Friday, October 23, 2015



Link to TechEye

Alphabet makes a killing

Posted: 23 Oct 2015 12:27 AM PDT

google-logo-art-image-hdThe umbrella company for Google has announced that the search engine is making piles of cash and it is going to start buying back its own shares.

Alphabet said that it had made solid progress in mobile and video advertising and revenue and profit well above analysts’ average forecasts.

The results come at a pivotal time for the company as it navigates the transition from desktop to mobile, where ads are generally less profitable, while facing growing competition from rivals like Facebook.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google said that mobile search was the reason for the strong results. “Search traffic on mobile phones have now surpassed desktop traffic worldwide,” he said.

Shares of Alphabet rose almost nine percent in after-hours trading to $741, easily a record. At that level, the company’s market value would be around $500 billion, making it the second-most valuable company after Apple.

Investors have been pressing the company to return more of its $72 billion cash pile, but the announcement that Alphabet would buy back up to $5.09 billion of its Class C shares came as a surprise.

Third quarter revenue rose 13 percent to $18.68 billion, above the $18.53 billion that Wall Street expected.

The company earned $7.35 per share, up 17.6 percent from the year before. That was ahead of analysts’ average estimate of $7.21 per share.

Expenses rose 9.1 percent to $13.97 billion but were 74.7 percent of total revenue, compared to 77.4 percent in the same quarter last year. This basically means the company has been keeping its spending down.

Alphabet said that the number of paid clicks, in which advertisers pay only if a user clicks on the ad, rose 23 percent, compared to an 18 percent increase in  the previous quarter.

The Cost-per-click, or the average price of online ads, fell 11 percent in the quarter.

Time can be hacked and needs three patches

Posted: 23 Oct 2015 12:26 AM PDT

HawkingWWENetwork Time Protocol (NTP) one of the oldest Internet protocols, makes a good attack vector to bring down a company, according to researchers from Boston University.

NTP is pretty tough but contains several flaws that could undermine encrypted communications and even jam up bitcoin transactions.

NTP has a rate-limiting mechanism, nicknamed the “Kiss O’ Death” packet that will stop a computer from repeatedly querying the time in case of a technical problem. When that packet is sent, systems may stop querying the time for days or years.

The researchers have used these flaws to make an organisation’s servers to stop checking the time altogether.

Time is pretty important. In 2012, two servers run by the US Navy rolled back their clocks 12 years, and thought it was 2000.

Computers that checked in with the Navy’s servers and adjusted their clocks accordingly had a variety of problems with their phones systems, routers and authentication systems.

If a computer’s clock is rolled back an expired SSL/TLS certificate could be accepted as valid for which the attacker has the decryption key, according to their technical paper.

Sharon Goldberg, an associate professor at Boston University’s computer science department said that the KOD vulnerability was found just reading the specifications of the NTP protocol. The researchers wondered what you could do with it.

With just one computer, the researchers suspect such a spoofing attack could be conducted on a large scale across NTP clients found using network scanners such as nmap and zmap.

The spoofing is possible because most NTP servers don’t use encryption when talking to their clients. Two other flaws were also found. In a type of denial-of-service attack, an attacker could spoof Kiss O’Death packets to look like they’re coming from an NTP client. The time server then tries to slow down those queries, sending a response that causes the NTP client to stop updating its clock.

The third flaw allows an attacker who interfering with unencrypted NTP traffic to shift a computer’s clock forward or backwards on a reboot.

Fortunately fixes for the problems are available now. The latest version of NTP released on Tuesday is ntp-4.2.8p4, and administrators are advised to patch as soon as possible. The only problem is that the old versions of NTP have been sitting there for more than a decade and they are not something that people thing to patch.

Microsoft is out of the Ballmer doledrums

Posted: 23 Oct 2015 12:25 AM PDT

steve-ballmer-tongue-540x334The software king of the world has finally broken free from its bad case of the Ballmers.

After being static for a while now, the software giant Microsoft has seen its figures go through the roof, thanks mostly to its cloud technology.

Microsoft reported better than expected quarterly adjusted revenue boosted by burgeoning demand for its cloud products. This sent the value of its shares soaring by 9.8 percent.

Chief Executive Satya Nadella has been shifting the company focus to software and cloud services as demand for the Windows operating system slows in a weak PC market. The figures seem to show he was right.

Revenue from Microsoft’s cloud business, which includes products such as Windows Server and cloud-based platforms such as Azure, rose 8 percent to $5.9 billion and is expected to reach $6.2-$6.3 billion in the current quarter.

Microsoft  has also been cutting costs and fired some of its staff, streamlining its operations to focus on more lucrative businesses.

“The job reductions were spread across more than one business area and country and reflect adaptations to business needs,” a spokeswoman said in an email. The cuts are in addition to the 7,800 jobs Microsoft said it would cut in July.

Excluding the impact of the strong dollar, revenue in the business rose 14 percent, accounting for about 29 percent of overall revenue in the quarter ended September 30.

The results were the first to include Windows 10, Microsoft’s first new operating system in almost three years..

Sales of Windows to computer makers fell six percent in the quarter – slowing from the double-digit declines seen in recent quarters.

The big test for Windows will be in coming quarters as Microsoft rolls out its latest devices, including its first laptop, a revamped Surface Pro tablet and new Lumia phones.

Revenue in the business that includes Windows, fell 17 percent to $9.4 billion, accounting for 46 percent of total revenue, and is forecast to hit $12.0-$12.4 billion in the current quarter.

Microsoft got about 54 percent of its revenue from outside the United States in 2015.

The company’s net income rose to $4.62 billion in the quarter, from $4.54 billion last year.

Adjusted revenue fell 6.6 percent to $21.66 billion. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $21.03 billion.


Spooks harass security experts

Posted: 23 Oct 2015 12:23 AM PDT

spySpies and spooks are turning their attention to security experts and are harassing them locking them out of tenders or even deporting them.

Kaspersky researcher Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade claimed that the retaliation was a direct response to the security experts having to reveal the antics of government spy agents.

Most of the harassment is taking place in Eastern Europe and Asian nations. Writing in a research paper Guerrero-Saade said that most of the attacks circulate as industry rumour.

In many places intelligence services tend to be more civilised than in others — you would be lucky to deal with them in the US versus wherever else, Latin America, Asia, or Eastern Europe where they take very different tactics, Guerrero-Saade said.

Threats to livelihoods are pitched as patriotic notions with the victims dubbed unpatriotic, and are barred from government work and holding security clearances.

It is made clear to you it’s going to be next to impossible for you to get a security clearance’ and to work in a large sector of countries where a large amount of anti-malware work is being done.

It is easier to imagine situations where blackmail, compromise, and threat of livelihood is a problem, and it has been a problem for certain researchers for obvious reasons aren’t going to speak up, he said.

The paper notes researchers are targeted through blackmail which is regarded as a cheap way for agencies to “own” an individual by digging up their secrets, debt, and “shameful proclivities and mis-steps”.

“Provocation occurs in two scenarios: first, where the (threat intelligence) company's research causes political, diplomatic, or military tensions to flare between nations in an already escalated posture. Secondly, when the company's public disclosure — or private offering provided directly to sensitive targets — endangers the reputation of the intelligence agency itself or worse yet comes close to revealing or endangering the requesting customer. The former scenario is undesirable; the latter scenario is unacceptable.”

Guerrero-Saade thinks intelligence agencies may be pushed to develop highly-capable malware designed to slip past researchers, while even most-capable researchers dabbling in the unmasking of intelligence agencies will need to undergo “drastic preparations” to deal with the malware and still be allowed to live.

Glut forces memory makers to slow investment

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 06:39 AM PDT

Samsung DRAMOne of the leading manufacturers of DRAM has said it won't upgrade its fabrication facilities in 2016.

SK Hynix had created a state of the art fabrication plant in Icheon, Korea, but will slow down investment.

The reason it gave was an uncertain business outlook but analysts have reported that there will be oversupply of DRAM memory chips well into next year.

Samsung is also believed to have put the brakes on memory production – the oversupply combines with the strong US dollar to mean that demand remains weak.

Samsung is ahead of the DRAM largest three manufacturers which include SK Hynix and US memory company Micron.

Samsung is currently working on a so-called three dimensional memory chip and it's believed the other two leading manufacturers are some way off from competing with it.

Vendors fined over DVD price fixing

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 06:32 AM PDT

European flagThe European Commission has fined a group of vendors £131.6 millions after finding that they illegally fixed the prices of CD and DVD drives.

The companies involved in the cartel were Hitachi, LG, Quanta Storage, Sony, Toshiba and Samsung.

The European Union opened an investigation into the matter after it found that companies were price fixing drives bought by HP, Microsoft and HP.

In a statement, the EU competition commission Margrethe Vestager said that companies operating cartels can't dodge fines by holding clandestine meetings outside Europe.

Philips escaped punishment because it was the whistleblower which implicated the other vendors.

The vendors colluded in the cartel between 2004 and 2008, according to the EU.

Europe says bitcoins don’t attract VAT

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 06:24 AM PDT

cashA ruling from the European Court of Justice today said that bitcoins and equivalent to banknotes and other forms of money and don't attract value added tax (VAT).

Sweden put in a request for legal clarification because the taxman there said bitcoin shouldn't be exempted from VAT.

But the court ruled that bitcoins are a method of payment and so were exempt under a European directive.

A report in Reuters said the court said "[bitcoin] transactions are exempt from VAT under the provision concerning transactions relating to currency, bank notes and coins used as legal tender".

IBM pushes for UK raw power

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 06:15 AM PDT

IBM data centreIBM said it is to create a UK Power design centre at Hartree in conjunction with Nvidia, Mellanox and Science and Technology Facilities Council (SFTC).

Power is shorthand for IBM's microprocessor family, and the centre will focus on high performance computing for modelling, simulation, and big data analysis.

The UK government had recently announced investment into the Hartree Crntre at Daresbury, in the belief it will boost economic growth.

Dr Peter Allan, acting director of the Hartree Centre said the new design centre is aimed at helping industry and academia use IBM and Nvidia's expertise in supercomputing.

Dave Turek, an IBM VP of high performance computing, said the centre will extend existing acceleration and design centres in Hermany and France, based on the OpenPOWER technologies.

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