Information Technology Blog:

World Cup Players Are Using Hands More Than Ever (to Tweet)

Published on: 2014-07-10 

by Sam Borden | The New York Times

World Cup 2014: Controversies Highlight Players' Use of Social Media

RIO DE JANEIRO - Zinedine Zidane of France did not apologize on MySpace after his infamous head butt in the 2006 World Cup final. Diego Maradona of Argentina did not address his 1986 knuckle-assisted Hand of God goal on America Online, a digital community that did not become prominent for another five years.

Controversies have arisen in World Cups since a referee inadvertently blew the final whistle six minutes early during a match at the inaugural tournament, in 1930, but the dramas of this year's event - including a bizarre bite and a backbreaking tackle - have played out with a remarkable immediacy on social media.

Over the last month, players like Neymar, Luis Suárez and the United States reserve forward Chris Wondolowski have offered confessions, explanations, interpretations and amplifications using services like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

"If they can jump online, say something, and see it traverse the world in real time, it makes life that much easier," said Peter Shankman, a social media consultant in New York.

Most recently, fans have been fretting over an injury to Neymar, Brazil's spindly star striker, who crumpled late in the second half of a quarterfinal match against Colombia after being kneed in the lower back.

Screaming and crying, Neymar was taken off the field on a stretcher, and it was later revealed that he had a fractured vertebra. He will miss the rest of the tournament, which has four teams remaining from the original 32.

The player who kneed him, Juan Camilo Zúńiga, made only a fleeting comment or two as he rushed past members of the news media after the game. It did not take long for Zúńiga to begin receiving death threats and racist taunts from Brazilian fans on Twitter - one of the more printable comments was that Zúńiga was "the biggest villain in the history of football" - and he took to social media a day later to explain himself.

"There was no bad intention, malice or negligence on my part," he wrote in a letter posted on his Facebook page. Zúńiga also addressed Neymar personally, telling him: "I admire you, respect you and consider you one of the best players in the world. I hope you recover and return quickly."

Grainy footage circulated of Neymar being rushed into an emergency room, being comforted by teammates on an airport tarmac and being loaded on a gurney into a helicopter. He did not publicly engage with Zúńiga on social media, but he did address his nation of frothing fans directly.

In a YouTube video, Neymar - looking rakish in a sideways hat despite his temporary incapacitation - spoke emotionally about how his "dream has not ended yet" because his teammates could go on to win the World Cup without him. "Another dream of mine was to play in the World Cup final, but I won't be able to do that now," he added.

While some professional sports teams place limits on what their athletes should share on the Internet, the Brazilian players - even before Neymar's medical journey became available for consumption - have not been shy. Instagram in particular is popular with the Brazilians, and pictures such as Dani Alves's selfie with a milk bottle and David Luiz's underwater homage to heavy-metal music have made fans feel that their beloved stars are accessible.

Neymar's injury was hardly the only story to play out on the web. When Suárez, a Uruguayan striker, sank his teeth into the left shoulder of Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during a group-stage game, theories about digitally enhanced pictures of the bite marks popped up almost immediately.

Suárez and Chiellini gave brief interviews after the game, but, as is often the case, the players took to social media to offer clarifications once the emotional level of the situation had calmed.

After FIFA, soccer's governing body, announced a heavy punishment for Suárez that included a suspension from nine international games and a four-month ban from all soccer activities, Chiellini, who had initially called Suárez a "sneak," took to his personal website to say that he felt for Suárez and his family and hoped that Suárez "will be allowed, at least, to stay close to his teammates during the games because such a ban is really alienating for a player."

Suárez, who at first claimed that no bite had taken place, then emerged with a Facebook post in which he apologized, somewhat, and said Chiellini had "suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision."

That prompted Chiellini to post a reply to Suárez on Twitter in which he absolved his assailant and said, "It's all forgotten."

Fortunately, the players at the World Cup have managed to avoid controversies like the one involving a Swiss athlete's dismissal from the 2012 London Olympics after a tweet that insulted South Koreans. Two airlines, however, have bumbled into problems with World Cup-related tweets.

After the United States beat Ghana, Delta posted a picture of the Statue of Liberty next to the Americans' score and a picture of a giraffe next to Ghana's - not realizing, apparently, that there are no giraffes in Ghana (the airline apologized).

In a post on the Dutch airline KLM's Twitter account after the Netherlands beat Mexico, the text "Adios Amigos!" was accompanied by a picture of a "Departures" board altered to include a caricature of a man with a mustache, a poncho and a sombrero. Again, the airline apologized.

Perhaps no social media post, though, had as much feeling as one from Wondolowski, the United States forward, who missed a seemingly unmissable shot from close range in the Americans' Round of 16 game against Belgium. If Wondolowski had scored, the United States probably would have won; instead, his shot went high and wide. The United States lost in extra time.

Wondolowski took to social media to say he was sorry to all American fans. There were no pictures or videos, just a moment of unreserved accountability. "I'm gutted to have let down everyone," he wrote, "but especially my teammates. It?s been an incredible ride, but I know this will make me stronger."

P.F. Chang's Investigating Possible Data Breach

Published on: 2014-06-11 

Nicole Perlroth | The New York Times

P.F. Chang's China Bistro said Tuesday that it is investigating a potential security breach that may have led to the theft of information from thousands of customer credit cards.

The possible theft was first reported by Brian Krebs, a security blogger, who noted thousands of fresh credit cards appeared on Rescator, a so-called carding site that was used to sell payment data after last year?s Target network breach. Data from the magnetic strips of the latest stolen cards is selling for between $18 and $140 per card.

Mr. Krebs said representatives from affected banks had purchased several stolen credit cards from carding sites and discovered that many were used recently at P.F. Chang's.

"P.F. Chang's takes these matters very seriously and is currently investigating the situation, working with the authorities to learn more," Anne Deanovic, a spokeswoman for the company, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a written statement. "We will provide an update as soon as we have additional information."

Ms. Deanovic said the company had not yet tied fraudulent activity on customers' credit cards to the possible breach. The Secret Service, which has been conducting an inquiry into recent hacks at Target, Neiman Marcus and others, did not immediately return a request for comment.

P.F. Chang's was acquired by private-equity firm Centerbridge Partners LP in 2012 for $1.1 billion. It operated 200 Asian restaurant bistros and some 170 Pei Wei Asian Diners at the time of the deal.

It is the first significant appearance of information from stolen credit cards since March, when data from 282,000 cards was tied to a possible breach at Sally's Beauty.

If the breach is confirmed, P.F. Chang?s will be the fifth major retail chain - after Target, Neiman Marcus, Michaels and Sally's Beauty - to acknowledge that its systems were recently compromised. In those cases, criminals installed so-called malware on retailers' systems, which fed customers' payment details back to their computer servers.

A report from Bloomberg identified Sears as another company that had been breached, but the company and law enforcement officials have denied the reports.

The tally of customers affected by these recent breaches now exceeds one-third of the American population. The same group of criminals in Eastern Europe are believed to be behind the hacks, and to be part of a broader cyberattack directed at as many as six other retailers, according to two people investigating the breaches who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The entry point for each breach differed, according to one law enforcement official. At Target, it was believed to be a Pennsylvania company that provided heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration services to the retailer. Criminals were able to use the company's log-in credentials to gain access to Target's systems, and eventually to its point-of-sale systems.

On Tuesday, a joint report by the Ponemon Institute, an independent security research firm, and DB Networks, a database security firm, found that retail companies are still unprepared for such attacks.

In a survey of 595 computer-security experts in the United States, the majority - 64 percent - believed their organizations still lack the technology and tools to quickly detect database attacks. Only one-third said they do the kind of continuous database monitoring needed to identify irregular activity in their databases. Another 22 percent admitted that they do not scan at all.

"The best approach to avoid an attack on a retail organization is continuous monitoring, which helps you understand your environment to detect gratuitous or anomalous traffic," said Larry Ponemon, the founder of the Ponemon Institute in an interview Tuesday. "All it takes is one successful attack."

FTC: Data Brokers Know You Better Than Mom Does

Published on: 2014-06-06 

Information Week | Thomas Claburn

Federal Trade Commission report calls for restrictions on data brokers, finds companies gather billions of consumer transactions daily, largely without public knowledge.

Companies that silently gather data on consumers should be more transparent about what they do and should give consumers more control over the information they collect, a Federal Trade Commission report said Tuesday.

The report examines the practices of nine data brokers: Acxiom, Corelogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intellius, PeekYou, RapLeaf, and Recorded Future. It concludes that the data gathering industry in the US operates without meaningful transparency or public accountability and recommends that Congress consider legislation to address those deficiencies.

"The extent of consumer profiling today means that data brokers often know as much -- or even more -- about us than our family and friends, including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement. "It's time to bring transparency and accountability to bear on this industry on behalf of consumers, many of whom are unaware that data brokers even exist."

The report finds that data brokers have information on almost every US consumer, collect billions of data points every month, and often share this information with other data brokers. The companies collect information about what people buy, their social media activity, product registrations, magazine subscriptions, religious and political affiliations, and a variety of other details. They combine online and offline information to create categorical profiles, some of which might offend those so characterized or might be considered sensitive because they focus on ethnicity, income, education level, or health conditions.

For example, categories such as "Urban Scramble" and "Mobile Mixers" include a high-concentration of Latinos and African Americans with low incomes. The category "Rural Everlasting" refers to "single men and women over the age of 66 with 'low educational attainment and low net worths.' " Other categories include those believed to be pregnant, those concerned about diabetes, and those concerned about high cholesterol.

The report notes these categorizations could create costs for consumers if, for example, insurance companies elect to use these profiles to evaluate individuals' health or injury risks.

Peggy Hudson, senior VP of government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association, said in an emailed statement that the DMA has long supported transparency and consumer choice through services like DMAchoice, for opting out of mailings, and through cooperation with the Digital Advertising Alliance.

Hudson contends that, despite thousands of pages of documentation and two years of investigation, the FTC report "finds no actual harm to consumers, and only suggests potential misuses that do not occur."

Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation, a think data promoting data usage in business that's affiliated with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said in an emailed statement that forcing companies to provide consumers with notice after every transaction would hinder commerce while doing little to promote consumer trust. "The FTC seems to be stuck in a notice-and-choice world while everyone else is trying to move on," he said.
In a follow-up email, Castro elaborated on why he believes notice-and-consent, the traditional privacy paradigm, is no longer relevant. He favors the term "notice-and-choice," perhaps because the absence of "consent" implies a transgression of some sort. The absence of choice merely suggests a more limited menu of options.

"The problem with notice-and-choice is it's disruptive to the free flow of data," said Castro. "For example, if Google had to serve up (in the words of the FTC) a 'prominent notice to consumers' every time somebody clicked 'search,' we wouldn't have things like Google Flu trends."

Castro argues that notice-and-choice worked for the world of paper records, but breaks in the digital world, in terms of online products and services. "You don't see a lot of petitions asking the government 'please require websites to give us more pop-up notices.' Or citizens calling their members of Congress saying they wish their hair stylists and plumbers would be like their doctors and give them a HIPAA-like privacy notice before providing them a service."

Castro, like Hudson, chides the FTC report for its focus on "speculative harms." Yet, such data gathering represents a speculative harm in part because there's so little transparency. How is an individual to know whether he or she has been harmed by a data transaction -- through a higher insurance premium, for example -- if the data broker does not reveal what data was sold and the data buyer does not explain the data's impact on decision making?

Perhaps more to the point, privacy is not measured by the absence of harm. An unknown person standing in your bedroom at night may not do any harm. But you would probably prefer more privacy, even with the assurance that your lurking guest merely wants to see if you're in the market for sleeping pills.

Malware creation breaks all records! 160,000 new samples every day

Published on: 2014-06-04

Malware creation has broken all records during this period, with a figure of more than 15 million new samples, and more than 160,000 new samples appearing every day, according to Panda Security.

Trojans are still the most abundant type of new malware, accounting for 71.85% of new samples created during Q1. Similarly, infections by Trojans were once again the most common type of infection over this period, representing 79.90% of all cases.

In the area of mobile devices, there have been increasing attacks on Android environments. Many of these involve subscribing users to premium-rate SMS services without their knowledge, both through Google Play as well as ads on Facebook, using WhatsApp as bait.

Along these lines, social networks are still a favorite stalking ground for cyber-criminals, The Syrian Electronic Army group, for example, compromised accounts on Twitter and Facebook, and tried to gain control of the domain in an attack that was foiled in time by MarkMonitor.

During the first three months of the year we have witnessed some of the biggest data thefts since the creation of the Internet, and as expected, Cryptolocker, the malicious file-encrypting ransomware which demands a ransom to unblock files, has continued to claim victims.

"Over these months, levels of cyber-crime have continued to rise. In fact, we have witnessed some of the biggest data thefts since the creation of the Internet, with millions of users affected?, explains Luis Corrons.

So far in 2014, Trojans are still the malware most commonly used by cyber-criminals to infect users. According to data from PandaLabs, four out of five infections around the world were caused by Trojans, that?s 79.90% of the total. Viruses are in second place, accounting for 6.71% of infections, followed by worms, with a ratio of 6.06%.

Trojans also top the ranking of newly created malware, accounting for 71.85% of the total, followed by worms, at 12.25%, and viruses at 10.45%.

The global infection rate during the first three months of 2014 was 32.77%. China is once again the country with most infections, with a rate of 52.36%, followed by Turkey (43.59%) and Peru (42.14%). Although Spain is not in the top ten of this ranking, it is still above the global average with 33.57%.

European countries ranked high among the least infected countries, with the best figures coming from Sweden (21.03%), Norway (21.14%), Germany (24.18%) and Japan, which with a ratio of 24.21%, was the only non-European country in the top ten of this list.

Forget 'the Cloud'; 'the Fog' Is Tech's Future

Published on: 2014-05-29 

By Christopher Mims | Wall Street Journal

I'm as big a believer in the transformational power of cloud computing as anyone you'll meet. Smartphones, which are constantly seeking and retrieving data, don't make sense without the cloud, and any business that isn't racing to push its data and software into someone else's data center is, in my view, setting itself up for disruption by a competitor who is.

But cloud advocates are fond of declaring that 100% of computing will someday reside in the cloud. And many companies are in business to sell you on that notion.

Here's the reality: Getting data into and out of the cloud is harder than most engineers, or at least their managers, often are willing to admit.

The problem is bandwidth. If you're a company simply seeking to save the cost and headache of storing data yourself, the cloud is great as long as all you need to do is transfer data back and forth via high-speed wiring.

But in the world of mass connectivity - in which people need to get information on an array of mobile devices - bandwidth is pretty slow. Any business that sends data to mobile devices, be it airline reservation systems for consumers or business data for a mobile sales force, grapples with the limitations of wireless networks. Overall, according to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks 35th in the world in terms of bandwidth per user.

That's one reason that mobile apps have become a predominant way to do things on the Internet, at least on smartphones. Some of the data and processing power is handled within your device.

The problem of how to get things done when we're dependent on the cloud is becoming all the more acute as more and more objects become "smart," or able to sense their environments, connect to the Internet, and even receive commands remotely. Everything from jet engines to refrigerators is being pushed onto wireless networks and joining the "Internet of Things."

Modern 3G and 4G cellular networks simply aren't fast enough to transmit data from devices to the cloud at the pace it is generated, and as every mundane object at home and at work gets in on this game, it's only going to get worse.

Luckily there's an obvious solution: Stop focusing on the cloud, and start figuring out how to store and process the torrent of data being generated by the Internet of Things (also known as the industrial Internet) on the things themselves, or on devices that sit between our things and the Internet.

Marketers at Cisco Systems Inc. have already come up with a name for this phenomenon: fog computing.

I like the term. Yes, it makes you want to do a Liz Lemon eye roll. But like cloud computing before it - also a marketing term for a phenomenon that was already under way - it's a good visual metaphor for what's going on.

Whereas the cloud is "up there" in the sky somewhere, distant and remote and deliberately abstracted, the "fog" is close to the ground, right where things are getting done. It consists not of powerful servers, but weaker and more dispersed computers of the sort that are making their way into appliances, factories, cars, street lights and every other piece of our material culture.

Cisco sells routers, which aside from storage has got to be the least sexy business in tech. To make them more appealing, and to sell them to new markets before Chinese competitors disrupt Cisco's existing revenue streams, Cisco wants to turn its routers into hubs for gathering data and making decisions about what to do with it. In Cisco's vision, its smart routers will never talk to the cloud unless they have to - say, to alert operators to an emergency on a sensor-laden rail car on which one of these routers acts as the nerve center.

International Business Machines Corp. has a similar initiative to push computing out "to the edge," an effort to, as IBM executive Paul Brody puts it, turn the traditional, cloud-based Internet "inside out." (When people talk about "edge computing," what they literally mean is the edge of the network, the periphery where the Internet ends and the real world begins. Data centers are in the "center" of the network, personal computers, phones and surveillance cameras are on the edge.)

Just as the cloud physically consists of servers harnessed together, in IBM's research project, the fog consists of all the computers that are already around us, tied together. On one level, asking our smart devices to, for example, send software updates to one another, rather than routing them through the cloud, could make the fog a direct rival to the cloud for some functions.

The bottom line is, we just have too much data. And we're just getting started. Airplanes are a great example of this. In a new Boeing Co. 747, almost every part of the plane is connected to the Internet, recording and, in some cases, sending continuous streams of data about its status. General Electric Co. has said that in a single flight, one of its jet engines generates half a terabyte of data.

Cheap sensors generate lots of "big" data, and it's surprisingly useful. So-called predictive analytics lets companies like GE know which part of a jet engine might need maintenance, even before the plane carrying it has landed.

Why else do you think Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. are talking about alternate means of Internet access, including via balloons and drones? Existing carriers aren't getting the job done. Until the U.S. gets the fast wireless and wired Internet it deserves, computing things as close to the user as possible is going to be critical to making the Internet of Things responsive enough to be usable.

The future of much enterprise computing remains in the cloud, but the really transformative computing of the future? It's going to happen right here, in the objects that surround us - in the fog.

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