Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is Koobface dangerous for networkers?

If you have been getting tempting messages with video links in your accounts in social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter,
IT Exploring Internet Explorer 8, Myspace, Bebo, Friendster and Hi5, beware. Any attempt to download the promised video will make you another victim of Koobface, a worm that could steal critical and personal information from your computer.

The government's India Computer Emergency Response Team has warned that Koobface, a play on the name of social networking site Facebook, comes with an enticing tagline and spreads by spamming the contacts of the victim on networking sites.

With more than 3 million members of Facebook alone in India, Koobface's potential for wreaking havoc on the country's computer systems is immense — a fact that has prompted the government to issue the warning alert.

Typically, Koobface victims get a message from one of their contacts inviting them to click on a video link. The link leads you to a site mimicking the video-sharing site, Youtube. Once there, you are asked whether you want to download a software needed to watch the video.

If you click `yes', the worm gets activated, leaving your computer vulnerable. The worm not only disrupts your internet experience by sending your searches on engines like Google elsewhere and return garbled replies, it also steals data that may have been left in your computer's memory.

If you do or have already been Koobfaced the only way to protect your machine is to delete all files and registry keys that have been added by the worm. Internet users have also been advised by the government agency to install and maintain updated anti-virus software in their computers, as also a desktop firewall, and block ports which are not required.

While you may not be able to notice the worm rummaging through your electronic files searching for personal data, including passwords, the visible signs of the worm would show up on your internet browsing where you would get abnormal results to your searches and be misdirected to other sites.


RIM now gets double attack from Microsoft, Nokia

Microsoft Corp and Nokia announced an alliance on Wednesday to bring business software to smartphones and counter the dominance
Apple of Research in Motion Ltd's BlackBerry.

The alliance between the world's largest software company and cellphone maker means the latest versions of Microsoft's Office applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and messaging, will be available on a range of Nokia cellphones, which make up 45 per cent of the global smartphone market.

The two companies, at one time fierce rivals in the mobile telecommunications business, expect to offer Nokia phones running Office sometime next year.

"This is giving some of our competitors -- let's spell it out, RIM -- a run for their money," said Nokia Executive Vice President Robert Andersson, in a telephone interview. "I don't think BlackBerry has seen the kind of competition we can provide them now."

Research in Motion's BlackBerry created the market for mobile e-mail, and its dominant position in the corporate sector, especially in North America, has protected it from Nokia's attempts to crack the market in recent years.

"RIM should be reasonably safe in the near-term because Nokia's presence in the US is relatively small," said Neil Mawston from research firm Strategy Analytics. "Partnering more closely with Microsoft will help to raise Nokia's profile in the US"

The alliance also aims to counter Google Inc's recent move into free online software, targeted at Microsoft's business customers, and the growing popularity of Apple Inc's iPhone device.

"It's clear that Nokia and Microsoft are both facing competitive challenges, most notably from Google," said John Jackson, an analyst at wireless research firm CCS Insight. "It makes sense for these two companies to work together to see if they can pool their competitive strengths to try and counter some of this pressure."

The alliance means Microsoft's new Office suite of applications could be available to a much wider audience than the users of Windows Mobile phones, which make up 9 per cent of the smartphone market.

"We see this as a great opportunity to deliver Office Mobile to 200 million Nokia smartphone customers," said Takeshi Numoto, an executive at Microsoft's Office business.

Analysts said Microsoft is clearly looking at the largest possible audience with the Nokia deal.

"The deal is a good win for Microsoft and it will surely now be hoping to upsell the Microsoft suite of operating systems
into Nokia's possible portfolios of smartphones, mobile Internet devices and netbooks over the next couple of years," said Strategy Analytics' Mawston.

The two companies stressed that the new venture will not affect the future of Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Nokia's Symbian operating systems for smartphones. Executives said Nokia has no plans to make a Windows Mobile device.

"We are extremely committed to Symbian," said Andersson. "This is very clear. This is a multi-year collaboration building on Symbian. We are as committed as before, if not more," he said.

Microsoft shares rose 2.1 per cent to $23.62 on Nasdaq while Nokia rose less than 1 per cent to 9.30 euros in Helsinki. Shares in RIM were 0.5 per cent lower in Toronto.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Web updates on objects approaching Earth: NASA

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is introducing a new Web site that will provide a centralized resource for information on near-Earth objects - those asteroids and comets that can approach Earth.

The "Asteroid Watch" site also contains links for the interested public to sign up for NASA's new asteroid widget and Twitter account.

"Most people have a fascination with near-Earth objects," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL.

"And I have to agree with them. I have studied them for over three decades and I find them to be scientifically fascinating, and a few are potentially hazardous to Earth. The goal of our Web site is to provide the public with the most up-to-date and accurate information on these intriguing objects," he added.

The website provides information on NASA's missions to study comets, asteroids and near-Earth objects, and also provides the basic facts and the very latest in science and research on these objects.

News about near-Earth object discoveries and Earth flybys will be available and made accessible on the site via a downloadable widget and RSS feed.

For those who want to learn about their space rocks on the go, a Twitter feed is offered.

"Asteroid Watch" also contains a link to JPL's more technical Near-Earth Objects Web site, where many scientists and researchers studying near-Earth objects go for information.

"This innovative new Web application gives the public an unprecedented look at what's going on in near-Earth space," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Objects Observation program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA supports surveys that detect and track asteroids and comets passing close to Earth.

The Near-Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," also plots the orbits of these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.


GM, eBay to test online market to sell new cars

General Motors Co and eBay Inc are launching a test program in California that will allow consumers to negotiate with dealers and buy
new vehicles online, the companies said on Monday.

The car shopping website,, marks a departure from the way new vehicles have traditionally been sold in the United States and is aimed at helping GM recapture lost market share a month after it emerged from bankruptcy.

The online marketplace provides the No 1 US automaker with a new venue to sell new vehicles as it cuts the number of US dealerships by more than 40 percent to 3,600 by the end of 2010 as part of its efforts to return to profitability.

It also expands an existing partnership covering GM's certified used vehicles sold through eBay. Most of the vehicles sold on eBay Motors, a site that sells various types of vehicles and auto parts, have been used.

More than 225 GM dealers in California are participating in the program, which will run from Aug. 11 through Sept 8. GM said it intends to expand the program nationwide if the pilot helps it reach new customers and gain market share.

The website allows consumers to compare pricing across models and participating dealerships, negotiate prices, and arrange financing and payment. Consumers can agree to pay the advertised price or indicate the price they are willing to pay and can negotiate online with the dealer for the vehicle.

More than 20,000 new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Pontiac vehicles will be listed initially on the site.

California, which has been dominated by import brands over the past several years, is the most populous US state and the single largest market for new vehicles. Car sales have been hit harder in California than in other states over the past quarter because of the severity of the housing market slump there.

"It's a critical market for us and critical time for the company. Anything we can do to provide exposure to the products where we are underserved is clearly good news," GM US sales chief Mark LaNeve said on a conference call. "It's been incredibly hit by the recession. We think it really needs a shot in the arm," he said.

GM's market share in California is hovering in the 13 percent to 13.5 percent range, trailing its national average of 19.5 percent. GM, which lost $82 billion over the past four years, is trying to revamp its image and win back consumer trust after completing a bankruptcy restructuring steered by the Obama administration.

GM has lost market share for years to import brands led by Toyota Motor Corp, now No 2 in the US market with a 17 percent share. A recent J.D. Power & Associates study said more than 75 percent of new vehicle buyers in 2008 used the Internet during their shopping and research process, compared with 70 percent in 2007.

The decline in US auto sales to their lowest level in nearly three decades this year has hurt automakers, parts suppliers, dealers and virtually every company in the automotive sector, including eBay.

The online auction company's gross merchandise volume, a data point closely watched by analysts that measures the total value of goods sold on eBay, has been hit in recent years as the downturn in auto sales continued.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Social network with Delhi University students now

Move over Facebook, Orkut. Here comes Delhi University's own networking site, Network DU. With over 2,000 registrations in just four weeks, this site is a virtual campus in which you can look for anyone and anything -- from old friends to scholarships and even information on paying guest accommodation.

Started by Honey Arora, a technical expert, Network DU has all the features of other social networking sites and more.

"Our aim is to get DU more connected through this site. In the IITs and IIMs, the alumni really help their juniors in getting internships and job placements. Network DU will do something similar. Besides friends, a student can get in touch with alumni of the university through this portal and seek help in terms of their career," Arora told IANS.

Of the 2,000 people who have registered, 1,500 are at present studying in the university while the rest are alumni. There is, however, no restriction on a non-DU member joining the network.

Arora himself is not an alumni of the university.

"I was a student of Punjab Technical University. But I, along with some others from IIT Delhi and IIM-Bangalore, zeroed in on Delhi University because I think DU is very tech-savvy," said Arora, who owns Sparks Logics, the firm which started Network DU.

With blogs, music, chat and even an online shopping link, the site gives you all that other networking sites have to offer. It also has debates raging on hot topics like "Should ragging be banned in DU?"with two students in Kirori Mal College getting arrested recently for ragging a junior.

The site also has space for classified information like contact addresses of hostels and PG accommodation around the campus. So if you are looking for a place to stay, all you need to do is log in. Besides this, it has information on the institutes in the campus, scholarships and internships.

Although he is happy with the response that the site has been getting, especially since the advertisement has only been through word of mouth, Arora said that he is planning to go to ex-DU bigwigs like Kapil Sibal and convince them to join the network.

"I am planning to go to Kapil Sibal and ask him to join Network DU and spread some good word about the site. DU has produced some of the most well-placed professionals in the country in every field. If someone like Sibal, who is active on Facebook, joins the site it will make others interested too," he said.

"However I will go to him only after we have got a stronger registration number like 5,000," Arora added.

Arora's mission does not stop at DU. He now plans to create similar networks for other universities.

"I am going to Amity University next and create a portal for their students. The officials of the private universities like Amity are very encouraging and eager to help in such initiatives.

"Money is a problem now but I am looking for investors so that I can create such networks for students of major universities of the country and then connect these networks so that the whole student community can come together in a single platform and interact," Arora said.