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Dec
02
2017

UK joins US in warning about #Kaspersky Antivirus and Russian software

Britain’s main cyber security agency on Friday warned British government agencies to avoid using anti-virus software from Russian companies, the latest in a series of moves targeting Moscow-based security software maker Kaspersky Lab.

The product box for Kaspersky Anti-Virus, as seen on Kaspersky's website.

Box image courtesy Kaspersky’s web site.

Who are Kaspersky?

Kaspersky Labs is a multinational corporation that provides cybersecurity services worldwide. The company does a lot of work in identifying threats to computers, the internet and governments that could damage computers or lead to information getting out that shouldn't be made public; and helps to find solutions. As well as internet security, password management and many other security tools, one of the products Kaspersky is most well-known for developing and selling is its own Antivirus product, Kaspersky Anti-Virus (and also Kaspersky Internet Security), which is used by governments and individuals alike to help protect computers from being compromised or damaged by malicious attacks.

Kaspersky Labs is headquartered in Moscow, Russia – a country known to have strict laws over control of data in and out of its borders. Russia lately has been in a lot of hot water with the United States over longstanding allegations that the country attempted to rig the 2016 Presidential Election and has too close ties to current president Donald Trump; and may be secretly attempting to influence America.

What's going on?

The United States have expressed concerns that Kaspersky have "close ties to intelligence agencies in Moscow and that its software could be used to enable Russian spying". In response, Kaspersky has offered to share source code showing how parts of their software works, in order to supposedly prove that Kaspersky does not hand any data over to Russia. This hasn't alleviated the US Government's concerns, however, and Kaspersky’s anti-virus software was banned from US government networks earlier this year.

Now, the UK has decided to follow suit.

In the United Kingdom, the government organisation responsible for computer security is the UK National Cyber Security Centre. On Friday, its director, Ciaran Martin, penned a letter to departmental permanent secretaries asking them to stop using Kaspersky software, saying that Russian-made software should "not be used in systems containing information that would harm national security if it was accessed by the Russian government."

The wording of the letter makes clear that the UK agrees with the US that there are significant concerns that Kaspersky software could be leaking data to Russian governments that would be dangerous if it got out. Martin added that his agency is "in talks with Kaspersky Lab to develop a system for reviewing its products for use in Britain."

”We are in discussions with Kaspersky Lab … about whether we can develop a framework that we and others can independently verify,” Martin said in the letter, which was publicly released.

What is Kaspersky's reaction?

Kaspersky Labs allege their organisation has become a scapegoat in the midst of the rising tensions between America and Russia; and say that it looked forward to working with the NCSC on the issue in a statement released following the NCSC announcement.

Should I be worried?

At this point in time, there is no real proof that Kaspersky DOES send data that passes through its systems on to the Russian government; or what that data entails. However, the fact the company does dealings with government, corporate and military organisations worldwide, and is itself based in Moscow, makes the possibility impossible to ignore.

The NCSC's statement only refers to matters of "national security", saying that Kaspersky software should only be avoided if the possibility of Russians getting ahold of it "poses a significant risk". For most at-home users, therefore, there is nothing to worry about. However, if you are a user of Kaspersky Antivirus, Internet Security or any of their other products; and you find the revelations discomforting or are concerned for your privacy, it may well be worth looking into alternative products just for your own peace of mind.

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    Previous Articles


    Apr
    05
    2017

    IndieGoGo Review: Sobro Connected Coffee Table

    The humble coffee table. One of the most recognised pieces of furniture there is. Everyone's living room has one, I'd wager; and whether it's used to put your coffee and biscuits as you watch TV; as a decorative item; or as something to put your paperwork and other junk on, it's fair to say that they're not the most inspiring parts of a room or the most useful. Now, a New York-based firm called StoreBound thinks it's time the coffee table got a 21st-Century upgrade.

    A promotional picture for Sobro, showing off the product's uses and features

    "Designed for a digital lifestyle… the furniture of the future." Thus starts the IndieGoGo pitch for Sobro, a smart coffee table designed to support your connected lifestyle, which at the time of writing has already thrashed its modest $50,000 funding goal, raising $838,055 at the time of writing with a month of the campaign still to run. "We've elevated the coffee table from a piece of wood that props up unopened large-format books, to an all-in-one center that connects your powered up life."

    So what IS Sobro?

    Sobro's list of features include a Refrigerator Drawer, Bluetooth speakers, LED Lighting, both USB ports and actual electrical sockets, and more.

    A list of the features offered by a Sobro coffee table.

    At its heart, Sobro is a coffee table with an integrated refrigerator drawer, designed to allow you to keep beverages chilled and snacks fresh while still allowing you to use it as an actual surface like a regular table. There are also two side drawers, for storing items that don't need to be chilled. The top surface of this chunky furniture item is tempered glass, which StoreBound claims is durable and easy to clean, making coasters a thing of the past. But Sobro is more than just a glass-covered work-top with a fridge – this is a true techy delight.

    To the left and right sides, the Sobro is equipped with dual Bluetooth-connected speakers, allowing you to pump music into the room from any Bluetooth-connected device with a rich bass and high-quality sound. This can be combined with configurable LED lighting on the underside of the Sobro in order to create a real sense of atmosphere, or bring life to a party. Speaking of configuration, the bottom-right side of the Sobro's top surface features touch-sensitive controls, through which one can control the Sobro's audio, lights and drawer temperature; and its Bluetooth connections right from the tabletop – no need for a smartphone and companion app.

    Speaking of which, do you find that your smartphone or tablet runs out of juice far too quickly? The Sobro has you covered. With two USB ports on its side, the Sobro can charge two USB-powered devices at the same time. The Sobro also contains two standard power outlets, so even traditional electronics can be plugged in – why not keep your laptop plugged in while you use it? The Sobro gets all its power from a single plug which can be plugged into a wall socket and concealed underneath, allowing you to split a single socket into four separate power solutions.

    Sobro's dimensions

    StoreBound claim the Sobro’s dimensions and stylish appearance will allow it to fit in wherever you might normally find a coffee table.

    Unfortunately, because the Sobro uses 110-Volt American-style outlets, the Sobro is currently only planned to ship to America and Canada. This restriction, however, doesn't seem to have hampered the product's reach, with the connected coffee table being backed by almost 1200 IndieGoGo users at the time of writing. Currently, a pledge of $649 or more will buy you one Sobro, but slots are already filling up and once 200 people have claimed this perk, the price will rise to $899 for everyone else. Even this, however is still a 40% saving on the product's expected retail price of $1499 – so if the sound of a connected coffee table appeals to you, and you live in the USA or Canada, don't miss your chance!

    Sobro on IndieGoGo

    This article first appeared on Sanitarium.FM

    Digiprove sealThis informative article has been Digiproved © 2017
    Acknowledgements: Pictures taken from Sobro's IndieGog more...
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    Jan
    30
    2017

    Pac-Man Creator and Founder of Namco passes away

    It was announced earlier today that the creator of Pac-Man and founder of Namco (now Namco Bandai Games Incorporated), Masaya Nakamura, has died at the ripe old age of 91. A major pioneer of early video games, without whom many Arcade stalwarts would not exist and who even companies like Nintendo owe a debt to, his life saw him go from humble beginnings to one of the most successful video game legacies in history.

    I ask everyone to join me in paying their respects. You can post your messages of tribute in the comments below, or on the Forum Thread I have created for the purpose.

    Jan
    21
    2017

    Need storage? Seagate 4TB Barracuda on Sale at Amazon and NewEgg

    While Solid State Drives may slowly be taking over the world of computer storage due to their fast speeds and lack of spinning parts, if you're looking to store lots of things – maybe you work in a job where regular backups are key, you edit videos a lot, or you're a heavy gamer – or you want reliability, there's still no better than a traditional Hard Drive. And now Seagate is making it easier to get lots of storage for very little outlay – how about 4 Terabytes for $105 (roughly £85.20)?

    That's how much Seagate's 4TB Barracuda drive is on sale for at Amazon's US site, and at NewEgg, which claims the price will stick until Wednesday. At a price that equates to roughly 2p ($0.03) a Gigabyte, this price pitches the Barracuda even cheaper than the cheapest SSDs.

    Take note that the Barracuda line is intended for "general purpose" storage, and thus doesn't have the highest speed when compared to more performance-focused lines like the Barracuda Pro. That said, when the drive is rated to deliver read and write speeds of 146MB/s on average, with a maximum sustained data rate of up to 180MB/s, in most general situations you're hardly going to complain. The 4TB model also sports 64MB of cache, meaning it should get going quickly for your more regular tasks; and also has a SATA 6Gbps interface.

    As of the time of writing, NewEgg is already out-of-stock, so be sure to act fast when the stock comes back if you want one!

    Jan
    05
    2017

    #CES2017: LG Unveils Range of Robots That Will Clean Airports, Mow Lawns…

    Ever since robotic technology became a mainstream thought, people have imagined a future where robots would deal with all of the housework in the home, or even help clean up in the office environment, so that us humans wouldn't have to. LG Corporation wants to make some of these dreams a reality, today unveiling a trio of intelligent robots at CES in Las Vegas, which together offer attendees a glimpse into a future where robots can help you around the house, make sure you catch a flight on-time, mow your lawn, or clean-up trash at the airport.

    The trio of robots are part of the company's movements in developing Internet of Things objects; and are designed to showcase LG’s advancements in artificial intelligence. Leading the pack is the Hub Robot, a robot designed to interact with a household through voice-recognition technology and an anthropomorphic design. Hub's "face" is an interactive display which can show a wide variety of information; and even express emotions using a digitised face.

    The LG Hub Robot

    The LG Hub Robot (Image Courtesy LG Newsroom)

    The Hub Robot connects to other smart appliances you own; then, using Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition technology, the robot can be instructed using simple voice commands to perform tasks such as turning on air conditioning, setting a washing machine, or any other task made possible by the smart gadgets in the home. The robot can also "speak" to guide you through recipes or provide you with information in addition to what's on screen; and the robot can even respond using simple body language like nodding. The Hub Robot also contains a built-in camera; and can be programmed to recognise different family members and respond to them in different ways, for that more personal touch.

    But LG isn’t just interested in building robots to help you around the house; and for the second part of its technology triple-punch, the company has unveiled two robots designed for use in the Airport. The Airport Guide Robot is exactly what the name suggests – already being prepared for deployment in Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, this robot is designed to help travellers by answering their questions in English, Chinese, Japanese or Korean; and can offer directions, provide detailed flight information like boarding times or the gate location, scan a passenger's ticket or escort you to the gate itself. It can even tell you what weather to expect when you arrive at your destination.

    Joining it is the Airport Cleaning Robot, which LG describes as "a super-sized robot vacuum". Using a combination of smart light sensors, multiple cameras, and sensitive bumpers, the Airport Cleaning Robot offers enough cleaning power to clean everything from carpeted floors to tiles – all while avoiding obstacles and passengers to provide the most effective performance in crowded airports.

    On a very similar tangent, the company's final offering is the Lawn Mowing Robot, which uses the same advanced sensors and bumpers as the Airport Cleaning Robot to map out a user's garden and avoid obstacles, hedges and trees as it trims the grass. According to LG, this robot is ideal for all types of yards and uses its fast-moving blade to trim grass safely and accurately.

    All of these robots are now on display at LG's CES booth in Las Vegas, alongside other gadgets such as a smart refrigerator with Amazon Alexa voice-recognition tech and a razor-thin television set. Needless to say, 2017 may prove to be a stellar year for technological advances.

    Jan
    27
    2016

    Lenovo Grilled By Security Researchers over poor ShareIT Security

    Computer users often make very basic mistakes that make more sensible people wonder just what they were thinking. Case in point: passwords. Splashdata recently published its fifth annual list of the most commonly-used passwords by computer users in North America and Western Europe; and many people will be hitting their heads against their desks when they learn that obvious choices like "password" and "12345678" still top the list.

    While you can expect individuals to make basic mistakes like these, you would assume actual computer manufacturers would be smarter. But if the latest headlines are to be believed, it seems Lenovo's software developers could do with reading this list themselves. As revealed in an advisory posted by Core Security, Lenovo's ShareIT file-sharing software – built in to their computers – has a very serious password-related flaw.

    How bad? The Wi-Fi Network created and used for transferring files between Windows computers "securely" uses a very predictable password: 12345678. Even worse, this password is "hardcoded" into the software, making it impossible for users to change it to something much more secure. The problem is even worse for Android users, where the ShareIT app has no password at all, leaving the network entirely open for anyone within radio range to connect to.

    The implications for the security of transferred files is serious. Merely using a web browser to connect to a ShareIT network can reveal all the files currently stored on the platform by the affected user. While the files cannot be downloaded this way, the researchers also discovered that the files are transferred insecurely, without any kind of encryption, meaning the simple use of a traffic sniffer once connected could allow anyone to obtain a copy of any transferred file.

    Luckily, the flaws may not exist much longer. Lenovo claim that since being made aware of the issues in October last year, the company has worked to bring the software up to snuff. Those running ShareIT on Windows or Android are now advised to download the latest version of the software from the ShareIT website, which was released this week and claims to resolve all the issues found by the Core Security researchers. Given that this is not the first time Lenovo have been found to engage in shady security practices, however, it may be time to think twice about that ThinkPad.

    Jul
    15
    2015

    Toshiba Executive Resignations Rumoured

    Toshiba's blocky red logo

    A report published today in the Nikkei Asian Review has revealed that company president of Toshiba, Hisao Tanaka, plans to tender his resignation from the technology giant. having informed numerous ‘close associates’ of the intention. He is expected to be joined by his predecessor and current vice chair Norio Sasaki, who he displaced in 2013; as well as several other executives, totalling more half the board, as the company aims to clean the slate.

    Central to the mass departures is a suggestion that the company has engaged in accounting irregularities. Third party regulators have been investigating financial mismanagement covering the tenure of both of the former presidents mentioned earlier; as well as a third former president, Atsutoshi Nishida, presently a consultant for the company. The investigation is expected to report the company’s complicity in padding its profits by fraudulently manipulating accounting records in order to appear to be more closely competing with rival Hitachi.

    Toshiba has not yet made an official statement on the matter, but is expected to do so when it reveals the results of the investigation and reports its delayed financial earnings statement; during which the executive departures are also expected to be announced.

    The irregularities, believed to stretch over at least a five-year period, have seen the company pad its operating profits by up to ¥200 billion (around £1.04 billion). Since the investigation was announced in early April, the company’s stock has nose-dived from ¥481.20 to just ¥374.90 today.

    [Via Sanitarium.FM]

    Digiprove sealThis informative article has been Digiproved © 2015
    Acknowledgements: Original reporting: Nikkei Asian Revi more...
    Some Rights Reserved
    Mar
    04
    2015

    EA calls time on SimCity studio Maxis Emeryville

    With those 117 characters, SimCity lead gameplay scripter and designer Guillaume Pierre revealed the sad news that Electronic Arts has closed down SimCity studio Maxis Emeryville. After 12 long years, the company have apparently decided to close the studio in order to consolidate Maxis IPs into existing Maxis studios.

    EA confirmed the closure and intentions with the following statement:

     

    Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to our studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne locations as we close our Emeryville location. Maxis continues to support and develop new experiences for current Sims and SimCity players, while expanding our franchises to new platforms and developing new cross-platform IP.

    These changes do not impact our plans for The Sims. Players will continue to see rich new experiences in The Sims 4, with our first expansion pack coming soon along with a full slate of additional updates and content in the pipeline.

     

    Although Pierre had additionally tweeted “everyone’s out of a job” in reference to the studio’s employees, EA included a further paragraph in their statement in regards to the affected employees:

     

    All employees impacted by the changes today will be given opportunities to explore other positions within the Maxis studios and throughout EA. For those that are leaving the company, we are working to ensure the best possible transition with separation packages and career assistance.

     

    At this time, it’s unknown how many employees will be affected by the closure.

    Maxis was founded by Will Wright and Jeff Braun in 1987, and was acquired by EA in 1997. The studios are well-known for their town-building and life-sim franchises, SimCity and The Sims respectively; but following the adoption of a new engine in their latest title, Sims 4, causing a large loss of content from that found in previous games; and a disastrous attempt to revive the SimCity franchise in 2013 as an online game which was plagued by numerous technical and design flaws as well as server instabilities, Maxis’ future under EA has found itself on an unfortunate downward spiral.

    Mar
    31
    2014

    (Updated) GAME Stores to Distribute X & Y Goodies in the UK

    Updated to add promotion end date and Pokémon details.

    Wait a minute… GAME is still alive and well?!? Seems like it, since The Pokémon Company International has once again announced it's teaming up with the UK-based specialist retailer to once again offer a distribution event promoting Pokémon X and Y and the new XY Trading Card Game Expansion. Colour me surprised.

    From Friday 4th April until the 30th September, anyone who brings their 3DS into any GAME store across the United Kingdom, with a copy of Pokémon X or Y inside, can claim a free Pokémon for their game. Players with Pokémon X can receive Magmar free upon request, whilst those with Pokémon Y copies can claim Electabuzz. Additionally, both will be holding their respective Trade Evolution item – the Magmarizer and Electirizer respectively – meaning these free Pokémon can be traded to a trusted friend to obtain their evolved forms – Magmortar and Electivire!

    Sources claim both Pokémon will be offered at Level 30. Electabuzz has the ability Vital Spirit and the moves Low Kick, Shock Wave, Light Screen & Thunder Punch. Magmar has the ability Vital Spirit and the moves Smokescreen, Fire Spin, Confuse Ray & Fire Punch.

    As if that wasn't enough, there's a bonus for fans of the Trading Card game too. At each store while stocks last, you'll be able to get a Pokémon TCG: XY special sampling pack containing a card from the new expansion along with a special "holographic" Pikachu card. Who doesn't love free stuff?

    [Cross-posted with Sanitarium.FM]

    Feb
    17
    2014

    Marty McFly’s Self-Tying Shoelaces to become a reality in 2015

    In the classic time-travel film Back To The Future II, Marty McFly wears a very distinctive pair of sneakers. In 2011, Nike introduced the Nike Air Mag sneakers as a limited edition product – and wowed the film's fans by revealing they were an exact replica of Marty's iconic shoes; and that the proceeds from each pair sold would go directly to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. But there was something missing.

    Marty's shoes in Back To The Future II had a cool and unique technology called "Power Laces", which were self-tying laces that meant your shoes would effectively tie themselves the moment your feet settled into them. Many fans loudly decried their absence from the otherwise accurate homage of the Nike Air Mags – but surely such technology was pure fiction, right? According to Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, not any more!

    Starting 2015, Nike intends to bring to market shoes with the iconic self-tying Power Laces as designed by Nike's own shoe designers. That timing couldn't be more perfect, as canonically the power-lace-equipped shoes of the classic film were actually said to be introduced in 2015, making a perfect example of art imitating life – one can't help but wonder if Nike have chosen to deliberately delay the launch to fit the events of the film. It's unclear whether the laces will appear on an updated version of the Nike Air Mag or on a new product entirely – which also means we don't yet know what the Power Laces will cost. So, what would YOU pay for shoes that tied themselves?

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