Category: Computers


Apple acknowledges Mac Defender malware, promises software update

Apple has decided to publicly acknowledge the Mac Defender malware that seems to be creeping onto Mac users’ computers. The company posted an online support document Tuesday evening that outlines how to identify and get rid of the program, which attempts to trick users into handing over their credit card information. The company also promised to issue a software update soon that will specifically hunt out and remove Mac Defender and its variants.

“A recent phishing scam has targeted Mac users by redirecting them from legitimate websites to fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus,” Apple wrote in its support document. “In the coming days, Apple will deliver a Mac OS X software update that will automatically find and remove Mac Defender malware and its known variants. The update will also help protect users by providing an explicit warning if they download this malware.”

The much-welcome acknowledgement from Apple comes less than a week after it came out that real users were beginning to see this malware in the wild a little more often than usual. When we investigated the issue, we were told by several Apple Store Geniuses that they had also seen a spike—one Genius at a large Apple Store said he had seen malware reports in his store go from approximately 0.2 to percent to 5.8 percent in a matter of weeks, with the large majority of those being Mac Defender or its variants, often known as Mac Security or Mac Protector. (Smaller, third-party support folks were somewhat split on whether there had been a spike in malware reports.)

At the time, one of the more controversial aspects of Apple’s reaction was that there was none—Apple had instructed its AppleCare and retail staff not to even acknowledge Mac Defender’s existence, and not to remove it from users’ infected computers.

Now, however, the company has apparently had a change of heart. In the support doc, Apple says to trash the app immediately if you haven’t installed it yet, but if you have, there’s a series of steps to follow in order to get rid of it. And, of course, there’s also the lazy route: if you have Mac Defender installed but haven’t given it your credit card information yet, you could just wait for Apple to issue its software update and have it removed automatically. Or, you can use the Mac Defender removal tool from Icrontic.

Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft customer satisfaction hits new high as Windows 7 takes hold

Have we finally witnessed the death of the Blue Screen of Death?

OK, so that’s still a bit of a reach, but new numbers this morning from the American Customer Satisfaction Index show satisfaction with Microsoft software reaching a new peak of 78 on the 100-point ASCI index. That’s up from a trough of 69 in 2008.

It’s the third straight year of gains for Microsoft in the index and a sign that the company is continuing to recover from the poorly received Windows Vista as computer users make the upgrade to Windows 7. Vista debuted in January 2007 and was succeeded by Windows 7 in October 2009.

However, satisfaction among existing customers does not necessarily translate into booming sales. Microsoft Office revenue is up, but sales in Microsoft’s Windows division fell 4 percent last quarter, as Windows PC sales fell victim to the rise of the iPad, a trend particularly evident among netbooks and other low-priced portable machines.

“Customers are more satisfied with Microsoft software, but, for now, the company is selling less of it,” say ASCI researchers in a commentary accompanying the data.

Apple is categorized in the index as a personal computer maker (not as a software company) and it traditionally sits atop those rankings — last year reaching a new peak of 86 in the ASCI index. (The PC numbers have not yet been updated this year in the public ASCI scores.

Other notable trends in the latest ASCI numbers:

  • Wireless customer satisfaction with AT&T and the company it’s proposing to buy, T-Mobile USA, declined noticeably in the data. ASCI researchers described that as unusual, saying it’s more common for satisfaction to decline after a merger is actually completed. T-Mobile fell 4 percent to a score of 70, while AT&T fell by a similar rate, to 66.
  • Satisfaction with subscription TV services leveled off at an ASCI score of 66, after surging last year. The researchers cited the effects of limited-time bundling promotions, which can make people sour once special pricing expires.
  • In the realm of media, newspaper industry remained steady with a customer satisfaction score of 65, but the researchers described that as “very weak” and the lowest of all ASCI industry categories. Network and cable TV news programs rose 4 percent in the index to 77 percent.

The ASCI index was started by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. More available data here.

Source: GeekWire

Sony scrambles to revive PlayStation Network

Sony on Friday was working to revive its online network that connects PlayStation 3 (PS3) consoles to games, films, and other digital offerings.

Disruption of service at the PlayStation Network began late Wednesday and had some suspecting that hackers followed through on a threat of vengeance for Sony’s legal action against peers that crack PS3 software defenses.

The Japanese consumer electronics giant was working to figure out the cause of the Network outage, Sony spokesman Patrick Seybold said in a blog post with the latest update on the situation.

“We wanted to alert you that it may be a full day or two before we’re able to get the service completely back up and running,” Seybold said in a message posted Thursday.

“Thank you very much for your patience while we work to resolve this matter.”

The PlayStation Network outage came during a heavy playing week in the United States, with many public schools closed for spring break and an Easter holiday providing an opportunity for an extended weekend.

“Probably is hackers,” a user with the screen name Drebin Bushido said in a chat forum below Seybold’s message at the PlayStation blog.

“If they are saying nothing this mean they are hiding something.”

Players were still able to take part in games offline on the consoles, but lost the ability to challenge others on the Internet, stream movies, or get other services.

Internet vigilante group Anonymous had vowed retribution against Sony for taking legal action against hackers who cracked PS3 defenses to change console operating software.

A message signed by Anonymous at website anonnews.org early this month announced an “Operation Payback” campaign aimed at Sony because of its cases against the two hackers, one of whom cut a deal to settle the case.

Anonymous argued that PS3 console owners have the right to do what they wish with them, including modifying them.

The hacker group threatened to retaliate against Sony by attacking the company’s websites.

Source: Yahoo!

Windows 8: Portable Workspace allows you to run Windows from a USB device

An early copy of Windows 8 leaked to the Internet this week and enthusiasts have been digging their way through the various new bits in Microsoft’s next-generation operating system.

Windows 8 build 7850.0.winmain_win8m1.100922-1508 contains a number of references to a brand new feature in Windows: Portable Workspaces. Microsoft will allow Enterprise customers to create USB storage driven copies of Windows. “Portable Workspace is a Windows feature that allows you to run Windows from a USB storage device,” notes Microsoft in its description of the feature inside Windows 8. Users at mydigitallife unveiled the features inside 7850 and discovered that the feature requires at least 16GB of space.

The addition of such a feature in Windows will ease document compatibility and application feature differences for information workers. It appears as though Microsoft is targeting the feature at Enterprise customers who may have several varied uses for portable versions of Windows. IT professionals will welcome the feature as it will empower them to quickly boot a copy of Windows 8 to diagnose any existing problems on the local PC installation. Information workers will be able to power up a copy of Windows 8 on a client’s PC with their own documents and workspace to securely and easily share any presentations or company data.

It’s not yet clear exactly how Portable Workspaces work once created. The 16GB limitation could also indicate a minimum HDD space for Windows 8 across the board. One thing that is clear from the latest leaks is that Microsoft is working hard to add a number of exciting new features to Windows, making its next-generation operating system an exciting affair.

Source: Windows Rumors

Microsoft sets mammoth Patch Tuesday, will fix 64 flaws

Microsoft today said it will patch a record 64 vulnerabilities in Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, Windows graphics framework, and other software next week, and tie a December 2010 record for the number of security updates it issues.

The 17 updates — Microsoft calls them “bulletins” — tie the count of December 2010. The bulletins that will ship next Tuesday will include 64 patches, Microsoft said, 15 more than the previous record of October 2010, and 24 more than the 40 of the former second-place collection of December 2010.

Of the 17 updates, 9 will be rated “critical,” the highest threat label in Microsoft’s four-step scoring system, while the remaining 8 will be marked “important,” the second-most-dire ranking.

“We were expecting the larger release this month, based on the normal cadence,” said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security, referring to Microsoft’s habit of issuing a larger number of updates on even-numbered months.

“But a whopping 64 CVEs is out of line with anything normal for Microsoft,” Storms observed, talking about the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures labels that identify individual bugs. “All hands on deck will be required next week.”

Microsoft said it will close a pair of outstanding issues that have already resulted in security advisories, including a vulnerability in Windows’ MHTML (MIME HTML) protocol handler that it acknowledged last January.

The MHTML flaw went public that same month when the Chinese Web site WooYun.org published proof-of-concept code.

Next week’s patches will also quash a bug in the Windows Server Message Block (SMB) network and file-sharing protocol that was disclosed in February on the Full Disclosure security mailing list.

Microsoft later downplayed the threat posed by the vulnerability, saying it was unlikely the bug could be exploited to compromise a computer.

Other updates will address one or more vulnerabilities in Office, Internet Explorer (IE), Visual Studio, .Net and GDI+. The latter is Windows’ Graphics Device Interface, the graphics rendering component of the operating system.

“As usual, [the IE update] will be on the top of the list for deployment,” said Storms.

The monthly advance notification — where Microsoft alerts customers of the number of overall security patches and updates, as well as what products they will affect — was several hours late in reaching users.

Microsoft usually issues its advance alert at around 1 p.m. ET, but unspecified problems with the distribution system delayed its release for nearly three hours.

The 17 updates will be released at approximately 1 p.m. ET on April 12.

Source: ComputerWorld

Intel to launch X79 Express chipset for Sandy Bridge E enthusiast processors

A Chinese Web site has posted a slide showing a new Intel chipset that’s designed to work with the company’s forthcoming Sandy Bridge E processors (”E” standing for “enthusiast”). The X79 Express will replace the X58 as the top desktop chipset when the new high-performance CPUs are launched in the fourth quarter of this year.

Along with the new processors and chipsets, Intel will roll out a new socket, the LGA2011. The X79 fully supports two PCIe x16 lanes, has 14 SATA ports — including 10 of the 6Gbps flavor — and possesses 8 ports that support SAS. There are 14 USB 2.0 ports, but no mention of USB 3.0 connections — or Thunderbolt ports, for that matter. PCI x1 support is eliminated.

Sandy Bridge E processors will replace the Gulftown-based Extreme six-core CPUs as the top performers in Intel’s desktop lineup. Needless to say, one of the new processors, along with an X79 Express motherboard, will set you back a pretty penny or two (or, more accurately, thousands and thousands of pennies). Start saving.

Source: ZDNet

Thermaltake Level 10 GT case polishes up a classic, available now for $280

The Thermaltake Level 10, arguably the sweetest-looking enclosure to ever hit the mass market, has managed to find a chassis worthy of being called its successor in the shape of the behemoth you see standing before you, the Level 10 GT. It softens the aggressively modular aesthetic of the original, but in exchange delivers a more performance-focused design, replete with three 200mm fans, air filters everywhere you look, a neat little window so you can peek inside your full-sized tower of doom, and enough space to fit the very largest of modern graphics cards. Thermaltake is asking for $280 on its online store and you can order one up today.

Feature Highlights

Unmatched Cable Management – While many cases on the market claim to have cable management, it simply means those cases have enough room on the opposite side of the case to “hide” the excess cables. With Level 10 GT, users will be amazed at how well the cable management system works. Instead of hiding the cables, users can properly separate cables and channel them through the grooves strategically placed on the back of the case. When adding graphic card or hard drives, users will no longer need to untangle the power cables that had been “hidden” away. All hard drives’ power connectors are pre-wired eliminating the need for rerouting. Not only does a properly cable managed computer perform better through improved airflow, but also makes the system neater.

Convertible Top-Vent 240mm Water-Cooling Design – With the popularity of performance water-cooling solution for PC, Level 10 GT features a removable top meshed panel with included true 200mm exhaust fan. Should the user wish to integrate 120mm or even 240mm water-cooling, the fan can be easily removed and the water-cooling radiator can be quickly installed. The removable top also enables easy cleaning of the dust build-up on the fan or mesh.

Hinged Side-Panel Door with Plug&Play Fan Power – For power users who frequently upgrades graphic cards, memories or simply performing maintenances, the hinged side-panel door design eliminates the hassle of having to awkwardly sliding the side-panel off. In addition, the side-mounted oversized 200mm intake fan’s power connector automatically disconnects itself without any user intervention.

Hot-swappable Hard Drive Caddies – Want to add additional hard drive to boost your overall storage capacity? Need to take the hard drive out to move large amount of data? With Level 10 GT’s true hot-swappable hard drive caddies, user is able to quickly remove the hard drive without having to open up the computer systems and unscrewing it from the hard drive cage. And thanks to Level 10 GT’s embedded hot-swap backplane, user can remove the storage hard drive without having to shut-down the system. The hard drive caddies also provide native support for all 3.5″ and 2.5″ SSD. The hot-swappable hard drive caddy design opens up a whole new world of possibilities where power user can enjoy running multiple operating systems simply by swapping the system hard drive to cloning numerous hard drives at any given time.

Massive Airflow & Quiet by Design – Building a high-performance gaming rig is not simply putting together the best graphic card(s), CPU, memories or hard drives / SSDs. What’s more important is ensuring all the critical components are properly cooled. Being the industry-leading brand in PC thermal management, Thermaltake incorporated not one or two, but rather three true 200mm fans into the Level 10 GT. An additional 140mm TurboFan is also embedded into the back of the case. Each of the 200mm fans can be controlled via the ColorShift control on the top of chassis. ColorShift enables user to take full control over the color LEDs on each fans to match the gaming or working environment. Fan speed control acts as a turbo boost control which users may increase the fan speed to properly exhaust heat build-up during gaming session or to lower the fan speed while working or simply browsing the web.

In addition to the features highlighted, Level 10 GT comes standard with every premium features a PC enthusiast or hardcore gamer would want. High-speed data transfer can be achieved with two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports on top as well as an eSATA port. Four additional USB 2.0 ports are located on the front bezel. Each intake fans comes with dedicated filter system and can be easily removed for cleaning without having to open the system. Locking systems for both hinged side-panel door and hot-swappable hard drive caddies are embedded to prevent theft when the system is brought to LAN events or public areas. Eight PCI slots to support NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFireX multi-graphic card setups. Fully black-powdered interior is perfect for anyone wishing to showcase the impressive components.

Buy the case from Thermaltake here:

Source: Engadget / Thermaltake

Chinese hackers infiltrate five energy firms: study

Hackers working in China broke into the computer systems of five multinational oil and gas companies to steal bidding plans and other critical proprietary information, the computer security firm McAfee Inc. said in a new report.

The report, which named the attacks Night Dragon, declined to identify the five known companies that had been hacked and said that another seven or so had also been broken into but could not be identified.

“It … speaks to quite a sad state of our critical infrastructure security. These were not sophisticated attacks … yet they were very successful in achieving their goals,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee’s vice president for threat research.

The hackers got into the computers in one of two ways, either through their public websites or through infected emails sent to company executives.

During the at least two years — and up to four years — the hackers had access to the computer networks, they focused on financial documents related to oil and gas field exploration and bidding contracts, said Alperovitch.

They also copied proprietary industrial processes.

“That information is tremendously sensitive and would be worth a huge amount of money to competitors,” said Alperovitch.

The hack was traced back to China via a server leasing company in Shandong Province that hosted the malware, another term for malicious software, and to Beijing IP addresses that were active from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beijing time.

McAfee’s report did not identify who was behind the hacking.

“We have no evidence that this is government sponsored in any way,” said Alperovitch.

McAfee provided the data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which did not respond to requests for comment.

“This is normal business practice in China. It’s not always state sponsored. And they do it to each other,” said Jim Lewis, a cyber expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

Asked if Beijing normally agreed to arrest hackers, Lewis responded: “It’s not impossible, but it hasn’t happened very often.”

Western governments and companies have long been concerned about corporate espionage based in China.

“We are aware of these types of threats, but we can’t comment specifically about what’s in the Night Dragon report,” said FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer.

Washington believes that hacking attacks on Google Inc that briefly prompted the company to pull out of China were orchestrated by two members of the country’s ruling body, according to U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.

The French government is looking into a possible Chinese role in spying on carmaker Renault SA’s and Nissan’s electric vehicle program.

In 2007, a Chinese student working at car parts maker Valeo was sentenced to prison for obtaining confidential documents from the automaker. A French tribunal stopped short of an industrial espionage verdict, instead finding that she had “abused trust.”

Source: Reuters / Yahoo!

HP hits tablet market with TouchPad

US computer powerhouse Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday unveiled a TouchPad tablet computer as its entry in a booming market dominated by Apple’s iPad.

HP senior vice president Jon Rubinstein, who was part of the Apple team that brought the world the iPod, unveiled the TouchPad to applause in a pavilion on the San Francisco shoreline within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“TouchPad is more than just a pretty face,” Rubinstein said as he caressed one on stage. “The TouchPad is all about you; how you work, play, and connect with the things you value most.”

TouchPad will be the first tablet in a family of products based on a webOS software platform Palm began building from the ground up about five years ago.

HP last year bought Palm in a $1.2-billion deal in what analysts believe was a move to get its hands on the platform that could make it a player in the fast-growing market for smartphones and tablet computers.

“No one has come close to replicating our webOS experience,” said Rubinstein, who was chief executive of Palm when it was acquired by HP.

TouchPad weighs about 1.5 pounds (0.7 kilograms) and has a 9.7-inch (24.6 centimeter) display — the same weight and screen size as the iPad.

The tablet is built with a Qualcomm processor that is “screaming fast,” according to Rubinstein. HP did not disclose the price.

TouchPad software is crafted for easy multi-tasking and supports Adobe Flash software commonly used in online video. The tablet also features a camera for video calling.

The iPad does not run Flash or have a camera.

“This product has a chance to beat RIM (BlackBerry maker Research In Motion) and any individual Android tablet, but not Apple,” Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said of the TouchPad. “Consumers will consider the TouchPad, and then buy an iPad.”

The TouchPad is likely to win over application developers because it should be relatively easy to convert software crafted for iPads and HP will allow freedom when it comes to making money from “apps,” the analyst added.

Forrester predicted that more than 24 million tablets, most of them iPads, will be sold in the United States this year.

TouchPad launch partners will include digital magazine publishers such as Time Inc. and electronic book giant Amazon.

“We are making this a great platform for reading books by partnering with Amazon on Kindle software,” Rubinstein said.

WebOS strengths included multi-tasking capabilities that allow for someone to pause while reading an e-book to take a video call, search out a Web page and print wirelessly to an HP printer.

“All other tablets seem limited in what they can do and when they can do it, but with the TouchPad you can do it all at the same time,” said DreamWorks film studio chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.

DreamWorks has worked closely with HP on collaboration and animation systems and gear for a decade.

HP plans to use its global resources to back the TouchPad along with an entire webOS “ecosystem” consisting of soon-to-be-released Veer and Pre 3 smartphones and a line of personal computers built on the platform.

HP declined to provide more details regarding whether its personal computers would be running expressly on webOS in a direct challenge to machines based on the Windows operating systems made by longtime partner Microsoft.

The California-based computer titan is putting “meaningful talent and significant resources” into webOS, according to Todd Bradley, executive vice president of the personal systems group at HP.

HP estimated that the market for gadgets linked to the Internet is $160 billion and “growing fast.”

Source: Yahoo! / AFP

Windows 8 coming soon, to a computer near you

Just as you were getting comfortable with Windows 7, it looks like Windows 8 is coming in the next two years. In a post celebrating the one-year anniversary of Windows 7 — the fastest selling OS in history — Microsoft’s Dutch Web site briefly mentioned the construction and release of its successor:

Microsoft is on course for the next version of Windows. But it will take about two years before ‘Windows 8’ on the market.” Winrumors.com grabbed and translated the post, and CNET took a screenshot of the text, which unsurprisingly disappeared shortly after the news stole headlines. Now Microsoft is back to being tight-lipped about Windows 8 and its expected release.

Reports from last year suggested Microsoft was building a 128-bit version of its OS, which could very likely be Windows 8. More recently, NetworkWorld acquired more than 15 confidential slide decks detailing possible additions, including body-sensing features similar to the Xbox Kinect, a desktop app store like Apple’s forthcoming Mac App Store, near-instant CPU booting, and a focus on powering tablets.

But most importantly, by the time Windows 8 supposedly drops, Microsoft is going to have Apple’s latest OS to contend with. Apple just gave a sneak peek of Mac OS X Lion — called a marriage of OS X and Apple’s mobile iOS — that includes some drool-inducing features like a desktop app store, advanced multitouch gestures, and more.

Source: Tech&Fun

Qualcomm raises outlook as mobile chip sales jump

Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) raised its forecasts for second-quarter and 2011 revenue as sales of its chips for wireless devices accelerate in China and India, and its shares rose 6 percent.

The company, whose chips are used by mobile device makers including Apple (AAPL.O) and HTC (2498.TW), raised its forecast for fiscal 2011 revenue by $1.2 billion, far surpassing Wall Street’s estimate.

The San Diego-based company has said it expected to boost revenue and earnings per share by at least 10 percent a year over the next five years on the back of accelerating demand for chips in smartphones and tablet computers.

“Not only was their quarter much better than expected but guidance for next quarter is even better,” said Charter Equity Research analyst Ed Snyder. “All the suffering of a year ago has paid off in much bigger design wins, and now those are all coming to fruition.”

Qualcomm vies with the likes of Texas Instruments (TXN.N) and Nvidia (NVDA.O) in supplying chips for smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices, sales of which have boomed as consumers rapidly adopt mobile gadgets, sometimes in place of desktop.

Executives told analysts on a conference call that the company’s dual-core chip designs will begin to ramp up later in the fiscal first half of 2011 across “multiple manufacturers” and that mobile devices will increasingly use the latest LTE high-speed wireless technology.

“In the second half of the (fiscal) year, and even the quarter we’re in, you’re seeing increased demand coming out of India and China,” Executive Vice President Steve Mollenkopf told Reuters.

The jump in Qualcomm’s fiscal 2011 forecast is based on expecting $650 million more from its chipset business and $550 million from its licensing, including the recent resolution of a licensing dispute.

TOOTH AND NAIL

The increasing popularity of smartphones using high-performance processors has helped boost average selling prices for Qualcomm’s products, although analysts warn that could slow as competition increases.

“Even though Qualcomm is an incumbent player, with this whole transition from (cell)phones to smartphones and new product categories, they’re still being very competitive,” said Roth Capital Partners analyst Arnab Chanda.

Verizon Wireless is set to start selling a new version of Apple’s popular iPhone 4 in early February that is expected to include a key chip made by Qualcomm.

Qualcomm faces fierce competition from smaller rival Nvidia in getting its processors into upcoming tablets running Google’s (GOOG.O) Android operating system.

Demonstrating its determination to become a major player in smartphones and tablet computers, Qualcomm this month said it would buy Atheros Communications Inc (ATHR.O), a major producer of chips used in WiFi, bluetooth and ethernet networking, for roughly $3.2 billion in cash.

Qualcomm expects revenue for the current, fiscal second quarter to rise to between $3.45 billion and $3.75 billion, above the $3.1 billion expected by analysts. It projected earnings per share of between 77 cents and 81 cents, also outpacing the Street’s target of 68 cents.

Qualcomm revenue rose to $3.35 billion in the December quarter, up 25 percent from the year-ago quarter. That was above analysts’ average estimate of $3.2 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

It said fiscal 2011 revenue would be between $13.6 billion to $14.2 billion, surpassing Wall Street’s estimate of $12.8 billion.

It posted net income of $1.17 billion for the first quarter ended December 26, up 39 percent from a year earlier. Excluding items, Qualcomm earned 82 cents per share, up 32 percent year over last year.

Shares of the company rose to $55 after closing up 0.66 percent at $51.86 on the Nasdaq.

Source: Reuters / Yahoo!