Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Microsoft Commends Chinese Court in Sentencing Ringleaders of World's Largest Software Counterfeiting Syndicate

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Futian People's Court in Shenzhen, China, handed down sentences to 11 ringleaders of the world's largest software counterfeiting syndicate today. The sentences, ranging from 1.5 to 6.5 years, include the longest sentences handed down for this type of crime in China's history. Based in the southern China province of Guangdong, members of the syndicate were arrested by Chinese authorities in July 2007, following an international investigation led by China's Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the FBI. Microsoft and hundreds of Microsoft customers and partners also provided information which assisted in the investigation.

The 11 accused were part of a criminal syndicate responsible for manufacturing and distributing more than an estimated $2 billion (U.S.) worth of high-quality counterfeit Microsoft software. The counterfeit software, found in 36 countries and on five continents, contained fake versions of 19 of Microsoft's most popular products and was produced in at least 11 languages.

"Microsoft greatly appreciates the work of China's PSB and the FBI in taking strong enforcement action against this global software counterfeiting syndicate," said David Finn, associate general counsel for Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft. "Unfortunately, software counterfeiting is a global, illegal business without borders. Criminals may be on the other side of the globe and may not even speak the same language, but they prey upon customers and partners all over the world. This case is a testament to the importance of Microsoft's commitment to close collaboration with government bodies and local law enforcement agencies around the world to bring these criminals to justice, wherever they may be."

"Software piracy negatively impacts local economic growth, stifling innovation, taking business opportunity away from legitimate resale channels and putting consumers and partners at risk. Enforcement of intellectual property rights is critical to fostering an environment of innovation and fair competition," said Fengming Liu, vice president of Microsoft Greater China Region. "Over the years, Microsoft has been working closely with the Chinese government to promote intellectual property rights. Thanks to the actions of the Chinese government, we have seen a significant improvement in the environment for intellectual property rights in China. Moving forward, we will continue to work with the relevant authorities in China to ensure that counterfeit software does not undermine the development of China's knowledge economy."

"This case is also a strong demonstration of the improvement in criminal law legislation and enforcement of intellectual property rights in China," said Zhao Bingzhi, president of the Criminal Law Research Committee of the China Law Society and vice president of the China Group of the International Association of Penal Law.

Evidence provided by Microsoft customers through the Microsoft piracy reporting tool proved to be essential in tracking down this criminal syndicate. Tens of thousands of customers used Microsoft's anti-piracy technology in Windows Genuine Advantage to identify the software they were using as fake. In addition, more than 100 Microsoft resellers played a key part in helping to trace the counterfeit software and provided physical evidence critical to building the case, such as e-mail messages, invoices and payment slips.

"Customs administrations around the world have seized thousands of counterfeit Microsoft software produced by criminal syndicates," said Christophe Zimmermann, the coordinator of the fight against counterfeiting and piracy at the World Customs Organization. "The action today by the court in China sends a very clear message to counterfeiters that governments around the world are serious about stopping this form of criminality and are willing to step forward to protect their citizens from the harm caused by counterfeit goods."

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Arbitron Commercializes the Portable People Meter Radio Ratings Service in Four New Local Markets

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Arbitron Inc. (NYSE:ARB) announced today that it has commercialized its Portable People Meter(TM) radio ratings service in four new local markets.

Arbitron has released radio audience estimates for the December 2008 PPM(TM) survey month (November 21-December 17) to its subscribers in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Atlanta, Washington DC and Detroit.

Effective today, the PPM radio audience estimates for these markets should be used as the basis for buy/sell transactions of radio commercial time among subscribing stations, agencies and advertisers. In addition, audience estimates from the October and November PPM survey months, which Arbitron had previously released as "pre-currency" information, are now designated as "currency" data. The Summer 2008 diary-based radio audience report (June 26-September 17) is no longer deemed "currency" for buy/sell transactions.

PPM audience estimates are now the buy/sell "currency" in 14 local markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Detroit, Nassau-Suffolk, Middlesex-Somerset-Union, Riverside-San Bernardino and San Jose. These markets account for 51.7 percent of the estimated radio station revenue in the top 50 radio markets.

In April 2009, Arbitron plans to commercialize the PPM radio ratings service in Boston with the release of the March PPM survey report (March 5-April 1.)

About the Portable People Meter

The Arbitron Portable People Meter service uses a passive audience measurement device -- about the size of a small cell phone -- to track consumer exposure to media and entertainment, including broadcast, cable and satellite television; terrestrial, satellite and online radio as well as cinema advertising and many types of place-based electronic media. Carried throughout the day by randomly selected survey participants, the PPM device can track when and where they watch television, listen to radio as well as how they interact with other forms of media and entertainment.

The PPM detects inaudible codes embedded in the audio portion of media and entertainment content delivered by broadcasters, content providers and distributors. At the end of the day, the meter is placed in a docking station that extracts the codes and sends them to a central computer. The PPM is equipped with a motion sensor, a patented quality control feature unique to the system, which allows Arbitron to confirm the compliance of the PPM survey participants every day.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Filter Forge for Mac OS X Beta Version Released

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Filter Forge, Inc. today released the long-awaited public beta of the Mac OS X version of Filter Forge, a high-end plugin for Adobe Photoshop allowing computer artists to build their own filters -- seamless textures, visual effects, distortions, patterns, backgrounds, frames and more.

Starting December 29, the beta version of Filter Forge for Mac OS X is available at http://www.filterforge.com/download/?mac. The beta is open for anyone with a Mac -- no registration required. The minimum system requirement is Mac OS X 10.4, on both Intel and PowerPC processors. Users who find and report bugs will be rewarded with free copies of Filter Forge, which will be granted after the Mac version becomes commercially available. For more information about the beta test, visit http://www.filterforge.com/download/mac-version.html.

The final commercial version is planned for release in the first quarter of 2009. Meanwhile, all editions of Filter Forge for Mac OS X are available for preorder at a special 45% discount -- preorder customers can save up to $135. To preorder Filter Forge for Mac at a 45% discount, click here: http://www.filterforge.com/buy/?mac.

Filter Forge is an innovative Photoshop plugin allowing its users to create their own filters -- seamless textures, visual effects, distortions, patterns, backgrounds, frames and more. The key features of Filter Forge include a visual filter editor and a free online library of user-created filters which contains over 5600 textures and effects at the moment. To download the free trial version, click here: http://www.filterforge.com.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Information Overload Now $900 Billion Cost to U.S. Economy

/PRNewswire/ -- Information overload costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lowered employee productivity and reduced innovation, according to the latest research from Basex, the leading provider of research on the productivity of knowledge workers and how technology impacts them.

Information overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks. It has been identified as a key challenge for companies that operate in the knowledge economy.

Workers spend up to 50 percent of their day managing and searching for information, according to a recent survey conducted by Basex of more than 3,000 knowledge workers, and streamlining this process can have a significant impact on productivity. But determining the extent of the problem is the first step.

"In order to remain competitive in 2009, companies will need to begin an information overload bailout, i.e. taking active countermeasures, in order to remain competitive," said Jonathan B. Spira, chief analyst at Basex.

To help companies understand their financial exposure, Basex has created a free, Web-based "information overload calculator" (www.iocalculator.com) so that companies can calculate the impact of the problem on their own operations.

"The fact that companies need to undertake a 'bailout' to combat the problem tells us how serious an issue information overload has become," said David M. Goldes, president and senior analyst at Basex. "Nothing has been more disruptive to the way we work than information overload."

Intel, a company with 86,300 employees, sees information overload as a serious problem. "At Intel we estimated the impact of information overload on each knowledge worker at up to eight hours a week," said Nathan Zeldes, a principal engineer focusing on computing productivity issues at Intel and chairman of the Information Overload Research Group, an industry consortium. "We continuously look at applying new work behaviors that can help reduce its impact."

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Consumer Group Calls on Google to Offer Zero Personal Data Retention Policy; Seeks Meeting With Chairman Eric Schmidt About Privacy Concerns

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Google should offer users of its search engine the ability to leave no personal data on the Internet giant's servers, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Consumer Watchdog said today and asked for a meeting with Google's chairman to discuss the group's privacy concerns.

In a letter to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court and Policy Advocate John M. Simpson noted that the search engine Ask.Com offers the ability for users' personal data to be removed almost immediately from its servers with its AskEraser service. "We call on you to offer Google's users such a clearly identifiable 'opt out' function on its search engine that is essentially a zero personal data retention policy."

During a question and answer period at a New America Foundation speech in Washington, DC, Schmidt told Simpson that he was "sympathetic" to the group's privacy concerns and told him to arrange a meeting "off line" rather than in front of 200 people. See a video of that exchange here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKybBlEjSyk&eurl

The letter to Google came after the announcement this week by its rival Yahoo! that it will anonymize personal data it retains after only 90 days. Google currently keeps the data for nine months. European privacy officials have suggested a six-month standard, a limit that Microsoft said it would adopt if all search engine companies adopt the standard.

"This is really about choice," said Simpson. "People should have the right to choose what they do with their personal data and if they provide it all."

Consumer Watchdog's letter requests a meeting with Schmidt to discuss the consumer group's privacy concerns and follows an Oct. 13 letter to Google. Read that letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/LtrGoogle10-13-08.pdf. Read Google's Nov. 26 response here:

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/Googleresponse112608.pdf. Read today's letter to Schmidt here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/LtrGoogle121908.pdf.

"Google, because of its dominance on the Internet, stands alone as the entity most able to set and maintain a gold standard for protecting privacy," the letter said. "Conversely, it could also be the company that sounds the death knell for privacy protections on the Internet."

To guarantee privacy, Consumer Watchdog said, users need: 1) control over their private data; 2) transparency about how their data is gathered and used; and 3) the right to give informed consent through "opt in" functions, rather than having to sift through pages in order to even locate the "opt out" function, or in its absence, a clearly identifiable and accessible "opt out."

View videos that demonstrate how users are in an unnoticed conversation with Google when they use its services at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/google.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Computer for the Kids? 10 Tips to Keep Them Safe Online

/PRNewswire/ -- If the gifts under your holiday tree this year are going to include a new computer for the kids, now is the time to think about how you're going to shield them from the unsavory side of the Internet. For all the merits of cyberspace as a source of information, entertainment and community, there are also dangers ranging from well over 400 million pages of pornography to Internet predators posing as friends or confidantes. Children are likely to venture into the underbelly of the beast -- whether unwittingly or deliberately -- and they need protection.

InternetSafety.com, a leading developer of products that control online usage for consumers and businesses, offers these tips to ensure a safe and wholesome Internet experience for tweens and younger teens who may use the computer unsupervised:

1. Keep the computer out of the child's bedroom -- If it's in the family room or another common space where the screen is visible to passersby, it's easier for parents, other family members or caregivers to monitor a child's online activities.

2. Teach online safety -- Be sure that children know about online stranger danger, what to do if they come across a website or have an online conversation that makes them uncomfortable, and so on.

3. Provide a clear list of 'don'ts' -- Explain, for example, that children should never give out personal information such as their last name, address, city, phone number, siblings' names, school name or parents' workplaces.

4. Block inappropriate websites -- You can automatically prevent access to sites that have been "blacklisted" because of objectionable content by using parental control software like InternetSafety.com's Safe Eyes(R) (http://www.safeeyes.com/). Advanced programs let you select which website categories will be filtered (adult, alcohol, dating/personals, drugs, gambling, hate sites, pornography, profanity, sex, violence, weapons, etc.). You should also be able to block specific websites and/or keywords of your choice.

5. Explore the Web together -- Spending time online with your children, whether visiting websites or Facebook or playing an online game, can help you steer them in the right direction and enable you to better understand their digital world.

6. Limit time spent online -- Excessive Web usage interferes with other activities and increases the risk of getting into trouble, particularly in the late-night hours when Internet predators prowl chat rooms and social networking sites. Some filtering software can help enforce any time limits you impose by cutting off Internet access after a specified interval, as well as allowing access only during certain hours and/or days of the week.

7. Monitor 'live' communications such as chat and IM -- Online sex offenders usually meet victims in chat rooms; cyberbullying often happens during IM sessions; and both can happen either place. Some parental control software can block IM programs, save the full text of IM conversations, and alert parents if children post forbidden information.

8. Restrict email use to designated addresses -- There is no reason for younger children to correspond with anyone other than family members, close friends and perhaps teachers. Some sex offenders communicate by email after meeting a child online. Again, some filtering programs will let you specify acceptable email addresses and block the rest.

9. Beware of 'back door' dangers -- Sometimes an objectionable YouTube video will be sent by email or embedded on someone's social networking page, or a peer-to-peer file sharing program like BitTorrent may have inappropriate photos or other objectionable material. This is another reason to monitor your children's computer use.

10. Encourage trouble reports -- Children should feel comfortable coming to you if they encounter something or someone online that makes them feel uneasy or threatened. Be sure to applaud their honesty so that they will keep you informed of future problems.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Georgia Tech and CDC Work to Improve Safety of Blood Supply

The Georgia Tech College of Computing, working in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has developed a Web-based tool for tracking blood safety. The tool is expected to help developing countries improve the adequacy and safety of their national blood supplies through better monitoring and evaluation.

The tool, which is accessed through a standard Web browser, tracks about 80 blood safety indicators continuously at the hospital and provincial levels. A pilot test in Zambia showed that the tool could improve the timeliness and accuracy of data collection efforts, allowing blood safety officials to better forecast or predict regional and seasonal blood usage patterns.

“A simple, scalable, Web-based tool like this can make a tremendous difference in public health around the world,” said Santosh Vempala, distinguished professor in the College of Computing’s School of Computer Science and faculty leader for the project. “The Zambian health officials immediately saw the benefits of real-time data collection and the ability to compare different regions’ needs and see trends over time.”

The project started when John Pitman, public health advisor in CDC’s Global AIDS Program, met Vempala and explained the challenges involved in ensuring global blood safety. Their vision of a web-based tracking system was taken up in 2008 by students in the College of Computing’s Computing for Good class, co-taught by Vempala. Using information about current conditions and future demands within the target countries, the Georgia Tech team, computer science Ph.D. students Adebola Osuntogun and Stephen Thomas, built a Web-based system that resource-limited countries of any size could use to report data to national authorities. The system could also be used by a global organization, like CDC, to monitor multiple projects.

The Georgia Tech team developed the new Web-based tool from a Microsoft Excel version created by CDC. The team field-tested the Web-based tool in Zambia in July-August 2008 to obtain feedback from blood safety program staff.

“I was impressed by the team’s ability to adapt to the computing environment in Zambia, and to make the changes necessary to ensure this would be an appropriate solution for developing countries,” Pitman said. “Including staff from the Zambian national blood transfusion service in the development process was essential to be sure it fit their needs.”

Ministries of health in Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia will begin using the new tracking system on January 1, 2009. All 14 countries are recipients of U.S. financial support through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Georgia Tech’s Computing for Good class gives students the opportunity to understand how computing can be used to improve the human condition, according to Vempala. “Projects such as this collaboration with the CDC present computer science as a cutting-edge technological discipline that empowers our students to solve problems and make a positive impact on society.”

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FBI Warns of New Vishing Attacks Targeting Private Branch Exchange (PBX) Systems

The FBI has identified a new technique used to conduct vishing attacks where hackers exploit a known security vulnerability in Asterisk software. Asterisk is free and widely used software developed to integrate Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) digital Internet voice calling services; however, early versions of the Asterisk software are known to have a vulnerability. The vulnerability can be exploited by cyber criminals to use the system as an auto dialer, generating thousands of vishing telephone calls to consumers within one hour.

Digium, the original creator and primary developer of Asterisk, released a Security Advisory, AST-2008-003, in March 2008, which contains the information necessary for users to configure a system, patch the software, or upgrade the software to protect against this vulnerability.

If a consumer falls victim to this exploit, their personally identifiable information (PII) will be compromised. To prevent further loss of consumers’ PII and to reduce the spread of this new technique, it is imperative that businesses using Asterisk upgrade their software to a version that has had the vulnerability fixed.

Further, consumers should not release personal information in response to unsolicited telephone calls. Providing your PII will compromise your identity.

“As with all types of scams, whether by computer, phone, or mail, using common sense can protect you,” said Special Agent Richard Kolko, Chief, National Press Office, Washington, D.C.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rapid Routers Receives Patents for Green Technology Improvements

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Rapid Routers LLC announced today that it has been issued its first patent and believes it will soon have four more patents issued to the Atlanta firm. Rapid Routers produces technology that enables routers to select network routes more efficiently and, in certain cases, reduce power consumption by 90%. All these technologies reduce the network provider’s carbon footprint.

“The issuance of patents confirms we continue to be on the right track,” says Dennis Mitrano, president of Rapid Routers. “There are a total of nine patents and applications in the Rapid Routers portfolio. Our technology greatly increases efficiency and reduces consumed power which has a significant effect on a network service provider’s total costs while supporting a greener environment.” The technology development was led by Dr. Sartaj K. Sahni, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Information Science and Engineering Department at the University of Florida.

Rapid Routers, a portfolio company of IP2Biz LLC, has been working with router manufacturers, semiconductor manufacturers, and has had direct discussions with network service providers. “We project that Internet traffic will increase six fold by the year 2012 with more large images, video clips and movies being transferred through routers,” continues Mitrano. “Our technology will allow networks to better handle traffic congestion.”

The Rapid Routers technology works efficiently and can be selectively applied to routers with specific congestion, thus not requiring a complete network overhaul. The technology eliminates the need for overlay network routing schemes because it works with both IPv4 and IPv6 addressing schemes. The result is significant throughput improvement with reduced energy consumption. “This team has made a quantum leap in efficiency for algorithms used in network routers,” says Mitrano. The portfolio of technologies is licensed exclusively to Rapid Routers from the University of Florida.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Season Cyber Scammers Target Victims

The FBI is reminding people this holiday season that cyber criminals continue to aggressively seek ways to steal money and personal information. Scammers are using several techniques to fool potential victims including sending unsolicited e-mails that contain attachments such as electronic greeting cards containing malware (malicious software), setting up spoofing websites that look like legitimate commercial sites, and unleashing phishing and vishing attacks where
individuals receive e-mails asking for personal data.

“"These cyber scammers will do whatever they can to steal your money and personal
information this holiday season and are trying many different ways to commit these
crimes. The best way to protect yourself is to report these scams to law enforcement
or the Internet Crime Complaint Center, IC3,"” said Shawn Henry, Assistant Director, FBI Cyber Division, Washington, D.C.

In the greeting card scam, the cards, which are also referred to as e-cards or postcards,
are being sent via spam. Like many other Internet fraud schemes, the criminals use
social engineering tactics to entice the victim, claiming the card is from a family
member or friend. Although there have been variations in the spam message and attached
malware, generally the spam directs the recipient to click the link provided in
the e-mail to view the e-card. Upon clicking the link, the recipient is unknowingly
taken to a malicious webpage.

Spoofing scams are when criminals create a false or shadow copy of a real website
or e-mail in a way that misleads the recipient. All network traffic between the
victim's browser and the shadow page are sent through the spoofer's machine. This
allows the spoofer to acquire personal information, such as passwords, credit card
numbers, and account numbers.

Even though the e-mail looks like the real thing, complete with authentic logos
and working web links, it's a fake. The website where you're told to enter your
account information is also fake. In some instances, really slick spoofers direct
you to the genuine website, then pop up a window over the site that captures your
personal information. The information entered does not go to the legitimate site,
but rather to the spoofer's account. The information you entered will most likely
be sold to criminals, who'll use it to ruin your credit and drain your account.

In phishing and vishing attacks, individuals report receiving e-mails or text messages
indicating a problem with their account. They are directed to follow the link provided
in the message to update their account or correct the problem. The link actually
directs the individuals to a fraudulent website that looks legitimate where their
personal information, such as account number and PIN, is compromised.

Other reported scams have included victims receiving an e-mail message asking them
to complete an online survey. At the end of the survey, they are asked for their
personal account information to allow funds to be credited to the account in appreciation
for completing the survey. Providing this information will allow criminals to compromise
the account.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:
* Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
* Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
* Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files
may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
* Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
* Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link that you are actually directed
to.
* Log on to the official website, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited e-mail.
* Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail
is genuine.

To receive the latest information about cyber scams please go to the FBI website and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes. If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov. For more information on e-scams, please visit the FBI's New E-Scams and Warnings webpage.

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