Saturday, 31 July 2010

How 100 mn Facebook users' info got leaked

Facebook SecurityThe man who harvested and published the personal details of 100 million Facebook users has said that he only disclosed what was already public information.

Ron Bowes, a security consultant, used a piece of code to scan Facebook profiles, collecting data not hidden by the user's privacy settings.

The list, which contains the URL of every searchable Facebook user's profile, name and unique ID, has been shared as a downloadable file. Bowes said that he did it as part of his work on a security tool.

"I'm a developer for the Nmap Security Scanner and one of our recent tools is called Ncrack," the BBC quoted him as saying. "It is designed to test password policies of organisations by using brute force attacks; in other words, guessing every username and password combination," he added.

By downloading the data from Facebook, and compiling a user's first initial and surname, he made a list of the most common probable usernames to use in the tool.

In theory, researchers could then combine this list with a catalogue of the most commonly used passwords to test the security of sites. Similar techniques could be used by criminals for more nefarious means.

Bowes said his original plan was to "collect a good list of human names that could be used for these tests.” "Once I had the data, though, I realised that it could be of interest to the community if I released it, so I did," he added.

Bowes confirmed that all the data he harvested was already publicly available but acknowledged that if anyone now changed their privacy settings, their information would still be accessible.

"If 100,000 Facebook users decide that they no longer want to be in Facebook's directory, I would still have their name and URL but it would no longer, technically, be public," he said.

Bowes said that collecting the data was in no way irresponsible and likened it to a telephone directory. "All I've done is compile public information into a nice format for statistical analysis," he said

In a statement, Facebook confirmed that the information in the list was already freely available online. "No private data is available or has been compromised," the statement added.

Bowes supported the view by adding that harvesting this data highlighted the possible risks users put themselves in. "I am of the belief that, if I can do something then there are about 1,000 bad guys that can do it too. For that reason, I believe in open disclosure of issues like this, especially when there's minimal potential for anybody to get hurt.

"Since this is already public information, I see very little harm in disclosing it," he said Facebook has a default setting for privacy that makes some user information publicly available. People have to make a conscious choice to opt-out of the defaults.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

How hackers snoop on private web browsing

Experts have identified how their web browser's 'private mode' setting is also vulnerable to hackers.

Most web browsers offer a private mode, intended to leave no trace of surfing history on the computer.

But Collin Jackson at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and colleagues, have found ways to detect which sites were visited with the mode enabled.

Even if private browsing is enabled, details relating to the key remain stored on the computer's hard drive, allowing a hacker to establish that a particular site had been visited.

A hacker could "guess what sites you've been to based on traces left behind," New Scientist quoted Jackson as saying.

These attacks on privacy "do not require a great deal of technical sophistication and could easily be built into forensics tools," he added.

However, Rik Ferguson -- a UK-based security researcher at Trend Micro of Tokyo, Japan -- says that any attacker with the knowledge to exploit the weaknesses would probably look to other attacks first, which may yield more detailed information.

"If someone is capable of tracking your browsing habits in this way, then they are probably also tech-savvy enough to know about commercial spyware which could much more effectively track your computer use," says Ferguson.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Get the New Rupee Symbol On Your PC

With India announcing a new symbol for its currency - Rupee, people have been working overtime to bring it to the next obvious place your PC.

A Mangalore based company Foradian Technologies has already made a new font available for users who would like to use the new Rupee symbol on their computers. While the sign may take time to be adopted by Unicode, that doesn't mean you should not be using the font all the while.

The font, available for download here. Foradian has also posted instructions as to how the Rupee symbol can be used in your computer for various applications including MS Excel, Lotus Notes, Silverlight, Blend and Visual Studio. They even have versions for Linux and Mac users.

Foraadian's posterous blog has all the details you need to use the new Rupee symbol on your PC.


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

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Don't buy Apple iPhone 4: Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports said it cannot recommend Apple's iPhone 4 to buyers after tests confirmed the device's well-publicised reception glitches.

It added that that AT&T Inc, the exclusive mobile phone carrier for the iPhone 4, was not necessarily the main culprit.

The influential nonprofit organisation, which publishes guides on everything from cars to TVs, said in a report that it also tested other phones -- including the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre -- and found none had the signal-loss problems of Apple's latest iPhone.

The report was the latest blow to the iPhone 4, which sold 1.7 million units in its first three days on the market but has been plagued by complaints of poor reception. Many of the complaints involve a wraparound antenna whose signal strength is said to be affected if touched in a certain way.

Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu said he was surprised by the stance that Consumer Reports took on the new iPhone. Wu noted that the group's recommendations are used as a guide by many consumers.

"Consumer reports is a respected publication. This could have an impact on iPhone sales," Wu said. Apple shares were down 1 per cent at $257.06 on Monday afternoon on the Nasdaq.

The company has been sued by iPhone customers in at least three complaints related to antenna problems. "When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone's lower left side -- an easy thing, especially for lefties -- the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a weak signal," contributor Mike Gikas said in a report on the Consumer Reports website.

"Our findings call into question the recent claim by Apple that the iPhone 4's signal-strength issues were largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that 'mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength,'" Gikas said.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. Gikas recommended covering the gap in the wraparound antenna with duct tape or some other non-conductive material. Apple has said almost any cellphone will suffer a loss of signal if held in certain ways. It said later it had discovered a software glitch that overstates signal strength, though it did not directly address concerns about the antenna with that admission.

On the flip side, Consumer Reports said the iPhone scored high on other testing grounds such as battery life, sharp display and high-quality video camera.

However, Gikas said the signal problem was the reason the iPhone 4 would not be classified as a "recommended" device in its smartphone ratings.

"Apple needs to come out with a permanent -- and free -- fix to the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone4," said Gikas in his blog post on

Monday, 12 July 2010

Google remains at risk in China

China’s government confirmed that it renewed Google Inc’s Internet license, after the US company’s local venture pledged to allow its Web content to be supervised by regulators, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Beijing Guxiang Information Technology Co, operator of Google’s China website, has undertaken to comply with Chinese law and provide no law-breaking content, Xinhua reported, citing an unidentified official at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Getting the go-ahead gives Google, which disclosed China’s decision to renew its license last week, a chance to win search share lost to market leader Baidu Inc and woo advertisers put off by the company’s half-year dispute with the government. Some Google operations were in jeopardy as it balked at censorship rules that require companies to filter Web content.

Google was surprised by how quickly China renewed the company’s Internet-services license, Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said in a July 9 interview. There were no formal negotiations between Google and Chinese officials over the decision, a person familiar with the matter said.

China renewed the license through 2012, and officials will revisit the decision annually. China’s government can still use its authority to yank the license if it deems Google’s compliance wanting, said Sandeep Aggarwal, an analyst at Caris & Co. in San Francisco.

‘At risk’
“Google remains at risk in China,” Aggarwal said. “Chinese regulators gave them a back door.”

Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, went public with its dispute in January, saying it was no longer willing to comply with China’s filtering regulations.

“We look forward to continuing to provide Web search and local products to our users in China,” the company said on its July 9 blog. Spokeswoman Jessica Powell declined to say whether China had imposed any conditions on renewing the permit.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, won approval after changing the way it handled search requests. After closing its Chinese search engine in March, it had been automatically redirecting users to its unfiltered site in Hong Kong. To allay officials’ concerns, Google added an extra hurdle for Chinese Web surfers, directing them to a landing page that in turn pointed them to the Hong Kong site.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

To go for HD set-top box or not?

Watch out before you go for that high definition (HD) DTH set-top box. Even as DTH companies gear up for relaying content in high definition, the content backing it is very little.

Only two channels -- Discovery and National Geographic -- are available in HD. While Essel Group channels -- Zee TV and Zee Cinema -- are available only with Dish TV, ESPN has only two properties, the ongoing Fifa World Cup and Wimbledon, currently available for HD broadcast, and that too with select DTH operators.
Leading players such as Dish TV, Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV, Sun Direct are marketing HD set-top boxes.

“There is no demand for HD content from broadcasters,” says Nikhil Alva, MD of Miditech, the country’s third-largest production house that supplies content to many major TV channels.

“Also, the number of high-definition television sets in the country is miniscule. Transmitting HD is significantly more expensive for channels, so it is not a priority for them. Also our analog cable networks that supply content to the majority of C&S homes is already too clogged with channels to deliver HD content. For now, HD is a niche phenomenon and largely a marketing gimmick,” Alva adds.

Even DTH players admit that sale of HD set-top boxes will take some time. “The numbers on HD set-top boxes will be low,” says Salil Kapoor, COO, Dish TV.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Only 503 Microsoft Kins Sold?

Barely days after Microsoft s (in)famous Kin disaster wherein the company had to take the not-so-difficult decision of scrapping the entire project, here comes a shocker. According to one rumour, Microsoft, in all actuality, sold a total of just 503 Kins. That s including both the handsets.

While the 503 figure does seem unrealistic, this is what is the number claimed by John Gruber of Daring Fireballs who in turn claims to have heard it from an unnamed source from Microsoft. There is a different twist to the story as well with Pocketnow pointing out another interesting stat. Pocketnow noted that the Kin, being a social networking handset, came with a Facebook application. The interesting thing about this app is that this app is specific only to the Kin and using it one can actually see the number of monthly active users of the application. Since this app can only be used on a Kin, a rough estimate of the number of Kins out there can be guessed by the number of users that are connected to Facebook using it. This number is way off the 503 mark and is somewhere close to the 8,000 mark. Having said that, even 8,000 isn't such an awe inspiring number but heck, it is anytime better than the 503 figure we first heard.

                                                                                               Kin One
In a different twist to the story, according to Business Insider, the fact that even Microsoft employees weren't particularly impressed or hopeful about the Kin is somewhat evident from the sentiments from the blog posts at Mini Microsoft, a blog of sorts where Microsoft employees rant about their problems. The blog has interesting quotes from people who are either current Microsoft employees or had worked for the company and left it as well, looking for greener pastures. A former Danger employee (Microsoft took over Danger) calls Microsoft a "dysfunctional organization where decisions were made by politics rather than logic". Another person commented, "I for one can't believe that no one has been axed over the Kin debacle. Billions of dollars were wasted, not to mention all of the smart people over there who spent 3 years with no return on the investment."

                                                                                             Kin Two

With the kind of things going on at Microsoft, looks like it is going to have a big task at hand ensuring Windows Phone 7 doesn't end up like the Kin.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Capture 3D Images with New Sony Cyber-shots

Sony has announced three new digital point and shoot cameras - WX5, TX9, and T99 with HD video shooting capabilities. The all new Cyber-shot WX5 and TX9 boast the capability of shooting 1080i HD movie. The new T99 digital camera is capable of shooting 720p HD video. The most interesting part is that WX5 and TX9 features Exmor R sensor that boasts of Super Auto mode. These new cameras would be available by mid-September this year.

This well deserved refresh for Sony's point and shoot cameras comes in the middle of the year. All new cameras come with BIONZ processor. New Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 and DSC-TX9 come with a 12.2 megapixel EXMOR CMOS sensor that brings Super Auto mode capturing high-speed burst of up to six frames at the press of the shutter button. Settings get optimized as per the shooting conditions.

For the first time, Sony introduces 3D image capturing capability in point and shoot cameras with 3D Sweet Panorama that lets clicking images in press-and-sweep motion. The Sweet Multi-Angle shoots high-speed burst of fifteen frames to create 3D style image of the subject from different angles. The camera also has built-in sensors to detect side to side movement of camera after the image is shot to show the multi-angle views.

These 3D images can be obviously viewed on 3D TVs but Sony's Multi-Angle view enables watching it on normal 2D TV too. The difference between WX5 and TX9 is that the former has 5x Optical zoom supporting Sony G Lens while the latter sports 4x optical zoom supporting Carl Zeiss lens.

Snorkeling enthusiasts can make the best out of TX9's Underwater Sweep Panorama for amazing underwater photos. As mentioned earlier, both WX5 and TX9 are capable of shooting AVCHD 1920x1080 (1080i) full HD video in MP4 format. The TX9 features Background Defocus that simulates the depth of field.

All new T99 features 14.1 megapixel image sensor with 4x Optical Zoom offering Carl Zeiss lens. Sony packs almost all features in T99 but most importantly, this digital camera comes with Sweep Panorama including Underwater Sweep Panorama. This budget friendly digital camera also supports 720p HD video recording at 30 frames per second in MP4 format.

Pricing of the new Cyber-shot cameras:

$300 (Rs. 14,100 approx.) - available in Black, Silver, Brown, Gold and Violet
DSC-TX9: $400 (Rs. 18,800 approx.) - available in Dark Grey, Gold and Red
DSC-T99: $250 (Rs. 11,700 approx.) - available in Black, Silver, Pink, Green and Gold

Mozilla Releases Firefox 4.0 Beta

Mozilla has released the first beta of its Firefox 4.0 web browser based on the Gecko 2.0 Web platform layout engine. Obviously, all the add-ons you've been using with the Firefox 3.7 version won't work on with the new Firefox 4.0 beta. This new 4.0 beta version of the web browser mainly revamps the looks and brings a sizeable number of features that include WebM video format and HTML5 support.

The first noticeable feature of this new Firefox 4.0 beta is that all tabs would be visible on the top. However, this is visible for Windows based OS users only. We believe that the visual delight would slowly appear for the Linux and Mac OS X versions of the web browser when the final build of Firefox 4.0 releases. The new significant features included in the Firefox 4.0 beta are:

* Add-ons Manager: More space to efficiently manage your favorite add-ons, plugins and themes.
* HD Video: The future WebM format is supported and promises HD-quality hardware accelerated HTML5 video on the web.
* HTML5 Support: Better HTML parsing, support for HTML5 form controls and also runs the latest web apps based on HTML5 such as Google's Gmail and Yahoo's Mail interface for the mobile phones.
* Full WebGL support for in-browser 3D rendering.

Apart from these features, the new Firefox 4.0 beta also promises performance improvement and the necessary security improvements to protect browser history.

Download the Firefox 4.0 beta for Windows, Linux or Mac OS X from here.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Arcade Prices Slashed

Microsoft India has lowered the price of Xbox 360 Arcade gaming console for the Indian audience. The Xbox 360 Arcade console price was introduced for Rs. 16,990 last year in June. Now, the price of Xbox 360 Arcade has been dropped to Rs. 14,676. Apparently, this price cut doesn't apply to special bundles.

Xbox 360 Arcade is a bare bones version of the gaming console that comes with Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, standard AV cable, an Xbox LIVE Arcade Compilation Disc that includes 5 Arcade games and 256MB Memory Unit. We aren't sure as of now whether 512MB internal memory unit loaded Arcade SKUs are available in India.

Do note that Kinect for Xbox 360, the controller free gaming device, would be usable with this Arcade model via a special adapter cable. But that will be taken care of when Kinect is announced for India.

The price cut on Xbox 360 Arcade is effective immediately so if you have been planning to buy one, now is a good time.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Some File Extensions You Need To Know

File Extension Part
PART is a Partially Downloaded File, a file extension used primarily by Internet download managers, programs designed to speed up and handle multiple downloads. These download managers work on the principle that smaller files take less time to transfer than large ones. The download manager takes one or more files from the Internet and breaks them into smaller data chunks, and then when all of the data chunks have been downloaded, the download manager converts them back into one file again.

File Extension JAD
JAD stands for Java Application Descriptor. This file extension describes java applications, which are distributed as JAR files. JAD is specifically a decompiler of Java as it reads class files that belong to Java as well, subsequently converting them to Java source files available to be compiled once again. JAD file extension is purely a C++ program that works faster than decompilers that have been written in Java. JAD files are used to package Java games or applications that can be downloaded onto mobile phones.

File extension ITHMB
File extension ITHMB falls under the category of image or media files and is a creation of the Apple Inc company. The ITHMB files are utilized by the Apple iPOD and are made up of four images of different resolutions that have been designed to be displayed on a variety of screen sizes. A file extension ITHMB is most commonly a picture files which are in a thumbnail format that is specific to the iPOD. They cannot be read by regular photo programs. When a thumbnail is clicked on, the images are then displayed.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Airtel Brings Free Facebook Access

Airtel has announced that it will offer free access to the mobile version of Facebook on its network. The company, which has a subscriber base of over 130 million will offer free access for a period of two months ending August 31.

The mobile version of the site enables users to post status updates, comment and write on walls, message others, and also be able to view or upload photos.

For existing mobile Internet customers on Airtel, there is no need to do anything - they can immediately start connecting with their friends by visiting the Facebook mobile site. Those who are accessing the mobile Internet for the first time need to SMS 'FACEBOOK' to 54321 to take advantage of this offer.

Airtel will also offer Facebook in six Indian languages - Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam, initiating with Hindi and English.

Looks like Airtel customers who are Facebook fans have a lot to rejoice!

Friday, 2 July 2010

IBM to employees: Use Firefox

Technology giant IBM wants its workers around the world to use free, open-source Mozilla Firefox as their window into the Internet.

"Any employee who is not now using Firefox will be strongly encouraged to use it as their default browser," IBM executive Bob Sutor said yesterday in a blog post at his website.

"While other browsers have come and gone, Firefox is now the gold standard for what an open, secure, and standards-compliant browser should be."

Making Firefox the default browser means that workers' computers will automatically use that software to access the Internet unless commanded to do differently.

All new computers for IBM employees will have Firefox installed and the global company "will continue to strongly encourage our vendors who have browser-based software to fully support Firefox," according to Sutor.

New York State-based IBM, known by the nickname "Big Blue," has a corporate history dating back a century and now reportedly has nearly 400,000 workers.

"Today we already have thousands of employees using it on Linux, Mac, and Windows laptops and desktops, but we're going to be adding thousands more users to the rolls," Sutor said.

Sutor is the vice president of open source and Linux at IBM, which launched an Open Source Initiative in 1998.
Open-source software is essentially treated as public property, with improvements made by any shared with all. Firefox is the second most popular Web browser in an increasingly competitive market dominated by Internet Explorer software by Microsoft.

Google Chrome has been steadily gaining market share, last week replacing Apple Safari as the third most popular Web browser in the United States.

"We'll continue to see this or that browser be faster or introduce new features, but then another will come along and be better still, including Firefox," Sutor said.

"I think it was Firefox and its growth that reinvigorated the browser market as well as the web. That is, Firefox forced competitors to respond."

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Govt threatens to ban BlackBerry, Skype

India has given Internet telephony pioneer Skype and the makers of BlackBerry handsets a deadline to fall into line with strict security-monitoring regulations or be blocked, a report said.

India's intelligence officials have long complained that they are unable to decipher encrypted data sent on Blackberry handsets, made by Canadian firm Research In Motion, or intercept calls on Skype.

The government has threatened to ban or block BlackBerry and Skype services if the companies fail to adhere to a 15-day deadline to make data available in formats that can be monitored, a leading business newspaper said.

Google has been asked to ensure emails on its Gmail service can be deciphered, though no deadline has been issued, the paper said.

"The latest development indicates that security agencies are again finding it difficult to intercept or decipher messages sent through BlackBerry phones," the paper said.

The Indian telecommunications ministry was unable to comment when contacted by AFP.

India, which faces a strengthening home-grown Maoist insurgency and constant threats from Islamist groups, is highly sensitive about the potential risks of technology.

The government has been restricting imports from Chinese telecom equipment manufacturers because of Indian intelligence agency fears that "spyware" could be embedded in the equipment.

It has also restricted the use of mobile phones in violence-wracked Indian Kashmir, where pay-as-you-go phones and the use of text messages have been curtailed. The area is a hotbed of anti-India activity.

Samsung mobile offers 67-day standby time!

Korean giant Samsung has unveiled a rugged phone called Samsung Xcover E2370 which offers a standby time of 67 days.

This means the phone's battery can last upto 2 months (1,600 hours) in a standby mode, or upto 22 hours in talktime mode.

The phone features a 128×160 pixel TFT display, packs a 5MB internal memory and a VGA camera.

Other key features include Bluetooth, GSM/EDGE connectivity, music player, flashlight with a dedicated button and a microSD slot for upto 2GB memory expansion.

The phone is certified with IP54 rating which means it can withstand dust and water.

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