Tuesday, December 28, 2010

McAfee's 2011 List of Threats

With the New Year fast approaching, tech enthusiasts are very excited about all of the latest technology that is being introduced in 2011, but what about the possible security concerns that come with all the new technology? On Tuesday, December 28, 2010, McAfee released their 2011 list of threat predictions. The company said, "The list comprises [the] most buzzed about platforms and services, including Google's Android, Apple's iPhone, Foursquare, Google TV and the Mac OS X platform, which are all expected to become major targets for cybercriminals."

"We've seen significant advancements in device and social network adoption, placing a bulls-eye on the platforms and services users are embracing the most," said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs, in a statement. "These platforms and services have become very popular in a short amount of time, and we're already seeing a significant increase in vulnerabilities, attacks and data loss."

McAfee will have to work especially hard to fend off the increasingly sophisticated malware that will be targeting Apple in 2011. So far, the Apple Mac OS platform has been decently secure, said McAfee. The iPhone and iPad are growing increasingly popular in the business realm though, and McAfee is afraid that with the general lack of knowledge about how to secure these Apple devices Apple botnets and Trojans could be a frequent occurrence and become a serious issue.

The biggest thing that people need to be really careful about is social networking sites. McAfee said that sites like Twitter and Facebook can easily fall prey to problems like URL shortening scans. They continued saying that they knew that utilizing abbreviated links does make it easier to condense your 140 character limit Tweets, but sometimes these links are also an easy way for criminals to mask and direct users to malicious Web sites. Each minute there are more than 3,000 tiny URLs created. Due to these astronomical numbers, McAfee said that they expect to see an increasing number of URLs that will be utilized for spam, scamming, and other malicious purposes.

Although a recent study showed that only 4 percent of adults really use location-based services, companies are continuing to release location-based features including Foursquare, Google Latitude, Facebook Places, and more. McAfee warns that the information that is shared on sites like these could easily enable cyber criminals to formulate a targeted attack. They also predicted that in 2011 there will be an increase in the use of this type of tactic across most of the popular social networking sites.

A lot of these location-based services that people utilize are used via their mobile phones. Because of this, McAfee is also predicting a “rapid escalation” in the number of mobile attacks due to “widespread adoption of mobile devices in business environments, combined with historically fragile cellular infrastructure and slow strides toward encryption."

McAfee also said that the increased use of Internet TV connections could pose a serious security risk. If manufacturers just rush into releasing their products, they could run into some major issues with suspicious and malicious apps on platforms such as a Google TV device. "These apps will target or expose privacy and identity data and will allow cybercriminals to manipulate a variety of physical devices through compromised or controlled apps, eventually raising the effectiveness of botnets," McAfee said.

These weren’t the only things that McAfee had on the threat list that they released. The list also included:

Hacktivism: McAfee is predicting that there will most definitely be a rise in the number of possibly politically motivated cyber attacks. "More groups will repeat the WikiLeaks example," McAfee said. They continued saying that unlike WikiLeaks though, the strategy will be much more sophisticated and leverage social networks.

Friendly Fire: McAfee is saying that there will also be a rise in the use of malicious content that is disguised as an e-mail from a source that you know. There is “signed” malware that works to imitate legitimate files that McAfee is afraid will be much more prevalent. They also said that “friendly fire,” which is a threat that seems to come from your friends but really is a virus such as Koobface or VBMania, will become a much more prevalent choice by cybercriminals. McAfee also said that these attacks go hand-in-hand with social network attacks and that these social network attacks could quite possibly eventually overtake e-mail attacks.

Botnets: McAfee Labs is predicting that with the merger of Zeus and SpyEye that there will be more sophisticated bots that will be produced because of the advancements for bypassing security mechanisms and law enforcement monitoring. McAfee Labs also says that they expect to see an increase in botnet activity that begins to adopt data-gathering and data removal functionality, instead of the more common use of sending spam.

Well, one thing that can definitely be taken from McAfee’s 2011 list of threats is that there are definitely threats out there that users want to avoid. Security is a big issue that many people tend to avoid, including myself. Protection and caution is necessary and is something that people really need to pay a little more attention to.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Browser Wars Heat Up for Microsoft

"I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant...", those were the words of Admiral Isoroku Yamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and it also seems to be the feeling people have toward Microsoft and the company's entrance into the "browser wars" we are seeing today.

Back when Internet Explorer first came out, it was a high performance browser with a lot of useful functions. However, those days were finite, and Microsoft got branded with the reputation of producing crappy browsers, a reputation that IE7 and IE8 did nothing to improve upon.

In 2010, however, a long effort to reactivate the company's browser projects showed promise in IE9. As of right now, the application is still in beta form, but it has already shifted the browser market dramatically.

Internet Explorer 9 supports any and every kind of Web standard including a ton of HTML5 features like built-in video, CSS3 for advanced formatting, professional typography and SVG for smoothly resizable graphical elements. IE9 also speeds up the execution of web-based JavaScript programs. This development did manage to alert browser rivals for one top priority today, hardware acceleration. The software itself is accompanied by a push by the industry where Microsoft is educating Web developers and contributing to the development of standards.

It does appear that it may take a little while before web developers trust that Microsoft is serious about browsers again. It also seems that people still using the ancient IE6 will still be wary of upgrading. One thing is clear, Microsoft is paving the way for a new browser future where web sites as well as web applications become more fluid, interactive, polished and powerful.

In terms of Microsoft, Internet Explorer 9 has come in at exactly the right time. The battle with IE has always been against Firefox, however, Google's Chrome has brought in a new era of fierce competition. I think it is safe to say that Google knows a little something about the internet, and the company has a major agenda of web applications to pursue as well as a big enough presence on the web to allow it to make new technologies relevant by building them into its browser and web site.

Early in 2010 Chrome passed Safari by Apple for third place in the rankings of browser usage, and its growth carried to almost 10% of usage in November. A new phase of Google browser ambition is just taking off as well. The Chrome Web Store, which was designed to promote web-based applications and Chrome OS, allows people to find and purchase nearly any web app they want.

Chrome OS is much more of a departure from existing technology than just a browser. Google only offers it built into hardware. Google has done a good job with Android, but it is still unclear as to how well Chrome OS will fare with consumers and businesses.

Firefox's percentage of browser usage has remained consistently flat for most of 2010 thanks to Chrome. There are big things planned for Firefox 4 including many new features and performance enhancements. The problem is that Mozilla failed to meet a 2010 deadline and has since been pushed into 2011.

Apple's Safari has steadily increased in usage share with a few signs that the Windows version is catching on. Safari has been the principle sponsor of the open-source WebKit project, the same project both Safari and Chrome are based on. However, Google is steadily increasing.

One notable feature of Safari 5 that arrived in July was extensions that have the ability to customize the browser's behavior. Opera, the browser currently ranked 5th, is building them into Opera 11 which is the upcoming version of the browser which will match Chrome and Jetpack, the upcoming browser from Mozilla.

Adobe Systems, maker of Flash Player plug-in, had a particularly difficult year but ended on a good note. Apple, not surprisingly, did not budge on their ban of Flash from iOS devices directly, however, it did relent on blocking an Adobe tool that allows you to convert Flash apps to native apps. Google and Adobe forged an alliance due to the very public fight between Apple and Adobe which resulted in Flash support and promotion within Android.

The browser market combines competition between makers with cooperation as all the companies seek to advance the possibilities that can occur on the web. HTML5 standardization has sprouted emotional clashes between different groups involved as the specification moves more under the control of corporate powers.

The mobile market is also a big challenge to the web. Native software can offer better interfaces as well as faster performance than traditional web apps on mobile devices. However, it is still clear that the web as well as the tools for using it are clearly on the rise.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kingston Digital Unveils Second Generation Colorful Mini Fun USB Flash Drives

Kingston DataTraveler Mini Fun G2USB flash drives are some of the most convenient pieces of technology around today. They allow you to add anything from data files to word documents and even movies or music to them and transport them to any USB device for instant access. But just because you have a cool piece of technology doesn't mean it has to be boring.

That is why Kingston Digital unleashed their DataTraveler Mini Fun not too long ago, a device that added color and fun to your everyday USB flash drive. Well, everything deserves an upgrade now and then which is why Kingston Digital has just unveiled the next generation of the DataTraveler Mini Fun USB flash drive.

This latest release from Kingston features a ton of colors as well as a rubber casing and a miniature size which is reviving one of Kingston's favorite designs. According to Jim Selby, Manager of European Product Marketing for Kingston Digital Europe, "These multicolored fun devices can be 'snapped' to each other in order to construct different objects and cool shapes. Users can take apart their designs and build something new and creative every day. The versatile Kingston DataTraveler Mini Fun G2 is the perfect storage companion to help store your favorite documents, photos and music in a mini-sized drive. It's so small that you can take it anywhere."

There are three different color designs for the Kingston DataTraveler Mini Fun G2. This allows users to mix and match different sticks. The mini design and bright colors make this USB drive ideal for your home, school and travel. There are three models of this device currently available, a 2GB, 4GB and 8GB, each of which come with a different color combination.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Breakthrough by IBM May Bring Us Exascale Supercomputers

If you are one of the people out there that doesn't think that a supercomputer seems good enough, then you probably work at IBM. Researchers at IBM have just made a breakthrough in using light pulses to help accelerate the transfer of data between chips. If this works out like the people at IBM think it will, then it could quite possibly increase supercomputer performance by more than a thousand times.

This technology, dubbed CMOS Integrated Silicon Nanophotonics (I feel smarter already), integrates optical modules as well as electrical modules on a single piece of silicon. This allows electrical signals created at the transistor level to be transformed into light pulses, seemingly allowing chips to communicate faster according to IBM silicon photonics research scientist Will Green.

IBM believes that this new technology will lead to massive advances in supercomputer power. The fastest supercomputers we have around today max out at nearly 2 petaflops which, for us lay people, registers into two thousand trillion calculations per second. The photonics technology could increase this number to a staggering trillion million calculations per second. Yeah, a MILLION TRILLION calculations per second, otherwise known as an exaflop. This would help IBM achieve their goal of building an exascale computer by the year 2020.

According to Green, "In an exascale system, interconnects have to be able to push exabytes per second across the network. This is an interesting milestone for system builders who are looking at building exascale systems in 10 years."

The possibility of integrating multiple photonics modules onto a single substrate or onto a motherboard is here, according to Green. Newer supercomputers already use optical technology for chips in order to communicate. However, this usually occurs at the rack level and mostly over a single wavelength. This breakthrough will allow optical communication simultaneously at multiple wavelengths.

The good thing about this technology is that it can be manufactured on a standard chip production line. Another benefit is that it also needs no special tools, making it extremely cost-effective. The current demonstration used a 130-nanometer CMOS manufacturing node. However, IBM plans on pursuing integration into "deeply scaled sub-100 nanometer CMOS processes," according to Green.

The technology aims to replace copper wires. As you know, copper wires are widely used today for data transfer between chips. Optics can get a speed increase for distances as short as a few centimeters to as long as a few miles and even consumes less power. Eventually, IBM hopes to use optics for on-chip communication between transistors as well. According to Green, "There is a vision for the chip level, but that is not what we are claiming today."
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