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Monday, May 23, 2011

New malware revives Mac vs. Windows security debate

A new piece of malware has caused an uptick in Apple customers reporting infected machines, renewing a timeless debate on the state of Macintosh security versus Windows. The trojan horse is called Mac Defender. It's a web pop-up containing a spoof message that tells customers their machines are infected by a virus and they must install anti-virus software. If customers agree to install the software, the program sporadically loads porn websites on their computer.

The general consensus among security researchers is that there's nothing about the Mac that makes it inherently more secure than Windows -- indeed, the Mac platform has been easily penetrated in the Pwn2Own hacking contest in years past. But Windows has always been a juicier target for malicious hackers because it has much larger market share than the Mac.

As a result, when customers switch from a Windows to a Mac, they're often under the impression that they're switching to a more secure, sterile environment where they won't need to install expensive, resource-hogging anti-virus software. While it's not true that the Mac is more secure, theplatform is generally "safer" because fewer people target it, security researchers have told in the past.

Charlie Miller, a security researcher who has repeatedly won the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest by hacking Macs and iPhones, told he doesn't think so. Miller noted that Microsoft recently pointed out that 1 in 14 downloads on Windows are malicious. And the fact that there is just one piece of Mac malware being widely discussed illustrates how rare malware still is on the Mac platform, he said.

Though the conclusion is unclear, the moral of this story is to be wary that Mac malware is in the wild, and be cautious about installing sketchy software from unfamiliar sources. Mac Defender may be the first wake-up call for people who believed that Macs don't get viruses.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Streaming Netflix accounts for up to 30 percent of online traffic

People watching videos on Netflix take up more bandwidth on the Internet than users of any other Web site or service in North America, according to a report by broadband analytics firm Sandvine. Netflix accounted for 20 percent of Internet traffic just six months ago.

Combined, Netflix, YouTube and other online video sites create about 46 percent of all Internet downloads during peak hours, according to Sandvine. That shift has threa cable and telecom companies, who are responding by changing their billing practices to charge Internet users for how much data they consume instead of offering flat-rate monthly fees.

Netflix is concerned about Internet providers charging customers based on amount of usage. In letters to shareholders and in filings to regulators in Canada and at the Federal Communications Commission, Netflix chief Reed Hastings warned that metered billing, or usage-based pricing, could present a risk to its business.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

California Bill Would Force Change to Facebook Privacy Settings

A new bill proposed in California could force Facebook and other social networking sites to strip out personal information for children at a parent's request.

The the Social Networking Privacy Act -- would require Facebook and others to carefully police which pieces of information on individuals under age 18 are accessible to the public. It would also provide a means for concerned parents to demand that a site take down their children's information, or face stiff fines as high as $10,000.
Facebook which has wrestled with the issue of privacy over the years, isn't exactly happy with the bill.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

LimeWire to pay $105 million in music piracy settlement

Peer-to-peer software maker LimeWire's willingness to pay a whopping $105 million to settle music piracy claims marks a decisive, if somewhat symbolic, victory for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

LimeWire said on Thursday it will pay $105 million to settle claims by 13 recording companies that its P2P file sharing software was responsible for enabling billions, and potentially even trillions of dollars in damages.

The court ordered LimeWire to cease its file sharing operations last October. A jury was in the process of deciding an appropriate penalty when LimeWire made its settlement offer yesterday.
A recent report by The NPD Group, a market researcher, shows that the percentage of people in the U.S. using a P2P file-sharing service to download music has fallen from 16% in the fourth quarter of 2007 to around 9% after LimeWire ceased file sharing operations last fall.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Microsoft Buys Skype for $8.5 Billion

Microsoft agreed to buy Skype Technologies SA for $8.5 billion in cash to gain the world’s most popular Internet calling service and its 663 million customers. The takeover may help Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer attract Web users and narrow Googles lead in Internet advertising.

Microsoft offers voice chat services to consumers through its Windows Live Messenger software, and to corporate customers through its Lync collaboration platform Tightly-integrated Skype services could be an added selling point for Windows Phone 7, the mobile operating system Microsoft is promoting as a competitor to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, CCS’s Pescatore said.

Skype, which started as a way for consumers to chat for free online, is developing premium services such as group video calling and pursuing corporate accounts. Skype’s competitors include the fledgling Google Voice service and video chat client Fring.

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Anonymous: We didn't hack PlayStation Network

A letter purporting to represent the Anonymous hacking group claims the organization was not behind the PlayStation Network attack.

"If a legitimate and honest conducted, Anonymous will not be found liable," reads the letter, which was posted to the Web yesterday. "While we are a distributed and decentralized group, our 'leadership' does not condone credit card theft."

The letter is a response to accusations on Sony's part that Anonymous is responsible for last month's massive assault on its customer data.

"When Sony Online Entertainment discovered this past Sunday afternoon that data from its servers had been stolen, it also discovered that the intruders had planted a file named 'Anonymous' on one of those servers, a file containing the statement with the words 'We are Legion,'" Sony Computer Entertainment Chief Kazuo Hirai wrote in a letter to Congress.

Last month, Sony announced that the personal information of its 77 million PlayStation Network and Qriocity users was stolen in what it's now calling a "very carefully planned, very professional, highly sophisticated criminal cyberattack designed to steal personal and credit card information for illegal purposes."

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Monday, May 02, 2011

IE9 passes Opera in browser usage

Microsoft's browser continues to lose share of worldwide usage, but its new IE9 version managed to gain enough usage that new statistics show it surpassing one smaller rival, Opera.Internet Explorer 9 accounted for 2.41% of browser usage in April, its first full month on the market, according to Net Applications. Opera accounted for 2.14%. And IE overall dropped from 55.9% in March to 55.1%t in April.

Two browsers, Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari, outpaced the overall growth in Web usage. Chrome rose from 11.6 percent to 11.9%, while Safari grew from 6.6% to Mozilla's Firefox dipped from 21.8% to 21.6%. Mozilla has its bright spot, too: Firefox 4 accounted for 5.4% of usage overall, though it arrived later than IE9. It runs not just on older versions of Windows, notably Windows XP, but also on Mac OS X and Linux.

Windows, of course, is the dominant operating system used to browse the Web. In April, Windows XP, which can't run IE9 remained the most popular, with 53.2% of usage. Windows 7, in second place, surpassed 1 in 4 Windows users to reach 25.1%.

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