Information Technology Blog:
Published on: 2014-03-06
news.com.au March 14, 2014
Technology managed to weave itself into the storyline of the Oscars this year Oscars awards and became a star in the process.
THE 2014 Oscars was not only about awards, A-list movie stars, glamorous dresses and lots of shiny teeth. This year we saw technology steal the show.
If you did not notice, the integration of technology into this year's star-studded bash was as subtle as Leonardo Di Caprio performing a cameo in an am-dram play. But Hollywood does not do subtle. Despite a selfie being as much a talking point as the winning movies and actors, in many ways technology gave the night that little bit more dazzle.
From the first moments the movie stars hit the red carpet there was a 360-degree camera called Fashion Turn waiting for them to snap what they were wearing and instantly upload to Vine, the video clip sharing app on Twitter.
There was a mini cam (or, Mani Cam) for stars to show off their manicures and then there was blimp cam. This was a controlled, hovering craft fitted with a camera to give the worldwide audience a view of the red carpet.
If only the television network followed in the technological footsteps of cricket and brought out a heat-sensing camera too, then we really would have seen who was nervous.
A panel of presenters from entertainment channel E! were sat behind a perfectly-placed array of Samsung Galaxy tablets where Kelly Osbourne conveniently claimed her dad (Ozzy) was crazy about Samsung and only has Samsung stuff in their house. Hmm, really?
We seem to recall an episode of the Osbournes reality show where he could not even operate a kitchen drawer.
The tech-laden coverage continued as Oscar reporters haranguing stars as they filtered in constantly spoke of the multi-cast app and website so those not near a TV could watch the live event.
But the tech did not stop outside. It played a starring role in the whole awards show.
In years past we would have seen Billy Crystal stand at the pulpit, crack a few one-liners, shimmy out a segue and introduce people to the stage. With Ellen DeGeneres being this MC this year, she was interactive and slinging social media.
Throughout her hosting she constantly paraded around a bright white Samsung Galaxy Note 3, snapping selfies with stars as they sat. Then, with the now-very-obvious handset, she took a superstar selfie with Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Brad Pit, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Lawrence. So many famous faces they could not all fit in. Ellen wanted to break the world record for the most retweets ever and when she uploaded it, it took the site down from the amount of people logging on to see it.
Needless to say she made history with the tweet and amassed more than two million retweets within hours, eclipsing the previous record holder, which as President Obama's victory speech image.
Cue the internet and within minutes there were memes-a-plenty of this selfie. Nicholas Cage faces Grumpy Cat, sports stars and awkward references to the failed Liza Minnelli photobomb attempt. We became so preoccupied with the flood of internet funnies we almost forgot about the show still going.
So social media was a star turn, but the award-winning movies themselves also waved the flag for technology.
Gravity is one of the biggest, most award-heavy movies this year. Its depiction of Sandra Bullock's survival against a space catastrophe was made doable thanks to the incredible CGI effects, which is why it took home the gong for best visual effects.
NASA was so excited about the inevitable flood of awards it posted 'real-life' Gravity-style pictures from the International Space Station on its Twitter feed throughout the day.
The award for best original screenplay went to Spike Jonze for Her - a story about a man falling in love with his operating system, which highlighted the assimilation human and machines could face in the future.
Google is just one tech company currently working on making the computing experience for humans and with the likes of the mobile phone personal assistant Siri and wearable tech slowly advancing onto our bodies, it's too far-fetched. Especially if it's voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
We've got another year to see how the tech stakes can be raised for the next Oscar awards.
Published on: 2014-02-06
By Molly Wood | The New York Times Bits Blog
When I first heard about the extensive Target hack in December, I sighed in mild irritation. Sure, the breach?s size and scope was shocking, but these things have become so common I just assumed I?d receive a new card in the mail and that would be the end of it.
It wouldn?t be the first time. I?ll sometimes mysteriously get a new card in the mail with a note saying it was replaced because of an unnamed security issue. Once, in Barcelona, I discovered my primary card had been frozen because of a security breach at a retailer ? that was panic-inducing. Still, the biggest aggravation was logging into all my auto-pay sites like Amazon to update the card number (and memorizing the new one, which I like to do).
I expected a repeat after Target was hacked.
But it was a lot worse. I did get a new credit card in the mail ? a replacement for the card I?d used at Target. I also received a letter from Sears, letting me know I?d been rejected for a new store card because of, among other things, ?too many requests for credit.? Then, in the same batch of mail, I opened a letter from Best Buy, which said I?d been turned down for its top-tier store card, but approved for a lower-level version.
That is when I started to panic.
I called the fraud department at Best Buy and employees there assured me they had already marked the account as fraudulent. I immediately filed for a security alert with the three big credit bureaus, and I also filed an online police report. (This can sometimes be helpful if you?re trying to convince a retailer that fraud is afoot.) Over the next week, while I was out of town, I also received a store card from Kohl?s, one from Frye?s electronics and the one from Best Buy.
More worryingly, I also got a bill from a Macy?s store card account in my name, for $1,114.39. Apparently I bought $1,223 worth of ?fine watches? at a Macy?s in Glendale, Ariz., but I received a discount of $109 for opening the account. Sounds like a pretty nice watch (or three).
Now, I?m not certain this sudden outbreak of identity theft is directly tied to the breach at Target, but the timing is suspect. I signed up for the credit and identity theft protection service that Target is offering, and after a few hops through low-level support, I was assigned a case number and a fraud resolution agent who will apparently call all these creditors on my behalf and conference me in.
The service promises to close the fraudulent accounts and get the credit requests and the accounts off my record.
I hope that is true. But even if the mess is easily cleared up, this is almost certainly not the last time such a thing will happen, especially now that my credit-worthy identity is up for sale out in the world. Make no mistake: yours probably is, too.
In December, the security researcher Brian Krebs identified a Ukrainian man who may be helping sell credit and debit card numbers for up to $100 each ? all the more reason to simply cancel any debit card that was implicated in a security breach instead of waiting and hoping for the best. Card numbers are bundled in bunches and sold for pennies to criminals who simply go down the line, trying numbers until they work.
Those are just the card numbers; plenty more than that is for sale. A GigaOm post in August quoted security researchers who said thieves could spend $4 to $5 for a complete ID package that included a credit card number, its expiration date, your social security number, and your mother?s maiden name. That is almost everything you need to walk into a Macy?s and open up a store card and have a fun afternoon in the fine watches department.
Financial institutions have become better at identifying fraud and stopping major damage before it occurs, but large-scale security breaches are becoming more common all the time. Target?s hackers roamed around the databases for a month before they were detected, stealing personal information, card numbers and even encrypted PIN data. The current tally of affected customers is up to 110 million users.
And just since Target?s very bad month, Neiman Marcus has confirmed that its records were also breached, possibly by the same malware, and it has lost at least 1.1 million records (that apparently went undetected from July to December). The arts and crafts chain Michaels was also hit.
Yahoo was compromised. Bright Horizons childcare suffered an intrusion, and White Lodging, which manages some 168 Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton hotels in 21 states, is also investigating what is almost certain to be a large-scale hoovering of personal data.
One can assume those are just a few of the breaches happening at any given time. Target is paying for full-scale credit monitoring for 110 million people, Citibank is issuing new debit cards to to all customers, and millions of people like me are wasting valuable time on the phone trying to sort out messes.
I, for one, hope this is a tipping point in retail security. In the meantime, if you?ll excuse me, I?ve got some mopping up to do.
Published on: 2014-01-20
By: Shawn Knight | TechSpot
You would think that with all of the newfound attention that online privacy generated over the course of 2013, people would perhaps rethink some of their mundane password choices to better lock down their online accounts. Think again. A list of the top 25 most common passwords of last year proves we're just as naive as ever.
The list from SplashData was compiled from millions of stolen passwords last year that were ultimately made public. The list was heavily influenced by the massive Adobe breach in October which explains some of the newcomers and for the first time ever, "password" was dethroned as the most common password ... by "123456."
Without further ado, we present the top 25 most common passwords of 2013.
In addition to "adobe123" and "photoshop" security experts believe that "123456" and "123456789" were also top choices among Adobe users. As SplashData CEO Morgan Slain reminds us, the fact that "adobe123" and "photoshop" are on the list at all should be a good reminder that basing your password on the name of the website or application you are accessing is not exactly a bright idea.
Published on: 2014-01-20
By Amy Lee | CruxialCIO
Use Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google?
It might be time to change that password. According to a post by security firm Trustwave, more than 2 million accounts have been compromised by a Pony botnet controller, a network of criminally controlled malware-infected computer systems designed to steal passwords and other sensitive information.
The trove of user information includes 1.58 million Website logins, more than 300,000 email account logins and thousands of other credentials. Facebook accounted for more than half of the information stolen, or 318,121 passwords. Yahoo followed with 59,549 passwords, Google with 54,437 passwords, Twitter with 21,708 passwords and LinkedIn with 8,490 passwords.
Also on the list? Payroll service provider ADP, with close to 8,000 passwords stolen. Despite information suggesting that close to 100 percent of attacks took place in the Netherlands, the presence of two other Russian social networks indicates that ?decent portion of the victims compromised were Russian speakers,? according to Trustwave.
The Dutch IP address, meanwhile, seems to have been used as a gateway between infected machines and the hacker?s control center. The technique is commonly used to keep the real control server hidden from authorities. Still, at least 92 countries appear on the IP geolocation list, making it likely that attacks were spread across the world.
And all across the world, people are using bad passwords. Trustwave analyzed the 2 million passwords only to find that close to 16,000 users rely on the password ?123456.? In second place, with close to 5,000 passwords, the slightly more complicated "1234566789." Other popular passwords include "password," "admin? and other variations on a sequential series of number beginning with one, including more than 1,000 users who picked "1" as their password.
More people pick "terrible" passwords ? those with less than four characters consisting of only letters or numbers ? than "excellent" ones, which include all four character types (numbers, letters, capitals and symbols) and are longer than eight characters. Nearly half are "medium" while another 28 percent are "bad." Since 2006, the top 10 most common passwords have increased as a percentage of all passwords.
"If you don't enforce a password policy, don't expect your users to do it for you," the Trustwave post said.
What to Do: Set passwords to be more than eight characters and/or more than four character types. Make sure all security monitoring software is patched and up-to-date. Ensure that corporate users do not access suspicious Websites on the network by setting up whitelisting or blacklisting of Websites or other forms of browsing control.
Published on: 2013-04-29
If you've been to the RoboGames, you've seen everything from flame-throwing battlebots to androids that play soccer. But robo-athletes are more than just performers. They're a path to the future. Researchers at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology have built a small humanoid robot that plays baseball -- or something like it. The bot can hold a fan-like bat and take swings at flying plastic balls, and though it may miss at first, it can learn with each new pitch and adjust its swing accordingly. Eventually, it will make contact. The robot, you see, is also equipped with an artificial brain. Based on an Nvida graphics processor, or GPU, kinda like the one that renders images on your desktop or laptop, this brain mimics the function of about 100,000 neurons, and using a software platform developed by Nvidia, the scientists have programmed these neurons for the task at hand, as they discussed in a recent paper published in the journal Neural Networks. Working code helps other scientists to learn how to implement an artificial brain in computers Tadashi Yamazaki Yes, it's fun. But through this baseball-playing robot, the scientists also hope to better understand how brains can be recreated with software and hardware ? and bring us closer to a world where robots can handle more important tasks on our behalf. When a ball is pitched to the robot, an accelerometer at the back of a batting cage records information about the flight of the ball, including its speed, and this data is relayed back to a machine that holds the GPU-powered brain. The brain then crunches this data so that it can determine exactly when the robot should swing. If the scientists change the pitch speed, the robot will relearn the task all over again. This is not the first time researchers have modeled a cerebellum to control robots. A team of scientists in Europe, for instance, have used an artificial cerebellum to control a robotic limb. But according to Tadashi Yamazaki, one of the scientists who worked on the project, the baseball-playing robot is the second largest model of its kind and it runs in real time, meaning its much faster than other systems. That means the GPU brain is better suited to controlling external hardware, he says.
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