found, were jsmith, ssmith and skhan.

In theory, researchers could then combine this list with a catalogue of the most commonly used passwords to test the security of sites. Similar techniques could be used by criminals for more nefarious means.

Mr Bowes said his original plan was to "collect a good list of human names that could be used for these tests". "Once I had the data, though, I realised that it could be of interest to the community if I released it, so I did," he added. I am of the belief that, if I can do something then there are about 1,000 bad guys that can do it too”

Mr Bowes confirmed that all the data he harvested was already publicly available but acknowledged that if anyone now changed their privacy settings, their information would still be accessible.

"If 100,000 Facebook users decide that they no longer want to be in Facebook's directory, I would still have their name and URL but it would no longer, technically, be public," he said.

Mr Bowes said that collecting the data was in no way irresponsible and likened it to a telephone directory.

"All I've done is compile public information into a nice format for statistical analysis," he said

Simon Davies from the watchdog Privacy International told BBC News it was an "ethical attack" and that more personal information had not been included in the trawl.

"This is a reputational and business issue for Facebook, for now," he said

"They can continue to ride the risk and hope nothing cataclysmic occurs, but I would argue that Facebook has a special responsibility to go beyond doing the bare minimum," he added.

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau's authority. "It'll be faster and easier to get the data," said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. "And for some Internet providers, it'll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL."

Many Internet service providers have resisted the government's demands to turn over electronic records, arguing that surveillance law as written does not allow them to do so, industry lawyers say. One senior administration government official, who would discuss the proposed change only on condition of anonymity, countered that "most" Internet or e-mail providers do turn over such data.

To critics, the move is another example of an administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security. The proposal is "incredibly bold, given the amount of electronic data the government is already getting," said Michelle Richardson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel.

The critics say its effect would be to greatly expand the amount and type of personal data the government can obtain without a court order. "You're bringing a big category of data -- records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information -- outside of judicial review," said Michael Sussmann, a Justice Department lawyer under President Bill Clinton who now represents Internet and other firms.

100M Facebook Profiles Now Available For Download - PCWorld

Facebook logoImage via Wikipedia
100M Facebook Profiles Now Available For Download - PCWorld

One hundred million Facebook user profiles containing personal information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers, are now available as a 2.8GB torrent download. Ron Bowes of Skull Security created the torrent using a Web crawler program, harvesting data from public profiles of users who have chosen not to change their privacy settings.

The file contains information for 1 in every 5 Facebook users, all those who are currently listed in the Facebook open access directory. Nothing is illegal about the torrent, because it simply uses data that is available to the public. Even those who have secured their own Facebook page may not be completely out of the clear. In a statement on his website Bowes said:

"...this is a scary privacy issue. I can find the name of pretty much every person on Facebook...Once I have the name and URL of a user, I can view, by default, their picture, friends, information about them, and some other details. If the user has set their privacy higher, at the very least I can view their name and picture. So, if any searchable user has friends that are non-searchable, those friends just opted into being searched, like it or not! "
Enhanced by Zemanta

Apple investigating iOS 4 problems on iPhone 3G | MacNN

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
Apple investigating iOS 4 problems on iPhone 3G | MacNN

Apple has begun investigating reports of problems running iOS 4 on the iPhone 3G. An Apple spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the company is aware of the complaints and is currently looking into the situation.
Many users have reported problems with excessive battery drain, heat, and overall performance. Although the new OS was expected to run a bit slower on the older hardware, even with multitasking disabled, some users claim iOS 4 effectively makes the iPhone 3G unusable in certain situations.

Apple has yet to provide a solution for the problems or advise against the upgrade for older iPhones.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Facebook CEO talks privacy on Hill - Kim Hart -

Mr Mark Zuckerberg AKA Mr FacebookImage by Carlo Nicora via Flickr
Facebook CEO talks privacy on Hill - Kim Hart -

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made his first visit to Washington Wednesday, meeting privately with members of Congress about online privacy and other technology issues.

Zuckerberg, the site’s 26-year-old CEO, has received plenty of attention lately with Facebook’s announcement last week that it now has more than 500 million users.

Company executives testified in two separate congressional hearings this week, answering lawmakers’ questions about online privacy and the risks posed to consumers who share personal details online.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Apple - Safari - Safari Extensions Gallery

Apple Safari iconImage via Wikipedia
Apple - Safari - Safari Extensions Gallery

Extensions are a great way for you to add new features to Safari 5.0.1. Built by developers, Safari Extensions use the latest HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript web technologies. And they’re digitally signed and sandboxed for improved security. You can install extensions with one click — no need to restart Safari.
With the release of new Safari 5.01 web browser extensions are officially available for Safari. There have been unofficial Safari 5 extension sites with downloads since the initial release of Safari 5. I will report back as soon as I have had time so explore and use some of the new extensions.

John H. Armwood

iOS 4.1 Beta: Game Center, Facetime Favorites, Spelling Correction, More... - Mac Rumors

iOS 4.1 Beta: Game Center, Facetime Favorites, Spelling Correction, More... - Mac Rumors

Aside from the signal bar changes, Apple has also made a number of other small improvements to iOS in their latest beta which was released to developers tonight.

Game Center returns to the beta releases with a brand new look (screenshot above). Game Center is Apple's matchmaking and leaderboard social network for iOS games. The lack of Game Center in the official iOS 4.0 release caused some confusion, but Apple had never intended Gamecenter to be launched alongside 4.0. Instead, Apple had promised Game Center to come out later this year.

It remains in beta testing for now with no announced release date. The style of the app, however, has been dramatically changed from the original release.

We've also collected a list of other changes that users have noticed in the 4.1 beta.

- Flash/Camera buttons reposition themselves in landscape (see above).
- Favorites in the Phone app can now be added as Voice or Facetime.
- Check Spelling can be turned Off in Setting

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Report: Hacker In Massive Computer Attack Held : NPR

Report: Hacker In Massive Computer Attack Held : NPR

International authorities have arrested a computer hacker believed responsible for creating the malicious computer code that infected as many as 12 million computers, invading major banks and corporations around the world, FBI officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

A 23-year-old Slovenian known as Iserdo was snagged in Maribor, Slovenia, after a lengthy investigation by Slovenian Criminal Police there along with FBI and Spanish authorities.

His arrest comes about five months after Spanish police broke up the massive cyber scam, arresting three of the alleged ringleaders who operated the so-called Mariposa botnet, stealing credit cards and online banking credentials.

The botnet — a network of infected computers — appeared in December 2008 and infected more than half of the Fortune 1,000 companies and at least 40 major banks.

Botnets are networks of infected PCs that have been hijacked from their owners, often without their knowledge, and put into the control of criminals.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Google plugs 'high risk' Chrome security holes | ZDNet

Google Chrome IconImage via Wikipedia
Google plugs 'high risk' Chrome security holes | ZDNet

Google has shipped a new version of its Chrome browser to fix three high-risk security holes that expose web surfers to malicious hacker attacks.

In addition to the security patches the Google Chrome 5.0.375.125 update also includes workarounds for two critical vulnerabilities where the root cause lies in external components — a Windows kernel bug and a glibc vulnerability.

The patch is available for Linux, Mac, Windows and Chrome Frame.Technical details on the vulnerabilities are being withheld until the update is pushed out to end users.
Google has indicated that this update plugs some security holes in the browser but on my early 2009, MacBook I notice a speed improvement. The update to Chrome 5 has only been installed for a short while but the change in speed is readily apparent.

John H. Armwood
Enhanced by Zemanta

Senate eyes online privacy rules -

Senate eyes online privacy rules -

Top Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee signaled Tuesday that they’re eyeing sweeping new rules to regulate online privacy — even as top tech players like Apple, AT&T, Google and Facebook cautioned them to tread carefully.

The tech companies told senators at a hearing Tuesday that they’ve worked hard to address privacy concerns, but Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) vowed that legislation will be coming next year anyway.

“We have learned a great deal more about this issue over the past decade. And working together, I believe we will successfully enact this legislation next year,” Kerry said in a statement, noting he would work with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) on a proposal.

He gave scant details of what the bill would include or when he would release it.

Representatives from Apple, AT&T, Google and Facebook said little about the role of federal regulation during opening statements and questioning Tuesday. But in prepared remarks, they each pleaded for regulators to leave online privacy primarily up to the innovators who can devise creative solutions to protect consumers.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Apple's Refreshed iMacs Tout Newest Intel CPUs

Apple's Refreshed iMacs Tout Newest Intel CPUs

Apple today refreshed its iMac line for the first time since October 2009 by adopting Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 processors across the board and abandoning NVidia's integrated graphics chipset for ATI-branded graphics processors.

The revamp should boost desktops sales, which have been lagging of late.

"The last few refreshes, the iMac has done surprisingly well, and has driven some decent growth numbers for Apple," said Stephen Baker, a retail analyst with the NPD Group. "Apple usually gets some really nice [sales] bumps when they do this."

In the second quarter of 2010, Apple sold 1 million desktops worldwide, down from 1.15 million the quarter before, and also off from the 1.23 million it sold in the final three months of 2009, the quarter when it last revised the iMac.

During a conference call with Wall Street analysts last week to discuss its second-quarter earnings, Apple said that the slower desktop sales were due to the long interval since the last refresh, as well as the continued move toward laptops.

As is Apple's custom, the company did not lower prices for any of today's new iMac models.

Unlike in October 2009, when it bumped up the iMac screens to 21.5-in. and 27-in. -- Apple did not revamp the exterior design today. Instead, it swapped faster, beefier components for slower and less capable parts.

Among the most significant moves was Apple's dropping of Intel's Core Duo dual-core architecture.

The Core Duo, and the follow-on Core Duo 2, have been the foundation of the iMac since Apple introduced the Intel platform to the line in 2006 . Today, however, the company dumped the Core 2 Duo for Intel's Core i3 on the three-lowest priced models, with speed bumps on two of the three new configurations. The higher-priced of the two 21.5-in. iMacs, for instance, now sports a 3.2GHz i3 rather than a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo.

Both the higher-priced 21.5-in. and the lower-priced 27-in. iMac can be upgraded to a 3.6GHz i5 dual-core processor for $200.

The top-end 27-in. comes with a 2.8GHz Intel Core i5 quad-core processor, a slightly faster version of last year's chip; a $200 upgrade to a 2.93GHz i7 quad-core is also available. The highest priced iMac remains the only model that can be equipped with a quad-core processor.

Apple also tossed the last Nvidia graphics chipset from the iMac line, replacing it on the lower-priced 21.5-in. model with an ATI-labeled discrete graphics processor from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

All four iMac models now boast ATI graphics processors, running from an HD 4760 with 256MB of memory on the low end to the HD 5750 with 1GB of graphics RAM on the high.

Nvidia remains an Apple supplier, however: All the company's laptops, as well as its compact Mac Mini, sport graphics chipsets from the Santa Clara, Calif. company.

Storage space has remained static in the new models. The $1,199 iMac comes with a 500GB hard drive, while the other three models come with a 1TB drive as standard. Options on the 27-in. iMac include a bump to a 2TB drive or a swap for a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). The former runs an extra $150, while the latter adds $600 to the price, well within the $400 to $700 cost of a 256GB SSD at retail.

All iMacs include 4GB of RAM, with options to increase that to 8GB -- and on the 27-in. models, to a maximum of 16GB.

Prices start at $1,199 for the low-end 21.5-inch iMac, progressing to $1,499 for the upper-end 21.5-inch, and $1,699 and $1,999 for the two configurations of the 27-inch system.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Free Sophos Tool Blocks Windows Shortcut Attacks - PCWorld

Free Sophos Tool Blocks Windows Shortcut Attacks - PCWorld

The security firm Sophos released a tool on Monday that it claimed will block any attacks trying to exploit the critical unpatched vulnerability in Windows' shortcut files.

The tool, dubbed "Sophos Windows Shortcut Exploit Protection Tool," will protect users until Microsoft releases a permanent patch for the problem, said Chet Wisniewski, a senior security advisor at Sophos.

"The tool replaces Windows' icon handler, so that anything that calls the handler, we're going to intercept," Wisniewski told Computerworld.

But Microsoft refused to condone the Sophos tool, a position it takes whenever third-party solutions to a Windows bug are introduced.

"Microsoft does not endorse third-party tools," said Jerry Bryant, group manager with the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC). "We recommend that customers apply the workaround in Security Advisory 2286198 , as it helps to protect customers from all known attack vectors."....

The Sophos Windows Shortcut Exploit Protection Tool works on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, but not on Windows 2000. It can be downloaded free-of-charge from the company's Web site.
The best solution to Windows vulnerabilities is to get a Mac.

John H. Armwood

Hands-On: Firefox Tab Candy Will Sweetly Organize You

Hands-On: Firefox Tab Candy Will Sweetly Organize You

Although I usually avoid strangers with candy, I couldn’t resist trying Tab Candy for Firefox. It was just released for very early alpha testing, but so far, it’s incredible. Tab Candy provides a very simple, graphically friendly way to view all of tabs you have open and, most importantly, group them together.

It’s not just a plug-in either– Tab Candy will be built into the next release of Firefox. As you’ll see in the video below, the concept behind grouping tabs is to help you focus on what you’re doing. Aza Raskin, a member of the Tab Candy development team, says, “We’re all suffering from infoguilt. We need a way to organize browsing, to see all of our tabs at once, and focus on the task at hand.”

iLife '11 set to go 64-bit, drop iDVD? | MacNN

iLife '11 set to go 64-bit, drop iDVD? | MacNN

Some significant changes are coming to the next iLife suite, a "well-informed" source claims. The software is first of all said to be going 64-bit, potentially providing significant performance boosts within Snow Leopard. Allegedly being dropped as a default app is iDVD, Apple's disc-authoring tool, which as been available for Macs since 2001. While it should still be an option, people will have to download it, the source says.

Some other changes are said to include improvements to Faces and Places in iPhoto, and a new MobileMe Gallery beta with Faces and Places support. The suite as a whole should gain better social networking integration. iWeb, meanwhile, is expected to be "totally renewed;" a completely new app could also be included, though what it might handle is unknown.

The source pegs iLife '11 with a $79 pricetag and an August 7th release date. The launch would take place well over a month before the date hinted at in an Amazon book listing. Apple is, however, said to be on the verge of updating both the iMac and the Mac Pro. The company frequently likes to time iLife updates so they can be pre-installed on new machines.