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Phishing hits victims 'in minutes'

Written By andika jamanta on Rabu, 15 April 2015 | 23.58

In less than two minutes a phishing campaign will ensnare its first victim, found the report

It takes 82 seconds for cyber-thieves to ensnare the first victim of a phishing campaign, a report suggests.

Compiled by Verizon, the report looks at analyses of almost 80,000 security incidents that hit thousands of companies in 2014.

It found that, in many companies, about 25% of those who received a phishing email were likely to open it.

"Training your employees is a critical element of combating this threat," said Bob Rudis, lead author on the report.

Tricking people into opening a booby-trapped message let attackers grab login credentials that could be used to trespass on a network and steal data, the report said.

"They do not have to use complex software exploits, because often they can get hold of legitimate credentials," Mr Rudis said.

Analysis of data breaches found that, in many cases, it had taken less than two minutes for freshly sent phishing emails to catch their first victim. And, said Mr Rudis, half of the victims had clicked on the message within the first hour of it being sent.

Although attackers racked up victims quickly, it took companies far longer to notice they had been compromised, Mr Rudis said.

The report also found companies could take straight-forward steps to defend themselves against well-crafted phishing emails designed to make people open them and their attachments.

Teaching staff to spot bogus messages could reduce the proportion of victims to sent emails from one in four to one in 20, he said.

Showing workers the tell-tale signs of a phishing email could also turn them into another line of defence that could catch messages missed by automatic detection systems.

"They should be treating employees as tools in the fight rather than as lambs to the slaughter," Mr Rudis said.

After phishing, some cyber-thieves relied on companies running un-patched software that was vulnerable to old and well-known exploits, he said.

More than 99% of the vulnerabilities exploited in data breaches had been known about for more than a year, Mr Rudis said. And some had been around for a decade.

"There are some vulnerabilities that just linger out there," he said.

A good patching regime would help companies protect themselves against most of the vulnerabilities cyber-thieves abuse, Mr Rudis added.

Find out how to avoid scam emails

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HBO angered by Game of Thrones leaks

Daenerys Targaryen, portrayed by Emilia Clarke
Daenerys Targaryen, portrayed by Emilia Clarke, appears in a scene from series four of Game of Thrones

Games of Thrones broadcaster HBO has sent "take down" notices to Periscope, the live-streaming video app owned by Twitter, after users of the app broadcast episodes of the hit show on Sunday night.

HBO also said Saturday's online leaks of four episodes had come from within a group that had received preview DVDs.

Twitter maintains that the Periscope app complies with US copyright law.

But HBO indirectly criticised the video streaming company.

"In general, we feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant upon notifications," HBO said in a statement.

Periscope's terms and conditions make it clear that users should respect intellectual property rights, but the app currently only reacts to copyright infringement allegations rather than trying to prevent them happening in the first place, HBO believes.

The long-awaited series five of Game of Thrones aired in the US on Sunday and in Europe on Monday.

Copyright infringement has been a huge issue for HBO.

Episodes of the first four series of Game of Thrones were illegally downloaded more than seven million times between 5 February and 6 April this year, according to piracy specialist Irdeto, as marketing for the new series ramped up.

This was a 45% increase on the same period last year, the company said.

But over the history of the series, illegal downloads had run into the "hundreds of millions", Ernesto Van der Sar, of the Torrentfreak news website, said.

And the first episode of the new series had been downloaded up to five million times, he said.

"In my view, Periscope is a non-issue [for Game of Thrones] because the show is already posted online at very high quality on several other services," he says.

"But mobile live streaming could be more of an issue for live sporting events like football matches."

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Man charged with hacking US lottery

Lottery sign lights up in neon
Colleagues say the former Hot Lotto security boss was "obsessed" by rootkits

The former security boss of a lottery in the US has been charged with fraud after allegedly hacking the computer that picks the winning numbers.

Eddie Raymond Tipton was the security director for the Multi-State Lottery Association when he was arrested in January by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations.

Prosecutors said he had been caught on CCTV buying the winning ticket. The $14.3m (£9.5m) prize was never claimed.

Mr Tipton denies the charges.

A security camera points at the viewer
It is alleged the security camera in the lottery room stopped recording

Citing court papers filed by prosecutors in the case, the Des Moines Register said the 51-year-old "may have inserted a thumb drive into a highly locked-down computer that's supposed to generate the random numbers used to determine lottery winners".

The offline computer is housed in a glass room and in theory can only be accessed by two people at the same time. It is also constantly monitored by a video camera.

It is alleged Mr Tipton used his position as security director to change the video camera settings and record only one second in every minute. This would have given him enough time to enter the room and plug a thumb drive into the computer.

On that drive, according to the prosecution, was a rootkit: a stealthy computer program designed to do a specific task and, in this case, then erase itself.

That task was to predetermine the winning lottery numbers for the draw that Mr Tipton was to later buy the winning ticket for.

Mike McLaughlin, senior analyst at computer security company First Base, said the allegation might sound farfetched but was plausible.

He told the BBC: "It is entirely possible to code a rootkit on a USB drive which could interfere with software on a computer then delete itself.

"It would only take a second to run once plugged in.

"However, this can leave traces on the infected machine if you know where to look."

As a member of staff, Mr Tipton was not allowed to win the lottery himself.

The court filings suggest there was an attempt to claim the prize just hours before it was scheduled to expire by a company incorporated in Belize.

If found guilty of the two charges of fraud, Mr Tipton faces up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $7,500.

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Chinese rival Ninebot buys Segway

Tourists ride on a Segway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Segway was founded in 2001 but has since struggled to become profitable

Chinese vehicle maker Ninebot has bought iconic US rival Segway, the company announced on Wednesday.

The Beijing-based firm did not disclose the amount of the acquisition, but did say that it received $80m (£54m) in funding from smartphone maker Xiaomi and investment firm Sequoia Capital.

Ninebot also makes two-wheeled electric vehicles, designed for standing riders, that resemble Segways.

Segway had sought an import ban against Ninebot in the US in September.

The Chinese company was one of several that Segway had accused of infringing on its patents.

In a statement, the companies said that both brands would continue to operate under their existing names.

"It [the acquisition] creates a development opportunity for the short-distance transportation industry, which the combined company will lead by widely applying a series of technologies, such as electric driving, mobile internet and human-computer interaction on future products," said Ninebot chief executive Lufeng Gao.

Segway was founded by Dean Kamen in 2001 with much fanfare, but struggled to become profitable.

It was bought by Summit Strategic Investments for an undisclosed amount in 2013.

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Price of '.sucks' investigated

A cartoon man holds a vacuum cleaner in the air and happily sucks in dollar bills
Vox Populi says its prices for ".sucks" website names are "well within the rules"

The authority that decides which letters a web address is allowed to finish with says it is concerned at the high charges for the new ".sucks" name.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (Icann) has asked the US and Canadian trade authorities to investigate Vox Populi, which secured the rights to sell the name.

The company denies any wrongdoing.

Many companies and celebrities have bought their name with controversial suffixes such as ".porn" or ".xxx".

Predatory selling

The last part of a web address that follows the final dot, such as ".com", ".org", and ".net", is referred to as a generic top level domain (gTLD).

Icann relaxed the rules governing gTLDs in 2012, and the latest to go up for sale is ".sucks".

Many companies and celebrities buy their brand or name with various gTLDs, to avoid any confusion with their official website addresses or to stop others buying them and posting negative content.

The internet page for taylorswift.xxx saying simply that the site has been reserved.
Taylorswift.xxx has been reserved but not used, to prevent others from buying it

For example, singer Taylor Swift bought up taylorswift.xxx to prevent anyone else from using it.

Specialist online website Domain Incite reports that actor "Kevin Spacey, Microsoft, Google and Apple have already bought up '.sucks' sites in a bid to protect their reputations".

This practice is known as "defensive registering".

Icann granted Vox Populi permission to sell the ".sucks" names but is now concerned at the price levels the Canadian company has set.

Kevin Murphy, from Domain Incite, told the BBC two key elements of the way Vox Populi was handling the sale were causing concern.

"They are charging a $2,000 'sunrise' premium to those wishing to register '.sucks' addresses early, before the addresses go on sale to the general public [next month]," he said.

"Also they are using a list of words or names that have been defensively registered in the past, for which they are charging the top amount."

Mr Murphy said the company was working from a list of keywords that had been part of web addresses bought up early on in similar new domain web address sales and using that to decide which ".sucks" addresses to charge more for.

A lolly pop in the shape of a dollar sign
The base fee for any ".sucks" web address is $199 a year

New gTLDs such as ".rocks" or ".forsale" typically sell for between $5 (£3.42) and $20 a year.

Beyond jurisdiction

But Murphy said: "They [Vox Populi] are charging a much bigger amount that you'd expect.

"They were considering a fee of $25,000 at one point when we spoke to them.

"I think they are charging as much as they can get away with.

"It [Vox Populi] justified the $2,000 premium price tag [for certain '.sucks' addresses] as being 'a reasonable part of a company's PR budget'.

"It appears they are basing prices on what firms can afford not on the product services they are providing."

In a strongly worded letter to Icann, the authority's own advisory body, the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC), demanded a "halt" to Vox Populi's "illicit", "predatory" and "coercive" selling scheme.

But even though Icann approved the ".sucks" domain name sale and issued the licence to sell the related website addresses, it appears not to have jurisdiction over how they are sold.

There is no evidence that Vox Populi has done anything wrong, and the company told Domain Incite its pricing and policies were "well within the rules".

Icann has referred Vox Populi to the two bodies it believes may have the regulatory authority to investigate the company's practices: the Federal Trade Commission in the United States and the Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs, as the company is registered in Canada.

But unless the company has broken the law, it is not clear what powers Icann has over Vox Populi's handing of the sale of ".sucks".

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Garmin unveils two HD action cameras

Garmin Virb X action camera
Garmin's new action cameras are waterproof without requiring additional casing

Sat-Nav maker Garmin has unveiled two new HD action camera models.

The Virb X and Virb XE will be priced at £239 ($349) and £319 ($466) when they are launched in the summer.

Both models are waterproof to a depth of 50m without a case, and can capture "action data" such as speed and a G-force using bespoke system G-Metrix which can then be overlaid on the footage itself.

The market is currently dominated by top seller GoPro.

Garmin launched its first action cam, Virb, in 2013. Sony, Polaroid, HTC and Xiaomi are among other tech firms offering rival devices.

Users of the higher-end Virb XE can manually control advanced settings including white balance, sharpness, colour profile and exposure levels.

The XE also shoots video in high definition quality of either 1440p/30fps (frames per second) or 1080p/60fps, with the cheaper X version offering 1080p/30fps or 720p/60fps.

Both models can capture stills images at up to 12 megapixels and have wi-fi and bluetooth connectivity.

GoPro meanwhile announced a partnership with broadcast equipment manufacturer Vislink which will enable its Hero 3+ and Hero 4 models to broadcast high definition wireless video for the first time.

Go Pro picture from space walk
Nasa astronaut Terry Virts took a Go Pro on two space walks from the International Space Station. Footage on the Nasa website.

"GoPro is the undisputed market leader right now and its cameras have become synonymous with the category," said analyst Ben Wood from CSS Insight.

"We expect the next battleground to be with 360 degree action cameras to capture footage for virtual reality headsets.

"It will be interesting to see when GoPro makes the jump into that space."

Mr Wood also said that cheaper rivals - such as the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera which had a launch price of just 399 yuan (£41) - pose more of an immediate threat to the firm.

"GoPro probably won't be too worried about Garmin. The biggest threat comes from low-cost Chinese rivals," he added.

"As the quality of their products improves and prices drop they become more realistic challengers."

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Sharp creates 4K smartphone screen

Sharp logos
Sharp makes screens for both its own phones and TVs, and other tech firms

Japan's Sharp has announced the first smartphone screen capable of showing images in 4K resolution.

The 5.5in (14cm) component packs in 806 pixels per inch.

That outclasses Samsung's new flagship model by a wide margin. The Galaxy S6 offers 577ppi on a slightly smaller display.

Higher resolutions offer more detail, typically producing crisper images and text. But experts say there is a limit to what the human eye can appreciate.

"At a certain point, the improvements get less visually stunning," Tim Coulling from the Canalys tech consultancy told the BBC.

"Once you jump from 2K to 4K, you're going to struggle to tell the two images apart even if you have perfect vision."

4K - which is also known as ultra-high definition - offers four times the resolution of 1080p HD.

Sharp's new screen trumps a 736ppi 4.1in display it announced last year

Several TV and projector manufacturers are promoting the new format as being ideal for 55in or bigger televisions that families can sit close to, and cinema screens.

One challenge with introducing it to a handset is that higher resolutions typically take a greater toll on battery life.

But Sharp promotes the Igzo (Indium gallium zinc oxide) tech used in the displays as being more energy efficient than the silicon-based LCD screens commonly used in smartphones and tablets, which should help offset their power demands.

With smartphones becoming capable of filming in 4K, Mr Coulling also suggested there would be an energy trade-off that could benefit users watching back such videos.

"You will be able to show 4K content natively on the screen, which means you won't need to process it to get it to display properly."

Samsung's S6 Edge
Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge features what is currently an industry-leading 577 pixels per inch

He added that he believed smartphone-makers would be keen to promote their handsets as being 4K-enhanced, whatever the true benefit, for marketing reasons.

Greek news site Techblog.gr - which was among the first to report the news - said that Sharp planned to put the displays into mass production next year, and expected Chinese manufacturers to be among its first customers.

While consumers have still to get to grips with 4K, parts of the tech industry are already racing ahead to a next-generation standard.

Camera-maker Red has just announced an 8K video camera, offering 16 times the resolution of 1080p HD.

However, its $59,500 (£40,575) cost is likely to limit its appeal to film-makers.

Red 8K Vista
Red's 8K camera is targeted at professionals, but signals where video technology is heading

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IBM and Apple to share health data

lots of sources of data all going from a mobile phone into the cloud
Watson Health tries to make sense of health data from smartphones and fitness trackers

IBM has launched a health unit to make sense of the wealth of data created by the boom in fitness trackers and apps.

Watson Health aims to create "a secure, cloud-based data sharing hub" that can feed analytic technologies, it said.

It could provide diagnoses or health alerts which could also be sent to doctors, carers, or insurers for example, with the user's permission.

IBM has teamed up with Apple and wants to launch "new employee health and wellness management solutions".

The company says it is buying two firms to help with its goal: Explorys which has one of the largest healthcare databases in the world and Phytel that works with digital medical record systems to reduce hospital readmissions and automate communications.

IBM says it wants to provide "individualised insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people's health".

Privacy concerns

There has been concern over personal technology being used to help diagnose an individual's condition.

In the US, some apps that claimed to diagnose cancer, for example, have been criticised by the Federal Trade Commission.

There is also concern over the sharing of health data. Companies including Jawbone are talking to firms about how personal fitness trackers could be used to monitor a workforce.

Two cyclists race along a dirt track
Data collected from fitness trackers is being used by employers, insurers, and health professionals

Christopher Coughlan, a UK solicitor who has written on the subject advises bosses considering such a move to be careful:

"If you rely on consent it must be freely given. This means a worker must be able to say 'no' without a penalty being imposed and must be able to withdraw consent once given.

"A person is more likely to be in this position at the recruitment stage than when they are employed."

Insurers are also interested in monitoring customers. UK health insurance firm Vitality is incentivising policy-holders to take up a more active lifestyle by offering rewards for certain tasks that can be tracked through personal fitness devices.

GP welcomes move

GP Dr Ellie Cannon welcomed the move by IBM:

"It is always difficult to gauge how much exercise or calories a patient is describing and this is an accurate way to know.

"On a larger scale... the data could provide evidence to back up or dispute well-known health claims such as how much sleep we need or which exercise is most effective."

That could be aided by Apple's announcement today that its ResearchKit software that helps gather health data from iPhones is now available to anyone.

It's already been used to develop apps to study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson's disease, says Apple.

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Nokia agrees deal with Alcatel-Lucent

A man silhouetted against a Nokia logo

Nokia says it has agreed to buy smaller French rival Alcatel-Lucent in a €15.6bn (£11.2bn) takeover deal.

Under the all-share deal, Alcatel-Lucent shareholders will own 33.5% of the new combined firm, and Nokia shareholders 66.5%.

Both firms said their boards had agreed the takeover and they expected it to go through in the first half of next year.

The merger will form a European telecoms equipment group worth more than €40bn (£29bn).

Nokia's chief executive, Rajeev Suri, said the firms' complementary technologies would give them "the scale to lead in every area in which we choose to compete".

"I firmly believe that this is the right deal, with the right logic, at the right time," he added.

Weaker players

The two firms are currently among the weakest players in the telecoms equipment industry. However, the combined firm will have a market share of 35%, making it second only to Swedish rival Ericsson, which has 40%, according to Bernstein Research.

The firms expect the merger to cut operating costs by €900m by 2019, but Nokia said it would not cut jobs beyond what Alcatel had already planned.

"No job cuts" in France was the condition under which the French government said on Tuesday that it would back the deal.

'Long and rocky road'

Alcatel-Lucent's shares fell 10% in early trading, with traders attributing the fall to shareholders' disappointment that the deal did not have a cash element.

However, Nokia's shares rose almost 5%, despite some analysts saying that the deal could take a long time to pay off.

"Nokia's risk profile will increase considerably," said analyst Mikael Rautanen from Inderes Equity Research.

"The risk is that the merger will become a long and rocky road and investors lose their patience following through the integration programme that will take years,"

But Jukka Oksaharju from Nordnet brokerage said Nokia had secured a good price.

"We know that there are risks related to France and the cost cuts, but I believe that Nokia has calculated a margin of safety to the deal price."

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EU accuses Google of search 'abuse'

Google Shopping
Google pitches its shopping service as a "matchmaker" between products and customers

The European Union has filed a complaint against Google over its alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The competition commissioner said she had issued a "statement of objections", stating that the firm's promotion of its own shopping links amounted to an abuse of its dominance in search.

Margrethe Vestager said Google now had 10 weeks to respond.

The firm said it "strongly disagreed" with the allegations and looked forward to making its case.

Ms Vestager also revealed that she had launched an investigation into whether the way Google bundled apps and services for its Android operating system was unfair.

And the commissioner said the EU would continue to monitor other activities by Google that its rivals had complained about.

It follows a five-year investigation into the company and marks the start of a formal legal process that could ultimately lead to billions of euros of fines.

Google accounts for more than a 90% of EU-based web searches.

'Preferential treatment'

The European Commission has investigated the antitrust allegations - made by Microsoft, Tripadvisor, Streetmap and others - since 2010.

Among their complaints was an objection to Google placing adverts from its Shopping service ahead of others' links in relevant searches.

Google Shopping
The EU has objected to the way Google promotes results from its own shopping service

Ms Vestager said the Commission's preliminary findings supported the claim that Google "systematically" gave prominence to its own ads, which amounted to an abuse of its dominant position in search.

"I'm concerned that Google has artificially boosted its presence in the comparison shopping market with the result that consumers may not necessarily see what's most relevant for them, or that competitors may not get the the commercial opportunity that their innovative services deserve," she told a press conference in Brussels.

Ms Vestager said that she was not seeking a wider redesign of Google's search results or asking it to change its algorithms.

But she added that the case could set a precedent that would determine how the EU handled other complaints about Google favouring its own mapping, hotels and flights services.

Google has rejected the idea its Shopping service distorts the market.

"While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways - and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark," wrote its search chief Amit Singhal on the firm's blog.

"It's clear that: (a) there's a ton of competition - including from Amazon and eBay, two of the biggest shopping sites in the world and (b) Google's shopping results have not the harmed the competition.

"Any economist would say that you typically do not see a ton of innovation, new entrants or investment in sectors where competition is stagnating - or dominated by one player. Yet that is exactly what's happening in our world."

Many of Google's rivals welcomed the EU's action.

"Google's abuse of dominance distorts European markets, harms consumers, and makes it impossible for Google's rivals to compete on a level playing field," said lobbying group Icomp.

"We see this statement of objection as a crucial first step towards ensuring that European consumers have access to vibrant and competitive online markets."

Google suggests that services including eBay ensure it does not distort the shopping search market

Android inquiry

The EU has also launched a separate investigation into Google's Android operating system, used by smartphones and tablets, which will focus on three topics:

  • claims that Google requires or incentivises manufacturers to pre-install its own search engine, apps and other services and exclude rival products
  • allegations that Google unfairly insists its services are bundled, meaning some cannot be pre-installed without including the others
  • complaints that the firm is hindering manufacturers from developing alternative versions of Android, which is open source. These are commonly known as "forks", with Amazon's Fire OS and Xiaomi's Mi being two examples

"These issues are distinct from the Google comparison shopping case and the investigations will of course be different," Ms Vestager said.

Android phone
Google says the way it distributes its apps ensures that Android smartphones offer a "great" experience

In response, Google stressed that Android devices could be offered without its services.

"It's important to remember that [our partner agreements] are voluntary - you can use Android without Google - but provide real benefits to Android users, developers and the broader ecosystem," said lead engineer Hiroshi Lockheimer.

"Our app distribution agreements make sure that people get a great 'out of the box' experience with useful apps right there on the home screen. This also helps manufacturers of Android devices compete with Apple, Microsoft and other mobile ecosystems that come preloaded with similar baseline apps."

Complex subject

Google could ultimately face huge fines and be ordered to reshape its business in Europe because of the shopping complaint.

Google Shopping
Some searches cause Google Shopping's ads to be offset to the side of the screen

In recent years, the Commission has imposed antitrust penalties on other tech giants, ordering Intel to pay €1.1bn (£793m; $1.2bn) in 2009, and Microsoft €516m in 2013.

However, Ms Vestager said she was "open" to Google's response, and would listen to its case before deciding how to proceed.

One independent expert said that the matter could take years to resolve.

"I can't see that this will be a fast process given the complexity of the subject matter, what's at stake and the likely level of the fine," said Paul Henty, a lawyer at Charles Russell Speechlys who has previously worked for the European Commission.

International inquiries

The EU's investigation is not the only one Google is facing.

Investigators at India's Competition Commission delivered a report last week after carrying out a three-year probe into claims of unfair business practices.

Their counterparts in Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan and Canada have also opened investigations.

However, the US Federal Trade Commission dropped its own probe at the start of 2013 after Google made several non-binding commitments.

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