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YouTube music might be a win for other Google services

Written By kom nampuldu on Rabu, 20 Agustus 2014 | 16.01

A tricked-out version of YouTube offering exclusive content might prove lucrative bait for Google to lure some of its users deeper into its digital video and music services.

YouTube appears to be readying a paid premium music service that would cost US$9.99 a month, called YouTube Music Key. Roughly a dozen purported screenshots of the service were recently published online on the blog Android Police, possibly showing how it would work. The images showed exclusive content such as remixes or cover songs, offline access to entire albums or concerts, and personalized playlists.

A YouTube spokesman declined to comment, but rumors of a paid music service from the Google-owned video site have been circulating for some time now. An earlier report in the Financial Times claimed YouTube was blocking or penalizing independent labels that were not signing up for the yet-to-launch paid service. Earlier this month, YouTube head Susan Wojcicki confirmed the company was working on some kind of subscription music service, in a Re/code interview.

So it looks likely that a premium version of YouTube just for music is on the way. The free version of YouTube works well for many right now, but a premium version might let Google monetize some new content and lead users to the company's other digital media services.

The amount and diversity of content already available free on YouTube is massive, and the advertisements don't interrupt the listening experience like those on Spotify or Pandora do. Plus, Google already offers Google Play All Access, a paid music service that syncs across devices and lets people listen offline, for $9.99 a month.

"Premium" might be the draw for a paid music service. The special content might include exclusive recordings of professional artists' cover songs, or unreleased tracks similar to iTunes exclusives.

To do that, Google would probably have to strike new licensing deals with music labels. But if YouTube could convert just a tiny fraction of its billion-plus monthly users into paying customers, that might be a win for Google, argues Mark Mulligan, co-founder of the music and technology research firm Midia Consulting.

YouTube claims viewers watch more than 6 billion hours of video each month on its site—almost an hour for every person on Earth—and that 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That catalogue is peerless, Mulligan said, but Google probably wants to do more with it in order to take on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Beats Music.

"YouTube has the ability to offer so much more than anyone else, with video the killer component," he said.

Google might also package a premium YouTube music service with the pure audio content in Google's All Access app. The combination, if it's done cleanly, could help Google distinguish itself from some of its competitors.

"Users listening to music on Google Play, for instance, could get recommendations for premium video content," said Sam Rosen, an industry analyst at ABI Research who studies digital video services. Or, a user exploring music videos could add a song to his or her video playlist, then automatically have it added to his audio collection on another Google-owned service.

There's a good chance the premium content would also include live streaming concerts, something YouTube has already offered on its free site.

In sum, YouTube may not be looking to monetize what it already has, but something else. The wild card could be whether the company can reach the right deals with publishers and labels.

"Google's stance here fits into a broader phase in the evolution of digital content," Midia's Mulligan said in a blog post about earlier reports of YouTube's premium service. Technology giants like Google, Apple and Amazon, he said, are testing how far they can push their partners to strengthen their already strong products.


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'Reveton' ransomware upgraded with powerful password stealer

A type of malware called Reveton, which falsely warns users they've broken the law and demands payment of a fine, has been upgraded with powerful password stealing functions, according to Avast.

Reveton is in a class of nasty programs known as "ransomware," which includes the notorious Cryptolocker program that encrypts a computer's files. The FBI issued a warning about Reveton in August 2012 after its Internet Crime Complaint Center was flooded with complaints.

The malware often infects computers via drive-by download when a person visits a website rigged to automatically exploit software vulnerabilities. Users are helpless after the computer is locked, with Reveton demanding a few hundred dollars as ransom payable various web-money services.

Avast analyzed a version of Reveton that has a module containing the Pony password stealer, which can also steal virtual currency stored on a computer such as bitcoin.

Pony can pluck and decrypt encrypted passwords for FTP, VPN and email clients, web browsers and instant messaging programs.

The version of Reveton analyzed by Avast also has another password stealer from the Papras family of malware. It's not as effective as Pony but can disable security programs, the company wrote on its blog.

This particular sample of Reveton was pre-programmed to search a web browser's history and cookies to see if the user had visited online sites of 17 German banks, the company wrote.

Avast speculated the capabilities may have been added to Reveton due to falling profits from merely locking computers in an attempt to extract a ransom. Its authors have "decided to enter into a new black business area," it wrote.

Around February 2013, an ethnic Russian man was arrested in Dubai upon request of Spanish police for allegedly coordinating Reveton campaigns, netting €1 million (US$1.3 million).

Ten other people were also arrested on money laundering charges for allegedly laundering the proceeds and transferring funds to Russia, according to Trend Micro.


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China paving the way for big Xbox One sales

China has approved the sale of 5 million Xbox One units, opening the way for Microsoft to make a big splash in the country's emerging console sector.

Microsoft's Chinese partner BesTV revealed the figure in a Tuesday earnings statement. The Chinese version of the Xbox One goes on in China on Sept. 23, after the country ended a 13-year-old ban on the import of foreign game consoles.

Although China often censors gaming content to weed out excessive violence, the approval of 5 million Xbox One units signals that the country's government is still giving ample room for actual device sales.

BesTV, a provider of Internet television services, is confident the Xbox One will rake in big profits over time. The industry is projecting that China's console gaming market has the potential to sell over 50 million units over the next five years, the company said.

The Xbox One first launched in western markets last November, with total shipments reaching 5 million units in April.

Chinese gamers have been looking forward to launch of the local version. But last month Microsoft revealed that the Chinese version of the Xbox One will cost consumers 3,699 yuan (US$600), $200 more than the U.S. version.

Despite the price, some local gaming merchants and experts believe the Xbox One will still attract customers. Microsoft and BesTV are bringing aboard local vendors and developers to create games and sell the system across the country.


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Why would Chinese hackers want hospital patient data?

Written By kom nampuldu on Selasa, 19 Agustus 2014 | 16.01

The theft of personal data on 4.5 million patients of Community Health Systems by hackers in China highlights the increasing degree to which hospitals are becoming lucrative targets for information theft.

Already this year, around 150 incidents of lost or stolen personal data—either due to hacking or ineptitude—have been reported by medical establishments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the case of Community Health Systems, hackers stole patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers. They did not steal medical data, Community Health Systems said—but that data can be the real prize in such breaches.

With its high prices and lack of a centralized health system, the U.S. is a lucrative target because in the right marketplace, health records can be worth a lot of money, said John Halamka, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network.

That's because people without health insurance can potentially get treatment by using medical data of one of the hacking victims.

Halamka, who also runs the "Life as a healthcare CIO" blog, said a medical record can be worth between US$50 and $250 to the right customer—many times more than the amount typically paid for a credit card number, or the cents paid for a user name and password.

"If I am one of the 50 million Americans who are uninsured ... and I need a million-dollar heart transplant, for $250 I can get a complete medical record including insurance company details," he said.

As long as personal details like age, weight and height are approximately correct—and with a faked second form of ID—a person could use the stolen data to convince a hospital they are insured and receive treatment, Halamka said.

The Affordable Care Act is reducing the numbers of uninsured but there remain many Americans who don't have sufficient insurance for various procedures.

The situation is different in a country like the U.K., where the National Health Service assigns a unique ID number that ties patients to centralized medical records.

In the U.S. with its patchwork of health networks and insurance systems, spotting an imposter is more difficult. And moving to a common patient ID system is difficult due to legislation signed into law by former President Bill Clinton that limits what private companies can do with medical records.

To guard against hackers, health care CIOs are investing in security like never before, said Halamka.

"There's nothing like a million-dollar fine to be a wake-up call to enhance security," he said, referring to the maximum $1.5 million fine that can be levied on companies by the Department of Health and Human Services for lax information security.

He advocates an ID system that would be voluntary, like the "Global Entry" system used at U.S. airports to speed immigration checks. In a voluntary system, consumers would need to approve the sharing of their information, which Halamka hopes they would in the interest of preventing the misuse of their information.


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Symantec folds nine Norton products into one service

Symantec will consolidate its cluttered Norton line of security software, folding nine products into one online service that can be used across desktop computers and mobile devices.

The product, in beta now, will simply be called "Norton Security" and cost $79 a year when it goes on sale in North America on Sept. 23, said Gerry Egan, senior director of product management. It replaces Norton Internet Security, Norton AntiVirus and Norton360, among others.

Symantec, one of the largest security vendors, has been working for more than a year to revise its product line as it faces strong competition in the low-margin consumer antivirus business.

Over the years, Symantec added new products as new threats emerged, but people had trouble figuring out which product was the right one for them.

"What we realized was we actually ended up confusing a lot of customers," Egan said.

While Norton Security will still be sold in retail stores, Symantec is bolstering its website as an entry point as that sales channel offers healthier returns for the company over others, Egan said. Symantec is also withdrawing from some of the deals that saw its software pre-installed on computers.

Overall, Symantec has aimed to make Norton Security an easy-to-manage online service along the lines of Netflix or iTunes. The user interface has been improved for simpler device management.

Consumers can sign up for a Norton Security online account and then download the appropriate product for Windows or Apple OS X computers, or Android or iOS mobile devices.

There will be a limit on the number of devices that Norton Security can be used on. The limit hasn't been determined yet, Egan said, but it will aim to prevent abuse and should be appropriate for most customers, he said.

Norton Security has the usual antivirus, antispyware and spam monitoring functions. Symantec will offer a cloud-based backup feature as an option.

Pricing for the backup feature hasn't been set yet, but Egan said it will be generally the same as in other Norton products, starting around $10 for 25 GB of storage.

Customers on versions of Norton due to be retired won't be forced off the old products, although Symantec will encourage them to move to the latest version, Egan said.

Egan said Symantec expects to release Norton Security in Europe around early October and then later in Asia Pacific.


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AMD announces Radeon R7 SSD product line, made by enthusiast manufacturer OCZ

AMD said Tuesday that it will sell three 2.5-inch SSDs manufactured by enthusiast house OCZ, allowing AMD to offer high-speed storage alongside microprocessors and graphics chips.

AMD will sell the three SSDs—sized at 120, 240, and 480 gigabytes, respectively—as Radeon R7 SSDs, tying them to its Radeon family of GPUs. OCZ, which was recently acquired by Toshiba, will actually make the drives, together with its own flash chips and controllers. 

Right now, AMD's new drives sit among the cream of the enthusiast SSD crop, with sequential read speeds of 545MB/sec and write speeds of 530 MB/sec. The number of random read I/O's per second (IOPS) clocks in at 100,000 IOPS, with 90,000 write IOPS. Perhaps more importantly, AMD is offering a four-year warranty that assumes users will write 30GB daily to the drive for each of those four years—far more than most users will likely do.

AMD is positioning the drive as an enthusiast part, right between the OCZ Vector 150 series SSD and the OCZ Vertex 460, a mainstream drive. The Radeon R7 drives will use the Barefoot 3 M00 controller, which supports 256-bit AES encryption, as well as Toshiba's A19 NAND flash. Under load, the drives will consume just 2.7 watts apiece, or 0.6 watts while idling.

"The AMD Radeon brand is synonymous with performance and quality amongst PC gamers," said Roman Kyrychynskyi, director of memory, at AMD, in a statement. "With the new AMD Radeon R7 Series SSDs powered by outstanding OCZ Storage Solutions IP, we bring that reputation to the SSD market with a series of drives that offer an ideal combination of performance, reliability and affordability—great for gamers building or upgrading a rig."

The new drives also give AMD the chance to counter longtime rival Intel, which was one of the early proponents, and manufacturers, of SSDs. (Recently, we tested Intel's 630 series enthusiast SSD and discovered that, by itself, it was only a middling performer.) Crucial, Kingston, Samsung, and SanDisk also offer competing enthusiast-class SSDs.

The prices of the Radeon R7 SSDs will begin at $100 for the 120GB model, AMD said. That's not a great price, as at press time you could buy the slightly slower Crucial M500 120GB SSD at Amazon for $74.99. Given AMD's branding, however, we'd say that an SSD/graphics card bundle might not be too far-fetched. 


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Microsoft pulls its August Windows update after users report crashes

Written By kom nampuldu on Senin, 18 Agustus 2014 | 16.01

Microsoft has pulled its August Update for Windows after users reported crashes and issues restarting their systems. The company is currently recommending users uninstall the update.

Microsoft said that it discovered issues relating to four individual updates associated with the August Update: 2982791, 2970228, 2975719, and 297533. The updates addressed security and features, and began rolling out on August 2.

Microsoft updated its security bulletin MS14-045 on Friday to warn users of issues associated with the updates. "Microsoft is investigating behavior associated with the installation of this update, and will update this bulletin when more information becomes available," the company wrote. "Microsoft recommends that customers uninstall this update. As an added precaution, Microsoft has removed the download links to the 2982791 security update."

MS14-045 applies to Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1, plus Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003.

Specifically, Microsoft identified three known issues regarding the "behavior" it had seen when users installed the update. First, fonts that are installed in a location other than the default fonts directory (%windir%\fonts\) cannot be changed when they are loaded into any active session, essentially locking them in. Second, fonts don't render correctly. The third issue is the most critical, however: Microsoft said that it is investigating reports that systems may crash with a "0x50 Stop error message" after the updates are installed.

If you have downloaded the updates already, don't worry—there is a fix, but it will also require a bit of tinkering with the registry file. The same security bulletin details the steps you'll need to take: You'll need to enter the Windows Recovery Environment, delete the fntcache.dat file, reboot, export the file, delete the file again, uninstall the updates, reboot, and reimport the font file. (Be sure to use the linked support document above as your guide.)

InfoWorld noted earlier this week that several users had complained of problems associated with the update, and that a user had discovered how to fix the font problem.

Before this month, Microsoft had periodically issued major software updates, such as Windows 8.1, providing significant feature upgrades to its operating system. In August, however, it moved away from that practice, and now pairs a smaller number of feature enhancements in conjunction with its monthly security updates. All of this was rolled up into the now-problematic August Update.

Microsoft also issued a hotfix to all major versions of Internet Explorer on Friday, a patch that was unrelated to the Windows update recall. That patch solved issues with Microsoft's browser after multiple dialog windows would cause it to slow down or halt.


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Internet Explorer running slow? Dialog boxes could be at fault

If you've noticed Internet Explorer running slowly lately—or just halting altogether—here's one possible cause: dialog boxes.

On Friday, the same day that Microsoft recommended users download the latest updates for Windows 7 and 8, Microsoft issued a hotfix for Internet Explorer. According to a support article issued Friday, "web applications that implement consecutive modal dialog boxes may cause Internet Explorer to become slow and unresponsive over time."

Microsoft issued the hotfix for Internet Explorer versions 7 through 11—basically every major version.

What's a "modal dialog box"? It's a dialog box that an application interjects, forcing you to take some action. It could be, for example, a box asking what to do with a downloaded file, or a query confirming that you really want to close a window. If they happen consecutively,  IE's performance could slow, or the browser could simply stop working altogether.

dialogue box 2 Internet Explorer

One example of a modal dialog box.

Note that only users who stay up to date with Internet Explorer are being penalized. Specifically, if you've updated the MS14-037 or MS14-051 cumulative security updates, you're vulnerable.

Microsoft's support page lists the updates you'll need to apply, which for now is nothing more than an update package. You'll need to restart your PC to apply it.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, Friday was one of those days you'd like to forget. Fortunately, Microsoft's hotfix for Internet Explorer is a much simpler update than the registry fixes you'll need to apply to back out of the botched August update that Microsoft began rolling out this week. Either way, it's still a headache that you'll need to deal with either tonight or when you return to work on Monday morning. 


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Chinese man indicted over theft of Boeing C-17 secrets

A Chinese man has been indicted for allegedly directing two China-based hackers to infiltrate Boeing and other defense contractors to steal gigabytes of documents describing U.S. military aircraft.

Su Bin, a Chinese national in his late 40s, was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on charges of unauthorized computer access, conspiracy, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and aiding and abetting. He was arrested in Canada in June.

Su allegedly worked with two unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators between 2009 and 2013 to obtain documents related to planes such as the C-17, a cargo aircraft, and the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, according to the indictment.

Su, who ran a China-based aviation company called Lode Technology, is accused of trying to sell the information to state-owned companies in China and other entities.

Curiously, Su and the co-conspirators in part used free email accounts such as Gmail to communicate, which likely gave law enforcement a broad view into their alleged actions. U.S. prosecutors can obtain such communications with a court order.

Excerpts of the emails were included in an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Noel A. Neeman, which is contained in Su's court file.

An August 2012 email from one of the China-based hackers to the other one describes a painstaking, year-long 2.7 million yuan ($439,000) effort that successfully stole 85 GB of information about the C-17, including electronic cable wiring documents and detailed schematics.

Boeing's network is "extremely complex," the hacker wrote, adding the company has layers of security equipment including firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems.

The emails also provided insight into general methods the hackers used. To avoid diplomatic and legal problems, stolen documents were sent to servers in other countries, such as South Korea and Singapore, before being moved to Hong Kong or Macao, according to another email sent from co-conspirator #1 to co-conspirator #2.

From those locales, "the intelligence is always picked up and transferred to China in person," the email said.

Neeman's affidavit said that while the "success and scope" of the operation could have been exaggerated, there was evidence that it was successful "to some degree." His affidavit does not speculate if the co-conspirators are Chinese government employees.

The U.S. and China have traded sharp accusations over hacking in recent months, with each accusing the other of government-sanctioned intrusions.

In May, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a criminal indictment against five members of Chinese Army signal intelligence Unit 61398 with stealing nuclear, solar power and steel trade secrets from six U.S. organizations over eight years. China vehemently denied the accusations.


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FCC extends net neutrality comment period to Sept. 15

Written By kom nampuldu on Minggu, 17 Agustus 2014 | 16.00

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has extended a deadline for comments on its proposed net neutrality rules to Sept. 15, giving members of the public more time to weigh in on how the government should regulate Web traffic.

July 15 was the initial deadline for first-round comments on the FCC's proposed rules. It was extended to July 18 after a flood of last-minute comments came in and the agency's Web form crashed. Now, the deadline for replying to comments has been extended from Sept. 10 to Sept. 15.

The change was made "to ensure that members of the public have as much time as was initially anticipated to reply to initial comments in these proceedings," the agency said on Friday.

The agency is seeking comment on possible pay-for-priority business models for Internet service providers. It has already received more than 1 million comments, with many opposing a Web "fast track" that would prioritize content and service providers who pay more than others.

In addition, many commenters have called on the FCC to treat broadband providers as common-carrier utilities, criticizing any rules that would selectively block or penalize traffic.

Comments can be submitted by anyone on the FCC's page here, via email at openinternet@fcc.gov, or by physical mail.

Net neutrality may have been an esoteric topic at one time, but awareness around it—and how it might affect businesses online—has grown. In June, comic news commentator John Oliver rallied support for net neutrality with a YouTube video that went viral.

The sheer number of comments the agency has received is telling. Currently, it's on par with the 1.4 million comments the FCC received after singer Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the live broadcast of the 2004 Super Bowl.


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