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Archive for January, 2012

McAfee Mobile 2.0 Moves Beyond Virus Protection

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Intel-owned McAfee has released Mobile Security 2.0, which allows users of Android-based smartphones and tablets to keep better track of what applications are up to, the company said on Monday.

Today, many of Android’s perceived security weaknesses stem from the openness of Android Market, and the availability of rogue applications.

McAfee has taken that to heart and added a feature called App Alert, which provides information about what applications are doing with users’ personal information. Although Android Market already informs users of the phone functions accessed by the apps they download, the list can be long. App Alert specifically checks whether a downloaded app requests access to personal information including contacts, and warns the user.

A future version will also be able to check the reputation of the app developer, according to McAfee.

The company has added call and SMS filtering, so users can block unwanted calls and senders of spam texts, according to McAfee.

At its core, Mobile Security 2.0 scans and cleans malicious code from files, memory cards, applications, downloads, text messages, and attachments, according to McAfee.

But there are also a number of features to help people that lose their smartphones. Absent-minded users can remotely lock access to all data, including that stored on the SIM card, and display a message with contact details on the phone.

They can also remotely wipe data on their phone and the removable memory card. To ensure that nothing is lost, a backup can be made before everything is deleted, according to McAfee. To find the phone, users can view the device’s location on a map, send an SMS to prompt its return, and use a remote alarm to help find it, McAfee said.

Users’ biggest security concerns are not viruses, but related to where private content is sent, and the protection of passwords that can be used to access many different services, according to analyst Geoff Blaber of CCS Insight.

To address users concerns, security vendors seem to be taking a more holistic approach to smartphone protection, rather that a PC-oriented approach, which is very much focused on viruses and malware, Blaber said.

“We have been talking about viruses on mobiles for years, but we are yet to get to the point were there has been a piece of malware that has really hit phones,” he said.

Besides Android, McAfee Mobile Security 2.0 is available for devices running BlackBerry OS and Symbian, but users of those platforms will have to manage without App Alert, which isn’t included.

The software costs US$29.99 for new users and existing subscribers can download the updated software for free.

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Google’s SPDY accelerator gets new wind in its sails

Friday, January 27th, 2012

webHas a slow Web been getting you down lately?

Just imagine if your multibillion-dollar business depended on it, as Google’s does. Then imagine the glee in Google’s corridors at a significant new victory in the company’s attempt to build a Web-accelerating technology it calls SPDY into the Internet.

Earlier today, Mark Nottingham, chairman of the HTTPbis Working Group, announced support for SPDY in an overhaul of one of the networking foundations of the World Wide Web. That foundation is HTTP, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and Google hopes SPDY will open up some of its bottlenecks.

The HTTPbis group, part of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), has been been sprucing up the 1999-era HTTP 1.1 for several years. But Nottingham said it’s now time to look to the future.

“There seems to be broad agreement that the time is ripe to start work on a new version of HTTP in the IETF, and that it should happen in this Working Group,” Nottingham said. When work refurbishing HTTP 1.1 began, there wasn’t interest in a new version of HTTP, but SPDY and its adoption shows there’s interest now, he said, proposing completion of a draft of HTTP 2.0 by May and finish the work by July 2013.

Speed boost
In Google’s research, SPDY accelerates page-load times by 28 percent to 43 percent over a 2Mbps DSL line and 44 percent to 55 percent over a 4Mbps cable broadband connection.

Standardization is often a drawn-out, painstaking affair, but it can pay off by making a particular technology easier to incorporate in a wide range of products. A neutral industry standard can be technically, politically, and legally easier to embrace.

Tinkering with the basic workings of the Web is a tricky business given the immense variety of browsers, servers, and network gear in between. Google has made progress with SPDY, though, since unveiling SPDY in 2009 and then building it into its Chrome browser.

SPDY is a high-profile element of Google’s “make the Web faster” effort. Yesterday, the company also detailed proposed improvements to TCP an even more fundamental Internet technology. The Transmission Control Protocol governs how a huge amount of data is sent over the Net despite problems such as network congestion or lost packets of data.

Google is in many ways perfectly positioned to rebuild the Net. It’s got the world’s most-trafficked Web sites and measurements that show that speed means profits. It’s got the No. 3 browser, Chrome, so it can experiment with technology that works hand-in-hand with its Web sites. And it’s got an army of research-minded engineers encouraged to think big.

Those assets don’t always equate to success, though, when it comes to rewiring the Web–in particular given that Google’s self-interest means that its ideas can raise competitors’ hackles. Microsoft and Mozilla, for example, while sharing Google’s interest in making the Web a better foundation for programming, are leery of Google’s Dart programming language that competes with the incumbent JavaScript.

SPDY milestones
One earlier milestone was SPDY’s inclusion in Amazon’s Silk, the browser on its Kindle Fire tablets. A more recent one is that Firefox 11 introduces SPDY support, too.

“I think with Firfox on board with SPDY, it’s got legs,” said Mike Belshe, who along with Roberto Peon invented SPDY at Google. (Belshe since has moved to a start-up, Twist. “We’ll get it (or its derivative) standardized in 2012 for sure.”

Technical details and a SPDY white paper show how it works and what it offers. It employs a number of tricks to speed up Web page transfers, including compression, prioritization of important Web page elements, and a way to sidestep today’s limits on opening multiple network connections.

One technical detail that historians might be interested in is what exactly SPDY stands for. The answer: nothing. “It doesn’t stand for anything,” Belshe said, “but it sounds like ‘speedy.’”

Adding SPDY isn’t the only possible way to improve HTTP, and Nottingham acknowledged that it will be a “tightrope walk” to admit some HTTP improvements without getting bogged down in massive rework of the technology.

FreeBSD programmer Poul-Henning Kamp was unenthusiastic about Nottingham’s proposal, though, because he sees it as too narrow in scope. He also asked where in Nottingham’s proposal there is room for evaluating other suggestions

“In my mind, the effort [Nottingham] sketched out would be correctly titled ‘Beatify the SPDY protocol as a carrier of HTTP/1.1 traffic,’” Kamp said in his “devil’s advocate” response. “HTTP/2.0 would in my mind be an attempt to actually improve the protocol.”

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FBI charges Megaupload operators with piracy crimes

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

dotcomThe FBI has busted the alleged operators of Internet locker service Megaupload, which had become one of the most popular video destinations on the Web, according to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department and FBI.

Seven people have been named in an indictment and four suspects have been taken into custody, according to the statement today. They have been charged in Virginia with crimes related to online piracy, including racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, and conspiring to commit money laundering.

The suspects face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, the government said.

According to the statement, the indictment alleges that Megaupload is led by Kim DotCom, aka Kim Schmitz, a German with a colorful history who was once convicted of a felony but who has repeatedly denied engaging in piracy.

DotCom and three others were arrested today in Auckland, New Zealand, by New Zealand police, “who executed provisional arrest warrants requested by the United States,” the Justice Department said. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the arrest.

Along with DotCom, Kim Tim Jim Vestor, 37, a resident of Hong Kong and New Zealand was also arrested. Authorities say that DotCom founded Megaupload and is the director and sole shareholder of Vestor Limited, which has been used to hold his ownership interests in the Mega-affiliated sites.

“This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States,” the statement said. The action “directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime.”

In August, CNET profiled DotCom, a free-wheeling former street racer and computer hacker, after he was sued by a porn studio for copyright violations. At about the same time, film industry sources told me that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had complained to law enforcement officials numerous times that Megaupload was getting rich by helping millions of people store and distribute pirated films and TV shows.

DotCom allegedly rents cyberlockers to the masses, and nobody disputes that many millions of people from across the globe use them to store and access unauthorized copies of TV shows, feature films, songs, porn, and software. The question is whether DotCom and the other suspects can be held responsible for the piracy.

Some of the services DotCom is said to operate are MegaPorn, MegaVideo, MegaLive, and MegaPix.

If you’re wondering if the Obama administration didn’t go after Megaupload as a way to placate the film industry in the wake of White House criticism of the Stop Online Piracy Act, I can only tell you that my sources said the feds began looking at the service months ago.

Nonetheless, the timing of the arrests is kind of curious, considering the indictment had been around for two weeks.

The arrests occurred with many in the entertainment and media sectors feeling betrayed by Obama. According to a story in Deadline.com, some studio chiefs are planning to cut off donations to Obama’s re-election campaign after he failed to support antipiracy legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and Senate (the Protect IP Act).

That’s bound to hurt as Hollywood has long been a rich area for Democrats seeking campaign contributions.

Obama has said for years he supports stronger antipiracy laws but on Saturday issued statements that were critical of the bills, which are heavily supported by a large number of copyright owners.

The laws would make it easier for authorities to cut off access in the United States to foreign-based sites accused of piracy, which essentially describes Megaupload’s situation.

That leads us to the big question I’m trying to get answered: if the feds can have an accused pirate arrested and brought to this country for trial, why do we need SOPA and PIPA? I’ll update as soon as I get that answered.

Update 2:05 p.m. PT No sooner than I posed that question than Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and the man who drafted PIPA, release a statement:

“Today’s action by the Department of Justice against the leaders of MegaUpload.com shows what law enforcement can do to protect American intellectual property that is stolen through domestic websites.”

Domestic?

DotCom was arrested in New Zealand and is a German national. His servers have long been rumored to be in Hong Kong. According to Leahy’s office, Megaupload’s servers are located in Virginia. Apparently that gives U.S. officials jurisdiction.

This thing is just starting and DotCom is known for his publicity stunts and tweaking the noses of law enforcement all over the world. We’re sure to being hearing more about this.

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Hackers retaliate over Megaupload website shutdown

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Hackers have targeted the US government and copyright organisations following the shutdown of the Megaupload file-sharing website.

The Department of Justice (DoJ), FBI and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) among others have been bombarded with internet traffic.

Web links have been been distributed which, when clicked, make the user’s computer part of the attack.

A statement attributed to Anonymous claimed responsibility. >>more

Information Technology Services | IT Services

Wikipedia, Google blackout sites to protest SOPA

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

wikipedia blackoutThree of the Internet’s most popular destinations–Google, Wikipedia, and Craigslist--launched an audacious experiment in political activism this evening by urging their users to protest a pair of Hollywood-backed copyright laws.

Wikipedia’s English-language pages went completely black at 9 p.m. PT, with a splash page saying “the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet.” The online encyclopedia’s blackout, intended to precede next week’s Senate floor vote on the legislation, is scheduled to last 24 hours.

Craigslist and Google have taken a more modest approach. Unlike Wikipedia, the sites will remain online during Wednesday’s virtual protest, but the home pages now feature exhortations to contact members of Congress and urge them to vote against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate version called Protect IP. Craiglist’s snarky note: “Corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!”

It’s a novel experiment in grassroots-outreach-by-the-millions that could, if successful, derail SOPA and Protect IP, which have come under increasing criticism since last fall. Their authors — Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — responded in the last week by offering some changes. But Smith said in a statement today that, one way or another, a House committee vote will be held in February.

CNET predicted the protest in a December 29 article that said opponents of the bills may “simultaneously turn” their home pages “black with anti-censorship warnings that ask users to contact politicians about a vote in the U.S. Congress.”

This is “classic Hollywood trying to do heavy handed legislation to protect its business interests,” Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, told reporters this morning.

Among the other Web sites that, in one way or another, have joined the blackout: Metafilter, the Consumer Electronics Association, BoingBoing, OpenDNS, WordPress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and what is almost certainly the Internet’s most popular dinosaur comic strip. Some physical protests are also planned tomorrow.

Because Web companies are typically reluctant to involve their users in political spats, nothing exactly like today’s protest has ever been tried before, and it’s difficult to predict how it will affect Congress’ willingness to proceed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated on Sunday that he expected the floor vote on Protect IP to happen as scheduled.

But Google.com is the most popular Web site in the world, according to Alexa, with about half of global Internet users visiting it per day — meaning that if only a small percent sign the company’s petition against SOPA and Protect IP, the total number of voters lodging protests could be in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. (Google pointedly refrained from asking its users to call the U.S. Capitol’s switchboard at (202) 224-3121, which likely would have overwhelmed the system within minutes.)

In a blog post late Tuesday night, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, predicted that Protect IP and SOPA “will censor the Web,” “risk our industry’s track record of innovation and job creation,” and ultimately be unsuccessful in curbing piracy.

And then Wednesday morning, Google’s home page featured a big, black block over the colorful “Google” logo that dominates the page, and a stark message under the search window urged: “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” Both the blacked-out logo and the “Tell Congress” line linked out to a page entitled “End Piracy, Not Liberty” with an option for users to sign a petition to Congress.

SOPA, of course, represents the latest effort from the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and their allies to counter what they view as rampant piracy on the Internet, especially offshore Web sites. It would allow the Justice Department to obtain an order to be served on search engines, Internet service providers, and other companies, forcing them to make a suspected piratical Web site effectively vanish. It’s opposed (PDF) by many Internet companies, users, and civil liberties groups.

Some Internet companies including Facebook, Twitter, eBay, and Yahoo have expressed concerns about the bill but have not said they would join the blackout. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wrote that “closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish.”

In one early sign that the blackouts and protests are having an effect, the MPAA today characterized them as “stunts.” The group’s chairman, Chris Dodd, took a thinly veiled swipe at Wikipedia by denouncing the protests as “an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on [the sites] for information and [who] use their services.” News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter to offer similar thoughts.

Tomorrow’s protest was originally designed to coincide with a hearing that SOPA foe Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had scheduled on the measure’s technical aspects, especially the portions relating to Domain Name System, or DNS, blocking. Issa said over the weekend that the Republican leadership had promised him that a floor vote would not happen “unless there is consensus on the bill,” a rather implausible scenario. As a result, Issa postponed the hearing.

“There’s a lot of sort of technologically ignorant language in” SOPA and Protect IP, said Erik Martin, general manager of Reddit, which has become a focal point of anti-SOPA activism and can probably claim credit for convincing GoDaddy to flip-flop on the legislation. Both bills, he said, were “done without a lot of thought about the impact and the execution and without a lot of knowledge technically about how the Internet operates.”

Mozilla will join the protest at 5 a.m. PT (8 a.m. ET) tomorrow in what it’s calling a “virtual strike” against SOPA and Protect IP. It will black out the default start page for Firefox users and ask them to take action.

“SOPA makes all of us potential criminals if we don’t become the enforcement arm of a new government regulatory and policing structure,” Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker wrote in a blog post today.

The protest had a few hiccups. For the first 20 minutes or so, Google’s initial sign-this-petition Web page delivered this message: “Error: Server Error / The server encountered an error and could not complete your request.”

Not all of Wikipedia’s pages are blacked out. Entries for the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act are still visible. More than a few users of the encyclopedia seemed confused.

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CES 2012: 5 Trends To Watch

Monday, January 2nd, 2012
The Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas next Tuesday, and gadget makers are getting ready to show off their latest tech products for the coming year.

Every year, a few big product trends emerge. In 2011, it was all about Android tablets; in 2010, 3D televisions and e-readers dominated the show; and in 2009, netbooks were a big topic. So what does 2012 promise? Here’s a look at five CES trends that people are already talking about.

OLED

Organic Light Emitting Diode displays promise more vivid colors, faster response times, and smaller device footprints compared to LCD/LED TVs, but the technology has yet to break into the television market. That may be about to change at CES 2012, as LG announced Monday it plans to show what it calls the world’s largest OLED HDTV.

LG’s new TV has a 55-inch display, 0.16-inch depth, weighs 16.5 pounds, and promises a response time that is less than 0.0001 milliseconds (the average LCD has a response time between 5 and 2 milliseconds). OLEDs were also a hot topic for CES 2009.

Ultrabooks

Intel introduced the concept of Ultrabooks — laptops with slim designs, solid state drives, and longer battery life — in May. Since then we’ve seen a number of Ultrabooks come out, including the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s, Acer Aspire S3, and Toshiba Portege Z835.

But the real onslaught of these MacBook Air competitors is expected at CES, with as many as 30 to 50 Ultrabooks making their debut in Las Vegas. Intel’s President and CEO Paul Otellini is delivering a keynote address at CES next Tuesday when he may discuss the forthcoming Ivy Bridge Core processors, the miniaturized successor to 2011′s Sandy Bridge chips that are at the heart of current Ultrabooks.

Quad-Core Phones

Get ready for blazing fast smartphones loaded with quad-core processors, such as Nvidia’s Tegra 3 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4.

The first round of quad-core smartphones are expected within the first three months of 2012, and many tech watchers expect to see these devices at CES.

4K

No we’re not talking about kilobytes, but a type of display resolution that has four times the pixel density of 1080p HDTVs, the current gold standard for mass market high-definition displays.

LG plans to show off an 84-inch 4K 3D HDTV with Internet connectivity during CES. Toshiba is also working on a 4K 3D display, so perhaps we may see more than one 4K set next Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Ice Cream Sandwich

Tablets have been a big topic at CES since 2010, when device makers scrambled to get out in front of the looming release of Apple’s iPad. CES 2012 is expected to have more of the same, thanks to the release of Google’s latest Android flavor, Ice Cream Sandwich.

Unlike 2011, where the Motorola Xoom was the only device running Google’s tablet-specific version of Android (Honeycomb), ICS is already available to any manufacturer who wants it.

Electronics maker Coby plans to debut four ICS tablets at CES, and it’s a good bet other tablet makers will follow suit.

That’s an early look at what’s coming to CES 2012, but check back with PCWorld all this week as more details emerge about the year’s biggest consumer electronics show. You can also bookmark our dedicated CES 2012 section here.

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