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ComputersJeff Soyer on 29 Dec 2014 03:42 am

Brian Krebs profiles the young hackers who brought down the Play Station and Xbox networks. I’m always bewildered both at the genius of guys like this, and saddened that they use their skills for evil instead of good.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 23 Dec 2014 05:17 am

From the Independent:

Apple has pushed out its first-ever automated security update to Macintosh computers to help defend against newly identified bugs that security researchers have warned could enable hackers to gain remote control of machines.

The company pushed out the software on Monday to fix critical security vulnerabilities in a component of its OS X operating system called the network time protocol, or NTP, according to Apple spokesman Bill Evans.NTP is used for synchronizing clocks on computer systems.

[ . . . ]

The company decided to deliver the NTP bug fixes with its technology for automatically pushing out security updates, which Apple introduced two years ago but had never previously used, because it wanted to protect customers as quickly as possible due to the severity of the vulnerabilities, Evans said.

“The update is seamless,” he said. “It doesn’t even require a restart.”

ComputersJeff Soyer on 05 Dec 2014 04:22 am

You just can’t make this stuff up:

Sony Kept Thousands of Passwords in a Folder Named “Password”

Allen Ludden was not available for comment.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 05 Jun 2014 10:35 pm

Because essentially, that’s what DARPA is looking for:

For any given software vulnerability, the lengthy time window from initial bug report to widespread patch deployment puts cybersecurity analysts at a significant disadvantage. In many cases a race ensues between miscreants intending to exploit the vulnerability and analysts who must assess, remediate, test, and deploy a patch before significant damage can be done. Experts follow a process that involves sophisticated reasoning followed by manual creation of each security signature and software patch — an artisanal approach that can require months and many dollars. This approach has resulted in an environment of ubiquitous software insecurity that favors attackers over defenders.

To help overcome these challenges, DARPA has launched the Cyber Grand Challenge: a competition that seeks to create automatic defensive systems capable of reasoning about flaws, formulating patches and deploying them on a network in real time. By acting at machine speed and scale, these technologies may someday overturn today’s attacker-dominated status quo.

[ . . . ]

Competitors would navigate a series of challenges starting with a qualifying event in which a collection of software is automatically analyzed. Competitors would qualify by identifying, proving, and repairing software flaws. A select group of competitors who display top performance during the qualifying event would be invited to the Cyber Grand Challenge final event, slated for early to mid-2016. Each team’s system would automatically identify software flaws, scanning the network to identify affected hosts. Teams would be scored against each other based on how capably their systems can protect hosts, scan the network for vulnerabilities, and maintain the correct function of software. The winning team would receive a cash prize of $2 million, with second place earning $1 million and third place taking home $750,000.

Much more at the link, including links to the entry forms.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 27 May 2014 05:50 am

I actually still have my old Apple 2e. It’s been sitting in a box in my “attic” for 21-years. Now, I’m going to dig it out, along with my Commodore 64 and Atari 400 and see if they still work. Stay tuned for some nostalgia.

BTW, I must not be the only one feeling old, the video was posted on Sunday and has over 4 million views!

ComputersJeff Soyer on 21 Feb 2014 08:28 am

Cartoon and controversy here.

I’ve always pronounced it with a soft-g, — “jiff” — because I believe that in general, the genius gentleman who generated the file format genuinely knows the gist of avoiding gibberish, regardless drinking gin, ginger, or ginseng. And yes, I pronounce it a “jraphics” card.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 28 Jan 2014 07:04 am

This time, a collection of screen captures from classic sci-fi movies. expand the ones you want before downloading them.

Cool! and ComputersJeff Soyer on 31 Dec 2013 06:58 am

Amazing what people with a talent can achieve. It took 50-hours, but is condensed to 2-minutes in this video:

ComputersJeff Soyer on 09 Nov 2013 06:33 am

Come on, you know you or your kids would like them, and io9 has a bunch for the taking.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 07 Nov 2013 06:19 am

Well, it also highlights questionable coding and server security at Adobe itself, but enough of my opinion. From Fox News:

Despite the endless warnings, despite all the advice, despite the plethora of useful articles on the matter, it seems computer users everywhere just can’t help creating really crummy passwords.

Analysis of user passwords gathered from the recent Adobe attack reveal a Top 20 list full of easy-to-remember but equally easy-to-guess passwords, with “123456” topping the chart.

Full list of really bad passwords at the link.

There are apps for creating decent passwords, or here are tips for doing it yourself.

Update 11/8: A new study shows that computer scientists are smart enough to choose tough passwords. What group uses the worst? As in meaning the most easily hacked? It wasn’t even the “arts” students. It was the ones who should be most vigilant about it.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 03 Nov 2013 07:44 am

Or, certainly one of the first ones to make news:

And don’t you just love those 25lb. “portable computers” in the report?

Which brings me to a question for you: Are any of you currently running both Avast Internet Security (which I am) and Malwarebytes (which I’m considering) at the same time, with no conflicts or ill effects?

ComputersJeff Soyer on 01 Nov 2013 04:40 am

If you’re a computer geek, especially in the security field, you might find this interesting. It would make a good sci-fi story plot.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 30 Sep 2013 05:36 am

The easiest way is not keeping it plugged in all the time:

Cadex Electronics CEO Isidor Buchmann told WIRED that ideally everyone would charge their batteries to 80 percent then let them drain to about 40 percent. This will prolong the life of your battery — in some cases by as much as four times. The reason is that each cell in a lithium-polymer battery is charged to a voltage level. The higher the charge percentage, the higher the voltage level. The more voltage a cell has to store, the more stress it’s put under. That stress leads to fewer discharge cycles. For example, Battery University states that a battery charged to 100 percent will have only 300-500 discharge cycles, while a battery charged to 70 percent will get 1,200-2,000 discharge cycles.

My Lenovo has a setting that, even when plugged in, lets the battery drain down to a certain level and then recharges it to a not-100% one. I’ve been using that and wondering why. Now, I know. There are other settings, of course, that keep it at 100% if you know you’re going to be unplugged for a long time.

Other advice from the article: Don’t keep your laptop on your lap all the time. Heat is an enemy of batteries.

Space and ComputersJeff Soyer on 17 Aug 2013 06:54 am

Consider downloading the large size image here at Space.com.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 01 Mar 2013 06:27 am

I’d been a confirmed Mac user for many years (not the least of which because the company I worked at for 10+ years used them) and when my Mac Book (using OS X 4.9) died a couple years ago, I wasn’t happy (I expressed that here) at having to — in my words — “settle” for a Windows computer.

Well, I’m back at that company (and glad about it) but they’re still Mac based and using one with Mountain Lion has left me singularly unimpressed. Apple removed much of the customization that was previously possible. And, it’s kind of buggy.

So, with an apology to AZRon, I have to admit that I now prefer Windows 7. I’m not crazy about Windows Explorer — it still lacks many ease of use features of OS X’s Finder — but overall I’m finding Windows (believe it or not) a bit more user friendly these days.

Incidentally, I did take the advice of many of you and switched to AVAST anti-virus. It’s definitely better and faster than Norton.

I have one trepidation: From what I’ve read, Windows 8 is designed for the more mobile/touch screen users and I’m a confirmed touch typist and hot-keys user.

Hopefully MS will continue to support Windows 7 for many years to come.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 14 Jan 2013 05:14 am

Better fix it.

Or: Forget Oracle’s Latest Java Patch. Just Kill The Program In Your Browser For Good.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 10 Dec 2012 07:49 am

For years (probably because I was using a Mac) I simply had Thunderbird retrieve my email from my gunnut account (which also aggregates all my other accounts) and download it to my computer. Since involuntarily switching to a PC (Windows 7) I continued to use Thunderbird. And every week when I ran my anti-virus program, “back door trojans” and other threats were found.

I decided to investigate a little further. All the threats seemed to be ‘housed’ in Thunderbird’s caches. So, even though I was not reading but simply deleting suspicious emails, the computer was getting infected, or at least had the viruses on the hard-drive.

A few weeks ago I decided to log directly to my Hosting Matters accounts with my browser and scan the email headers using — usually — Horde. I’d delete all spam and other suspicious stuff and only then would I use Thunderbird to bring the remaining emails down.

I haven’t (or at least the anti-virus program hasn’t) found a single threat since then.

You probably already do this but I’m a little slow on the uptake . . .

ComputersJeff Soyer on 27 Nov 2012 04:41 am

The search engine giant is researching how it can help you Google the UnGoogleable.

And yes, it’s tough to not capitalize nouns being used as verbs . . .

2012 Election and ComputersJeff Soyer on 05 Nov 2012 08:57 am

Computer security and privacy isn’t all it’s cracked-up to be. From Technology Review:

The unsolved problems include the ability of malicious actors to intercept Internet communications, log in as someone else, and hack into servers to rewrite or corrupt code. While these are also big problems in e-ecommerce, if a hacker steals money, the theft can soon be discovered. A bank or store can decide whether any losses are an acceptable cost of doing business.

Voting is a different and harder problem. Lost votes aren’t acceptable. And a voting system is supposed to protect the anonymity of a person’s vote—quite unlike a banking or e-commerce transaction—while at the same time validating that it was cast accurately, in a manner that maintains records that a losing candidate will accept as valid and verified.

Imagine how a computer virus could ‘throw’ an election. It would be worse than how the Main Stream Media tries to.

Lots more at the link.

ComputersJeff Soyer on 05 Nov 2012 08:20 am

Wired Magazine has an expanded (with reader suggestions) version of the World’s Most Wonderfully Ridiculous Movie Computers.

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