Science & Technology

WASHINGTON: With hackers stealing tens of millions of customer details in recent months, firms across the globe are ratcheting up IT security and nervously wondering which of them is next.

The reality, cyber security experts say, is that however much they spend, even the largest companies are unlikely to be able to stop their systems being breached. The best defense may simply be either to reduce the data they hold or encrypt it so well that if stolen it will remain useless.

Only a few ago, the primary IT security concern for many large corporations was stopping the loss or theft of physical disks or drives with customer information.

Now, much harder to detect online thefts are rife.

Last week, Reuters revealed a host of big name U.S. Fortune 500 companies were on a hiring spree for board level cyber security experts often offering $500,000-700,000 a year, sometimes more.

Many have high-level backgrounds, at much lower pay, at signals intelligence agencies such as the US National Security Agency or Britain's GCHQ - although security experts say European firms are reluctant to hire ex-NSA staff following revelations over the scale of US cyber monitoring by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"Information has become toxic for retailers because the more they have, the bigger a target they become," said Lamar Bailey, security researcher at IT security firm Tripwire."The ongoing rash of attacks brings into question what information an organization should be keeping."

US retailer Target ousted its CEO Gregg Steinhafel in May after the firm said foreign hackers had stolen up to 70 million items of customer data including some PIN numbers late last year.

Industry watchers said purchases on its website dropped noticeably in the run-up to Christmas with the breach also sparking lawsuits and official investigations.

A report from cyber security think tank the Ponemon Institute showed the average cost of a data breach in the last year grew by 15 percent to $3.5 million. The likelihood of a company having a data breach involving 10,000 or more confidential records over a two-year period was 22 percent, it said.

The corporate fallout from the largest recorded breach so far, the loss of password data on some 145 million customers from online retailer eBay, is not yet clear.

A senior eBay executive told Reuters last week that "for a very long time" the firm had not realized customer data had been seriously compromised by the attack.

Abortion charity fined

Much smaller organizations, even charities, are also discovering they have much to lose.

UK charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) - which provides information on abortions and runs clinics - is appealing a 200,000 pound fine after an anti-abortion campaigner was able to access websites details of women asking for advice.

Britain's Information Commissioner said the charity had failed in its responsibility to store records securely. "I do feel sympathy for them," said Calum MacLeod, vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Lieberman Software Corporation. "They were never going to be able to attract top IT staff and with their limited resources, it will very often mean that they will outsource services such as website development. This shows that great care must be taken."

IT security experts say firms are becoming increasingly careful, now sometimes instructing tens of thousands of users to change passwords if even a single account appears compromised. Many are also taking out specialist insurance.

Still, a study of 102 UK financial institutions and 151 retail organizations conducted earlier this year by Tripwire showed 40 percent said they would need 2 to 3 days to detect a breach.

A February report by BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, the cyber arm of the British defense firm, showed customer data loss was by far the largest IT security concern for firms in the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain. It significantly outranked worries over lost trade secrets and interruption of service.

Hackers seek the most complete range of information they can get on individual customers. Obtaining a complete dataset of password, date of birth, e-mail address, phone number and other personal data can be more valuable than simple credit card details.

"The theft of financial information has a limited lifespan, until we make changes the account details," said Andy Heather, vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Voltage Security. "The personal information that can be obtained by accessing someone's account profile has much broader use and can be used to commit a much wider range of fraud."

Banks have been ahead of the curve when it comes to tightening IT security and have suffered less than retailers in recent months. Increasing numbers of firms are also using online payment operator PayPal instead of taking credit card numbers themselves, reducing the amount of data they hold.

The better data is encrypted, the less serious it is when it is stolen though even some encrypted passwords can be cracked with sufficient computer power.

Other strategies involve using "honeypots" - false folders designed to look as though they contain valuable data - that can be used to mislead and even detect attackers.

The most common route in for criminals, however, is gaining control of someone else's user profile, allowing them to sneak into networks and steal further data.

Some worry the high-profile nature of recent hacks may have actually made such identity theft easier. Security experts report an increase in "phishing" attacks - fake e-mails purportedly from major firms mentioning recent security breaches and prompting people to a dubious link to reset the password.

"Any time an event like this occurs it opens the door for phishing campaigns to be more effective," said Troy Gill, senior security analyst at AppRiver. "No organization is immune."

 بیجنگ(پاكستانيز ان كويت ٹيم) : اب اسمارٹ فون سے گاڑیاں بھی چلیں گی، جی ہاں چین میں مستقبل کی گاڑیوں نے شائقین کوخوابوں کی دنیا میں پہنچا دیا، جس کی تعبیر ممکن ہے۔

چین کا نام جہاں آجائے، ٹیکنالوجی کی نئی خبرلے آئے۔ بیجنگ میں بھی ان دنوں گاڑی کی صنعت کیلئے نئی خبرصنعت کاروں اور شائقین کی توجہ سمیٹ رہی ہے، اسمارٹ فون کے حکم پرچلنے پھرنے والی گاڑیاں قدم جمائے کھڑی ہیں۔


مقامی کمپنی کی تیار کردہ ان گاڑیوں میں انٹرنیٹ کی مکمل سہولت اور اسمارٹ آپریٹنگ سسٹم موجود ہے، اسے چُرانے کیلئے چور کو بھی جدید ٹیکنالوجی کا ہی رخ کرنا ہوگا، ورنہ چوری ناممکن ہے۔


یہ گاڑی اب اپنے صارف سے جُڑی رہے گی، دو ہزار پندرہ میں یہ گاڑیاں مول پانے کیلئے منڈیوں کا رخ کریں گی۔ 

BOSTON: Microsoft Corp is rushing to fix a bug in its widely used Internet Explorer web browser after a computer security firm disclosed the flaw over the weekend, saying hackers have already exploited it in attacks on some US companies.

PCs running Windows XP will not receive any updates fixing that bug when they are released, however, because Microsoft stopped supporting the 13-year-old operating system earlier this month. Security firms estimate that between 15 and 25 percent of the world's PCs still run Windows XP.

Microsoft disclosed on Saturday its plans to fix the bug in an advisory to its customers posted on its security website, which it said is present in Internet Explorer versions 6 to 11. Those versions dominate desktop browsing, accounting for 55 percent of the PC browser market, according to tech research firm NetMarketShare.

Cybersecurity software maker FireEye Inc said that a sophisticated group of hackers have been exploiting the bug in a campaign dubbed "Operation Clandestine Fox."

FireEye, whose Mandiant division helps companies respond to cyber attacks, declined to name specific victims or identify the group of hackers, saying that an investigation into the matter is still active.

"It's a campaign of targeted attacks seemingly against US-based firms, currently tied to defense and financial sectors," FireEye spokesman Vitor De Souza said via email. "It's unclear what the motives of this attack group are, at this point. It appears to be broad-spectrum intel gathering."

He declined to elaborate, though he said one way to protect against them would be to switch to another browser.

Microsoft said in the advisory that the vulnerability could allow a hacker to take complete control of an affected system, then do things such as viewing changing, or deleting data, installing malicious programs, or creating accounts that would give hackers full user rights.

FireEye and Microsoft have not provided much information about the security flaw or the approach that hackers could use to figure out how to exploit it, said Aviv Raff, chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm Seculert.

Yet other groups of hackers are now racing to learn more about it so they can launch similar attacks before Microsoft prepares a security update, Raff said.

"Microsoft should move fast," he said. "This will snowball."

Still, he cautioned that Windows XP users will not benefit from that update since Microsoft has just halted support for that product.

The software maker said in a statement to Reuters that it advises Windows XP users to upgrade to one of two most recently versions of its operating system, Windows 7 or 8.

واشنگٹن: امریکی سائنسدانوں نے انکشاف کیا ہے کہ انسانی ناک کم از کم ایک لاکھ کروڑ بُو یا مہک میں فرق کرسکتی ہے، پچھلے اندازوں کی تعداد سے یہ لاکھوں میں زیادہ ہے۔

کئی دہائیوں سے سائنسدان یہ مانتے چلے آرہے تھے کہ انسان صرف دس ہزار قسم کی بو یا مہک کو محسوس کرسکتا ہے، یہی وجہ تھی کہ انسان کی سونگھنے کی صلاحیت دیکھنے اور سننے کی صلاحیت سے کم سمجھی جاتی تھی۔

راکفیلر یونیورسٹی کی نیوروجینیٹک لیبارٹری کے سربراہ اور اس ریسرچ میں شریک لیسلے ووشال کا کہنا ہے کہ ہمارا تجزیہ یہ ظاہر کرتا ہے کہ بُو میں فرق کرنے کی انسانی صلاحیت اس سے کہیں زیادہ ہے، جس کی کوئی بھی توقع کرسکتا ہے۔

ناک کی صلاحیت کے لیے لگائے گئےگزشتہ تخمینوں میں بتایا گیا تھا کہ قوتِ شامّہ سے متعلق چار سو ریسپٹرز اس سلسلے میں مدد کرتے ہیں، یہ تخمینے 1920ء کے ہیں، جن کی تصدیق کے لیے اعدادوشمار پیش نہیں کیے گئے تھے۔

سائنسدانوں نے تحقیق کی ہے کہ انسانی آنکھ اور اس کے صرف تین ریسپٹرز کئی لاکھ رنگوں میں فرق کرسکتے ہیں اور انسانوں کے کان تین لاکھ چالیس ہزار آوازوں میں امتیاز کرسکتے ہیں۔

لیسلے ووشال نے کہا کہ ’’قوتِ شامّہ کی جانچ کے لیے کسی نے کبھی وقت صرف نہیں کیا تھا۔‘‘

سائنسدانوں نے اپنی ریسرچ کے سلسلے میں 128 مختلف خوشبودار سالموں سے ایک مرکب تیار کیا، اس میں انفرادی طور پر گھاس، لیموں یا مختلف قسم کی کیمیائی مادّے شامل تھے، لیکن یہ سب تین گروپس میں یکجان کردیے گئے تھے۔

لیسلے ووشال نے کہا کہ ’’ہم چاہتے تھے کہ ہمارا تیار کردہ مرکب میں شامل اشیاء کی مہک کی شناخت نہ کی جاسکے، لہٰذا اس کوشش میں یہ مرکب بہت زیادہ عجیب اور کافی گندے ہوگئے تھے۔‘‘

ریسرچ میں شامل رضاکاروں کو ایک وقت میں تین شیشیوں میں ان مرکبات کے نمونے دیے گئے۔ ان میں سے دو تو ایک جیسے تھے، اور ایک مختلف تھا۔ ہم نے یہ دیکھنے کے لیے کہ وہ ان کو الگ الگ پہچان سکیں، اس طرح کے 264 موازنے مکمل کیے۔

128 خوشبوؤں کے تمام نمونوں کے ممکنہ مجموعوں میں سے کتنی مہک کو انسان اوسطاً علیحدہ علیحدہ شناخت کرسکتا ہے، سائنسدانوں نے اس تجربے سے اندازہ لگایا کہ یہ کم از کم ایک لاکھ کروڑ کے قریب قریب ہوسکتا ہے۔

اس ریسرچ ٹیم کے سربراہ انڈریاس کیلر کا تعلق بھی راک فیلر یونیورسٹی سے ہے، ان کا کہنا ہے کہ یہ تعداد یقیناً کہیں کم ہے، اس لیے کہ حقیقی دنیا میں اس سے کہیں زیادہ خوشبوئیں موجود ہیں جنہیں ملا کر لاتعداد نمونے تیار کیے جاسکتے ہیں۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ ہمارے آباؤ اجداد ہم سے کہیں زیادہ قوت شامّہ پر انحصار کرتے تھےلیکن جدید دنیا میں ذاتی حفظانِ صحت کی ترقی نے خوشبوؤں کو محدود کردیا ہے۔

انڈریاس کیلر نے کہا کہ ’’ہمارے رویّوں سے یہ ظاہر ہوتا ہے کہ ہمارے لیے قوت شامّہ سننے اور دیکھنے کے مقابلے میں زیادہ اہم نہیں ہے۔‘‘

بو کا احساس انسانی رویّے سے منسلک ہے اور سائنسدان زور دیتے ہیں کہ یہ ریسرچ اس حوالے سے روشنی ڈال سکتی ہے کہ انسانی دماغ کس طرح پیچیدہ اطلاعات پر عملدرآمد کرتا ہے۔

یہ ریسرچ جرنل سائنس میں شایع ہوئی ہے۔

SAN JOSE (United States): Lawyers for Apple and Samsung exchanged barbs as a major new patent trial opened on Tuesday, debating the role of a company not even part of the case — Google.

Apple's legal team vowed to prove that Samsung flagrantly copied iPhone features and should pay more than $2 billion in damages, as the two smartphone giants squared off anew in a California courtroom. Apple attorney Harold McElhinny opened his presentation with a video showing legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introducing the first iPhone in 2007.

By putting computing power in smartphones powered by fun software and easy-to-use touch-screens, Apple transformed the market, sending Samsung onto its heels, according to McElhinny.

The attorney told jurors in his opening statement that they would see internal Samsung documents and messages showing that the company felt it was suffering “a crisis of design” with the difference between its devices and the smartphone “a difference between Heaven and Earth.”

Apple said evidence will show that the South Korean electronics giant sold more than 37 million infringing smartphones and tablets in the United States.

California-based Apple would have demanded royalties of about $40 per device to license the patented technology to Samsung, according to McElhinny.

The overall amount being sought by Apple in damages from Samsung will top $2bn, the lawyer explained.

“This case is not about Google,” McElhinny told jurors. “It is Samsung, not Google, that chose to put these features into its phones.”

But Samsung's lawyer told the jurors in the San Jose, California court that the case was indeed about Google, and Apple's struggle against the maker of the Android operating system which is now winning in the global marketplace.

'Attack on Android'

“It's an attack on Android, that is what this case is,” attorney John Quinn said. “Apple is trying to limit consumer choice and gain an unfair advantage over Google's Android.” Quinn contended that four of the five patents at issue in the trial are not used in Apple mobile devices, but because of features built into Android software by Google engineers litigation was pursued.

He promised jurors that Google engineers would be called to testify to how they independently designed Android software and did not copy Apple. Samsung is the world's leading maker of smartphones and tablets built using Google's free Android mobile operating system.

Android smartphones dominate the global market, particularly in devices offered for lower prices than iPhones.

“Apple is an amazingly innovative company, but in some respects, Google's Android has passed them,” Quinn said.

“Apple is trying to gain from you in this courtroom what it has lost in the marketplace.”In August 2012, a separate jury in the same court decided that Samsung should pay Apple $1.049bn in damages for illegally copying iPhone and iPad features, in one of the biggest patent cases in decades.

BRUSSELS: The European Commission announced plans on Thursday to tackle one of the scourges of the modern age - games on tablets and mobile phones that allow adults and children to rack up vast credit card bills by making "in-app" purchases.

After concerns were raised by consumer groups in Denmark, Britain, Italy and Belgium, the Commission will hold talks with the industry, policymakers and consumer protection authorities on Thursday and Friday to consider clearer guidelines.

The main concern is that games are often labeled as "free to download" but are not "free to play", with purchases automatically debited from a registered credit card. More than half of online games in the EU are advertised as "free", the Commission says, despite many carrying hidden costs.

"Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection," said the EU's justice commissioner, Viviane Reding.

"The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organizations."

Europe's "app" industry has grown exponentially in recent years as the use of smart phones and tablets has boomed, allowing consumers to access games and applications on the run.

The EU market is expected to be worth 63 billion euros ($86 billion) within the next five years, according to figures from the Commission. Users in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium spent an estimated 16.5 billion euros on online games in 2011 alone.

Many of those playing the games are children and teenagers, who often end up charging fees to the registered credit card without realizing it or without parental approval. Adults often make the same mistake, but must take responsibility.

In one case in Britain, an 8-year-old girl managed to run up a bill of 4,000 pounds ($6,700) making "in-app" purchases from games such as My Horse and Smurfs' Village. In that instance, Apple reimbursed the girl's father.

"Consumers, and in particular children, need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases," said Neven Mimica, the European commissioner for consumer policy.

In-app purchases can be disabled on most mobile devices.

Among the proposals to be discussed are clearer explanations in games about the costs involved, removing inducements to make purchases such as "Buy now!" and "Upgrade now!" and preventing payments being debited without explicit consent.

The meeting will also discuss whether companies should provide an email address that allows consumers to contact them immediately with any queries or complaints.

Among the companies taking part are Apple and Google, alongside consumer protection agencies from Denmark, Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Lithuania and Luxembourg.

NEW YORK: Facebook is buying mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, by far the company's largest acquisition and bigger than any that Google, Microsoft or Apple have ever done.

The world's biggest social networking company said Wednesday that it is paying $12 billion in Facebook stock and $4 billion in cash for WhatsApp. In addition, the app's founders and employees — 55 in all — will be granted restricted stock worth $3 billion that will vest over four years after the deal closes.

The deal translates to roughly nine per cent of Facebook's market value. In comparison, Google's biggest deal, Motorola Mobility, stood at $12.5 billion, while Microsoft's largest was Skype at $8.5 billion. Apple, meanwhile, has never done a deal above $1 billion.

The price stunned Gartner analyst Brian Blau. ''I am not surprised they went after WhatsApp, but the amount is staggering,'' he said.

Facebook likely prizes WhatsApp for its audience of teenagers and young adults who are increasingly using the service to engage in online conversations outside of Facebook, which has evolved into a more mainstream hangout inhabited by their parents, grandparents and even their bosses at work.

''This is a bet on the future for Facebook,'' Blau said. ''They know they have to expand their business lines. WhatsApp is in the business of collecting people's conversations, so Facebook is going to get some great data.''

In that sense, the acquisition makes sense for 10-year-old Facebook as it looks to attract its next billion users while keeping its existing 1.23 billion members, including teenagers, interested. The company has said it will develop a ''multi-app'' strategy, creating its own applications that exist outside of Facebook and acquiring others.

''Facebook seems to be in acknowledgement that people are using a lot of different apps to communicate,'' said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson. ''In order to continue to reach audiences, younger in particular, it needs to have a broader strategy...not put all its eggs in one basket.''

Facebook said it is keeping WhatsApp as a separate service, just as it did with Instagram, which it bought for about $715.3 million in two years ago.

WhatsApp has more than 450 million monthly active users. In comparison, Twitter had 241 million users at the end of 2013.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says WhatsApp is on path to reach a billion users. ''The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,'' Zuckerberg said.

WhatsApp, a messaging service for smartphones, lets users chat with their phone contacts, both one-on-one and in groups. The service allows people to send texts, photos, videos and voice recordings over the Internet. It also lets users communicate with people overseas without incurring charges for pricey international texts and phone calls.

It costs $1 per year and has no ads. The deal is expected to close later this year. Shares of Menlo Park, California-based Facebook slid $1.12 to $66.94 in extended trading after the deal was announced.


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