31 December, 2003

Net blackmailers scout for easy prey

London, Dec. 29 (Reuters): Cyber blackmail artists are shaking down office workers, threatening to delete computer files or install pornographic images on their work PCs unless they pay a ransom, police and security experts said.

The extortion scam, which is believed to have surfaced a year ago, indiscriminately targets anyone on the corporate ladder with a PC connected to the Internet.

It usually starts with a threatening e-mail in which the author claims to have the power to take over a worker’s computer through an exploit in the corporate network, experts said. The e-mail typically contains a demand that unless a small fee is paid — at first no more than $20 or $30 — they will attack the PC with a file-wiping programme or download onto the machine images of child pornography.

“They prey on the nice secretary who wouldn’t do anything wrong. When she gets one of these e-mails she thinks ‘Oh, my goodness what am I going to do?’ So she puts it on her credit card and transfers the funds to the (suspect’s online bank) account and hopes it goes away,” a British detective specialising in cyber-crime said.

The officer advised against cooperating with the fraudsters. “If a person pays up, say it’s just 20 euros, then they have identified a soft target. They may come back for more, next time demanding more money.”

In the annals of cyber-crime, investigators acknowledge the racket is one of the most difficult to crack. Because the ransom is small, people tend to pay up and keep quiet.

Police said the number of cases is tailing off but because it so often goes unreported, there is little evidence the crime is actually in decline.

According to Finnish computer security firm, F-Secure, a large Scandinavian university was hit earlier this month.

Several university officials received an e-mail from a fraudster who appeared to be based in Estonia, said F-Secure research manager Mikko Hypponen.

The e-mail said several security vulnerabilities had been detected on the university’s network and that unless the e-mail recipient transferred 20 euros ($25) to the author’s online bank account, he would release a series of viruses capable of deleting a host of computer files.

Hypponen said he advised the university to take the necessary precautions, alert police and not pay. “A lot of these cases are simply bluffing. But I’m sure there are both bluffs and actual cases,” said Hypponen. Police say crime gangs have turned cyber extortion into a tidy business of late.

A preferred tool is the crude, but effective denial-of-service attack on a company’s network, capable of crippling it with an overwhelming flood of data. There are scores of cases of companies — particularly small and medium-sized firms — receiving extortion threats that demand the victim transfer money to the fraudster’s bank account or the attacks will grow in severity, police said.

Fraudsters also send out streams of menacing e-mails with hollow threats of cyber sabotage. The scam works even if only a handful of the countless recipients follow through and pay up.

“It’s getting simpler,” said Hypponen. “If you wanted to extort money from a small company you would have had to hack them and convince them you have stolen their information. Here, you don’t have to do anything but send an e-mail around.”

The Telegraph - Archives
ZDNet India : Communication breakdown threatens VoIP in the U.S.:
"As cable and telephone companies begin offering Net telephony services to U.S. consumers in earnest, complications on the back end threaten to crimp cost savings for providers and ultimately dampen expectations for the much-hyped technology. "

Currently, about 11 percent of all phone calls use VoIP at some point in the connection, with some analysts forecasting a US$10 billion a year business for broadband providers selling a majority of the world's phone calls. Most of this VoIP shuttling takes place in delivering international calls, through IP network providers such as iBasis and ITXC. Calls are handed off to traditional circuit-switched networks at either end, but make long-distance jumps using cheaper packet switching, or IP, technology.
ZDNet India : The end of BIOS:

"Intel and Microsoft are gearing up to move toward the first major overhaul of the innermost workings of the personal computer--the boundary where software and hardware meet--during 2004. "

EFI for dummies
The EFI specification is essentially a preboot environment that allows a PC to conduct activities such as scanning for viruses or running diagnostics. Intel has used EFI to create a preboot software framework that can supplant the BIOS. The framework, called Platform Innovation Framework for EFI and sometimes referred to by the code name Tiano, allows PC makers to write preboot software modules, which are similar to Windows drivers, designed to get a PC's hardware up and running before handing off control of it to the operating system.

27 December, 2003

ZDNet India : Computers may get tax breaks in Budget

Cut Customs duty to 20 percent from the peak rate of 35 percent ...
Bring down the overall tax incidence on PCs from the current 40 percent ...
Reduce Customs duty on capital goods and raw materials to zero...
Push states to cut sales tax to 4 percent...

15 December, 2003

ZDNet India : Google comes to India:

"Google, the Internet search king, is homing in on Bangalore for its first research and development centre outside the US. The centre is slated to open in March and will initially employ about 100 engineers, the Mountain View, California-based company announced on Thursday. "

10 December, 2003

ZDNet India : Sobig blamed for fourfold rise in spam

The amount of spam email has increased by a factor of four during the past year, according to email-security company MessageLabs - and the Sobig virus is being blamed.

The amount of spam moving around the Internet has increased from one spam in every eleven emails at the end of 2002 to one spam in every 2.5 emails today; a more than fourfold increase.

02 December, 2003

ZDNet India : M'sian pirates tout Longhorn:

"Malaysia's pirates have struck again: Two years before the official release of the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, copies have appeared in the country's markets priced at US$1.58. "
ZDNet India : Life after Moore's Law

Moore's Law, as chip manufacturers generally refer to it today, is coming to an end, according to a recent research paper. Manufacturers will be able to produce chips on the 16-nanometer manufacturing process, expected by conservative estimates to arrive in 2018, and maybe one or two manufacturing processes after that, but that's it.

.... When current flows from the source to the drain, a computer reads this as a "1." When current is not flowing, the transistor is read as a "0." Millions of these actions together produce the data inside PCs. Strict control of the gate and channel region, therefore, are necessary to produce reliable results.

When the length of the gate gets below 5 nanometers, however, tunneling will begin to occur. Electrons will simply pass through the channel on their own, because the source and the drain will be extremely close....

01 December, 2003

ZDNet India : Craving for 'clicks' bogs down search:

Hackers and mainstream Internet companies are beginning to take extreme measures to grab Web search "clicks"--sowing confusion for consumers and posing new challenges for search providers.

"Security consultants last week discovered a Trojan horse called QHosts that changed browser domain name system (DNS) settings to redirect visitors to Web sites, including Google.com, to an alternate search site laced with ads."

14 November, 2003

ZDNet India : Kazaa to sell Bollywood films

Sharman Networks, makers of the popular Kazaa peer-to-peer (p2p) software, will sell a feature-length Bollywood movie through its service.

The Bollywood thriller Supari will be offered for sale at US$2.99 a pop after a deal was struck between Sharman Networks partner Altnet Networks, a p2p content provider, and Bollywood film maker Aum Creates. Kazaa users will also be able to purchase music files from the movie for US$0.90 each.

05 November, 2003

ZDNet India : Java vs .Net: battleground India
A very good article comparing the two technologies...

01 November, 2003

E-mail virus surfaces turning PCs into spam machines:
A new e-mail virus capable of turning infected personal computers into "spamming" machines emerged on Friday targeting corporate and home users in Europe and the United States, a computer security expert said.

"The virus installs an SMTP, or simple mail transfer protocol, programme on an infected PC that turns the computer into a type of e-mail computer server capable of sending out torrents of virus-infected messages, Genes said. "

28 October, 2003

Hackers get novel defense; the computer did it:
"Aaron Caffrey, 19, was acquitted earlier this month in the United Kingdom on charges of hacking into the computer system of the Houston Pilots, an independent contractor for the Port of Houston, in September 2001.

Caffrey had been charged with breaking into the system and crippling the server that provides scheduling information for all ships entering the world's sixth-largest port.

Although authorities traced the hack back to Caffrey's computer, he said that someone must have remotely planted a program, called a 'trojan,' onto his computer that did the hacking and that could have been programmed to self destruct. "

21 October, 2003

Device that lets a soldier see the unseen
A researcher here has claimed to have developed a device which will help soldiers in a battlefield see pictures of what's on the other side of a hill, forest, or a jungle.....

....The two-pound six-inch-long device made from off-the-shelf parts such as digital camera components, would be used in weapons like mortars that launch shells high in the air. Far above the battlefield, a separation charge opens a parachute, and the surveillance device floats down, transmitting digital images as it descends.......
Soon water will charge your mobile phones!

Wondering how? Well, engineering researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered a new way of generating electricity from flowing water.

It may soon be possible to never have to charge up a cellular phone again, instead, the phone could be fitted with a battery that uses pressurized water.

17 October, 2003

Inside track on Pak Hackers

They’re still in their rebellious teens and already are a part of the ‘elite’ group of hackers. Khalid Hussain from Karachi explores the seamy world of the Pakistan hackers whose favourite targets obviously are Indian sites
Doing business in China @ the speed of dumb

..........Ah, here we go. This article looks like it could be promising. It’s a presentation that Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and his billionaire buddy Warren Buffett gave to business school students at the University of Washington.

Ho ho! I think we might be on to something here. Just listen to how Gates described Microsoft’s strategy in China:

“Although about three million computers get sold every year in China, people don't pay for the software. Someday they will, though. And as long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.......

14 October, 2003

ZDNet India : The future of talking computers:

"A future in which conversational computers predominate has been a staple of computer science chit-chat since the 1940s, when Alan Turing set out to build a machine that would respond like a human to typed messages. "

13 October, 2003

IBM unveils giant computing grid in China:

The grid's computing power is expected to be second only to the Japanese government's Earth Simulator supercomputer, a $500 million machine that crunches more than 35 trillion calculations per second, it said.

IBM's system, which runs on the open-source Linux software, will link nearly 100 universities and 10,000 students in China when it is completed, it said.
"IBM unveils giant computing grid in China"
ZDNet India : Drawing on software storyboard, desi animation set to go places

"In his introduction to a recent report on the animation industry, National Association of Software & Services Companies (NASSCOM) president Kiran Karnik listed four reasons as to why India is important in the animation sector. According to Karnik, Indian companies offer certain intrinsic advantages. These include a substantial base of skilled, English-speaking animators; availability of at least 12 animation studios with hardware, software and communication infrastructure; low cost of animation production; and India's vast entertainment industry. "

15 September, 2003

Flying cellphones can spell disaster!

Sydney, Sept 15 (ANI): Ringing cellphones in the air can spell disaster, according to a study conducted by British Civil Aviation Authority.

According to a report in The Australian, the study reveals that mobile phones and other electronic devices can significantly interfere with a plane's navigational equipment.

Interference from portable electronic devices and mobile phones has resulted in more than 100 air safety incidents in the past 10 years, according to the Australian Air Transport Safety Bureau.

In one incident last year, pilots on a NSW flight got concerned when the plane started rocking slightly from side to side while under the control of the autopilot. The cabin crew discovered that a passenger was using a lap-top computer, which when turned off, solved all problems.

A British study, involving the use of mobile phones on passenger-less flights, found that electrical equipment could cause compass freeze, navigation instrument errors, communication interference and false warning reports.

It is a Civil Aviation Safety Authority requirement that airlines ban the use of mobile phones and other equipment such as lap-top computers during flights. Officials have now issued a fresh warning to Australian airlines and passengers stressing the fatal consequences of such an act. (ANI)

-Yahoo News.

09 September, 2003

22 August, 2003

India's trains to offer broadband access

Passengers on India's railways may be the first in the to world to enjoy broadband access from a moving train.

According to a report in the news daily The Hindustan Times, Railtel Corporation of India, the communication arm of the Indian Railways, is planning to experiment with high-speed Internet access from train cabins later this year.
Crucial to the venture will be 40,000 km of fiber optic cable laid by Railtel around the country, which will provide a communications link not just for trains, but also provide cyber cafi access in stations and allow rural villagers access to services such as e-government, tele-education and telemedicine applications, said the report.

Trains are a vital form of transport in India, providing an affordable means of transport for both the poor and the middle class. India's railway infrastructure extends deeply into its rural areas and carries the most passenger traffic in the world.

Railway Minister Nitish Kumar said if the first train station cyber cafes were successful, then they could be built in all train stations in the country.

The first cafi, launched at New Delhi Station, has facilities for web browsing, e-mailing, games, Internet telephony, scanning, printing, photocopying, faxing and video-conferencing, according to Delhi Newsline news sites.

Rail operators in the U.K., which also has a widely used railway network, have been considering offering Wi-Fi access in carriages. However, the technical problem of getting a signal into and out of a moving train is proving to be too expensive an obstacle to overcome, according to a report in ZDNet U.K.

time to switch to linux .....
ZDNet India : Linux trails Windows XP slightly in usability: Study