<IT WORLD> Hackers make giants squirm
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - A number of tech giants, including one that prides itself on security, have fallen prey to hackers this week who managed to infiltrate corporate networks. Both Facebook and Apple claim to have been the target of attacks that investigators have traced back to malware originating from an iPhone developers website. Earlier this month micro-blogging website
Twitter also reported unusual network activity and that attackers might have accessed the user data of approximately 250,000 users.
In a rare admission of culpability, Apple said some of its employees' Mac computers came under attack and that it would release a software update to patch them and protect users. The infected website hosted malware which exploits a zero-day Java vulnerability in the browsers of people visiting the site. The source of the malware is still unknown has not been confirmed, but the prime suspects are China and cyber criminals in Eastern Europe.
China continues to top the list of recent digital incursions. According to Bloomberg, security researchers have linked the attacks to a prolific group of computer hackers at a government-backed, military building in Shanghai. According to a new report from Mandiant, an IT security company, the People's Liberation Army Unit 61398 is located "in precisely the same area" as a section of APT1, an advanced persistent threat group that has stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations worldwide.
Other evidence suggests that the cyber-attacks originated in Russia, or a hosting company in the Ukraine, and that the malware used in the Apple attack was the work of cyber criminals rather than state-sponsored espionage.
Experts recommend that concerned users should completely avoid using Java and run full malware scans of their systems. If the hacks have proved one thing it is that even the biggest tech companies in the world are not immune to security breaches, regardless of what their extravagant marketing campaigns claim.
The choice of smart-phones currently available is overwhelming to say the least. That selection expanded this week when HTC unveiled a new handset called simply 'One'. The company is looking to claw back lost market share after its global smart-phone ranking dropped to eighth in the fourth quarter as Asian rivals such as Samsung continued to offer a mix of cheaper and more-advanced devices.
The sleek aluminum wrapped model from the Taiwanese manufacturer packs quite a punch and takes pixel density to the next level, leaving the Retina iPhone 5 in the dust. It has a 4.7 inch LCD display with full 1080p, while a whopping 468 pixels per inch promotes it to the top spot for smart-phone displays. The impressive specifications continue under the hood with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor clocked at 1.7Ghz, 2GB of memory, and 32GB or 64GB of internal storage.
HTC has made camera quality a high priority also and instead of playing the megapixel bragging game, the company has focused more on actual image quality and less on its size. It has been claimed that the camera can absorb three times as much light as a typical smartphone camera setup with the assistance of a new dedicated "ImageChip" and re-tooled light sensor. Resolution is limited to 4 megapixels, but HTC insists the pixels are far more detailed and high-quality than what you'd get with other comparable phones.
The One runs a new custom HTC interface based on the Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS loaded with extra functionality. It is expected to retail for US$200-$300 with a lock-in contract and will be available from around the end of March.
Sony announced its next generation gaming console, PlayStation 4, at an event in New York this week. The last time the Japanese electronics giant upgraded this platform was when it launched the PS3 in November 2006, long before smart-phones took over the world and unleashed portable gaming to the masses.
The new console, which will offer superior graphics and more social features, will line up against Microsoft's long awaited Xbox 360 successor and Nintendo's Wii U. It is not expected to be released until towards the end of this year. Pricing was not disclosed at the event.
The PS4 will be powered by PC processors from AMD alongside graphics chips yielding advanced gaming visuals. It also comes with the new DualShock 4 controller, which includes a touchpad, a "share button" and a lightbar, which allows a separate camera to track its movement.
The platform will be a lot more social allowing gamers to record video of their activity and upload it to social networks, it will also allow friends to connect to the machine and take control of their character to help if they have got stuck, or allow several friends to watch their live progress as spectators.
The disappointment for PS3 owners is that the new console will not be backwards compatible meaning PS3 games will not run on it, however the list of new titles is expected to be impressive. Being based on PC architecture makes it easier for developers to create games for it which means a greater choice for the consumer.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.
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