Saturday, August 18, 2012

Travel” is easy with a global Internet... And there is always someone somewhere who makes stealing personal information easy.
500K Credit Cards Stolen in Australian Point-of-Sale Hack
Police in Australia are investigating a breach of half a million credit card numbers that reports say was conducted by the same gang that struck the Subway restaurant chain in the United States.
The intrusion occurred at an unidentified merchant in Australia and is being blamed on Eastern European hackers who installed keystroke-logging software on point-of-sale terminals (POS) and siphoned card data from the terminals remotely, according to SC Magazine.
The company’s network used default passwords and stored unsecured transactional data. The gang allegedly used an unsecured Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connection to transmit the data.
“The network was setup by some local suppliers who didn’t understand IT security,” Det. Sup. Marden told the magazine. “It was a disaster waiting to happen.”
The hackers are believed to be members of the same Romanian group that was responsible for hacking 150 Subway sandwich shops and other unnamed retailers in the U.S.

Script kiddies, but nasty ones.
Shamoon virus targets energy sector infrastructure
The attack, known as Shamoon, is said to have hit "at least one organisation" in the sector.
Shamoon is capable of wiping files and rendering several computers on a network unusable.
… Experts said the threat was known to have had hit "at least one organisation" in the energy sector.
"It is a destructive malware that corrupts files on a compromised computer and overwrites the MBR (Master Boot Record) [Now that's just rude Bob] in an effort to render a computer unusable," wrote security firm Symantec.
The attack was designed to penetrate a computer through the internet, before targeting other machines on the same network that were not directly connected to the internet.
Once infected, the machines' data is wiped. A list of the wiped files then sent back to the initially infected computer, and in turn passed on to the attacker's command-and-control centre.
During this process, the attack replaces the deleted files with JPEG images - obstructing any potential file recovery by the victim. [Nothing special about this, just overwriting to ensure deletion? Bob]

Because workers who follow law, regulation and proper procedure may still have negative political implications for the current incumbent?
Stepped-up computer monitoring of federal workers worries privacy advocates
… Government workers have long known their bosses can look over their shoulder to monitor their computer activity. But now, prompted by the WikiLeaks scandal and concerns over unauthorized disclosures, the government is secretly capturing a far richer, more granular picture of their communications, in real time.
Federal workers’ personal computers are also increasingly seen as fair game, experts said.
… “It used to be, to get all of an agency’s records out you needed a truck,” said Jason Radgowsky, director of information security and privacy for District-based Tantus Technologies, which evaluates monitoring systems for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Export-Import Bank and the National Institutes of Health. “Now you can put everything on a little USB thumb drive.”
The stepped-up monitoring is raising red flags for privacy advocates, who have cited the potential for abuse. Among other concerns, they say they are alarmed that the government has monitored federal workers — including the FDA scientists, starting in 2010 — when they use Gmail, Yahoo or other personal e-mail accounts on government computers.

In my (admittedly biased) opinion, a good chunk of any settlement should go to an independent entity who analyzes what went wrong technically and legally and publishes a “Lessons Learned” (actually a “Don't make this stupid mistake”) article.
Facebook privacy settlement rejected in “sponsored stories” lawsuit
August 18, 2012 by Dissent
Dan Levine of Reuters reports:
A U.S. judge rejected Facebook Inc’s proposed legal settlement to resolve allegations that the social networking company violated its members’ rights through the its ‘Sponsored Stories’ advertising feature.
In an order on Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco listed several concerns with the proposed settlement, including a request for more information on why the agreement does not award any money to members.
Read more on The Los Angeles Times.
David Kravets of Threat Level blogs about the order and has uploaded a copy of it.
Amazing what can happen when a judge actually thinks about whether a deal worked out by attorneys really benefits the consumers. This settlement had seemed like a “done deal” and then it blew up. It will be interesting to see what the attorneys come back with in response.

This is new to me, is this occurring anywhere else? When everyone has a cell phone, you could start a panic this way.
"Following mass exodus of people belonging to north-east states India from southern states of India, specially Bangalore, allegedly due to the threatening messages, the government has asked relevant agencies to scan all social media platforms to check for inflammatory and offensive content, following which, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DIT) has issued an advisory to all intermediaries in terms of provisions of IT Act and Rules to take action for disabling all such content on priority. Cellphone operators have been told to block all bulk SMSs and videosso nobody can send a message to more than five people at a time."

Nothing chills rational debate faster than playing the religion card.
Are biometric ID tools evil?
August 18, 2012 by Dissent
Mike Elgan writes:
Moss Bluff Elementary School in Lake Charles, La., wanted to speed up the cafeteria line and reduce errors in lunch accounting. So the school bought a Fujitsu PalmSecure biometric ID system, which has a scanner that reads the unique patterns of blood vessels in a human palm, enabling a positive ID, much like a fingerprint would.
When school officials sent out a letter announcing the program, some parents freaked out.
The parents had concerns centering around the belief that all forms of biometric ID constitute what the Christian Bible calls “the mark of the beast.”
Wait, what?
Read more on Computerworld.

Is “crack use” spreading or is there real substance here?
Google Files New Patent Lawsuit Against Apple, Seeks To Block iPhone, iPad & Mac Imports To U.S.

Perhaps not fully backed by irrefutable scientific evidence, but a very useful conceptual approach that all geeks and managers should understand.
If you're sick of the term "cloud" to refer to pretty much anything on "the internet" and consider that phrase a symptom of useless MBA, PHB, PowerPoint talking points oozing where they don't belong, sorry — you'll probably have to endure it for a while yet. Nerval's Lobster writes that Gartner's 2012 Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies says that "Cloud computing" (along with a few other terms, such as "Near Field Communication" and "media tablets") is not just alive but growing.
"Gartner uses the report to monitor the rise, maturity and decline of certain terms and concepts, the better for corporate strategists and planners to predict how things will trend over the next few months or years. As part of the report, Gartner's analysts have built a Hype Cycle which positions technologies on a graph tracing their rise, overexposure, inevitable fall, and eventual rehabilitation as quiet, productive, well-integrated, thoroughly un-buzz-worthy technologies. Right now, Gartner views hybrid cloud computing, Big Data, crowdsourcing, and the 'Internet of Things' as on the rise, while private cloud computing, social analytics and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon are coasting at the Peak of Inflated Expectations."

Sure to be over-analyzed...
Marissa Mayer’s First 30 Days
… As a former Yahoo myself, it will be interesting to see what happens to the beleaguered company when a product-driven, consumer-focused CEO is running the show. I, for one, can’t wait to meet her at Disrupt SF. I also look forward to the day when Marissa finally resolves the decade-old question – “Is Yahoo a technology or a media company?” Because she’s already banned, “What is Yahoo?”

A cautionary tale for my Computer Security students.
Mat Honan: How I Resurrected My Digital Life After an Epic Hacking

Just in case I don't confuse my students enough...
August 17, 2012
Google "I'm Feeling Lucky Search" Expands to Include New Functions
Hover your cursor over the I'm Feeling Lucky button on the Google search engine, and watch the revolving set of choices - and choose, and choose from among one of the following destinations/functions/features that spin by: I’m feeling Doodly; I’m feeling Lucky; I’m feeling Playful; I’m feeling Artistic; I’m feeling Hungry; I’m feeling Puzzled; I’m feeling Trendy; I’m Feeling Stellar; I’m Feeling Wonderful.

As a fan of “hard” Science Fiction rather than the Swords & Sorcerer stuff, I find this reassuring.
The Hunger Games’ Trumps ‘Harry Potter’ As Amazon’s Best Selling Series Inc announced Friday that the bow-and-arrow-wielding Katniss Everdeen has defeated the boy wizard Harry Potter, with “The Hunger Games” trilogy outselling the seven-book Harry Potter series.
… This achievement includes e-book formats as well as print sales.
“Interestingly, this series is only three books versus Harry Potter’s seven, and to achieve this result in just four years is a great testament to both the popularity of the work and, we think, the growth in reading digitally during that time,” she said.
… In July, Scholastic, who publishes both series, announced that they have more than 50 million copies of the original three books in The Hunger Games trilogy in print and digital formats in the U.S. Amazon declined to comment on how many copies it has sold.
Surpassing J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, Amazon UK announced last week that E.L. James, author of the “Fifty Shades” erotic trilogy, has become the best-selling author in history on British [That pretty much defines the fall of the British Empire... Bob]

(Related) Is there hope for future generations?
August 16, 2012
Report - 2012 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics & Buying Behaviors
Via GOOD Education - Generation Read: Millennials Buy More Books Than Everybody Else: "Forget the stereotype of the tweeting, texting, YouTube-watching millennial with a short attention span. According to the 2012 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review, if you were born between 1979 and 1989, you spent more money on books in 2011 than older Americans. The survey found that millennials now buy 30 percent of books. In comparison, baby boomers, who have far more disposable income than most millennials, only made 24 percent of book purchases."
  • 2012 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics & Buying Behaviors - from the Summary - "Publishers, online bookstores, and companies that manufacture e-readers have high expectations for the ‘digital book’ industry. A new generation of digital reading devices may, at last, be achieving the long-awaited breakthrough that lures book consumers away from print books. It is now easy for book consumers to purchase a wide variety of books whenever they want and at competitive prices. While some herald the advent of e-books as an opportunity to open new target markets and create customers, others mourn the end of traditional books and doubt the industry will be able to retain control over pricing and content. The digitizing of the printed word further allows authors to map out their own route to publication, bypassing the traditional publisher and instead choosing to self-publish, self-manage and self-promote."

It's like an epidemic of crazed shoppers...
See How Quickly Walmart Took Over America
Take a look at this animated GIF map by Excel Hero that illustrates the wildfire-like spread of Walmart stores that led to its domination of the United States.

One of those, “I wonder what that means” articles...
Fewer and Fewer People Want to Know About Computers, Says Google
Bouncing around Google's trend data, I came across what to me is a very sad looking chart. It's the search volume for a basket of computer and electronics related terms (e.g. "windows, mac, hp, ipod, google, dell, sony, xbox").
We see some seasonality around the holidays, as you would expect, but the dominant trend is DOWN. Every year since Google started tracking this information in 2004, the number of people trying to find information about computers has marched ever downwards. Of course, that could just mean that people understand their machines better or that the machines themselves are good enough that people don't need to look things up about them as often. Or perhaps people have settled into their brand preferences and don't comparison shop like we used to in the old Computer Shopper days.
But whatever the reasons -- and with a trend this big and long, it's almost certainly many reasons -- the number of people interested enough to Google things about desktops, laptops, and other electronics has been halved since 2004.

Well, I find it interesting...
...New digital textbooks, many of which are free and openly-licensed, are on store shelves (app shelves?) and/or coming soon from Garden Valley State University (calculus), Kansas State University (nutrition), 20MM and Highlighter (sociology), and Georgia College (ed-tech).
...The state of Nebraska is building its own virtual library system for schools.
...An animation teacher at the Art Institute of California is facing firing due to his refusal to make his students buy a textbook.
...Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has released a new report detailing the relationship between job gains and education level immediately before and after this recent recession, and the differences between those with and without college degrees are pretty stark. According to a headline in The Atlantic this proves “beyond a doubt the value of a college degree.”

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