Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kixeye expands to mobile games, creates Australian studio

Kixeye has been one of a handful of large game developers that has been so successful on Facebook that it has never expanded beyond the social network. But the San Francisco company announced today that it will partner with Ngmoco to publish Backyard Monsters on mobile devices. The company is also expanding its game development to a new studio in Australia.
The moves show that Kixeye is becoming big enough to consider ways to expand to new markets without losing focus on what it does best: making hardcore games for Facebook fans. Brandon Barber, senior vice president of marketing at Kixeye, said in an interview with GamesBeat that partnership with Ngmoco is an experiment in moving to mobile.
“It is not like a major diversification because we are 99 percent focused on Facebook,” Barber said.”Mobile is not a core focus for us. But in conversations with Ngmoco, we found they had ideas on how to make Backyard Monsters fun on mobile while remaining true to the Facebook version.” He added, “We think our games can monetize anywhere.”
Kixeye’s chief executive, Will Harbin, has also said that the company’s priority is to focus on making high-end, high-quality games on the social network. He thinks other companies are fleeing to new platforms because they have failed on Facebook.
But Kixeye, which focuses on online combat strategy games, is growing big enough to cover its bets. Soon it will launch to reach users who don’t want to play on Facebook. The company has nearly 200 employees in San Francisco and will add 10 more at its studio in Brisbane, Australia.
The new team comes from 3 Blokes, a development studio that worked on games such as Rome: Total War in the past. George Fidler, previously head of the Creative Assembly game studio in Australia, will be the general manager of the studio. The new team is now in production on a game and will add more people over time.
“The talent pool in Australia is exploding, and the 3 Blokes team is evidence of that,” said Harbin. “George and his team are highly driven and passionate game developers who aren’t afraid to push the limits of creativity and innovation. Those are the types of individuals we’re looking for to join our mission at Kixeye.”
With Ngmoco, Kixeye will publish its Backyard Monsters title on the worldwide Mobageplatform, which is a social network for mobile gamers. The move is Kixeye’s first expansion into mobile games and will launch this summer on iOS and Android.
Backyard Monsters has had more than 20 million game installs to date, and players have played it for more than 175 million hours. In the game, players build and manage little empires. They harvest resources, place defensive towers, and fend off attacks from wild monsters.

SpaceX Dragon splashes down this morning, watch NASA’s coverage live

The final act of SpaceX’s first mission to the International Space Station, a groundbreaking accomplishment for private space travel, is set to occur this morning as the Dragon capsule splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.
According to NASA’s schedule, the Dragon is expected to splashdown around 11:44 a.m. EDT hundreds of miles off the coast of California. While we likely won’t get television coverage of the Dragon hitting the ocean, there will still likely be plenty of interesting commentary on NASA TV (starting around 10:15 a.m. EDT).
You can watch the coverage live on NASA TV’s Ustream page, or on NASA TV if you subscribe to it.
The splashdown will cap off a historic run for SpaceX, which started with a successful launch on May 22 (following a failed launch a few days earlier), and a smooth capture and docking with the International Space Station on May 25. The Dragon capsule carried supplies to the ISS, and is also bringing back cargo from the station as well. (Check out a deeper rundown of the entire mission, dubbed COTS Demo Flight 2, on Wikipedia.)

Flipboard Officially Opens Up Their Android Beta To Interested Testers

Well, that was quick. The news of an impending Flipboard Android beta only began making the rounds earlier this morning, and now the Flipboard team has opened up the beta process to anyone interested in taking the plunge.
Users interested in taking the pre-release version of the app for a spin can mosey over to Flipboard’s Android landing page, where they can sign up for the beta and wait patiently to receive a download link in their inbox. The confirmation email mentions that the waiting period could stretch up to 24 hours, though we’re hearing that plenty of people are receiving their download links without too much of a delay.
I managed to get the new version of the app up and running on my trusty Galaxy Nexus, and so it far seems plenty responsive (not to mention handsome) despite its beta label. Scrolling through lists of sources to cull content from is terribly snappy, and I can only detect the faintest bit of lag as I touch those sources’ icons to see more. Assuming you’ve got some robust hardware at your disposal, you probably won’t run into too many issues.
Not every device will be as lucky, though. I downloaded and tested the app onto my backup handset — a not-terribly-old myTouch 4G — and was told upon installation that the device “does not meet the minimum requirements is not supported by Flipboard.” After selecting some categories to add to my Flipboard, the app stalled out. I guess it’s a good thing Flipboard decided on the route they did, and with any luck the final product will be free of hiccups when the more widespread launch takes place in the coming months.
Your mileage will certainly vary — that’s sort of the point of this whole exercise — and the Flipboard team would appreciate any feedback you intrepid testers may have. If the app happens to force close, be a good citizen and report the issue instead of just closing the app and starting from scratch, will you?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Google Apps earns ISO 27001 certification

Google has announced that its Google Apps for Business productivity suite has earned the ISO 27001 certification.

"ISO 27001 is one of the most widely recognized, internationally accepted independent security standards and we have earned it for the systems, technology, processes and data centers serving Google Apps for Business,"shared Eran Feigenbaum, Director of Security, Google Enterprise.

Google's auditor in this case was Ernst & Young CertifyPoint, an ISO certification body accredited by the Dutch Accreditation Council and a member of the International Accreditation Forum. 

"This new certification, along with our existing SSAE 16 / ISAE 3402 audits and FISMA certification for Google Apps for Government, help assure our customers that Google is committed to ongoing development and maintenance of a robust Information Security Management System (ISMS) that an independent, third-party auditor will regularly audit and certify," Feigenbaum pointed out.

"ISO 27001 is certainly a big step for Google - complying with this standard is very important for any high growth technology company since in most cases such growth causes weaknesses due to unstructured approach to security. ISO 27001 helps companies systematically resolve most of the information security issues - recognizing what are the biggest threats and then defining precisely how to resolve those threats and who is responsible for doing it," Dejan Kosutic, founder of Information Security & Business Continuity Academy, commented for Help Net Security.
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Google: ‘We’re Like a Bank for Your Data’

Eran Feigenbaum compares Google Apps to a bank in the days when a bank was a new idea.
Just as a bank stores money, Google Apps stores data, and the onus is on Google to convince you and your business that this data is properly protected. “It’s very similar to the situation banks were in hundreds of years ago,” says Feigenbaum, the director of security for Google’s various enterprise products and services, including its Google Apps suite of online business applications. “They had to convince us to give them our money, to take the money out from under the mattress and put it in the bank.”
As part of this ongoing effort to convince the world that its online services are as secure as traditional software installed on your own servers — if not more so — Feigenbaum and company have announced that Google Apps has been certified as compliant with the ISO 27001 standard, an internationally recognized standard for managing the security of information.
The standard is published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and according to Google, Google Apps was certified by Ernst & Young CertifyPoint, an ISO certification operation backed by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF). This bowl of international alphabet soup doesn’t mean much to the Average Joe, but it may go a long way toward convincing some businesses to adopt Google’s suite of online services.
“Many of our own processes are ISO certified,” Chet Loveland, CISO and global compliance officer of MWV, a global packaging company based in Virginia, said in a canned statement about Google’s certification. “I think it’s important, find it assuring and are very pleased that Google Apps will be audited and certified to this Information Security Management System ISO standard on an ongoing basis.”
Last year, in a similar effort to prove the worth of its suite, Google announced that Google Apps had successfully undergone audits related to the SSAE 16 Type II and ISAE 3402 Type II security standards. And a year before that, the company announced that the suite had been certified as compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), which covers software applications used by the US government.
In some cases, the certification process is a delicate business. In the spring of April 2011, as part of a court battle with Google, Microsoft accused the search giant of making “misleading security claims” in touting FISMA certification for its Google Apps for Government suite, and what this boiled down to was that after receiving certification, Google changed the name of its suite and restricted certain parts of the suite to data centers located in the U.S.

Microsoft makes Skype available to OEMs for preinstallation on PCs

Summary: Microsoft’s latest OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) facilitates the preloading of Skype for Windows 7 on new PCs.

Microsoft is making availble to select OEMs and system builders a kit to allow them to “silently” preinstall Skype on new PCs.
The new Skype OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) — about which I first learned from a post by blogger Steven Bink on May 29 — is for Windows 7. It includes the Skype 5.8 for Windows code. (The latest currently available downloadable version for Windows is Skype 5.9.)  Skype has supported Windows 8 test builds since the fall of 2011 with version 5.5, but the new OPK is focused on Windows 7, presumably because that’s the version of Windows PC makers are shipping now.
The new Skype OPK includes the installer application and “instructions on how to silently install Skype for your customers,” according to the download page.
It was just about a year ago that Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion. Regulatory approval of the deal closed in the fall of 2011. Microsoft is working on integrating Skype across its various business and consumer products, into everything from Office to Xbox. So far, however, Redmond has yet to make available the bulk of the promised deliverables.
Earlier this year, Microsoft rolled out its first version of Skype for Windows Phone, an offering which has been criticized as being less functional than Skype for iOS and Android. Microsoft is expected to introduce an improved version of Skype for Windows Phone 8 later this year.
The head of Microsoft’s Skype division, President Tony Bates, is set to address attendees of theAllThingsD D10 conference this week.
As the Microsoft OPK download page notes, traditional OPKs from Microsoft for both Windows and Office are aimed at all kinds of OEMs who build PCs. They require registration before download.

Sophisticated Virus Hits Iranian Computers

Thousands of computers in Iran belonging to government agencies and private companies have been infected with a highly sophisticated virus, dubbed Flame, in the latest cyberstrike against the Islamic Republic, said cybersecurity experts and Iran's telecommunications ministry.
The malware was widely detected across the Middle East in Syria, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as in other parts of the world, but Iran has the largest number of infected computers, experts said.
At least three times since 2010, Iran has been targeted with sophisticated computer viruses such as Stuxnet, Duqu and Wiper. These viruses have disabled centrifuges for enriching uranium, stolen data from nuclear facilities and erased computers at the oil ministry.
The aim of Flame, said experts at Kaspersky Lab, a Russian information-technology security firm that reported the virus on Monday, was espionage, not physical damage or system interruption.
Flame, which Kaspersky said has been in operation since March 2010, was still active as of Monday morning, Alexander Gostev of Kaspersky Lab said. But after Kaspersky reported the existence of the virus publicly, Flame's operators immediately set about shutting the servers, an effort to protect the stolen data and hide the source of the virus. By Tuesday, Flame had become inactive, he said. "They are trying to hide."
The creation and operation of the Flame virus must have required a large staff, Mr. Gostev said. He estimated that at least 20 specialists would have been required to create and maintain the cyberweapon, similar to estimates of how many people invented and worked on Stuxnet.
Independent security experts said the scope of its complexity and method of operation suggests Flame was sponsored by a nation-state. It wouldn't be economically feasible, they argued, for a private corporation to run such a large-scale international cyberattack. Another reason a state is suspected is that the virus is designed to gather information but has no clear monetizing function.
Iran on Tuesday said it was a victim of cyberwarfare by Israel and the U.S., the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.
"It's in the nature of some countries and illegitimate regimes to spread viruses and harm other countries. We hope these viruses dry out," Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Tuesday.
Iran's computer emergency response team, known as Maher, a branch of the telecommunication ministry, said on Tuesday that it was sharing research information on the virus for the first time ever on its website. Maher posted a link to antivirus software developed by its researchers to remove Flame and offered assistance to any infected organization.
Maher also said Flame was linked to an earlier cyberattack that erased data. In March, Wiper disrupted internal Internet communications at Iran's oil ministry and stole massive amounts of data.
Flame is the biggest and most high-functioning cyberweapon ever discovered, various cybersecurity experts said. It is comprised of multiple files that are 20 times larger than Stuxnet and carry about 100 times more code than a basic virus, experts said.
The most alarming feature, experts said, is that Flame can be highly versatile, depending on instructions by its controller. The malware can steal data and social-network conversations, take snapshots of computer screens, penetrate across networks, turn on a computer's microphone to record audio and scan for Bluetooth-active devices.
The cyber espionage activities described by the researchers are cyberspying techniques employed by the U.S. and a number of other countries, cybersecurity specialists said. Cybersecurity researchers said the complexity of Flame's coding and comprehensiveness of its spy capabilities could suggest it was the work of a government.
Experts said they believe Flame reports back the information to a central command-and-control network that has constantly changed location. Analysts found servers in Germany, Vietnam, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere, but haven't located the main server.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment on Iranian accusations of U.S. involvement.
Analysts suspected Israel and the U.S. to be behind Stuxnet, but the link hasn't been confirmed. U.S. officials have declined to comment on Stuxnet's origins, but former U.S. officials said they regard it as a joint effort between the U.S. and Israel. That virus infected computers in several countries but was written to only sabotage specific systems in Iran, they said.
Stuxnet's purpose differed considerably from the apparent aim of Flame. Stuxnet was designed to damage computerized control systems running nuclear centrifuges, while Flame appears to have been designed for high-end targeted espionage. Researchers haven't found evidence of any damage to systems caused by Flame.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied being involved with Stuxnet.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'Alon hinted that the country may be involved in Flame, saying in an interview with Army Radio, "Anyone who sees the Iranian threat as a significant threat—it's reasonable [to assume] that he will take various steps, including these, to harm it."
U.S. officials draw a distinction between cyber espionage and cyberattacks, which have a destructive or manipulative purpose and could be considered an act of war.
"We have strong beliefs that there are nations behind this malware. We assume it's related to the regimes and political situation in the Middle East," said Vitaly Kamluk, the chief malware expert for Kaspersky Lab.
Independent experts have been on the virus's trail for about a month. The International Telecommunications Union, the special agency at the United Nations that coordinates cybersecurity efforts, approached Kaspersky Lab in late April to investigate a series of incidents tied to a malware program known as Wiper. In the process of that investigation, the experts discovered Flame.
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Security Central Exchange Launches Full Disk Encryption Solution to Combat Data and Identity Theft and Protect Intellectual Property

Security Central Exchange launches full disk encryption solution to combat data and identity theft and protect intellectual property. Don't fall prey to identity and data thieves, protect your laptops, desktops and computing devices with 256 bit full disk encryption.

In today’s global, 24x7 business environment, organizations and their employees need real-time access to data regardless of their location. Often, mobile solutions are used such as laptops, tablets and smartphones to access corporate resources. These mobile devices pose a significant security challenge to business. Balancing access while minimizing risk to ensure intellectual property and critical data is not lost, stolen or modified in an unauthorized manner can be difficult and costly. Failure to employ adequate safeguards can be devastating, and result in severely degraded businesses productivity, monetary damage, unwanted litigation and ruined reputations. It can even destroy a business.

For Job Security, Try Cybersecurity, Experts Say

Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation at the State Department, has a piece of advice for students tasked with the nerve-rattling dilemma of choosing a college major.
“If any college student asked me what career would most assure thirty years of steady, well-paying employment,” said Ross, “I would respond, ‘cybersecurity.’”
That’s because cybersecurity is a field where the rules of the recession seem flipped: There’s plenty of jobs, but relatively few qualified applicants.
The government needs to hire at least 10,000 experts in the near future and the private sector needs four times that number, according to Tom Kellermann, vice president at Trend Micro and former member of President Obama’s cybersecurity commission. Booz Allen Hamilton, a private security firm in Mclean, has hired nearly 3,000 cybersecurity experts in the past two years, and that trend is expected to continue.
Cyberattacks generally come in two varieties: state-sponsored intellectual capital theft and strikes against critical digital infrastructure, such as power grids or banking systems.
Both kinds are being carried out thousands of times a day. No one knows the precise cost; some experts put the dollar figure in the billions and others say it could reach hundreds of billions or more. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that the threat of cyberattacks against infrastructure targets keeps him up at night, and former National Security Agency director Mike McConnell recently warned that the U.S. government isn’t equipped to detect and deflect a catastrophic attack.
“We’re going to have a catastrophic event [in cybersecurity]. Some of these tools already being built are going to leak or be sold or be given to a group that wants to change the world order and we’re incredibly vulnerable at the infrastructure level,” said Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
How can the government become better prepared? It needs more “white hats” – the good guys of the Internet, experts say. But not enough digital experts are entering the cybersecurity field to meet the ever-growing demand.
“It’s tough going out there,” said Edwin Kanerva, vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. “Every company in [the area] is looking for the same thing. There’s just not enough of them. The gene pool is small.”
Recruiters for the company visit colleges across the country, but that may not be enough: According to a 2009 study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, college graduates earning degrees in computers and mathematics represented just shy of six percent of all graduates. Of those, only 36,500 of them, or two percent, earned a degree directly related to cybersecurity.
Why is that percentage so low? Kanerva said that many college students who train in Computer Science are attracted to fields other than security, such as software development or computer engineering, which are considered more hip and can sometimes offer six-figure starting salaries. The median salary for a graduate earning a degree in security was $55,000 in 2009 compared to $75,000 for computer engineering. Besides, who can resist the ultra-cool appeal and money-making potential of Silicon Valley?
“All of the big corporations – the Googles, the Microsofts, the Oracles – all have offices on campus and they’re in competition one another and with us. It’s difficult to compete with that as a defense contractor or security firm and convince Johnny or Mary to come to central Maryland and work in government.”
The key to training more cybersecurity experts, Kanerva believes, is exposing kids to STEM education – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – as well as add some cybersecurity training in high school.
“I think we need to get kids interested,” said Kanerva. “Kids get basic computer knowledge because they’re video game geeks. They sit at home with a PlayStation 3 and learn the basics without even realizing they’re learning.”
The U.S. government also recognizes the need for more STEM education.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Six things to know about smartphone batteries

If you're trying to figure out what your iPhone 5 (or 6) -- or your next Android device or Windows Phone -- is going to look like, there are some things you need to know.

The smartphone market revolves around one question: how do you fit all-day access to all of a consumer's favorite applications and services comfortably into one hand? (The tablet market? Two hands.) The rest is commentary.
No smartphone manufacturer has managed to answer the question fully, because they all face a fundamental dilemma. The electronics that enable faster performance, higher-speed data, better video and gaming, a more vivid and detailed screen, are moving at the speed of Moore's Law. The lithium ion (Li-ion) pouch cell batteries that power them can't keep up. Little wonder that battery life is the biggest complaint of smartphone users!
The feature vs. run-time battle this imposes on smartphone designers is why the new iPadcame in thicker and heavier than its predecessor. The battery needed to power the Retina Display, 4G LTE, and general and graphic processing improvements is 70 percent bigger and heavier. Even so, the new iPad's battery life (run-time) is slightly less than that of the iPad 2. The implications of that for the iPhone 5 are being hotly discussed.
Li-ion battery constraints go a long way toward explaining why smartphone vendors spend millions on incremental design advantages in a market that's moving with blinding speed. If you're trying to figure out what your iPhone 5 -- or your next Android device or Windows Phone -- is going to look like, here are six things you need to know about smartphone batteries.

Steve Jobs' 1974 memo to Atari to be auctioned

Before he co-founded Apple, Steve Jobs worked briefly at Atari, helping the game maker improve design.
Sotheby's is auctioning a handwritten memo penned in 1974 by then-19-year-old Jobs that describes changes Atari could make to its World Cup Soccer arcade game to add fun and functionality.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Microsoft warns Windows XP costs 5X more than Windows 7 to support

Microsoft warns Windows XP costs 5X more than Windows 7 to support 
 In its latest bid to convince organizations to upgrade from Windows XP, a Microsoft-sponsored report claims that companies end up paying more than five times in support costs by refusing to upgrade to Windows 7.
The report from IDC points to rising annual costs in hardware and software support that ultimately makes the 11-year-old Windows XP a huge time sink for IT staff. While the results obviously sound very self-serving for Microsoft, they could serve as a kick in the pants to organizations that have delayed Windows 7 deployments for too long.
Shockingly, IDC found that 42 percent of the commercial Windows install base is currently running Windows XP. With Microsoft set to kill all support for Windows XP in April 2014, many of those companies will be forced to upgrade within the next few years anyway — there won’t be anymore Windows updates or security fixes, after all.
“The bottom line: IDC’s research finds businesses that migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 will see significant return on investment over 130 percent over a three-year period,” writes Erwin Visser, a senior director for Windows, in a blog post on Thursday.  “Moreover, Windows 7 gives businesses back hours of user productivity. Additionally, ...

UK CHART: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier debuts at No.1

Dragon's Dogma and Dirt: Showdown enjoy top five entries

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier knocks Max Payne 3 from the top spot on the UK all formats chart for the week ended May 26.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Screenshot
The Xbox 360 version of the Tom Clancy shooter accounts for 75 percent of sales and the PS3 edition the remainder, according to Chart-Track.
Dragon's Dogma and Dirt: Showdown are new entries at No.3 and No.4 respectively, while FIFA 12 rounds off the top five.
Elsewhere, Mario Tennis Open for 3DS debuts at No.11 and Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock for PS3 enters at No.34.
GfK/Chart-Track Top 10 (week ended May 26):


Anonymous hacks BJP websites, wants people to protest against 'web censorship'

Anonymous hacks BJP websites, wants people to protest against 'web censorship' 
NEW DELHI: A day after messing with servers maintained by Reliance Communications, Anonymous, an international hacker collective, defaced two websites belonging to BJP on Sunday. Through its Twitter account (@opindia_back) it announced were hacked by the group. After the hacking, the group posted a message to web users, asking them to organize protests against "web censorship" in India on June 9.

While the message was displayed on the homepage of, it was inserted as a page at On Mumbai BJP website the message was accompanied by a catchy tune embedded through a YouTube link.

"Today they took away your right to use a few websites... day after tomorrow they will take away your freedom of speech and no one will be there to speak for you. Speak Now or Never," the message read. The hackers said that people should print out or buy Guy Fawkes Masks and wear them while protesting against web censorship in Bangalore, Mangalore, Kochi, Chennai, Vizag, Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad on June 9.

TOI reached out to Anonymous though Twitter, asking why it defaced BJP websites. ""Just needed a website to display our message," said the person managing @opindia_back.
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