Apple developing program to track, destroy Flashback malware

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 11th, 2012, 07:38
Category: News, security, Software

applelogo_silver

I think this is where an awesome montage scene of productivity/progress begins in an 80s movie. Or at least the cast involves vows to achieve a long-term goal.

Apple revealed on Tuesday that it is currently developing software to detect and remove the Flashback malware that has infected an estimated 600,000 Macs worldwide.

The company made mention of the upcoming tool in a support document regarding the malicious software, as noted by The Loop. The document also pointed users to last week’s Java update that patched the security flaw that the virus was exploiting.

“In addition to the Java vulnerability, the Flashback malware relies on computer servers hosted by the malware authors to perform many of its critical functions. Apple is working with ISPs worldwide to disable this command and control network,” the company said.

Apple also advises Macs running OS X 10.5 or earlier to disable Java in their browser preferences.

The Flashback trojan horse was first discovered last September. The malware posed as a phony Adobe Flash Player installer in order to trick users into installing it. At the time, a security first categorized the threat as “low.” The current version of Flashback used the Java vulnerability to create a botnet that could mine personal information from unsuspecting users.

Evidence of Apple’s efforts to contact ISPs surfaced earlier on Tuesday when a Russian security firm revealed that the company had targeted one of its servers as being “involved in a malicious scheme.” Dr. Web chief executive Boris Sharov said the server was “not doing any harm to users” and was being used to monitor the spread of the virus.

Sharov noted that the relative rarity of Apple security issues meant that Dr. Web hadn’t established close ties with the company. “For Microsoft, we have all the security response team’s addresses,” he said. “We don’t know the antivirus group inside Apple.”

Last week, a Dr. Web analyst claimed that 600,000 Macs around the world had been infected by the Flashback malware. 56.6 percent of those infections are reportedly located in the U.S.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple working on external controller for iOS gaming

Posted by:
Date: Monday, April 2nd, 2012, 06:51
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

applelogo_silver

It never hurts to have a good peripheral.

Per AnandTech, Apple is reportedly working on a physical controller to similarly enhance gameplay on its iPad and other mobile devices.

In his review of Apple’s new iPad and its gaming graphics prowess, AnandTech’s Anand Lal Shimpi reported that he has been made aware of “an internal Apple project to bring a physical controller to market,” but said his sources were unable to determine whether the company has made a definitive decision to follow through on its efforts.

Regardless, Lal Shimpi believes such devices may soon be a necessary accompaniment for hardcore mobile gamers, especially as smartphones and tablets come close to equalling the performance of existing game consoles.

He adds that the iPad maker may also be feeling some pressure to this end from rival Google, which has baked in basic wired and wireless controller support into its Android operating system since the release of Honeycomb 3.0 roughly one year ago.

Along with their Android counterparts, iOS devices have emerged as a new frontier for game developers, with one research firm indicating that the two platforms saw their combined share of U.S.-based game software revenue rise more than threefold from just 19% in 2009 to an estimated 58% by the end of last year.

Their success has come at the expense of incumbents Nintendo and Sony, who saw their respective share of software sales slip from 70% to 36% and 11% to 6%, respectively, over the same period.

The situation faced by Nintendo and Sony shows signs of worsening this year, with Sony recently reporting a staggering loss of US$1.2 billion for the December quarter shortly after Nintendo reported the first ever operating loss (US$575 million) in its corporate history.

Meanwhile, Apple has quietly been assembling an arsenal of seasoned gaming executives to help leverage its momentum in the gaming space as it takes a head-on approach to combating encroachment from Google and others.

Most recently, the company was reported to have lured Robin Burrowes away from heading up Microsoft’s overseas XBox Live team. His hiring followed the recruit of Nintendo’s public relation’s chief Robert Saunders last year, as well as Nick Grange — who also at one point ran public relations for Xbox, as well as for gaming heavyweights Activision and Electronics Arts.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

“Working prototype” version of Office for iPad pictured, slated for submission to App Store soon

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 07:45
Category: iPad, News, Software

You’ve been hankering for a version of Microsoft Office for the iPad since, well, the release of the iPad.

And it could hit very soon.

Matt Hickey of The Daily was offered the first glimpse at a “working prototype” of Office for iPad on Tuesday.

“Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can be created and edited locally and online,” he said. “But it’s unclear if Microsoft will support other Office apps at launch or at all.”

The design side of the project is said to have already wrapped up, but an exact launch date remains unknown. It was said that the project “could be released in the coming weeks.”

Citing anonymous sources, the report added that Microsoft Office for iPad will “soon be submitted to Apple for approval.” No pricing or other details were provided.

The Daily first indicated last November that Microsoft was preparing a new version of its Office suite for Apple’s iPad. In addition, an updated version of Office for OS X Lion users was also revealed, and is expected to become available on Apple’s Mac App Store.

Apple currently offers its competing iWork productivity suite on the iPad as three standalone applications. Pages, Keynote and Numbers for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch are each available for US$9.99 on the App Store.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

SkyDrive OS X client pics, specs leaked, iCloud may have worthwhile competitor

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 07:10
Category: Rumor, Software

If you’re not totally enthralled with iCloud at all times, Microsoft is working to ensure that there are options.

Per Germind, Microsoft is readying a significant update to SkyDrive in Windows 8, and reportedly leaked screenshots of the revamped file syncing and cloud storage service show that a Mac OS X client could be poised to compete with Apple’s iCloud.

Also of note are paid storage options that can be purchased in 20GB, 50GB or 100GB flavors for approximately US$10, US$25 or US$50 per year, respectively.

The extra space will supplement the already copious 25GB in free storage offered by SkyDrive. In comparison, iCloud only offers 5GB of free cloud storage, however Apple’s system does not count Photo Stream, iTunes’ media, apps and iBooks against the limit.

According to Microsoft’s blog, the Metro-style cloud-based Windows 8 app will share characteristics with Dropbox in that users can sync and backup certain files automatically, though SkyDrive goes further and allows limited remote access to files not synced to the cloud. Maximum file size for remote file fetching is pegged at 2GB.

Additional shots have also leaked through liveside.net that showed SkyDrive would support file sharing through social networks like Twitter and Facebook, BitLocker recovery keys, OpenDocument files from Office Web Apps and URL shortening.

iCloud’s current file-syncing implementation is aimed mainly at iOS users who can backup device profiles and data to the cloud. Apple’s free service does support certain automatic syncing to OS X programs such as Photo Stream and a clunky Pages document syncing procedure, but the process is not as smooth as other third-party solutions.

This situation could change when OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is released this summer as many iOS features like Notification Center and iMessage will be ported to the desktop operating system, though no official word has been given regarding iCloud upgrades.

Apple has invested heavily in iCloud, and the service which was introduced alongside iOS 5 could be getting more features, as previous reports that the company offered to buy Dropbox in a failed nine figure deal point to a definite interest in automatic file storage and syncing.

The SkyDrive update is set to launch later this year with support for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 already announced.

It remains to be seen which Windows 8 SkyDrive features will be implemented in the rumored Mac client, if any, and to what extent the service will affect iCloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to ship iPad 3 in March, iPad 4 in October

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 6th, 2012, 07:20
Category: iPad, Rumor

It’s the rumors that make technology interesting.

Per DigiTimes, component makers in Taiwan have stated that the so-called “iPad 3″ will launch in March with a high-resolution Retina Display, like is found on the iPhone and iPod touch. That will be followed by an “iPad 4″ with “killer applications” set to launch in October.

The report claimed that Apple is planning to launch the fourth iPad quickly in October to counter a rumored Google-branded tablet as well as touchscreen devices running Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system. The Taiwanese industry publication said the fourth iPad will feature “much upgraded hardware specifications and integrated applications so as to compete with an array of Android-, Wintel- or WoA (Windows on ARM)-based tablet PCs to be released in the fourth quarter.”

As for the third-generation iPad, the report said it will feature a QXGA display with a resolution of 1,536-by-2,048 pixels. It will also sport longer battery life, but reportedly “may not be so amazing as expected.”

Finally, the publication also reiterated belief that Apple will continue to sell the current iPad 2, but will drop its price to US$399, much like Apple currently does with older iPhone models. Such a move is believed to be in an effort to counter lower priced tablets that are available, such as the Kindle Fire for US$199.

Of course, Friday’s report should be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism, as similar rumors surfaced numerous occasions last year that Apple planned to launch a third-generation iPad in 2011. That, of course, never came to be, and Apple stayed true to its promise of 2011 being the “Year of iPad 2.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Nintendo to create Wii U app store, work to draw business from iOS App Store

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012, 10:05
Category: iOS, Rumor, Software

You know all those nifty profits Apple seems to be making from the App Store? Nintendo might want some of it for itself.

Quickly coming on the heels of talk of a full Wii U app store is a rumor late Monday of Nintendo actively courting iOS developers. The gaming giant was said by a developer talking to Forget the Box to be offering “assistance” porting apps for Apple’s platform to the Wii U. The titles would by necessity played on the controller’s 6.2-inch touchscreen.

Per Forget the Box, Nintendo may also be dipping into e-reading on its mobile devices for the first time, the source said. It would make e-reading catalog with books, comics, magazines, and other periodicals. The aim would be to let owners read even when the TV is occupied, since the ultra-wideband wireless controller would let users treat the Wii U controller as a tablet while within range.

To stand out, Nintendo would bring some of its own content into the fray. Every issue of Nintendo Power ever released would be available, as well as its Players Guides and manuals for Virtual Console games. Titles would be available on both the Wii U and the 3DS, presumably taking advantage of the 3DS’ second screen for extra reading space.

All of this remains a rumor, but combined with talk of an app store point to Nintendo hoping to get away from its reputation solely as a child-oriented game system developer. Both Microsoft and Sony have made their systems media hubs with access to several or more music and video services and, in Microsoft’s case, an revenue losses to Apple from those using their iPads and iPods both for gaming and for apps.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Argentina enacts ban on iPhone, BlackBerry imports as part of effort to boost local production

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 29th, 2011, 07:10
Category: iPhone, News

If you were planning on hitting up Argentina any time soon, snagging an iPhone there just got that much harder.

In an attempt to rectify issues with Argentina’s economy, the South American country placed a temporary ban on imports of foreign-made electronics. Two of the most well-known of those electronics are the iPhone and BlackBerry devices. Apple and RIM collectively account for 60 percent of Argentina’s smartphone market, so the ban is going to have a substantial impact on its mobile industry.

According to Electronista, Neither of the operating systems nor the hardware manufacturers were affected because they — Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Microsoft, etc. — have manufacturing facilities within Argentina. Android and Windows Phone will very quickly see a boost in sales, while iPhone and BlackBerry sales will drop to zero, unless of course Apple and RIM open up local plants or partner with other manufacturers.

In all actuality, the iPhone and BlackBerry markets have been struggling in Argentina for a while. A law was already in place that added a 20.48 percent tax on electronic imports on top of the standard 21 percent sales tax.

The government of Argentina says they will lift the ban on iPhones and BlackBerrys when the economy shows significant signs of stabilization, but there’s no telling just when that will happen.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft adds XMPP support for Messenger, allows connectivity with iChat, other IM clients

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 07:48
Category: News, Software

As tempting as it might be to be snarky towards Microsoft, perhaps they’re opening things up a bit more to the Mac side of things.

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft has opened up public access to its Messenger IM network via XMPP, enabling Apple and others to build open clients capable of interacting with Microsoft users.

Recently, the company has announced “public availability of access to the Messenger network via XMPP,” a step that finally brings Microsoft into the fold using eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol.

Unlike email, which has long used Internet standards to exchange messages between servers, IM providers each created their own proprietary protocols for sending IM, making it difficult or impossible for users on AIM, Yahoo, MSN and other IM services to connect with each other.

Apple initially partnered with AIM to launch iChat in 2002, but by 2004 had introduced a new iChat 3 version that supported XMPP, allowing users to seamlessly connect with Google Talk. In this summer’s release of Mac OS X Lion, Apple also added support for Yahoo IM, enabling the chat client to connect to three different chat networks (AIM, Yahoo and open Jabber/XMPP servers like Google Talk, Facebook chat and Apple’s own iChat Server).

Conspicuously absent was any support for Microsoft’s MSM/Windows Live IM network, which is extremely popular in some areas, particularly in Europe. Microsoft’s move to support the open XMPP may explain why Apple didn’t build in support for Microsoft’s previous, proprietary Messenger network. Apple has separately worked with Microsoft to support its Exchange Server protocols, so it was likely privy to Microsoft’s Messenger plans.

Apple and XMPP :
Apple has invested significantly in the open XMPP, not only using it to support Bonjour local chat in iChat, but also adding support in Mac OS X Server to allow companies to set up their own XMPP IM services, just as easily as setting up local email services.

Additionally, Apple has used XMPP to power push notifications in iOS and Mac OS X, enabling an energy efficient mechanism for supporting third party app notifications and support for FaceTime and iMessage.

Now that Microsoft Messenger enables open XMPP access, iChat users should be able to add Messenger accounts and directly interact with Messenger users without needing to configure a gateway, use a multi-protocol chat client, or use Microsoft’s own chat application.

iOS Messages app flirts with IM functionality :
Apple appears to be headed toward adding direct IM support to iOS devices through its Messages app. The company has already released direct iPhone to iPad to iPod touch support for iMessage, which automatically connects via XMPP when it detects a connection with an iOS client (using a direct XMPP message rather than SMS, a telephony protocol that requires a mobile connection).

With Microsoft adding 300 million Messenger users to the open XMPP world, Apple appears capable of supporting direct chat functionality with Messenger, Facebook and Google Talk users to its iOS Messages app, as seamlessly as it has added iMessages support alongside SMS/MMS.

Last month, a developer reported that Apple’s iOS 5.0 includes IMService code that makes mention of AIM and Jabber (XMPP) alongside iMessage and FaceTime, indicating that it plans to incorporate external IM features on a system wide level.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft Office 2008 updated to 12.3.2

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 07:10
Category: News, Software

microsoftlogo.jpg

Microsoft has posted an update to version 12.3.1 for Office 2008 for Mac. The update, a 285 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- This update improves security. This update includes fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer’s memory with malicious code.

Microsoft Office 2008 12.3.2 requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and have anything to report back, let us know.

Microsoft releases SkyDrive app for iPhone, offers free cloud storage in process

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 14th, 2011, 06:43
Category: iPhone, News, Software

It’s surprising but it could be useful.

Per the cool cats at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Microsoft has just released an iPhone app for access to the free Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage service. SkyDrive for iPhone should make Windows users who have documents stored in the cloud happy.



Users can upload videos or photos created on the iPhone to SkyDrive using the app, which takes up about 4.4 MB on the device. SkyDrive users can access all of their content, including files that someone has shared with them. Likewise, any file can be shared by sending a link via email.

The app also provides a way to create and delete folders from the iPhone. Users of Hotmail, Microsoft Messenger, and Xbox LIVE already have SkyDrive accounts and anyone else who’d like to give it a try can sign up for a new account at SkyDrive.com.

The SkyDrive app is available for free and requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the app and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.