Tag Archives: products

Nasty Competition: iPhone vs. Android

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

imageiPhone versus Android. The choice between the two smartphone platforms is as contentious as the battle between being a Mac or PC person. However, thanks to the war emerging between Apple and Google, the battle is not just heated — it’s just plain nasty.

It’s no secret Apple was displeased when Google entered the smartphone arena with army of Android phones and an app market, recently rebranded as Google Play. However, it shouldn’t have been a shock either.

Those who have a disdain for Apple products — and there are a lot of people on the planet who fit that description, despite the seeming ubiquity of iPhones — had as much right to inundate their smartphones with apps as iPhone users.

Although the Android app market is still small in comparison to Apple — 70,000 to 230,000 apps, respectively — the Android market is quickly gaining ground in the world of mobile application development. Incensing Apple even further, many Android apps are free. Why pay $.99 for an app on an iPhone when you can get it for nothing on a Galaxy III?

As tech goliaths, Apple and Google have run into more than a few disputes. Remember when Instagram moved from iOS-only to Android? Apple recently unveiled its new proprietary Maps application, designed to supplant Google’s ultra-popular-to-the-point-of-being-de-facto offering.

In a similar move, Apple is removing the YouTube app from its phones, effective with iOS6. This probably won’t be enough to make people chuck their iPhones, especially since the app hasn’t been recently updated, but it might make consumers on the fence choose an Android the next time their contract expires.

It’s hard to say if these differences will affect the populace in any more than a divisive capacity. Even when it comes to price, there isn’t much difference between the iPhone and Android phones. The iPhone 5 is priced at $199 with a contract, which is in the ballpark of the Galaxy and other mid- to upper-range smartphones. The decision may become clearer as the dust kicked up by the iPhone 5’s release begins to settle, even though it will be stirred up again with the next major smartphone release.

So, who’s going to emerge as the winner? As much as Apple and Google want to think they have the power to destroy each other through the end user, the bottom line is Apple people are Apple people and Android people are Android people. It’s really not much different than the Mac versus PC debate.

Sure, you do have people who cross over — some Mac people have Android phones and some PC users have iPhones — but for the most part, people are loyal to their brands. If Apple or Google want to crush each other, they’ll really have to do it without the help of the consumer. However, if they both continue to play nasty games, they make themselves ripe for a third player to emerge on the scene and take a share of both their markets away. I wonder if Linux plans to enter the cell phone market…


Filed under Android, Apple, Connected Devices, Google, Guest Writers, iPhone

March 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report – Rustock Goes Down, Bagle Botnet Picks Up The Slack

imageThere’s been much more discussion recently as to whether infected computers should be allowed unrestricted access to the Internet. Despite the fact we’ve been around the horn on this question for years, there’s still little consensus on this thorny issue.

Since infected computers, linked together in botnets, form the backbone of spam distribution networks – according to the March 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, botnets sent an average of 88.2% of global spam during 2010 – this question needs to be taken off the back burner and dealt with much more aggressively.

Frankly, I’m tired of making excuses for people who are too damn lazy, too damn stupid, too damn inconsiderate, ………. to take the time to learn the basics of computer security. And, as a consequence cause me, and you incidentally, to have to deal with volumes of spam that are beyond the pale.


Graphic courtesy of Symantec (Click to expand to original)

According to the March 2011, MessageLabs Intelligence Report (released yesterday), the recently taken down Rustock botnet “had been sending as many as 13.82 billion spam emails daily, accounting for an average of 28.5% of global spam sent from all botnets in March.”

A little math suggests, that during March enough Spam was emailed that conceivably, every person on the Planet received 7 spam emails EVERY DAY! Since every person on the Planet is not connected, the abuse takes on another magnitude. I can’t think of another finite resource – and the Internet is a finite resource – that could be continuously abused in this way, without some kind of strong kickback.

Are we making any headway against botnets and the cyber criminals behind them? Not according to the MessageLabs Intelligence Report we’re not. Sure, Rustock has bitten the dust (at least for the moment), but the Bagle botnet has stepped into the breech, bumped up its output, and is now sending 8.31 billion spam emails each day, mostly tied to pharmaceutical products.

Report highlights:

Spam: In March 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources decreased by 2 percent (1 in 1.26 emails).

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 208.9 emails (0.479 percent) in March, an increase of .134 percentage points since February. In March, 63.4 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of .1 percentage points since February.

Endpoint Threats: The endpoint is often the last line of defense and analysis. The threats found here can shed light on the wider nature of threats confronting businesses, especially from blended attacks. Attacks reaching the endpoint are likely to have already circumvented other layers of protection that may already be deployed, such as gateway filtering.

Phishing: In March, phishing activity was 1 in 252.5 emails (0.396 percent), a decrease of 0.065 percentage points since February.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that an average of 2,973 websites each day were harbouring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware, a decrease of 27.5% since February. 37 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in March, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points since February. Additionally, 24.5 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in March, a decrease of 4.2 percentage points since last month.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), is certainly educational, and can be a major step in expanding that sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

The full MLI Report is available here in PDF.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

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Filed under bots, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, Interconnectivity, MessageLabs, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

Storm Botnets – The Computational Power of Super Computers

I must admit that I get very tired of opening my email accounts only to see spam email after spam email, reminding me that enlargement, growth, and natural male enhancement techniques can all be mine if I just click on the enclosed link.

It didn’t take long to establish that the driving force behind the majority of these annoying emails is the well established Storm bot network. Security experts maintain that the Storm bot network continues to be leased to online pharmacy spammers.

The Storm Trojan which first appeared in Europe more than a year ago, takes its name from the content contained in emails relating to extreme bad weather striking parts of Europe at that time.

Those users who were enticed into clicking on links enclosed in the email were directed to a web site that included malevolent code designed to infect Windows PCs with the aim of turning the now infected machine into a spam bot.

The initial success and the continued implementation, in various forms, of this highly sophisticated malware attack has led to the creation of a botnet of unprecedented proportions; a colossal spam-producing network.

According to Bradley Anstis, Vice-President of Products for Marshal, a leader in integrated email and Internet content security solutions, the Storm botnet was responsible for 20 per cent of all spam email sent in the first quarter of 2008.

Marshall is currently monitoring five botnets, including the Storm botnet, believed to be responsible for approximately 75 per cent of all spam currently in circulation. Heavily promoted products on all of these botnets tend to be male enlargement drugs, replica watches and sexually explicit material. The strategy employed by the owners of these botnets is particular ingenious since there’s a strategic crossover with the products being promoted by all five of these botnets.

Frighteningly it is accurate to say that these botnets are getting increasingly larger every day. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are at least 1 million botnetted computers in the U.S. Worst, some security firms estimate that currently there are as many as 10 million botnetted machines worldwide. In fact, some researchers believe that this may just be the part of the iceberg we can see above the waterline.

Not surprisingly such large numbers of infected machines have produced some of the most powerful networked computer systems in the world. As a result, many industry analysts are convinced malware and phishing attacks from these botnets can be expected to increase in frequency.

A more frightening possibility involves the potential power of these botnets being turned against secure computer systems in the government, commercial, and industrial sectors in brute-force attacks. Some have argued a coordinated attack, such as the one we witnessed last year against Estonia’s infrastructure, is inevitable.

For your own benefit it’s obviously important to keep your computer from becoming infected and becoming a part of this problem. Perhaps it’s less obvious that we all share a responsibly to help protect other computer users on the Internet from becoming infected. The way to do that is to ensure that you are part of the solution; not part of the problem created by running an insecure machine, or by engaging in unsafe surfing practices.

As I have pointed out in the past on this Blog, the following are actions you can take to protect your computer system:

· When surfing the web: Stop. Think. Click
· Don’t open unknown email attachments
· Don’t run programs of unknown origin
· Disable hidden filename extensions
· Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched
· Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use
· Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible
· Disable scripting features in email programs
· Make regular backups of critical data
· Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised
· Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.
· Install a personal firewall on the computer.
· Install anti-virus/anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet
· Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments
· Install McAfee Site Advisor, WOT (my recommendation), or a similar browser add-on

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Filed under Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, rootkits, Safe Surfing, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows Tips and Tools