Show of 10-3-2009

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Amy: Dear Tech Talk. I keep hearing the term "firewall" and how I need one when I connect my computer to the internet. What’s a firewall, why do I need one and how do I set one up? Amy
    • Tech Talk Answers: What’s a firewall? Well, in your car it’s the "wall" of metal behind the dashboard that sits between you and the engine. Its purpose is to prevent engine fires from roasting you and your passengers.
    • A Internet firewall blocks or filters certain types of network traffic from reaching your computer.
    • The network traffic you want to see is let through (web pages, email, instant messenger). Other traffic is blocked.
    • Some firewalls will also monitor outgoing traffic for suspicious behavior.
    • And that leads to a very important distinction. There are two types of firewalls: hardware and software.
      • A hardware firewall is just that – a separate box that sits between you and the internet that performs the filtering function. Traffic that is filtered out never even reaches your computer. The downside for a hardware device is that most will not filter outgoing traffic.
      • A software firewall is a program that runs on your computer. It operates at the very lowest level, as close to the network interface as possible, and monitors all your network traffic.
    • The bad news is that a firewall can’t protect you from everything, like email attachments. In general, I recommend a hardware firewall such as a broadband router. I never rely on only a software firewall.
    • Email from Anthony: Dear Tech Talk, How do I stop QuickTime from playing audio files in my browser? Why quick time takes over playback of MP3s in Internet explorer? This phenomenon appeared after I installed iTunes. instead of my default media player, quick time seems to want to play my MP3s instead of my default. The only way the default works is if I right-click and download first. This is very annoying. Anthony
    • Tech Talk Answers: I don’t like this annoyance either. The operating system has a build in file association. For instance, an MP3 music files will be played to the associated program. Whenever you in install, iTunes it associates itself with all media file types without your permission. In Windows, for instance, you can go to Control Panel, then Default Program, then Associate File Type with Program. Then choose the program type you want associated with a particular file type.
    • As a precaution, I always choose custom install and select file type associations during installation. If you don’t choose custom, the software packages associates everything to itself.
  • Profiles in IT: Steve Anthony Balmer
    • Steven Antony Ballmer is CEO of the Microsoft Corporation and a billionaire based on stock options received as a Microsoft employee.
    • Steve Ballmer was March 24, 1956 in Detroit, MI to a Swiss father and a Jewish-American mother.
    • He grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan. In 1973, he graduated from Detroit Country Day School, which is a high school.
    • In 1977, he graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics.
    • Most importantly, he roomed down the hall from fellow sophomore Bill Gates.
    • While in college, Ballmer managed the football team, worked on The Harvard Crimson newspaper as well as the Harvard Advocate
    • After graduation, he worked for two years as an assistant product manager at Procter & Gamble.
    • In 1979 he then moved to California and entered Stanford University Graduate School of Business, but dropped out in 1980.
    • Ballmer joined Microsoft on June 11, 1980 and became Microsoft’s 24th employee, the first business manager hired by Gates.
    • He was initially offered a salary of $50K as well as a percentage of the company.
    • When Microsoft was incorporated in 1981, Ballmer owned 8 percent of the company.
    • He has headed several divisions within Microsoft including "Operating Systems Development", "Operations", and "Sales and Support."
    • In January 2000, he was officially named CEO.
    • As CEO Ballmer handled company finances, however Gates still retained control of the "technological vision."
    • In 2009, he made the opening keynote at CES. The first CES since Gates retirement.
    • Ballmer is known for his very enthusiastic and over-the-top behavior. Footage featuring Ballmer’s flamboyant stage appearances at Microsoft events are widely circulated on the Internet.
    • He has referred to the free Linux operating system as a "[? cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."
    • He sees piracy as Microsoft biggest competitor today and Linux as the biggest long term competitor
    • In 1990 Ballmer married Connie Snyder, who was on Microsoft’s PR team at the Waggener Group in the ’80s. They have three children.
    • In 2008, he earned a total compensation of $1,350,834, which included a base salary of $640,833, a cash bonus of $700,000, no stock or options, and other compensation of $10,001.
    • In Forbes 2008 World’s Richest People ranking, Ballmer was ranked the 43rd richest person in the world, with an estimated wealth of $11 billion.
  • Stratford University and K. K. Modi Group Sign Joint Venture
    • Stratford University has formed a joint venture with the Modi Group of India.
    • The joint venture will operate campuses in India delivering both graduate and undergraduate education.
    • Stratford had an official signing ceremony at 3 PM on Thursday, October 1st.
    • The ceremony was attended by Dr. Albert Gray, executive director of ACICS, and Mr. Bruce Leftwich, VP, Career College Association.
    • An evening reception, honoring the Modi’s, was attended by Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for Asian and Central Asian Affairs
    • The K. K. Modi group is one of India’s largest employers, employing 28,000.
    • The Modi group currently holds ventures in agrichemicals, beverages, tobacco, restaurants, entertainment, cosmetics, convenience stores, fashion, and candy.
    • The K.K. Modi Group’s education vertical is headed by Ms. Charu Modi Bhartia
    • In July 2009, Ms. Charu Modi Bhartia initiated partnership negotiations with Stratford University. These negotiations ultimately led to the agreement signed this week.
    • The joint venture is designed to bring innovative educational opportunities to India in the areas of business, hospitality, health sciences, nursing, and computer information systems.
    • The join venture is operating a campus in Delhi with two learning sites. Classes will start October 12, 2009.
    • This campus received ACICS provisional accreditation on October 1, 2009, the day the joint venture was signed.
  • Google pays homage to Mahatma Gandhi – India’s Father of the Nation
    • Google honored the late political and spiritual leader of India, Mahatma Gandhi on Friday, marking what would be his 140th birthday by replacing the ‘G’ in its ever-changing logo with an image of the peace hero.
    • Google’s Gandhi logo takes readers to various Google search engine links and websites about Gandhi, who was assassinated on January 30, 1948.
    • Gandhi resisted tyranny using a powerful tool of mass non-violence, leading to India’s independence.
    • Gandhi is officially honored in India as the Father of the Nation on October 2nd.
  • Microsoft finalizes Windows 7 XP Mode
    • Microsoft has finished development work on the virtualized version of Windows XP that Windows 7 users can use to run programs that won’t work on Windows 7.
    • The XP Virtualization Pac will be made available on October 22, the same day that Microsoft launches Windows 7.
    • Computer makers will also be able to offer Windows XP Mode with their systems.
    • To use the compatibility layer, users need to be running Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise, or Windows 7 Ultimate.
    • Consumers also need a machine that has chip level virtualization support and has that feature turned on.
    • At its core, XP Mode consists of two things, the Windows Virtual PC engine and a licensed copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 as a packaged virtual machine, both of which Microsoft will make available for download.
  • Microsoft says Google Chrome Frame doubles IE attack surface
    • Google’s decision to introduce a plug-in that runs Google Chrome inside Microsoft’s Internet Explorer isn’t sitting well with the folks at Redmond.
    • The Google Chrome Frame, which is presented as a  seamless way to bring Google Chrome’s open web technologies and speedy JavaScript engine to Internet Explorer, has increased the attack surface for IE users, Microsoft said today.
    • Here’s Microsoft’s official reaction: With Internet Explorer 8, we made significant advancements and updates to make the browser safer for our customers. Given the security issues with plug-ins in general and Google Chrome in particular, Google Chrome Frame running as a plug-in has doubled the attach area for malware and malicious scripts.
    • Google disagrees and says it make IE compatible with web standards and faster.
  • Department of Homeland Security in search of 1,000 cyber security experts
    • Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security will be starting filling up a lot of empty positions very soon.
    • Janet Napolitano, the Department’s Secretary, made it public that they will need more that 1,000 cyber analysts, developers and engineers and that they will try to recruit them over the next three years.
    • But there is a problem.
      • The US Cyber Command (run by the NSA) is designed to supervise the protection of military networks.
      • They have been aggressively headhunting every cyber security expert they could find
    • This has diminished the size of the pool of potential candidates.
    • And foreign nationals can’t help because of security clearance restrictions.
  • Banking Trojan Transfers Money From Your Account
    • Researchers at security firm Finjan have discovered details of a new type of banking Trojan horse that doesn’t just steal your bank log-in credentials but actually steals money from your account while you are logged in and displays a fake balance.
    • The bank Trojan, dubbed URLZone, has features designed to fool fraud detection systems which are triggered by unusual transactions.
    • The software is programmed to calculate on-the-fly how much money to steal from an account based on how much money is available.
    • It exploits a hole in Firefox, Internet Explorer 6, IE7, IE8, and Opera.
    • The specific Trojan, Finjan researchers analyzed targeted customers of unnamed German banks.
    • It was linked back to a command-and-control server in Ukraine that was used to send instructions to the Trojan software sitting inside infected PCs.
    • About 90,000 computers visited the sites housing the malware and 6,400 of them were infected, a 7.5 percent success rate.
    • During the span of 22 days in mid-August, the criminals behind the Trojan stole nearly $438,000.
  • Ants vs. worms: Computer security mimics nature
    • Computer security experts are deploying a new defense modeled after one of nature’s hardiest creatures – the ant.
    • Unlike traditional security devices, which are static, these "digital ants" wander through computer networks looking for threats, such as "computer worms" – self-replicating programs designed to steal information or facilitate unauthorized use of machines.
    • When a digital ant detects a threat, it doesn’t take long for an army of ants to converge at that location, drawing the attention of human operators who step in to investigate.
    • The concept, called "swarm intelligence," promises to transform cyber security because it adapts readily to changing threats.
    • "In nature, we know that ants defend against threats very successfully," explains Wake Forest Professor of Computer Science Errin Fulp, an expert in security and computer networks. "They can ramp up their defense rapidly, and then resume routine behavior quickly after an intruder has been stopped. We were trying to achieve that same framework in a computer system."
    • "Our idea is to deploy 3,000 different types of digital ants, each looking for evidence of a threat," Fulp says. "As they move about the network, they leave digital trails modeled after the scent trails ants in nature use to guide other ants. Each time a digital ant identifies some evidence, it is programmed to leave behind a stronger scent. Stronger scent trails attract more ants, producing the swarm that marks a potential computer infection."
    • Computer users need not worry that a swarm of digital ants will decide to take up residence in their machine by mistake. Digital ants cannot survive without software "sentinels" located at each machine, which in turn report to network "sergeants" monitored by humans, who supervise the colony and maintain ultimate control.