2/23/2008

Computer memory vulnerable to hacking

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Want to break into a computer’s encrypted hard drive? Just blast the machine’s memory chip with a burst of cold air.

That’s the conclusion of new research out of Princeton University demonstrating a novel, low-tech way hackers can access even the most well-protected computers, provided they have physical access to the machines.

The Princeton report shows how encryption, long considered a vital shield against hacker attacks, can be defeated by manipulating the way memory chips work. The researchers say the ease of their attack raises fears about the security of laptop computers increasingly used to store sensitive information, from personal banking data, to company trade secrets, to national security documents.

Freezing a dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chip, the most common type of memory chip in personal computers, causes it to retain data for minutes or even hours after the machine loses power, the report found. That data includes the keys to unlock encryption. Without freezing, the chip loses its contents within seconds.

Hackers can steal information stored in memory by rebooting the compromised machine with a simple program designed to copy the memory contents - before the computer has a chance to purge sensitive data, according to the study.

Laptops left in hibernation or sleep mode, or simply not turned off at all, are the most vulnerable to the new type of attack.

Suit Against Microsoft Over Windows Vista Capable

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A federal judge said Friday that consumers may go ahead with a class action lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. over the way it advertised computers loaded with Windows XP as capable of running the Vista operating system.

The lawsuit said Microsoft’s labeling of some PCs as “Windows Vista Capable” was misleading because many of those computers were not powerful enough to run all of Vista’s features, including the much-touted “Aero” user interface.

2/22/2008

Microsoft: Vista SP1 will break these programs

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft has published a list of programs that will not work or that will suffer from reduced functionality after the installation of Vista Service Pack 1.

The list of programs consists mostly of security applications, such as Trend Micro Internet Security 2008. However, programs such as The New York Times Reader application also feature on the list. Users are advised to install updates from the application vendor to fix the problem.

“Windows Vista Service Pack 1 contains many security, reliability, and feature updates for Windows Vista,” the company said. “A program may experience a loss of functionality after you install Windows Vista SP1. However, most programs will continue to work as expected after you install Windows Vista SP1.”

106mpg Air Car comes to U.S. by 2010

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A company named Zero Pollution Motors plans on bringing a car powered by air to the U.S. sometime in 2009 or 2010. The six pistons in the Air Car’s engine are pushed by compressed air rather than gasoline combustion, an idea developed by F1 race car engineer Guy Negre. The car carries a compressor, making it possible to fill its compressed air tank by plugging it into an electrical outlet. At low speeds, the engine is cranked solely by air from the tank. At high speeds, it uses gasoline to heat a chamber, giving the air pushing the pistons more pressure. In high speed mode, it also compresses air to put into the cylinders. According to its initial, estimated specifications, the Air Car will go 848 miles with an 8 gallon tank of gas. The size of the compressed air tank isn’t included in the specifications. Further, the car has a top speed of 96mph, with its powerplant putting out 75 horsepower. When traveling at low speeds, the car has zero emissions, while in high speed mode it has some emissions due to its use of gasoline.

Microsoft ups free online storage to 5GB

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

On Thursday, Microsoft removed the beta tag from the Windows Live SkyDrive service. More importantly, it upped the amount of free online storage to 5GB, giving users roughly the same amount of storage that comes on a new Eee PC. That’s up from a recent cap of 1GB.

The service allows for personal folders as well as ones that are shared with a select group of friends, or the public at large. Microsoft is also expanding the service to 38 countries or regions including large swaths of Europe, Central and South America, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Taiwan.

Malaysian bloggers warned being monitored

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A Malaysian government minister has accused bloggers, who have been writing avidly on upcoming elections, of being cowards and warned they are being monitored, a report said Friday.

Youth and Sports Minister Azalina Othman said opposition parties were using blogs to get their message out because they believed the Home Affairs Ministry was busy monitoring reports in the mainstream media, the Star daily said.

“They think they can get away with it but it is not the case as they too are being monitored,” she reportedly said, adding that bloggers were cowards and a nuisance to the ruling party.

Opposition parties have resorted to blogs, SMS messaging and YouTube in their campaign for the March 8 polls, to dodge a virtual blackout on mainstream media.

2/21/2008

Microsoft cuts Canadian Xbox 360 console prices

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft Corp announced late on Wednesday it will cut the prices of its Xbox 360 video-game consoles as it continues to battle Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3 for dominance of the gaming market.

Microsoft said it would cut the price of the Xbox 360 console to C$349 from C$399, while the premium Elite model with a larger hard drive would drop to C$449 from C$499. The more basic Arcade model is dropping to $279 from C$299.

Microsoft Opens Game Development

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday it will make Xbox 360 video games developed by players available for download through the console’s online service.

The new service will double the size of the Xbox 360 game library, to 1,000 games within a year of its launch, scheduled for this holiday season, the company said.

To distribute a game on the Xbox Live service, game creators must use Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio software, which requires a $99 per-year subscription, or be an XNA Creators Club member. Each game will be vetted for quality and appropriateness by the online community itself.

Creators Club members will be able to test a beta version starting this spring.

Google to Store Patients’ Health Records

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Google Inc. will begin storing the medical records of a few thousand people as it tests a long-awaited health service that’s likely to raise more concerns about the volume of sensitive information entrusted to the Internet search leader.

The pilot project to be announced Thursday will involve 1,500 to 10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic who volunteered to an electronic transfer of their personal health records so they can be retrieved through Google’s new service, which won’t be open to the general public.

Each health profile, including information about prescriptions, allergies and medical histories, will be protected by a password that’s also required to use other Google services such as e-mail and personalized search tools.

Google views its expansion into health records management as a logical extension because its search engine already processes millions of requests from people trying to find about more information about an injury, illness or recommended treatment.

But the health venture also will provide more fodder for privacy watchdogs who believe Google already knows too much about the interests and habits of its users as its computers log their search requests and store their e-mail discussions.

2/20/2008

AOL, Disney unveil new kids sites

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Online kids playgrounds are more popular than ever. Disney Online said Tuesday that it will add to its online services for children with a new virtual world called Pixie Hollow, based on fictional characters like Disney’s Tinkerbell and building on the site DisneyFairies.com. Similar to Disney’s Toontown and Club Penguin, the company’s newest virtual world will feature instant chat, games and tools to personal the environment. Disney did not specify when Pixie will launch, but it said that it will open the first phase later this year.

Also on Tuesday, AOL said that it will relaunch its kids site KOL with newly featured content from National Geographic Kids, among others. The new site will also let kids customize the page, sign up for a personal e-mail address and play as many as 100 games.

Redmond puts key Vista update on ice

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft has suspended distribution of one of the updates required for Vista service pack one (SP1), after customers complained that their PCs wouldn’t boot up properly once KB937287 had been applied.

The servicing stack update, which was pushed out to the Windows Update site last week, is an essential part of the Vista SP1 puzzle - without it, the operating system’s full service pack can’t be installed.

Despite Microsoft’s decision to hold the update back until its engineers fix the PC reboot error, Redmond insists that Vista SP1, which was released to manufacturing on 4 February and is already available to MSDN subscribers, will still be available for general consumption in mid-March as planned.

Microsoft product manager Nick White said last week that the pre-SP1 release of two final prerequisite updates, which included KB937287 and multi-component update KB938371, were “just one more example of how we’re continuing to actively invest in improving the Windows Vista experience through Windows Update”.

Mobiles on the moon? Nasa prepares trial for takeoff

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

After conquering the farthest corners of the globe, mobile phones are now destined for the final frontier - space.

Even in the cosmos there will be no escaping the ringtone as Nasa and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) prepare to trial a mobile phone network for the moon.

Astronauts and robots exploring the moon’s surface will only be a text message away after the system goes live later this century.

The satellite system should ensure a full four-bar signal for lunar colonists living in the base Nasa wants to build at the south pole of the moon after 2020.

The stellar vision of the mobile’s future even tops the effort that managed to get a text message to the top of Mount Everest.

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