Sunday, February 15, 2009

Microsoft bounty for worm creator

Microsoft bounty for worm creator

A reward of $250,000 (£172,000) has been offered by Microsoft to find who is behind the Downadup/Conficker virus.

Since it started circulating in October 2008 the Conficker worm has managed to infect millions of computers worldwide.

Microsoft is offering the cash reward because it views the Conficker worm as a criminal attack.

"People who write this malware have to be held accountable," George Stathakopulos, of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group was reportedly heard saying.

He said that the company was "will not sit back and let this kind of activity go unchecked".

"Our message is very clear - whoever wrote this caused significant pain to our customers and we are sending a message that we will do everything we can to help with your arrest," said Mr Stathakopulos.

Arbor Networks said as many as 12 million computers could be affected globally by Conficker/Downadup since it began prowling the web looking for vulnerable machines to infect in October.

The Conficker worm is a self-replicating program that takes advantage of networks or computers that have not kept up to date with Windows security patches.

It can infect machines via a net connection or by hiding on USB memory drives used to ferry data from one computer to another. Once in a computer it digs deep, setting up defences that make it hard to extract.

USB drives, BBC
The worm can also spread via USB flash drives.

The worm stealths through networks by guessing usernames and passwords. Security specialists recommend hardening passwords by mixing in numbers, punctuation marks and capital letters.

The virus reports in to its creators for updates by visiting a web domain. It generates the name of the domain itself using a complicated code which security firms have cracked to track the growth of the worm and block its progress.

Malware such as Downadup can be triggered to steal data or turn control of infected computers over to malicious hackers which pool them into larger armies of so-called botnets.

These networks of compromised machines can be used to send spam, as dead drops for stolen or pirated data and to launch attacks on other machines.

Although Downadup is widespread its creators havent activated its payload to steal data or launch other attacks.

It has caused costly headaches for network administrators dealing with users locked out of their accounts when the worm correctly guesses a password.

While Microsoft says it does not know the intention of the worm's creator, it wants to ensure it does not wreak any more havoc.

Experts say users should have up-to-date anti-virus software and install Microsoft's MS08-067 patch - also known as KB958644.

Microsoft has also partnered with security companies, domain name providers, academia, internet companies such as AOL and others on a co-ordinated global response to the worm.

Discarded computers, AP
Millions of computers have been hit by Conficker

Also included is the US Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

"The best way to defeat potential botnets like Conficker/Downadup is by the security and Domain Name System communities working together," said Greg Rattray, chief internet security adviser at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).

"Icann represents a community that's all about co-ordinating those kinds of efforts to keep the internet globally secure and stable."

In 2003 Microsoft created its reward programme with $5m (£3.4m) in funding to help law enforcement agencies bring computer virus and worm authors to justice.

This reward for help in tracking the creators of Downadup is the first time in four years that the company has put up some cash in response to a worm outbreak.

Clock, BBC
Microsoft hopes its bounty has started the countdown to finding its creator

"We have not seen this type of worm or one of its class since 2004," said Mr Stathakopulos.

In 2005 Microsoft paid out $250,000 (£171,000) to two individuals who helped identify the creator of the notorious Sasser worm. The author was arrested and sentenced by the German authorities.

Rewards of $250,000 were offered over three other major computer worm threats known as Blaster, MyDoom and Sobig worms.

Those perpetrators have never been caught.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Textbooks in E-books?

Is there a current need for textbooks in schools?

Normally the trend would be in school is to require courses taken to have textbooks, and each teacher would always have his perrenial bias towards recommending his won favourite textbook, be it authored by him or his favourite college pprofessor. .In buying technology textbooks as time passes by specially in IT they tend to be outdated by the time you receive them and because we have this great thing called the Internet filled with technology information.

Not so long ago, it took a fair amount of work, though to assemble a whole semester’s or year’s worth of coursework from web materials. Obviously, supplemental materials abounded, but textbooks certainly do help with a curriculum and keeping students on track from day to day. And as a school administrator for a school with students from class CD and e groups, I would always look for affordable alternatives, knowing that the web is full of them, it only would take you a specially dedicated researcher to find these things on the net. We were all set for introductory web classes and office productivity, but more advanced web goodies and programming were certainly not in our book closet.

It didn’t take much of our time to do Googling, that we came over to see that there are full textbooks and curricula were now available for free to cover every topic I had in mind. The idea of Open Textbooks is a fairly new one, following in the same vein as Open Source Software. Some of them, like Wikibooks, are works in progress. Others are robust teaching tools, like those found on

The Canadian site Free Learning is also a treasure trove of information and is searchable as well. This is more of a meta-database, pointing to a variety of open text resources.

This doesn’t even take into account initiatives like MIT’s OpenCourseWare. Two introductory computer science courses (including notes, presentations, source code, and other supplemental materials) are available here, along with countless courses appropriate for high school and independent study. Courses particularly appropriate for high school are even broken out on this site

We’re certainly nowhere near a time when we can dispense with purchased, traditional textbooks, especially in core subjects that often need to be aligned with local, state, or federal standards. However, I have no doubt that I can give teachers everything they need to teach a wide variety of courses in technology without spending a dime.

We just have to be wise enough and have the temerity to search within the available set of freee resources in our reach.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Windows 7 to Ubuntu... will it get wiped out by M$

Ubuntu logoReacting that Windows 7 will wipe out Ubuntu.

There were recent comments from ZDNET people that there are people from MS who said that Microsoft 7 will wipe out Ubuntu.

However,Dana Blankenhorn of ZDNET says other wise, she gives the following reasons in her blog:

"Not exactly. Not even approximately.

First let’s understand what 7’s target is. It’s not so much desktop Linux as a particular Linux distro — Ubuntu — that targets the desktop.

Some of these reasons are technological, others social. But the biggest reason is a business reason:

  1. Ubuntu has an entrepreneur at the helm. Microsoft beat IBM because it had Bill Gates up against a bunch of suits. Now Microsoft is a bunch of suits and Ubuntu has Mark Shuttleworth.

  2. Ubuntu has more server compatibility. Linux continues to beat Windows on the server, and servers (in the form of clouds) are becoming dominant over clients.

  3. Ubuntu’s friends will not desert it. HP and Dell have gotten a taste of freedom from Microsoft tyranny. They won’t give that up easily. They will continue seeking product line niches where Ubuntu can succeed.

  4. The Netbook will continue to evolve. The “no moving parts” PC is still at Version 1.0. There is a niche for a cheap, profitable “online machine” that can be used in Airports, hotel rooms and sandy deserts.

  5. Applications will come. It’s true there are more Windows apps than Linux, by a logarithmic factor. But many are being ported, and the developed world will create many more.

  6. Windows is losing the mobility wars. Linux is playing well, Apple is winning big, RIM is hanging in. Where’s Windows? PCs are servers to mobile clients. The clients will tire of waiting.

  7. The open source model. Software development has become like the old Steve Jackson game Ogre, and Microsoft’s the Ogre. Ubuntu and other open source pieces are small, but there are a lot of them, and they can work together. Or as Kermit said in The Muppet Movie “who are your friends, Doc?”

This does not mean that Microsoft will cease to be a desktop player, that Ubuntu is going to take over. Far from it. Ubuntu will retain enough interest to stay in the game, that’s all it needs to do.

Ubuntu is doing fine with its present market share. How much more can it get over the next year? Perhaps just a little. I suspect this will be a year when desktop Linux consolidates around Ubuntu, so some gain is nearly assured.

Microsoft will also not disappear under the open source onslaught, just as IBM did not disappear under the weight of Microsoft. But it will change.

It will be fun to watch how it changes, and when. It has yet to see the need, but when Ubuntu fails to fall under the weight of Windows 7 perhaps it will."

dana is one of the resident bloggers of ZDNET

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Having Good Functional Running Old PC's

A lot of us have old PCs stuck in the corners of classrooms, machines we just can’t afford to replace and whose owners just can’t do without. At the same time, a lot of us are acquiring netbooks and inexpensive hardware instead of investing in the latest and greatest “Vista-capable” computers. Normally for FOSS people like me its a YEHEY think to put in Linux in those running Boxes.

Some people have issues however if indeed there appears to be a need to install Xubuntu on a 7-year old computer when it’s running just fine on Windows 98 or Windows 2000? From a security point of view , there are risks in running these dated operating systems, however,what matters to us is just to keep people who are using these computers functional (since they have grown used to it, considering that many people in these spaces are creatures of habit). Perhaps the machines are only used for word processing or accessing specific applications with minimal Internet access (if a computer only hits your student information system and sits behind an adequate firewall, chances of a breach are pretty low).

There are time that Students or even your teachers bought netbooks for themselves and had XP Home installed, no matter how many times you suggested they buy the Linux model. To that end, there is some very lightweight software available to maximize the utility of aging machines or low-end netbooks (and it runs on Windows!).Chris Dawson and Tech Radar featured a cool roundup of ultra-light applications for aging PCs. We will highlight some of the apps that would be most appropriate for educational settings:

  1. Word Processing - AbiWord 2.6
    Boasting most of the same functionality as Microsoft Word 2003, AbiWord is free and light on its feet. Needing only a paltry 16MB of RAM, it runs on Windows 2000 upwards. You can grab an earlier version for Windows 98 if your machine is really wrinkly. [Also a great choice on Linux; it isn't a full office suite, but it's a very fast word processor]
  2. Graphics - IrFanView 4.23
    Forget about Photoshop and even its open source rival The GIMP - IrfanView’s the photo editor to choose on underpowered platforms. With support stretching back to Windows 95 it opens and saves dozens of image formats, with batch editing, cropping resizing and other basic photo manipulation tools built in.
  3. Coding - NoteTab Light
    Looking for a seriously lightweight coding tool? NoteTab Light does the job. A text editor that’s optimised for working with HTML and CSS, it has features like code snippets, HTML tidying and auto-correction. It’ll run happily on Windows 98 upwards - Windows 95 too if you use the help file patch.
  4. Video - VLC Media Player
    Judging media players is difficult as they’re only ever as fast and reliable as the data you try to squeeze through them. VLC Media Player is portable. though, has a small footprint and - though it will struggle to play full HD video on older systems - it’s perfect for DVDs and MP3s on Pentium class computers. [This will take care of all of your video needs on Linux machines and Macs, too, regardless of file type]
  5. PDF Reader - Sumatra PDF
    PDFs have become the industry alternative to printed documentation - but Acrobat Reader, Adobe’s free tool for opening PDFs, is something of a resource hog. Enter Sumatra PDF - nimble on its feet and stripped of bells and whistles, it’s a fast loading alternative to Adobe’s offering. [Think Preview on a Mac]
  6. Instant Messaging - Pidgin
    Multiple messaging clients scoff your system resources, so switching to a single, universal IM tool makes sense. Pidgin does the job well, with support for AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo!, MSN and more. [I'd only recommend this one on those netbooks, by the way; IM is just too risky on older machines]

So in the view of using old machines and making people be functional. Keep these tips on hand and God Bless

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