Latest Tech Posts

“Operation Shady RAT”: Worldwide Cyber-spying

computer hacker steal password“Operation Shady Rat”.  The name alone already sounds suspicious.  That is the name of the five year operation to infiltrate various companies and governmental agencies for the purpose of deriving information for differing political ends.

The operation was more about infiltration and less about malicious cyber-attacks.  It was organized by a collaboration of hacking agencies, some of them pointing directly to China.

The corporations and organizations that were hacked include the Associated Press, International Olympic Committee, the United Nations secretariat, various U.S. defense firms and a U.S. Energy Department lab.  McAfee discovered the network intrusions and formally offered their discoveries in a report.

The reason China is being painted as the main perpetrator in this is not only because they are repeat offenders of this sort of action, but also because the McAfee report indicated the target list’s focus was on Taiwan and on Olympic organizations leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Operation Shady RAT (remote access tool) sought to retrieve data on U.S. military systems, satellite communications, gas companies etc. Forty-nine of the 72 companies that were infiltrated were in the United States.

This gets me very upset for two reasons.  One, I am an American.  Two, this is not the first time I have had to report about negligible behavior by the Chinese.  China targets the West and the United States rigorously, yet no penalty has ever been enforced to curtail the practice, and no accountability has been taken by China.  Every report that has pointed to China for their Internet criminality has been written off as some sort of political propaganda–as some sort of tale to single China out.

Beijing’s newspapers often portray this victim point of view, while in fact their are mountains of empirical evidence showing that the cyberattacks came out of various cities in China.  They are only sorry that they got caught.  You cannot claim you are being singled out when facts show you are the ones partaking in the criminal activity.

The unfortunate realization of the McAfee report is that such actions continue to happen, and are happening more and more often.  The amount of cyber-spying going on worldwide is a major factor that is now central to United States national security.  Several industries have come out reporting on varying infiltrations, however most are not.  This indicates a massive amount of cyber attacks that are going on unreported.  The problem is a lot more serious than it seems.       

Apple iCloud Fees Released

computer fast laptop womanApple released the beta version of the iCloud on Monday.

In the release, those fortunate enough to have received a copy get to participate in a highly anticipated service, for FREE.

Those lucky few beta users are providing the details on the service to the public. We, unfortunately will have to wait their turn to get a hands-on experience.  The beta release will provide 5GB of iCloud storage.  According to various reports, the cost of the service will vary in the amount of GBs a user wants.  $20 per year for 15 GB total, $40 per year for 25 GB total, or $100 per year to store 55 GB total

The Apple iCloud media storage service has been brewing excitement dating all the way back to its earliest statements on potential designs and functions.

Apple hopes to change the way we store media–on their servers, on the Internet, a long ways away from the ever-shrinking storage space on our various day to day devices.

The concept of Cloud technology has been around for a while.  Amazon actually may have been the most popular cloud service available.  However, Apple’s difference from Amazon will be its greatest asset–having successfully garnered the participation of major music labels and Hollywood Studios.  This will give Apple more freedoms, more media and more profit from their closest competitors.  Should be an exciting time for Apple fanatics.       

ITC Will Rule Over Apple’s Lawsuit Against Samsung Patent Infringement

apple in newsThe International Trade Commission (ITC) decided to take up Apple’s lawsuit against South Korean technology company, Samsung, for alleged patent infringements today.

According to Apple, several of Samsung’s smartphones and tablet devices are using  components and functions that Apple owns the rights to.  They requested that Samsung refrain from releasing their Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the United States and abroad until a model has been given to their legal team to investigate.

In fact, Apple is not only filing suit against Samsung in the United States alone, but also trying to attack them in their foreign markets.  Logic would dictate that Apple wants to insure Samsung isn’t selling their intellectual properties in markets they have yet to be tried in.

International Trade Commission Press Statement:

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to institute an investigation of certain electronic digital media devices and components thereof. The products at issue in this investigation include mobile phone handsets and tablet computers, in addition to components such as software, touchpads, and hardware interfaces.

The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Apple Inc. of Cupertino, CA, on July 5, 2011. The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain electronic digital media devices and components thereof that infringe patents asserted by Apple. The complainant requests that the USITC issue an exclusion order and cease and desist orders.

This Isn’t Apple’s First Go-round

The ITC has had their hands full with Apple’s patent infringement cases of late–ruling on cases against HTC, Samsung and various other smaller companies.  If anything, it proves that Apple’s strategy is to protect their intellectual property at all costs.  Sometimes, hurting your competitors in the courtroom can be as effective as on the open market–especially if it can be proven that they are in fact stealing information.       

Lulzsec Teen Jake Davis Released on Bail: Internet Ban

computer hacker mask keyboardJake Davis, the 18 year old, leading member of Lulzsec and Anonymous, was released on bail earlier today.  Part of the decision includes a temporary Internet ban–meant to prevent Mr. Davis from using the tool that he maliciously manipulated to hurt private individuals, companies and governmental entities.

“Topiary”, the hacker alias for Jake Davis, was charged with five offenses of the Computer Misuse Act in a London courtroom.

Mr. Davis’ lawyer insists that his client is innocent, claiming that although he may have been tied to the hactivist organizations, there is no proof that he has committed any wrongdoing.

As of right now, Jake Davis is under house arrest.  There is a serious curfew in place and no Internet access allowed.  Many of his comrades can expect the same treatment if they are caught.

Anonymous and Lulzsec have large followings on Twitter. Those accounts continue to grow in popularity.  Their actions have been reported incessantly over the past several months–particularly following cyberattacks to prominent organizations:  PayPal, Sony, Apple, Mastercard, Visa etc.

With the series of high profile attacks that continue to occur and the varying methods in which Social media platforms are manipulated to propagate those attacks, it appears as though cyber criminality is rapidly becoming a matter of public interest.  Information privacy, cyberattacks, hactivism and the like are ever more popular topics for civil and political debate.  It effects National Security, it effects the ability for private industries to protect consumers and ultimately effects the confidence individuals have in handing out their private information.       

HTC Files Suit Against Apple, Again

lawsuit court malletThe Taiwanese smartphone provider, HTC, has filed yet another lawsuit against their nemesis Apple.  The details of that lawsuit  have not yet been released.

HTC was dealt a blow earlier last month by Apple when the ITC (International Trade Commission) voted against the Taiwanese smartphone maker for patent infringements.  Spokesmen for HTC indicate that they intend to appeal that decision.

The case filed on July 29th, 2011–HTC Europe Co. v. Apple Inc., indicates that HTC is not planning on going down without a fight.  It appears that of late, the two companies have been battling more in courtroom than on the open market.  Who knows, that may very well be part of the strategy.

HTC pushed their competitive relationship with Apple even farther when they acknowledged their intentions to purchase S3 Graphics Co. for $300 million–claiming that it will provide needed legal protection for its products.  Interestingly enough, HTC released that statement no more than a week after S# Graphics Co. defeated Apple on an ITC ruling.       

Apple iPhone 5 to be Released in October

apple in newsApple plans to launch the brand new, highly anticipated iPhone 5 in October rather than September.

It was rumored for quite a while now that the release of the next generation iPhone will happen sometime in September. Unfortunately, these rumors are false. More reliable sources indicate that the release of the iPhone 5 will be sometime in October.

There has yet to be a hard deadline set for its release, while only the month and year of the launch has been confirmed.  Unfortunately for us Mac fans, we’ll have to wait a little longer before we can get our hands on the new iPhone 5.

For a long time, even the name of the device was unknown to the public.  That tends to be the trend with all news surrounding the next generation Apple iPhone–not much is at all known.  Very little information on the iPhone 5 has been released. The newest features and deepest dimensions of the device are known by only a small group of people.

Despite the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the iPhone 5, one can expect a final product planning to compete with Google and their successful Android smartphones, head-on.

To mimic some of Androids’ successes, dimensions on the iPhone 5 will have to expand–Android smartphones already sport some of the industry’s largest screens.  So, maybe a larger screen, slimmer margins, better interface etc. will be aspects of the new iPhone to be emphasized and unlike its predecessors.

As soon as more information is made available to the public regarding the Apple iPhone 5, one can rest assured that the improvements the smartphone will reveal will live up to the anticipation engulfing it.       

Facebook Launches Business Website: Spites Google+

facebook in newspeople throwing moneyIn a move that appears to spite Google+, Facebook has introduced a “Facebook for Business” platform that allows corporations to target some of their 750 million users.

Google+ recieved quite a bit of negative press following a decision to deactivate business accounts on their Google+ social networking platform.  Google claims that they will revisit the issue when their beta experiment is over.  However by then, it may be too late.

Coupled with the deactivation of Google+ accounts of members using pseudonyms or names with foreign characters, Google finds their social network’s growth slowing–figuring in a 3% drop from last week.  There couldn’t be a better time for Facebook to make this announcement.

Facebook’s business website provides corporations with another weapon to add to their ever-evolving marketing arsenal. One could argue that it could revolutionize the effectiveness of marketing–targeting audiences who genuinely would purchase their products–focusing on their interests, philosophies, activities and friends.

The ability to hone down marketing to an individual level seems rather SciFi.  In the movie “Minority Report”, an eyescan prompted a computer to bring up past purchases you bought and recommend certain products based on that history.  Facebook makes that reality appear little closer than anyone could have imagined.  Once Google+ jumps on board.  Who knows how quickly that future could become reality.

In a statement to Information Week, Facebook stated, “Businesses can learn how to find new customers before they search for them using Facebook’s targeted Ads, and bring customers from the Web into their stores. And we want to inspire small businesses by seeing how other businesses have found success on Facebook by sharing their stories”.

It appears that Facebook has once again taken the lead.  Other social sites should soon follow.  Could one call this a missed opportunity for Google+?  Not particularly.  But it should make their ability to build and retain members all that much more difficult.       

Anonymous Orders a PayPal Boycott

Hacking organization “Anonymous” is calling for a public boycott of PayPal.

The request is intended to combat the F.B.I.’s attempt to truncate hactivists’ messages through mass arrests and written or verbal warnings.

PayPal provides a service to various websites.  Some websites in particular are supported by hactivist groups–sometimes for their political stances, but more often because of the services they provide that hackers are in agreement with.  When the F.B.I. would request a cease and desist order against such sites, PayPal would subsequently cancel their services–aiming to limit those sites’ ability to raise money.

An example of such a case occurred with the abdication of Julian Assange from his website WikiLeaks.  PayPal quickly canceled their services–causing an outrage amongst the underground community and forcing some of them to act.  Anonymous is an example of one of those communities.  Anonymous sought to retaliate various shutdowns by federal entities through the organization of numerous boycotts.  PayPal was one of those boycotts.

A PayPal representative has indicated that though there have been a few account cancellations, it hasn’t been outside of the normal course of business.  Account registrations and cancellations are occurring at the same rate as before the call for boycott.

The statement released by Anonymous is as follows:

“Quite simply, we, the people, are disgusted with these injustices. We will not sit down and let ourselves be trampled upon by any corporation or government. We are not scared of you, and that is something for you to be scared of. We are not the terrorists here: you are”.       

British Police Detain Lulz Security Member

computer hacker mask keyboardBritish police claim to have arrested a 19 year old Lulz Security member who went under the alias “Topiary”.

The vigilante group he represented was responsible for a number of government and private security breaches that were highly publicized and notoriously polarizing.

The 19 year old man was arrested on the Shetland Islands off of Scotland.  His Twitter account often contained quotations debating the relevancy of arrests occurring around the world to Anonymous group members and to Lulz security members.  In one particular case he stated,  “You cannot arrest an idea”.  It is clear by this statement that he believed he was partaking in a form of hactivism.

Hactivism is a manner of protest that seems to be gaining in popularity.  These sort of attacks have been occurring frequently for quite some time.  However, with new advantages provided by social networking sites, many hacking organizations get an opportunity to propagate their beliefs.

Make no mistake, the practices such members use to deliver a message in protest to a governmental or private entity are illegal.  They sometimes involve the commonly known DDoS attacks–though there are examples of even more malicious cyber-attacks.

The primary argument repeated by Federal and International organizations is that there are many ways to legally protest.  Trying to justify illegal actions under the shield of protest or activism does not suffice.  The 16 arrests in the United States and the plethora of attacks occurring throughout Europe brings attention to that fact.  Those willing to partake in such actions have been warned that the consequences are real.       

Jumio Webcam Provides Credit Card “Swipe” from Home

For those of us who do most of their shopping online, we often get frustrated with having to input our credit card information prior to purchase.  Well, those days could be long gone with a new webcam by Jumio that reads the information off your card, and fills in all the necessary fields for you.

Using Netswipe technology, the Jumio webcam makes online purchasing easier through an easy “swiping” of your credit card.  Jumio is spearheaded by Facebook Co-founder Eduardo Saverin.  It is another start-up company hoping to change the field of e-commerce along with other burgeoning new consumer friendly services.

Daniel Mattes, founder and CEO of Jumio says, “At the end of the day, all you want is the Starbucks experience–you want to pay quickly by showing your card, and that’s it.  With our solution, we believe we’ve bridged the gap between these two different worlds. It’s so simple and easy for the user”.

Essentially that is the goal every online service hopes to enact for their customers.  An easier process that can be greater exploited by the customer and improve the efficiency and popularity of online services.  The Jumio webcam is a certifiable step forward in that regard.  All that it necessary now is for partners to join the enthusiasm and push forward with the promising new start-up.