Posts Tagged virtual world

‘Open internet’ rules criticised (BBC)

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Man using phone on the move, AFP/Getty

Studies show 60% of users are interested in mobile internet access

Mobile providers have said that US proposals to ensure all traffic on the internet is treated equally should not be applied to wireless traffic.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants rules to prevent providers blocking or slowing down bandwidth-heavy usage such as streaming video.

Providers claim a two-tiered system is essential for the future vitality of the net.

Mobile operators said any regulation would damage innovation.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said doing nothing was not an option.

In his first major speech since his appointment earlier in the summer, he told an audience in Washington that the rules were “not about government regulation of the internet”.

“History’s lesson is clear. Ensuring a robust and open internet is the best thing we can do to promote investment and innovation,” he told the audience at Washington think tank the Brookings Institution.

“And while there are some who see every policy decision as either pro-business or pro-consumer, I reject that approach; it’s not the right way to see technology’s role in America.”

The FCC’s proposals are meant to ensure that internet service providers cannot block or slow down traffic, such as bandwidth-hogging video downloads. Operators must also be transparent about network management, it said.

But providers have argued that a two-tiered internet is essential to effectively manage their networks.

‘Phenomenal success’

Almost as soon as Mr Genachowski stepped off the podium, industry critics condemned the inclusion of wireless traffic in the new policy proposals.

Ethernet cable

The FCC says the internet is at a crossroads

“We are concerned the FCC appears ready to extend the entire array of net neutrality requirements to what is perhaps the most competitive consumer market in America – wireless services,” said AT&T’s Jim Cicconi.

“The internet in America has been a phenomenal success that has spawned technological and business innovation unmatched anywhere else in the world,” said David Cohen, executive vice-president at Comcast.

“So it’s still fair to ask whether increased regulation of the internet is a solution in search of a problem.”

Verizon, the nation’s biggest cellphone operator, said it believed the FCC had no reason to impose “a new set of regulations that will limit customer choices and affect content providers, application developers, device manufacturers and network builders”.

Politicians also weighed in on the proposals.

Six Republican senators introduced a measure that would cut the FCC’s funding to “develop and implement new regulatory mandates”.

Meanwhile, the two Republicans on the FCC’s board said they were not convinced that there were widespread problems of internet providers blocking or slowing traffic that needed to be addressed with new rules.

‘Pivotal moment’

However, just as many supporters as critics stood up to praise the FCC’s move.

iPhone (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Touch screens are changing the way people use mobiles

The FCC “took an important step in… ensuring that the internet remains a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free expression”, wrote Google internet evangelist Vint Cerf, on a company blog.

Consumer groups saw the move as a victory.

“This is a tremendous day for millions of us who have been clamouring to keep the internet free from discrimination,” said John Silver, executive director of advocacy group Free Press.

Mr Genachowski said the increasing number of people who went online using their mobile phones could not be ignored.

“The revolution in wireless technologies and the creation of path-breaking devices like the Blackberry and iPhone have enabled millions of us to carry the internet in our pockets and purses.”

Gigi Sohn of digital rights group Public Knowledge told BBC News the move was necessary given that “wireless is the next frontier and where the great growth of internet access is going to come from”.

Mr Genachowski said he wants as much feedback from consumers, the industry and others on the proposals.

“This is about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the internet,” said the FCC chairman.

, , ,

No Comments

Microsoft increases search share (BBC)

Bing.com

Microsoft recently introduced visual search

Microsoft’s Bing search engine is making inroads into Google’s dominance of the search market according to data from US net measurement firm ComScore.

Its latest figures show Microsoft’s share of the search market has grown from 8.9% in July to 9.3% in August.

The news saw Microsoft’s shares rise while Google’s dipped slightly.

Microsoft’s modest 9.3% share of the US search market is small but is a significant increase for a new entrant, say analysts.

The Bing search engine was launched by Microsoft in June 2009 and was followed in July by a search tie-up with rival Yahoo.

Google is still far and away the search leader, with 65% of the US market.

Tiny ripple

The fact Google is losing any market share to Microsoft could indicate that it is no longer the immediate choice for everyone, thinks search expert John Batelle.

“I think the service is starting to gain footholds with users who see it as a regular alternative to Google,” he wrote in his blog.

He is a fan of Bing’s newly-released visual search interface.

“I think it augurs some serious new – and useful – approaches to sifting through massive amounts of related data,” he said.

In the UK, Bing has also made small inroads into Google’s market share.

In August the number of searches on Bing increased by 5%, while Google searches were down 1.7%, according to UK online measurement firm Nielsen.

“It is a very tiny ripple but reflects that Microsoft has done a lot of marketing around it and that people are curious about anything new that is launched,” said Alex Burmaster, communications director at Nielsen.

Google is already working on an update to its current search engine.

Nicknamed “Caffeine” the new version is still in the testing phase and will replace the current engine once tests are complete.

, , ,

No Comments

Hacker admits world’s biggest identity theft (TG Daily)

The Miami man dubbed the world’s most prolific identity thief has admitted stealing 40 million credit and debit cards records from US retailers.
By Emma Woollacott

Monday, September 14, 2009

Albert Gonzalez appeared on Friday in a Boston court and pleaded guilty to 20 charges. He admitted exploiting vulnerabilities in the security systems of TJX, OfficeMax, BJ’s Wholesale Club and other retailers  back in 2003. The records were sold and the money laundered through accounts in Latvia.

His technique – known as ‘wardriving’ – involved cruising around with a laptop and searching for accessible wireless internet signals. Once Gonzalez and his colleagues found a vulnerable network, they installed sniffer programs to capture the card numbers.

Things went from bad to worse: after his arrest, Gonzalez began secretly collaborating with the US Secret Service to catch other hackers. But he now admits that during this period he warned off his co-conspirators to help them avoid arrest.

Gonzalez had already agreed to plead guilty to the charges. He now faces up to 25 years in prison, and must hand back more than $1.65 million. Sentencing is set for December 8th.

His attorney says he feels “really bad”.

, ,

No Comments

Flight site hacker ‘identified’ (BBC)

Avsim logo

Avsim is one of the largest sites serving the flight sim community

The publisher of a flight simulator site targeted by a hacker in May says it has presented a file of evidence to UK police identifying the perpetrator.

Avsim said it had “incontrovertible evidence” about the hacker’s identity.

The attack wiped data held on two servers and “effectively destroyed” the site, which is still being rebuilt.

The US firm said it expected the criminal complaint, filed with London police, to lead to the alleged hacker spending “time behind bars”.

“We will not name any names, but have incontrovertible evidence of the individual that performed the hack,” said Tom Allensworth, the publisher and CEO of Avsim.

“We have protected the forensic evidence and provided that evidence to the London police. We are committed to bringing justice to bear on this case.”

Mr Allensworth told BBC News that the evidence was submitted on Monday to the Southwark division of the Metropolitan Police, which was “acting on behalf of another constabulary”.

‘Next level’

The US site, launched in 1996, covers all aspects of flight simulation, although its main focus is on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator.

In addition it hosts a forum and allows enthusiasts to download extra content for flight simulations, such as new landscapes.

The firm claims it is the most-visited flight simulation site on the internet.

“Its contribution has been immeasurable,” said Derek Davis, editor of PC Pilot magazine, following the attack.

The firm said it had spent $50,000 (£30,000) to bring Avsim back online since the 12 May attack, including $25,000 from users.

It said it had filed the criminal complaint after giving the alleged hacker “two opportunities to settle” the case.

“The individual did not avail himself of the opportunity – in fact, he has ignored our proffers,” Mr Allensworth said in the statement.

“We are now doing as we promised this person we would do: ratcheting this up to the next, criminal, level.”

“We fully expect that the criminal complaint…will result in the perpetrator spending some time behind bars – under UK law.”

The firm said it was seeking prosecution under laws that “deal with unauthorised use of a computer, unauthorised and criminal theft of data, and numerous other violations of other computer and online laws”.

The Metropolitan Police could not confirm whether it had received the complaint.

, , ,

No Comments

Websites ‘breaking consumer laws’ (BBC)

Phone and keyboard

The investigation covered 28 European countries

More than half of websites selling electronic goods were breaking European laws aimed at protecting consumers, according to an EU investigation.

The analysis of 369 websites selling mobiles, DVD players and games consoles in 28 European countries found that 203 of them held misleading information.

The biggest failure surrounded the right to return a product bought on the internet within seven days.

Any websites which continue to break the law face fines.

“We know from the level of complaints coming into European Consumer Centres that this is a real problem area for consumers,” said EU consumer commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

“We discovered that more than half of the retailers selling online electronic goods are letting consumers down.”

Sweep

Authorities, such as trading standards departments, carried out the investigation in May. They were checking to see if the websites followed rules on providing clear information about the trader, the product, the price, and customers’ rights.

There is a lot of work to be done in the months ahead to clean up this sector, Europe’s consumers deserve better
Meglena Kuneva, EU consumer commissioner

Some 369 websites – across 26 EU member states (all members except Slovakia) as well as Norway and Iceland – were checked as they sold electronic goods including digital cameras, mobile phones, personal music players, DVD players, computer equipment and games consoles.

Two hundred of the sites were chosen because they were the biggest in the EU and another 100 were checked because they had been the subject of previous consumer complaints.

Of the 203 cases facing further investigation:

  • Two-thirds (66%) failed to adequately explain that consumers had seven days to return a product bought over distance for a full refund and without giving a reason. Others failed to explain the right to have a faulty product repaired or replaced for at least two years after sale
  • Details about extra delivery charges were missing or difficult to find on the website in 45% of cases
  • A third (33%) did not fully outline the trader’s name, address or email details so they could not be contacted if there was a problem.

All of these traders will now be contacted by the authorities and asked to clarify the position or correct the problems identified in the investigation.

Meglena Kuneva

Meglena Kuneva is the EU consumer commissioner

Any website that fails to make corrections could face warning letters and then enforcement action. If this was ignored the operators could be prosecuted and face fines.

“This is a Europe-wide problem which needs a European solution. There is a lot of work to be done in the months ahead to clean up this sector, Europe’s consumers deserve better,” said Ms Kuneva.

Every website checked in Cyprus and Hungary during the sweep was found to require further investigation. Six of 14 websites checked in the UK revealed irregularities.

Only Iceland, Norway and Latvia have published a list of the websites that will face further investigation.

About one in four consumers across the EU who has ever bought anything on the internet bought an electronic product, according to the European Commission. The market is valued at an estimated 6.8bn euros (£5.9bn).

Some 34% of complaints about online shopping in 2007 featured the sale of electronic equipment.

, , ,

No Comments

Home fibre plans survive downturn (BBC)

Telephone cables, BT

The benefits of fibre to the home go beyond speed

More than two million people in Europe now have fibre broadband direct to their home, suggests a survey.

The latest figures on superfast broadband delivered by fibre to the home (FTTH) shows 18% growth over the last survey compiled in late 2008.

The continued growth suggests that the global economic downturn has not hit plans to build a fibre infrastructure.

Sweden tops the list of nations rolling out the technology, with 10.9% of its broadband customers using fibre.

Karel Helsen, president of Europe’s Fibre-To-The-Home Council, said the growth matched predictions that were revised when the credit crunch started to make itself felt.

TOP FIBRE NATIONS
1) Sweden – 10.9%
2) Norway – 10.2%
3) Slovenia – 8.9%
4) Andorra – 6.6%
5) Denmark- 5.7%
6) Iceland – 5.6%
7) Lithuania – 3.3%
8 ) Netherlands – 2.5%
9) Slovakia – 2.5%
10) Finland – 2.4%

“The numbers in 2009 are in line with the latest forecasts,” said Mr Helsen.

By 2012, the FTTH Council expects that 13 million people across 35 European nations will have their broadband delivered by fibre. Such services would start at speeds of 100 megabits per second (mbps), said Mr Helsen.

Around Europe more than 233 projects were underway to lay the fibres that would connect homes or buildings to the net, said Mr Helsen. Many of those, he said, were being operated by local governments or smaller net firms.

Local governments were interested in FTTH because of the economic and social benefits it brought in its wake, said Mr Helsen.

The low latency or delay inherent in high-speed fibre networks made possible novel uses of broadband, he said.

“No delay is very important,” he said, “specifically if you talk about applications that are time dependent such as personal communications, conference calls or video calls where delays cause a lot of interference.”

While early FTTH services were concentrated in cities, said Mr Helsen, many more were reaching out to rural areas for e-health and e-learning projects.

Separate studies show that an FTTH infrastructure can have a direct impact on local economic output, said Mr Helsen.

The UK, France and Germany have yet to break into the list of top ten FTTH nations.

, ,

No Comments

EBay to sell Skype stake for $1.9 billion (Reuters)

Tue Sep 1, 2009 10:39am EDT


Photo

«»1 of 3Full Size

NEW YORK (Reuters) – EBay Inc plans to sell a 65 percent stake in its online phone unit Skype for $1.9 billion to private investors including Silver Lake and a venture firm run by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen.

Shares in eBay rose 40 cents or 1.8 percent to $22.54 on Nasdaq after the news.

The deal values Skype at $2.75 billion, according to the Internet auction house, which had bought the phone company in 2005 for about $3.1 billion.

The group buying Skype also includes London-based Index Ventures and the Canada Pension Plan, in addition to Silver Lake and Andreessen’s firm Andreessen Horowitz.

The deal lets eBay focus on its PayPal electronic payments service as well as its flagship auction service, the company said.

EBay originally planned to spin off Skype next year. John Donahoe, eBay’s chief executive, said in May that a $2 billion valuation would be low for the growing Internet telephone business.

In 2007, eBay wrote down about $1.4 billion of its investment in Skype, conceding it did not fit in with the rest of its online auction business.

“Skype is a strong standalone business, but it does not have synergies with our e-commerce and online payments business,” Donahoe said in a statement.

EBay expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter. The transaction is not subject to a financing condition.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Ajay Kamalakaran in

Bangalore, editing by Will Waterman and Derek Caney)

, ,

No Comments

US cyber-security ‘embarrassing’ (BBC)

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

sign saying what's in your network

Experts say the threat is increasing fast

America’s cyber-security has been described as “broken” by one industry expert and as “childlike” by another.

The criticism comes as President Obama prepares to release the results of a review he had ordered.

Tim Mather, chief strategist for security firm RSA, told BBC News: “The approach we have relied on for years has effectively run out of steam.”

Alan Paller from security research firm SANS Institute said the government’s cyber defences were “embarrassing”.

The government review, which will outline a way forward, is expected to be opened up for public comment at the end of this month.

At the same time, President Obama is also expected to announce the appointment of a cyber-security tsar as part of the administration’s commitment to make the issue a priority.

For many attending last week’s RSA Conference in San Francisco, the biggest security event of its kind, such focus is welcome.

“I think we are seeing a real breaking point in security with consumers, business and even government saying enough, no more. Let’s rethink how we do this because the system is broken,” said Mr Mather.

‘Laws of procurement’

Over the past couple of weeks, the heat has been turned up on the issue of cyber-security following some high profile breaches.

One involved the country’s power grid which was said to have been infiltrated by nation states. The government subsequently admitted that it was “vulnerable to attack”.

US government computer

The review will provide a roadmap for tackling cyber-security

Meanwhile reports during the RSA Conference surfaced that spies had hacked into the Joint Strike Fighter Project.

The topic is very much on the radar of politicians, who have introduced a number of bills to address security in the virtual world.

One includes a provision to allow the president to disconnect government and private entities from the internet for national security reasons in an emergency.

The latest bill, introduced this week by Senator Tom Carper, has called for the creation of a chief information officer to monitor, detect and respond to threats.

Mr Paller, who is the director of research for SANS, believes the government’s multi-billion dollar budget is the most effective weapon it has to force change.

“The idea of cyber-security leadership isn’t if it’s the White House or DHS (Dept of Homeland Security). It’s whether you use the $70bn you spend per year to make the nation safer.”

He said the best way to ensure that was to require industry to provide more secure technology for federal acquisitions.

“If you want to change things, use the laws of procurement,” suggested Mr Paller.

Hot seat

There is a growing view that the industry is also at a crossroads and has a responsibility to alter the way it operates.

fraud sign

There are 32,000 suspected cyber-attacks every 24 hours

“I think we are more aware of security than ever before,” said Benjamin Jun, vice-president of technology at Cryptography Research.

“We are looking at risk in a new way and the good security practitioners are in the hot seat. It’s time for them to do their job.”

It is also time for them to come up with new technologies that can keep pace with, and move ahead of, the threats that affect the whole of cyberspace, says Asheem Chandna of venture firm Greylock Partners.

“For the evolution of the internet, I think we need the next wave of innovation. The industry clearly needs to step up and deliver the next set of technologies to protect people and stay ahead of the bad guys.”

He also believes the smaller innovative companies in Silicon Valley could help the government be more productive if they were not effectively locked out of the process by the big established firms.

“We want smaller companies that are innovating in Silicon Valley to be given a better chance to help government agencies meet their mandate but the bureaucracy to do this hinders these companies.

“Instead they go to commercial customers because they see the value, they move fast, they see the return on investment and the competitive advantage it can give them. The federal government is more of a laggard in this area,” said Mr Chandna.

‘Silver lining’

There is undoubtedly a consensus that the security of the internet needs to be improved and that attacks are taking their toll on everything from banks to credit card companies and from critical infrastructure to defence.

sign who's your hacker

The president has likened the threat to the internet to that of a nuclear attack

“There is a silver lining to this dark cloud,” said Mark Cohn, the vice-president of enterprise security at security firm Unisys.

“Public awareness, and that among the community and interested parties, has grown tremendously over the last year or two.

“Cyber-security affects us all from national security to the mundane level of identity theft and fraud. But that means society as a whole is more receptive to many of the things we need to do that would in the past have been seen as politically motivated.”

For security firm VeriSign, a shift in how people practise security is what is needed

“Security is a state of mind,” said the company’s chief technology officer, Ken Silva.

“Up until now we have relied on the inefficient system of user names and passwords for security. Those have been obsolete for some time now and that is why our research is focused on making authentication stronger and user friendly.”

To that end, VeriSign has introduced a security application that produces an ever-changing password credential for secure transactions on the iPhone or Blackberry. To date the free app has been downloaded more than 20,000 times.

“It’s one thing to say security is broken, but the consumer doesn’t care until it affects them,” said Mr Silva.

“But if we as an industry want them to use stronger security measures we have to make it easy and more user friendly.”

Indeed, Mr Cohn believes everybody has to play his or her part as the online world becomes increasingly integral to our lives.

“It may seem like we are under attack and the world is more dangerous but in some ways the threat environment is shifting.

“Now the greater concern for people is protecting their information, their identity, their financial security as we move to put more information online like our health records and our social security records.

“We are at a crossroads and this should be viewed as a healthy thing,” said Mr Cohn.

, , , ,

No Comments

Insider risk problem revealed (BBC)

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

front pages on cyber security

The headlines get the real cyber security threat wrong says the RSA

Security experts have turned the notion that so called “malicious insiders” are the biggest cyber security threat for companies on its head.

The security vendor RSA revealed that the majority of breaches are actually caused unintentionally by employees.

Its survey showed that firms believed 52% of incidents were accidental and 19% were deliberate.

“Unintentional risk gets overlooked, yet it’s the most serious threat to business,” said the RSA’s Chris Young.

“The sexy incident where someone gets arrested for stealing records and selling them to a third party for a lot of money is the stuff that catches the attention of the media, the regulators, executives and Congress people.

“But this is not necessarily where organisations have 100% of the risk,” said Mr Young, the RSA’s senior vice president of products.

The study conducted by the RSA and IT analysts IDC looked at 11 different categories of risk ranging from malware and spyware to employees having excessive access to systems and from unintentional data loss to malicious acts for personal gain.

The report concluded that the difference between the most frequent type of cyber breach – unintentional data loss, at 14.4% per year, and the bottom of the list – internal fraud, at 10.6% – is a clear sign that no single solution can address all potential internal security risks.

It covered over 400 firms from the US, UK, France and Germany across a variety of sectors including the financial industry, healthcare, telecommunications and technology.

‘Weakest link’

The report noted that whether the threats are accidental or deliberate, the cost to a company of a cyber breach is still the same.

The RSA and IDC said disclosure of sensitive information results in regulatory actions, failed audits, litigation, public ridicule and competitive fallout.

fraud sign

Government figures report 32,000 suspected cyber attacks every day

“The figures are hard to quantify, but the average annual financial loss to insider risk adds up to $800,000 (£480,000) overall per organisation in the US and between $300,000-$550,000 (£180,000-£330,000) in the UK, France and Germany.

“And that ties into the billions of dollars range when you think of the thousands of companies that comprise the IT industry,” said Mr Young.

A recent report by the Ponemon Institute found that the average cost of a data breach in 2008 was $202 (£122) per customer record.

The information security firm also determined that the expense continued to rise by 38% between 2004 and 2008.

The RSA and IDC discovered that the weakest link in any company is the temporary employee or contractor.

“They represent the greatest internal risk,” Mr Young told BBC News.

“Most organisations start with a principle of trust and you trust your employees to be able to do their job well and protect the interests of the company. There are always levels of trust which is greater or lesser depending on how closely tied an individual actor is to an individual organisation.

“It’s likely contractors may be less well-trained in organisational policy and it’s harder to maintain control over their access to systems because of the time they interact with an organisation. There is always a tension between letting an employee do his or her job versus security,” said Mr Young.

The Better Business Bureau has drawn up a list of simple things companies should do to secure its data, often regarded as the crown jewels of any company.

It advises limiting systems access to a few trusted employees, using a password protection system for logging in, equipping computers with firewalls and virus protection and educating employees.

, , ,

No Comments

Bing Search Share Rises, Google And Yahoo Slip (Information Week)

Summer, usually a slow time for search, has given Microsoft something to smile about: The company’s Bing search engine gained market share.

By Thomas Claburn,  InformationWeek
URL: http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=219400514

Microsoft’s share of the U.S. search market grew slightly in July, while Google and Yahoo experienced slight declines.

Of the 13.6 billion U.S. searches conducted in July, 64.7% were conducted through Google sites, a 0.3 percent point decline from June, according to ComScore.

Yahoo sites in July served 19.3% of those searches, also a 0.3 percentage point decline from the previous month.

Microsoft Bing’s search share increased by half of a percentage point in July. Its gain accounted for most of what Google and Yahoo lost. Microsoft sites served 8.9% of U.S. searches last month.

As a percentage change, Google’s search query total fell by 4%, Yahoo’s fell by 5%, and Microsoft’s increased by 2%.

Ask and AOL accounted for 3.9% and 3.1% of the search market in July, respectively.

ComScore’s search share figures do not include searches related to mapping, local directory, and user-generated video sites.

While any gain is good news, Microsoft still has a long way to go. In February, prior to Bing’s launch, ComScore put Microsoft’s share of the U.S. search market at 8.5%.

In terms of worldwide search market share, Google processed 78.45% of all searches in July, according to NetApplications. Bing had 3.17%, behind China’s Baidu (8.87%) and Yahoo (7.15%).

Not only does Microsoft have a lot of ground to cover before it draws even with Google, but it also faces a competitor that isn’t standing still.

Google last week unveiled a developer preview of its new Web search architecture called “Caffeine.” The search leader clearly has no intention of letting Bing’s gain go unchallenged.

, , ,

No Comments