HTC readying successor to ‘One Mini’ smartphone

A refreshed body and new specs highlight the features of the successor of Taiwan smartphone maker HTC’s One mini – if photos leaked online are accurate.

Tech site The Verge cited images posted by Evleaks indicating the mini 2 would be a smaller version of HTC’s new flagship smartphone.

“Being a smaller phone, there are likely to be some sacrifices. One notable change from the M8 is a single camera at the rear, rather than the M8′s dual-camera setup,” it said.

It added the new One mini has the same color options and basic design as the One M8, including onscreen buttons and a wraparound metal body.

Other possible features of the One mini 2 include a 4.5-inch 720p display – bigger than last year’s 4.3 inches; a quad-core Snapdragon 400; microSD card expansion; a 13-megapixel rear camera; and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, The Verge said. — Joel Locsin/VC, GMA News

Most malware attacks depend on deception, not software flaws – report

The number of computers infected with malware increased significantly in the last quarter of 2013 according to Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR) Volume 16 released on Friday.

This is largely because of the deceptive methods that cybercriminals are increasingly applying.

The report gathered data from computers that had Microsoft’s malicious software removal tool, and tabulated how many computer systems encountered and were infected with malware in each quarter of 2013.

In the first three quarters of 2013, the number of computers infected worldwide only played at around 5 to 5.8 for every 1,000 systems scanned, the report said. In the last quarter of 2013, this number jumped to 17.8.

The local infection numbers are greater than the worldwide figures.

It was revealed that 32.1 of every 1,000 unique computers in the Philippines were infected with malware in the fourth quarter of 2013.

It may be less than one percent, but it is a huge jump from 14 to 18 per 1,000 computers scanned in the first three quarters of 2013.

One of the biggest causes of this is the worldwide increase of the “bad guys’” use of deceptive tactics, which has more than tripled in the last quarter of 2013, said Tim Rains, director of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group during a forum on Friday.

Decrease in exploit codes, increase in deceptive tactics

Attackers used to exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems in order to hack into them and access the victims’ information and data.

But recently, Rains said, attackers are finding it more difficult to write exploit code on computer systems.

“We’ve been focused on adding more and more mitigation systems over time. We’re having an effect on this because if we look at the data, we see a big drop in the exploitation of our software because it’s getting  harder and harder for the bad guys to actually exploit vulnerabilities in the software,” he said.

There was a 70-percent decrease in the number of severe vulnerabilities exploited in Microsoft products between 2010 to 2013, he added during his presentation.

“They’re relying on trickery to get onto the system. So we see a big increase of malware both globally and in the Philippines and greater Asia, a big increase in malware using deception rather than looking at vulnerabilities,” he explained.

Luring victims through free downloads

“What we’re seeing is a big increase in some malware being bundled with free downloads,” Rains said.

One example he gave is rotbrow, a free software that “claimed to protect your browser from malicious browser add-ons.”

They thought it was benign, Rains said, so it wasn’t flagged as malicious.

However, months later, rotbrow started distributing sefnit, a family of malware.

“So, all of a sudden, rotbrow is being used to distribute sefnit on millions and millions of systems that rotbrow has been installed on for a period of months,” Rains said.

Almost half of computers in PHL encountered malware

While the number of infected computers is less than one percent of the systems tested by Microsoft, the number of computer systems that encounter malware is much greater.

About 45 percent of the computers scanned in the Philippines by Microsoft’s malware removing tool encountered malicious software in the last quarter of 2013.

“Almost half of the computers in the Philippines in the fourth quarter of 2014 encountered malware. That’s a large number. The worldwide average is about 22 percent in any given quarter. In the Philippines, it’s considerably higher.”

The most common category of malware encountered locally in the fourth quarter of 2013 was worms, according to the SIR’s Regional Threat Assessment specific to the Philippines.

Computer worms are malware programs that “can self-replicate on computers or via computer networks without you being aware that your machine has become infected”, according to Kaspersky Lab.

The second most common are Miscellaneaous Trojans, while the third are Trojan Downloaders and Droppers.

Trojans are “malicious programs that perform actions that have not been authorised by the user”, according to Kaspersky Lab. They can delete, block, modify, and copy data or disrupt the performance of computers or computer networks, it added.

Rains said that since almost half of the computers scanned in the Philippines encountered malware, it would pay to apply the necessary security measures in protecting computer systems in order to avoid infection. — JDS, GMA News

Will a hologram make this chocolate too pretty to eat?

Soon, chocolates may no longer be just a treat for your sweet tooth – it could be a treat for the eyes, too, after a Swiss company found a way to imprint holograms on chocolate.

Lausanne-based Morphotonix developed a method of imprinting the holograms into the chocolates by etching microstructures into the chocolate, New Scientist reported.

The advantage of the new method is that it requires no additives to create the holographic effect, the report said.

However, Morphotonix CEO Veronica Savu said the method does not quite work for all types of chocolate, at least for now.

“We have been testing it with many types of chocolate. Sometimes it works great and sometimes no matter how hard we try it doesn’t mold,” Savu told New Scientist.

Morphotonix started work on the technology in 2012. It is now working with a German chocolate mold manufacturer to bring it to market.

On the other hand, Savu said they are considering using a similar technique for molds for proof of authenticity of other products.

“Instead of having a holographic sticker you can have the hologram directly embedded into any rigid plastic object,” she said.

New Scientist likened the method for creating the hologram to that of the security hologram on a credit card, “though chocolate is trickier to work with.”

In creating the hologram, Morphotonix made an etching into a metal master mold, which is then used to make plastic molds that will shape the chocolate. — LBG, GMA News

Apple rushes iTunes update to plug security hole

Apple has rushed an update to its iTunes software to fix a security hole, a security firm said over the weekend.

Sophos said iTunes 11.2 contained a “permissions blunder” that could allow anyone to modify local user accounts on a machine running Apple’s OS X.
Citing Apple’s security bulletin, Sophos’ Paul Ducklin said in a blog post that a local user who exploits the bug “can compromise other local user accounts.”
“Upon each reboot, the permissions for the /Users and /Users/Shared directories would be set to world-writable, allowing modification of these directories,” it added.
Ducklin said this is particularly dangerous for iTunes users on Mac machines, adding iTunes for Windows does not seem to be affected.
On the other hand, Ducklin said the patch applies all the way back to Snow Leopard, OS X 10.6. Joel Locsin/TJD, GMA News

19-year-old Pinoy wins int’l Microsoft Youthspark tilt

A 19-year-old Filipino student did the Philippines proud after winning an international challenge for change sponsored by software giant Microsoft.

Dominic Co is one of the five outstanding grand prize winners of Microsoft’s YouthSpark Challenge for Change, joining winners from India, Mexico and the United States.

Co, who seeks to promote nationalism and appreciation of Philippine literature with his libroko.com site, plans to develop an online curriculum to supplement the teaching of Philippine literature.
Libroko.com is being envisioned as an online resource and forum that will help students better understand Filipino literary works.
”Filipino works, such as (national hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s) Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, have lost some of their relevance especially to the young people who readthem more than a hundred years later. The internet, along with the latest Microsoft technologies, could provide a channel for the youth to rediscover these works,” Co said.
Co and the other four winners of the YouthSpark Challenge for Change will have a volunteer trip to the Amazon to learn about social entrepreneurship, leadership, conservation and rural development issues in the Amazon rainforest.
They will also receive a $2,500 cash grant, and a Microsoft technology bundle including a Windows Phone 8 and Xbox One.
Youthspark
Microsoft’s YouthSpark Challenge for Change encourages young people around the world to submit ideas that spark change in their communities.
The contest seeks to empower young people to develop or expand a project for social good using Microsoft technology.
“Microsoft believes that nothing matches the creativity and passion of youth to inspire social change. The stories from contestants and winners alike were truly inspiring,” said Microsoft Philippines general manager Karrie Ilagan.
For this year, entries covered issues including food security, personal empowerment, digital literacy, STEM education, healthcare, environmentalism, and entrepreneurship.
The entries in the contest were judged for creativity, the potential to create a positive impact on a social issue and the use of Microsoft technology, including Windows and Office. Joel Locsin/TJD, GMA News

‘Moon water’ sports drink, anyone?

Fancy a sports drink made with water from the moon? A Japanese company could be taking the first steps to making that as early as October 2015.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. is planning to have a can of its popular “Pocari Sweat” blasted off to the Moon – in powder form, to be mixed with the moon’s own water.
“Fueled by the dream of a future where people can mix and drink POCARI SWEAT with water from the moon, we are taking off for the lunar surface with POCARI SWEAT in powder form … We will wait expectantly—from over 380,000 kilometers away—for the day when people touch down on the lunar surface and drink POCARI SWEAT made with the moon’s own water,” it said on its website, Lunar-Dream.com.
It cited results of a June 2009 mission by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration that discovered evidence indicating the presence of water.
That mission also indicated that “ice accounts for approximately 5.6% of materials contained in the surface soil of the Cabeus crater, a fact that amazed everyone,” Otsuka said.
According to Otsuka, the project – with the help of private sector companies – aims to land on the lunar surface some 380,000 km away.
It will have a “Dream Capsule,” which resembles a can of “Pocari Sweat.” The time capsule contains the powder form of the drink.
The capsule also contains titanium message plate where children taking part in the program will have their dreams laser-engraved.
Also, it will have a “Dream Ring,” which serves as a key to opening the capsule. The ring is given to children who submit their dreams.
Children have until May 2015 to submit their dreams for the program.
On the other hand, ordinary smartphone users can also input messages they want to send to the moon.
Publicity stunt?
An article on tech site Mashable said that while the lunar plans may be all a publicity stunt, it could have potential.
“The can sent into space will house 120 laser-engraved plates, which will be etched with the dreams of 38,000 children around the world for astronauts — and maybe aliens — to someday read,” it noted. Joel Locsin/TJD, GMA News

Is this LG’s first Windows Phone handset?

The first glimpses of what could be Korean electronics firm LG’s first handset running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system have been leaked on the Internet.

Evleaks posted on its Twitter account and website an image of a phone with LG’s logo and displaying the interface of Windows Phone:
A separate article on The Next Web said the device, if it exists, would be LG’s first device to run the Microsoft mobile OS.
“There have been concerns that Microsoft’s $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia’s services and devices division (which includes Nokia smartphones and tablets) has put the company in a conflicted position.,” it said.
“If LG does release this phone, it will be a validation that Microsoft can operate Windows Phone and own Nokia, its single biggest hardware maker, at the same time,” it added. Joel Locsin/TJD, GMA News

US accuses China of cyber spying on six American companies

WASHINGTON – A U.S. grand jury has indicted five Chinese individuals with cyber espionage charges for allegedly targeting six American companies and stealing trade secrets, the U.S. Justice Department said, publicly accusing China of cyber spying for the first time.

The hackers targeted U.S. companies in the nuclear power, metals and solar products industries to steal information useful to competitors in China, the department said on Monday.

The companies targeted include Alcoa Inc, United States Steel Corp, Allegheny Technologies Inc, Westinghouse Electric Co and U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG , U.S. officials said.

The hackers also targeted United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied-Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW), officials said.

The hackers targeted U.S. companies in the nuclear power, metals and solar products industries to steal information useful to competitors in China, the department said.

More details were expected at a news conference later Monday with Attorney General Eric Holder and other U.S. officials.

The move “indicates that DOJ has ‘smoking keyboards’ and (is) willing to bring the evidence to a court of law and be more transparent,” said Frank Cilluffo, head of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at the George Washington University.

American officials have long been concerned about hacking from abroad, especially China. Secret U.S. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks traced major systems breaches to China, Reuters reported in 2011. One 2009 cable pinpointed attacks to a specific unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Such charges, however, are symbolic but the move would prevent the individuals indicted from traveling to the United States or other countries that have an extradition agreement with the United States.

Several cyber security experts said Monday’s action showed the United States was serious about tackling the hacking concerns.

“It sends a strong message to the Chinese,” a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International studies James Lewis told Reuters.

Others some remained skeptical the move would deter online invasions.

“It won’t slow China down,” said Eric Johnson, an information technology expert at Vanderbilt University and dean of its School of Management.

An FBI official last week told Reuters to expect multiple cyber security-related cases, including indictments and arrests, in the coming weeks.

On Sunday, a top Chinese Internet official called for Beijing to tighten its own cyber security, citing “overseas hostile forces.” Reuters

80 arrested in 16 countries in intl cyber crime dragnet

AMSTERDAM – Police in 16 countries across the United States, western Europe and in Chile have seized cash, firearms and drugs and arrested 80 people suspected of peddling virus software believed to have infected hundreds of thousands of computers, according to European legal authorities.

Two days of raids targeted creators, users and sellers of the “BlackShades” malware, which the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says has been sold to thousands of users in more than 100 countries, infecting more than 500,000 computers. The software allowed users to control other people’s computers.
The raids involved searches of 359 homes in 16 countries, said Eurojust, the EU’s judicial cooperation agency.
Five defendants charged in the United States include Alex Yucel, who owned and operated the BlackShades organization under the online name “marjinz,” according to court documents unsealed in New York on Monday.
Yucel ran the organization as a business, employing a director of marketing, a website developer, a customer service manager and a team of customer service representatives who answered complaints submitted online, U.S. authorities said.
BlackShades generated more than $350,000 in sales between September 2010 and April 2014, according to the court documents.
In a recent case in the Netherlands, an 18-year-old man was detained for infecting at least 2,000 computers with the malware, using the victim’s web cams to take pictures of women and girls.
A statement said the operation was coordinated by Eurojust and the cyber crime unit of the European police organisation, Europol.
In addition to computer hardware, including 1,100 data storage drives, police also seized substantial quantities of cash, illegal firearms and drugs, Eurojust, which is based in The Hague, said.
The malware was sold to thousands of individuals worldwide. The most widely used version was BlackShades RAT, a sophisticated piece of malware that enabled users to take over other people’s computers, Eurojust said.
The FBI’s investigation was aided by one of the co-creators of BlackShades RAT, who agreed to cooperate with authorities after he sold a copy of the malware to an undercover FBI agent.
The investigation has included the seizure of more than 1,900 Internet domain names used to control victims’ computers and a search warrant executed on a BlackShades computer server.  — Reuters

Android out to conquer businesses with startup Divide

SAN FRANCISCO – Google on Monday confirmed that it has bought a startup specializing in helping employees using their personal smartphones or tablets securely for work.

Divide announced at its website that it has been bought by the Internet titan, but neither company disclosed financial terms of the deal.

Divide said that it will be part of the team devoted to Android software that Google makes available free to mobile gadget makers.

Divide combines technology in mobile devices and in the Internet “cloud” to help companies protect systems and data as workers use mobile devices on the job as part of what is referred to as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) lifestyles.

“Divide launched with the belief that BYOD was going to dramatically alter the IT landscape and usher in a new wave of mobility,” the company said at its website.

“Divide is dedicated to promoting a balance between security for IT and privacy for end users.”

The acquisition comes as modern lives increasingly involve connecting to the Internet while on the move, and workers use their smartphones or tablets to take care of business. — Agence France-Presse