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Updated: 1 hour 10 min ago

Consultant urges never pay ransomware demands

March 24, 2017 - 10:40pm

When ransomware criminals lock up files and demand payment to decrypt them, don’t pay, was the advice a consultant gave to a group at SecureWorld.

When there’s no risk of losing crucial data, that’s easy to say, and to make is possible requires planning, says Michael Corby, executive consultant for CGI.

“Plan to have data available in a form that won’t be affected by ransomware – encrypted and stored separately from the production network,” he says. “You need a clean copy of the data in a restorable form. Test that the backups work.”

Restore and recover are the key words, and they should be done keeping in mind that the malware has to be removed before recovering.

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Categories: Opinion

How Trump’s ‘extreme vetting’ hurts science and tech

March 24, 2017 - 10:10pm

Details of President Donald Trump's plans for "extreme vetting" of visa applicants have emerged and they are clearly demanding. Getting a visa will require people from many countries to turn over social media handles, employment history and other information.

These policies are a concern for technical and academic conferences on issues such as supercomputing and artificial intelligence. These conferences often draw attendees from around the globe.

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The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference in February in San Francisco, for instance, was attended by people from more than 40 countries.

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Categories: Opinion

Google shuttering Talk, removing SMS support from Hangouts in new messaging shakeup

March 24, 2017 - 9:05pm

Messaging has never been Google’s strong suit. Aside from the various messaging apps from Android phone makers, it also has its own problems, with numerous overlapping apps that all have similar functions: Allo, Android Messages, Hangouts, Duo, Google Voice, and Google Talk. Now, Google is taking some much-needed steps to consolidate its efforts.

On June 26, Google will finally be closing Google Talk for good. The instant messaging service affectionately known as Gchat is one of Google’s oldest messaging apps, having been in existence since 2005. Way back in 2013, Google began encouraging Talk users to switch to Hangouts, and on June 26 the transition will be complete and its doors will be closed for good. On that day, any straggling Talk users will be automatically transitioned to Hangouts for good, where they can continue chatting with their friends. (And for anyone who was hanging on just for the interface, Google notes that the Dense Roster setting in Hangouts will provide a similar experience.)

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Categories: Opinion

Apple: Macs and iPhones are safe from newly revealed CIA exploits

March 24, 2017 - 7:58pm

The Mac and iPhone exploits described in new documents attributed to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were patched years ago, according to Apple.

WikiLeaks released a new set of files Thursday that supposedly came from the CIA. They contain details about the agency’s alleged malware and attack capabilities against iPhones and Mac computers.

The documents, dated 2012 and earlier, describe several “implants” that the CIA can install in the low-level extensible firmware interface (EFI) of Mac laptop and desktop computers. These EFI rootkits allow the agency's macOS spying malware to persist even after the OS is reinstalled.

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Categories: Opinion

Microsoft delays tools for third-party Cortana integrations

March 24, 2017 - 7:26pm

Microsoft has delayed the release of its tools for connecting other services to the Cortana virtual assistant, a decision that could cause it to lose ground in a crowded industry.

The tech titan announced the Cortana Skills Kit in December of last year, saying at the time that it would be released to the public in February. As Microsoft watcher Brad Sams noted on Twitter, Microsoft missed that deadline, and the Skills Kit remains locked in a private beta with a select group of partners. Microsoft didn’t offer an explanation for the delay, saying in a statement that the kit will be coming soon.

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Categories: Opinion

Google Play faces cat and mouse game with sneaky Android malware

March 24, 2017 - 7:16pm

What’s the best way to avoid Android malware? Downloading all your apps from the Google Play store -- where software is vetted – is perhaps the best advice.  

But that doesn’t mean Google Play is perfect.

Security researchers do find new Android malware lurking on Google’s official app store. That’s because hackers are coming up with sneaky ways to infiltrate the platform, despite the vetting processes that protect it.

"Eventually, every wall can be breached," said Daniel Padon, a researcher at mobile security provider Check Point.

To be sure, most Android users will probably never encounter malware on the Google Play store. Last year, the amount of malicious software that reached the platform amounted to only 0.16 percent of all apps, according to a new report from Google.

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Categories: Opinion

Totem streetlight poles to combine wireless with power on city streets

March 24, 2017 - 7:12pm

Many companies are developing smart streetlights for cities that combine energy-efficient LED lighting with wireless communications and sensors.

A startup called Totem Power is taking that concept a step farther by adding battery storage to each pole and an electric vehicle charging port.

Each pole, called a Totem, would also incorporate solar cells for energy generation with LED lighting, and would communicate via 4G LTE wireless -- and eventually -- 5G wireless.

Totem Power announced the product in November.

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Categories: Opinion

To punish Symantec, Google may distrust a third of the web's SSL certificates

March 24, 2017 - 6:32pm

Google is considering a harsh punishment for repeated incidents in which Symantec or its certificate resellers improperly issued SSL certificates. A proposed plan is to force the company to replace all of its customers’ certificates and to stop recognizing the extended validation (EV) status of those that have it.

According to a Netcraft survey from 2015, Symantec is responsible for about one in every three SSL certificates used on the web, making it the largest commercial certificate issuer in the world. As a result of acquisitions over the years the company now controls the root certificates of several formerly standalone certificate authorities including VeriSign, GeoTrust, Thawte and RapidSSL.

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Categories: Opinion

Android device updates: A Nougat treat for the Nextbit Robin and T-Mobile HTC One M9

March 24, 2017 - 6:15pm

The big reveal this week in the world of updates was Android O, which gives us a glimpse of the next generation of Google’s operating system. But for so many owners, all they want is their taste of Nougat.

A lucky few are getting that this week, with the upstart Nextbit Robin and HTC One M9 finally getting their serving.

Each week, we round up all the major software updates to hit the Android ecosystem, including phones and tablets on U.S. carriers, unlocked phones, smartwatches, and Android TV devices. Make sure your device is running the latest available software so you can enjoy new features—and fewer bugs and security holes.


Robin: Razer snatched up Nextbit earlier this year, but fortunately that hasn’t meant the proverbial operational shutdown. The company’s work continues, and the good news for Robin owners is that Nougat is now rolling out. Look for Nextbit build 88, which includes the January security patch and all those cool Nougat features.

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Categories: Opinion

Apple’s Product(RED) iPhone and new 9.7-inch iPad now available for purchase

March 24, 2017 - 4:46pm

If Apple’s shiny new red iPhone 7 caught your eye on Tuesday when it was first announced, grab your wallet—it’s now officially on sale, as of 8:01 a.m. Pacific/11:01 a.m Eastern on Friday. Also available now is the new 9.7-inch iPad, which replaces the iPad Air 2. 

The Product(RED) iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are exactly like the existing iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, just in a new color—an aluminum red backing with a white front bezel—and Apple donates a portion of each Product(RED) device sale to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Pick between the 128GB iPhone 7 model for $749 and the 256GB model for $849; the iPhone 7 Plus will set you back $869 or $969, respectively. If you’re enrolled in the iPhone Upgrade Program, the cost of an unlocked red iPhone with AppleCare+ starts at $37 per month. It’s available in Apple stores now, and you can reserve one online for in-store pickup for peace of mind. 

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Categories: Opinion

Amazon undercuts the Moto G5 Plus preorders with unlocked, ad-supported model for $185

March 24, 2017 - 2:41pm

The Moto G5 Plus is already one of the best budget phones of the year, with premium styling, all-day battery life and nearly stock Nougat, all at an eye-popping $230. But if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll be able to get it even cheaper.

As part of the ad-supported Prime Exclusive program, Amazon will be offering the 5.2-inch G5 Plus in two variants: 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage for $185, or 4 GB of RAM with 64 GB of internal for $240, representing discounts of $45 and $60, respectively. Both models feature a 2MP f/1.7 camera with dual autofocus pixels, a 3,000 mAh battery with fast charging, and a fingerprint sensor.

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Categories: Opinion

Bitcoin rise fuels social media scams

March 24, 2017 - 1:00pm

The price of a single Bitcoin passed that of an ounce of gold for the first time this month, and scammers were quick to get in on the action with Ponzi schemes and phishing sites spread via social media.

Victims are lured in with fake Bitcoin wallets, fake Bitcoin search services, fake surveys about Bitcoin, too-good-to-be-true money making offers, and classic pyramid scams now dressed up with Bitcoins, according to a report released this week.

"The same characteristics that make Bitcoin attractive to people who want to make money distributing ransomware make it attractive to scammers," said Philip Tully, senior data scientist at security vendor ZeroFox, which published the report.

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Categories: Opinion

Blockchain can help secure medical devices, improve patient privacy

March 24, 2017 - 12:44pm

BOSTON -- Blockchain can help secure medical devices and improve patient privacy, but the key is proper implementation, according to a top security pro at Partners Healthcare.

The downsides would include mistrust of the technology because of blockchain’s potential performance problems, and its association with ransomware and use as payment for illegal items on the Dark Web, Partners’ Deputy CISO Esmond Kane told the SecureWorld audience this week in Boston.

On the other hand, the decentralized, encrypted public ledger could have a wealth of applications in healthcare, Kane says. These include streamlining the resolution of insurance claims, management of internet of things medical devices and providing granular privacy settings for personal medical data.

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Categories: Opinion

Angular 4 reduces footprint, adds features

March 24, 2017 - 11:00am

Angular 4.0.0, the latest upgrade to the popular JavaScript framework for mobile and desktop framework, was released by Google late yesterday afternoon.

The upgrade features view engine improvements making Angular smaller and faster and helping developers build smaller applications. "We've made changes under to hood to what AOT-generated (ahead of time) code looks like," Stephen Fluin, a Google developer advocate for Angular, said in a bulletin received by InfoWorld close to press time. "These changes should reduce the size of the generated code for your components by more than half in some cases."

[ Use JavaScript in your dev shop? InfoWorld looks at 17 JavaScript editors and IDEs and 22 JavaScript frameworks ready for adoption. | Keep up with hot topics in programming with InfoWorld's App Dev Report newsletter. ]

According to Google metrics, generated code had been about 10 times the size of the original template. "With this release, generated code is now only 3 times the size of the original template," the bulletin said. Angular's builders had heard from developers that migrating to the new version, which had been available in a release candidate form, had reduced production bundles by hundreds of kilobytes.

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Categories: Opinion

How to use data scientists and machine learning in the enterprise

March 24, 2017 - 7:43am

Machine learning has become a buzzword in business technology but the implications of applying it are often overlooked.

"The major problem is that data science is science itself, and businesses aren't very well accustomed to using scientific methods of decision making," says Jane Zavalishina, CEO of machine learning and data analytics specialists Yandex Data Factory.

The company emerged as a spin-out from multinational technology corporation Yandex, the operator of the largest search engine in Russia. In December 2014, Yandex extended the capacity in data science it developed to support this core product into providing machine learning-based services for industry applications by launching the Yandex Data Factory.

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Categories: Opinion

Uber finally agrees to reveal diversity data

March 24, 2017 - 7:32am

Uber Technologies has agreed to provide next month its diversity data, which it had earlier declined to make public.

Representatives of the ride hailing company will disclose the information at the PUSHTech2020 summit on April 19 in Silicon Valley.

The move comes at a time when the company has run into a number of controversies, including sexism charges leveled by a former employee, the exit of some key executives and a lawsuit from self-driving car rival Waymo.

The announcement follows a meeting Thursday between Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition, which has been demanding higher representation for minorities in tech companies, according to a statement issued by the coalition.

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Categories: Opinion

Twitter considers enhanced version of TweetDeck for professionals

March 24, 2017 - 4:28am

Twitter has started surveying users to check their interest in a new enhanced version of its TweetDeck product, raising the possibility that the company is considering a paid version of its service.

The move by Twitter comes in the wake of its almost flat revenue growth and a lackluster increase in the number of its users in the fourth quarter in comparison to the company's social networking peers like Facebook.

A subscription-based version of its service would be in line with the strategies of some other Internet services like Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, which offer additional features to paid users.

Twitter said in an emailed statement that it is conducting a survey "to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version" of TweetDeck, the application for power users of Twitter that lets people monitor multiple timelines in one interface, manage multiple accounts and schedule tweets for posting later.

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Categories: Opinion

Augmented reality gets a second life in manufacturing

March 23, 2017 - 11:24pm

The ungraceful death of the consumer version of Google Glass in 2015 may have had some grieving the early death of augmented reality. But the technology is being resurrected by companies on the manufacturing floor. 

Take for example Lockheed Martin. Technicians at the aerospace manufacturer use Microsoft's Hololens headset to design and examine models of spacecraft such as the Mars lander ahead of it's 2018 mission.  

Lockheed Martin

Technicians at Lockheed Martin's Collaborative Human Immersive Lab in Colorado examine a model of the Mars lander using Micorsoft's Hololens augmented reality headsets. 

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Categories: Opinion

FBI director floats international framework on access to encrypted data

March 23, 2017 - 11:21pm

FBI director James Comey has suggested that an international agreement between governments could ease fears about IT products with government-mandated backdoors, but privacy advocates are doubtful.

Speaking on Thursday, Comey suggested that the U.S. might work with other countries on a “framework” for creating legal access to encrypted tech devices.

“I could imagine a community of nations committed to the rule of law developing a set of norms, a framework, for when government access is appropriate,” he said on Thursday.

Comey made his comments at the University of Texas at Austin, when trying to address a key concern facing U.S. tech firms in the encryption debate: the fear that providing government access to their products might dampen their business abroad.

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Categories: Opinion

Microsoft expands connected car push with patent licensing

March 23, 2017 - 10:33pm

Microsoft's push into the connected car space has moved up a gear with a new patent licensing agreement with Toyota. The world's second-largest auto maker will have access to a range of Microsoft patents as part of the deal announced this week.

Rather than trying to build a high-tech automobile of its own, Microsoft is focusing on providing carmakers with the tools they need to create smarter vehicles and the Toyota deal is the first of what it hopes will be a series of such agreements.

Microsoft offers an entire suite of cloud services aimed at aiding the development of internet-enabled automobiles and is also integrating its Cortana virtual assistant into cars alongside PCs, phones and other devices. In the future, a connected car could become a rolling extension of a user’s office, with Office 365 integrations.

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Categories: Opinion

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