Posts filed under ‘europe’

Hackers Use European Storm to Spread E-Mail Attack

Originally posted by Fred J. Aun of TechNewsWorld at 01/19/07 11:01 AM PT

A massive malware attack spread throughout the world Thursday and Friday by teasing e-mail recipients to open infected messages supposedly about European wind storms. The attackers use of the subject line “230 dead as storm batters Europe” was an effective way to lure careless computer users into opening mail infected with the “Storm Worm” virus.

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“Storm Worm” is the name that seems to have stuck for a massive malware attack that spread Thursday and Friday by teasing e-mail recipients to open infected messages supposedly about European wind storms. The attackers use of the subject line “230 dead as storm batters Europe” was an effective way to lure careless computer users into opening mail infected with the Small.DAM Trojan. Fierce winds were battering Europe simultaneously with the release of the messages. The Trojan was launched when users clicked on attachments to the messages that said “Full Clip.exe,” “Full Story.exe,” “Read More.exe” and “Video.exe.”

Different Variations

However, the perpetrators also sent similarly infected, but differently titled, messages to thousands of other inboxes. These messages titillated readers into clicking the attachments by suggesting they would see videos of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice kicking German Chancellor Angela Merkel which, unlike the storm, did not actually happen. Others offered information or video pertaining to “British Muslims Genocide,” “Naked teens attack home director” and “A killer at 11, he’s free at 21 and kill again!” The interesting part of the attack was the creativity and timing, according to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “Everyone is concentrating on the storm angle of it, which is only one headline of course,” he said. “That was topical in Europe, where we’ve had some very, very bad weather. But another worthwhile thing to consider is the way they were trying to use humor to get people to open the mail as well.”

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Many people enjoy reading jokes or weird news tidbits sent by e-mail, Cluley noted. “People who receive that and think they got a video attached to the e-mail might think, ‘That sounds funny. I might just click on it to have a look.’ This is taking advantage of the way people share jokes and videos. It’s not just the news aspect of it. There is all sorts of social engineering going on here.”

Topical Messages Enhance Effectiveness

The attack shows that hackers are staying abreast of world news. The European storm message was “created and launched literally as the storm raged,” according to Helsinki, Finland-based security company F-Secure. The attack was powerful and widespread but, apparently, short-lived, F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen told TechNewsWorld.

“This is over,” he added. “They stopped the attack. Whoever sent this isn’t doing it anymore. Looking at the rate of e-mails being sent, we believe they were targeting European users and it was a nine-hour window starting [Thursday] night and finishing at about 10 a.m. [Friday morning].” The storm-related message was apparently meant to be awaiting users in the morning, according to Hypponen. “The people woke up and saw news about a massive storm,” he explained. “They went to work and found an e-mail about the storm in their inboxes. Of course it’s going to work much better than the usual attack. They gained access to probably tens of thousands of computers in Europe.”

Zombie Network

The hackers, before the Thursday-through-Friday attack, had already gained control of thousands of PCs by prior malware infection, Hypponen noted. “They instructed those computers to do this 10-hour spam run. They had a very large [zombie] network. Now it’s much larger.” The “huge attack” might have worked too well, in a sense, suggested Sophos’ Cluley. “The fact that this is making headlines actually works against the hackers” because so many people and antivirus companies are now aware of the incident, thanks to its creative and “colorful” nature.

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January 21, 2007 at 10:31 am 6 comments

Interview with StudentFace – The Australian Alternative for Facebook

studentface.JPG Recently, there has been a lot of buzz and commotion around social networking websites, specifically related to the issues of privacy protection for the end user and where some social network websites may have made mistakes, including Facebook and Google’s Orkut, which TechAddress has discussed over the last month. However, there are some social networking sites that are offering equal, if not better services, and still maintain an intense focus on end user privacy. One example is an Australian based social networking site called StudentFace.com.au, which is operated by StudentPost Australia Pty Limited. I had the opportunity to speak with Jahangir Shagaev, a leading member of StudentFace’s team. He was very insightful and informative and articulated nicely that StudentFace’s technology enhances the ability to decrease cultural divides, to bring together Australian University students with similar interests, be it politics, history, business, science etc, and gives each and every student the ability to share their views, ideas and anything else of interest with a large proportion of other University students within their community and nationwide. Lets learn more…

TechAddress: Tell me a bit about your company, what it does and what’s your value proposition?

StudentFace: StudentFace.com.au is an online social networking website exclusively for students of Australia. Launched on the 6th of August 2006, the website is operated by our company, StudentPost Australia Pty. Ltd. Since the day of launch our membership base has been growing rapidly. Unlike sites like MySpace, our value proposition is that we guarantee that every member is a verified university student. Once a student registers he/she is able to network with students Australia-wide. Whether it is meeting new students, consolidation of mates into one place, getting advice from senior students or giving advice to others, or maybe even finding a soul mate, StudentFace is the place to be for university students of Australia

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TechAddress: What makes your company stand apart from your competitors?

StudentFace: As mentioned in the previous question, we guarantee that every student is verified. A lot of other social networking sites are open for everybody. Our exclusivity of university students of Australia only is the standout feature. We are not denying for a second that out model is not similar to Facebook, however our biggest point of difference is that we are Aussie specific, and I can confidently say that given time we will be heavily differentiated from Facebook.

TechAddress: What are some of the main features?

StudentFace: Some of the main features are photo sharing, video sharing, messaging, personalized message boards, event creation, group creation and of course the privacy settings.

TechAddress: Who’s your target customer or audience?

StudentFace: Our website is exclusively for University students of Australia

TechAddress: Any new things in particular that you’re working on right now?

StudentFace: We are working on a “My Jobs” feature. Basically we will be helping students attain employment in their relevant field. I am more than happy to keep TechAddress up to date with this feature. Otherwise we are looking to bring out a new feature every couple of month.

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TechAddress: Where do you see your company heading in the future?

StudentFace: We are definitely looking to expand out network overseas. We have the technology and the system in place to do so. We have also identified several locations within our region. At this stage I cannot discuss which locations, but once we are more than happy to keep TechAddress up to date.

TechAddress: Any negative feedback or criticism regarding technology and services?

StudentFace: So far we have not had any significant negative feedback, however we have had some criticism about our over zealous privacy settings and privacy policy. We spent a lot of time making sure our privacy settings are top notch, even if it meant going slightly overboard. If you have read of our privacy policy you will realise that it is quiet extensive and comprehensive. This has been viewed as a problem, as the whole idea of the website is for students to interact and swap information. Due to heavy privacy settings at times the process of information swapping has been hard to achieve. Although this is the case, we are not looking to relax our privacy settings, as it is a valued feature for a large portion of our members. At the end of the day, we all like our privacy.

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TechAddress: So what would you say is the guiding principle behind your company?

StudentFace: The whole of the StudentFace team is comprised of students. I am a current student doing my second university degree. Studentface.com.au is an online service for university students. Thus our guiding principle is to provide students a free service, which will help them throughout their time at university and after. Whilst at university students can network, and build an army of lifelong friends.

TechAddress: What is the mission of your company and what are you bringing to the market that is innovative?

StudentFace: Our mission is to unite all of the university students of Australia in the one place, where there everyone is equal. There is no black or white, there is no Christian or Muslim, there are no cultural and racial divides, there is no international and local student divide, it is a one big happy family. In terms of innovation, well StudentFace is one of a kind in the Australian marketplace. Yes there are plenty of social networking websites present in Australia, including Facebook, but there are none that are exclusive for university students of Australia. Furthermore, we are Sydney, Australia based doing it for students of Australia

TechAddress: Where are you in terms of funding and your lifecycle?

StudentFace: At the moment we have no revenue coming in. We are backed by several private investors. We have enough funding to make the system grow and eventually be able to sustain itself through ad revenue. We have had expressions of interest already from several companies who wish to advertise with us.

TechAddress: If your technology or service is not formally launched yet, when’s the launch date?

StudentFace: We launched on the 6th of August 2006.

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September 22, 2006 at 1:22 pm 26 comments

Microsoft may delay Vista in Europe – CNET News.com

Microsoft raised the possibility on Thursday that it might delay the introduction of its new Vista Windows operating system in Europe, saying it depended on the European Commission’s antitrust requirements.

The European Commission responded sharply, saying it was “misleading to imply that the Commission could be the cause of delays in launching Vista in Europe.” Microsoft said in a statement it made concrete proposals to the European Union’s executive Commission, responding to its concerns about new features in Vista.

“Once we receive the Commission’s response, we will know whether the Commission is seeking additional product design changes that would result in delay in Europe,” it said. The Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, had a different perspective. “It is not up to the Commission to give Microsoft a green light before Vista is put on the market; it is up to Microsoft to accept and implement its responsibilities as a near-monopolist to ensure full compliance with EU competition rules,” a representative said. “Microsoft only responded to our latest concerns last week,” he said. The Commission and Microsoft are locked in a legal battle dating back to 2004 when Brussels hit the company with a 500 million-euro ($640 million) antitrust fine and required changes in its business practices.

Still talking
When Microsoft failed to meet Commission requirements, the EU executive fined the company another 281 million euros ($358 million) this summer. It is still waiting for compliance. The Commission is also talking to Microsoft about whether Vista has anticompetitive elements that must be changed. Vista, set to replace Windows XP, has run into many delays. Microsoft this week confirmed its plan to make Vista available to large-volume business customers in November and for a general launch of the product in January. European parliament members Chris Heaton-Harris, Sharon Bowles, Peter Skinner and Michal Kaminski wrote to the EU competition chief on Thursday, saying the Commission was endangering the ability of European business to compete. “It is alarming that one of the world’s most successful technology companies considers the European Commission’s attitude a risk factor,” they said in the letter.

The possibility of a Vista delay in Europe recalls similar comments made by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other senior executives in May 1998, shortly before the release of the Windows 98 operating system. At the time, the U.S. Justice Department was working on a major lawsuit against Microsoft, which it ultimately won. Then-chief financial officer Greg Maffel said any lawsuit aimed at Windows 98 could have “broad, negative consequences” for the entire personal computer industry. Around the same time, top executives of Microsoft partners sent a letter asking the federal government not to block Windows 98’s release. The picture was muddied by news reports that the company had planned to plant public opinion pieces to create the appearance of a groundswell of support.

Story Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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September 7, 2006 at 10:37 pm Leave a comment


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