Posts Tagged ‘Software’

FTC Settles Charges with App Maker

July 1st, 2015

An Ohio maker of smartphone apps has agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New Jersey attorney general that it lured consumers into downloading a rewards app that turned out to be malicious.

The company, whose app is called Prized, had promised consumers the app would be free of malware. But in fact, the main purpose of the app was to load the consumers’ mobile phones with malicious software to mine virtual currencies for the developer.

The defendants, Equiliv Investments and Ryan Ramminger, began making the Prized app around February 2014 in outlets including the Google Play Store and Amazon App Store. According to the FTC, thousands of consumers downloaded the app under the impression that they could earn points for playing games or downloading affiliated apps and then spend those points on rewards such as clothes, gift cards and other items. Consumers were also promised that the app would not contain malware or viruses.

What consumers got instead, was an app that contained malware that took control of the device’s computing resources to mine for virtual currencies including DogeCoin, LiteCoin and QuarkCoin, according to the complaint.

Exploiting Hardware

How did they do it? According to the FTC, virtual currencies are created by solving complex mathematical equations, and the malicious app attempted to harness the power of many users’ devices to solve the equations more quickly, thus generating virtual currency. The use of that power also caused the devices’ batteries to drain faster and recharge more slowly, and to burn through consumers’ monthly data plans.

The defendants agreed to a settlement that will permanently ban them from creating and distributing malicious software. “Hijacking consumers’ mobile devices with malware to mine virtual currency isn’t just deplorable; it’s also illegal,” stated Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The complaint also alleged that the defendants violated both the FTC Act and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. In addition to the ban on creating and distributing malicious software, the court order also requires the defendants to destroy any information about consumers that they collected via the distribution of the app.

Trojan Horse

The FTC and the New Jersey attorney general filed the complaint and order in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The settlement also includes a $50,000 monetary judgment against the defendants payable to the state of New Jersey.

The FTC said the case is part of its ongoing work to protect consumers taking advantage of new and emerging financial technology. As new technology increases the number of consumers who can store, share, and spend money, the FTC said it’s working to keep consumers protected while encouraging innovation.

“Consumers downloaded this app thinking that at the very worst it would not be as useful or entertaining as advertised,” said acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman. “Instead, the app allegedly turned out to be a Trojan horse for intrusive, invasive malware.”


AOL to take over Microsoft’s display ad business

July 1st, 2015

Microsoft Corp. is getting out of Web display advertising, with AOL Inc. taking over the business and letting the software maker focus on mobile and cloud computing.

AOL will use Microsoft’s Bing Internet search engine instead of Google Inc. as part of the 10-year deal, the companies said in a statement Monday. Microsoft also said it’s expanding an ad partnership with AppNexus Inc., an online marketing company.

AOL will hire about 1,200 Microsoft workers in display ad sales, marketing and engineering, according to Gerasimos Manolatos, a spokesman for AOL. AppNexus will take other Microsoft employees. Some remaining employees will be offered other jobs at Microsoft, said a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because specific details of the deal haven’t been announced.

Microsoft is shedding the business, which focuses on graphic ads such as banners and videos, as Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella works to sharpen focus on three key areas: personal computing, cloud platforms and business productivity. Since becoming CEO early last year, Nadella has been streamlining the workforce, acquiring mobile and cloud software makers, and paring units not central to his strategy.

Separately, Microsoft said Monday that it’s selling part of the Bing maps unit to car-booking company Uber Technologies Inc. As part of that deal, Uber will offer jobs to about 100 Microsoft employees.
Display ads

Financial terms of the deals weren’t immediately known. Microsoft unveiled a plan a year ago to eliminate as many 18,000 jobs, the largest round of cuts in its history as Mr. Nadella overhauls the software maker.

Peter Wootton, a spokesman for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, declined to comment on the workforce impact of the deal.

The deal with AOL marks the end of a years-long, multibillion-dollar effort by Microsoft to profit from the display advertising market with its own unit. The company spent $6.3 billion in 2007 to buy AQuantive Inc. to build the business weeks after Google Inc. moved into the market with the purchase of DoubleClick. After several strategy shifts, execution failures and executive departures, Microsoft in 2012 was forced to write down almost the entire value of AQuantive.

AOL, which was bought by Verizon Communications Inc. this month, will take over management and sales responsibility for all of Microsoft’s display, mobile and video advertising inventory in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan, according to the statement. AOL will start using Bing as the search engine for its users from Jan. 1.
Global sales

Microsoft is splitting up the direct ad sales team on a country-by-country basis between AOL and AppNexus, said Michael Rubenstein, president of New York-based AppNexus. His programmatic advertising technology startup, which automates buying and selling of ads online, will oversee sales in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

“AppNexus will be wholly responsible for ad revenue for Microsoft in those European countries,” Mr. Rubenstein said in an interview. The startup is expected to take some Microsoft employees, pending legal approval in the countries, though he couldn’t disclose the number of people or financial details on the deal.


Zooming in on the right molecule

July 1st, 2015

Have a look round your living room. Everything around you is made up of molecules – just as you are. When they are put together, the molecules act as the building blocks of life. Every single building block has a very small effect and we normally relate to the finished things. However, there are scientific disciplines that have specialised in looking down at the individual molecules to understand how they work and especially what happens when something goes wrong with the building blocks.
Molecular Pacman
Research into individual molecules is about understanding the components and using this as a gateway to learning more about the correlations. In figurative terms, it is like observing cats at night. They all appear to be grey, but we have to recognise their colour individually to distinguish them from each other. Researchers all over the world who work with molecular biology, nanoscience, chemistry and physics are carrying out multidisciplinary work in this area. To a great extent, they make use of a measuring method called single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET), which takes measurements of distances between molecules right down to 2-10 nanometres.
Molecules are not static, but can move, open and close – something like the Pacman game of the 1980s. Their structure and movement patterns have an impact on how they interact with other molecules, which is why the researchers are interested in being able to describe them.
Individual molecules provide new knowledge
“If we can visualise and characterise a single molecule and see how it interacts with the other molecules, we can understand what is going on in the individual event. Once we understand the mechanisms behind this, we can begin to work on controlling how the molecules work, so that this takes place at the most advantageous times,” says Associate Professor Victoria Birkedal, who carries out research into the understanding of individual molecules at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre (iNANO), Aarhus University.
Easy access to better data
Associate Professor Birkedal’s research group has developed new software that makes it much easier to obtain rapid and precise data following an smFRET analysis. The group has just published an article about the software in Nature Methods (“iSMS: single-molecule FRET microscopy software”).
The software provides easier access to data that would otherwise be time-consuming and laborious to obtain. Only a few specialists have previously been able to process the data. However, the program now makes it accessible to a wide circle of researchers.
From dot to structure
“We used to do data analyses during the night without really knowing whether they’d provide the answers we wanted. The program is so fast that we now get the results within a few minutes,” says Associate Professor Birkedal. The program provides an innovative visual approach to data and enables the researchers to carry out faster and more precise data analyses. Seeing the individual molecules and analysing their behaviour gives graphic support that can be used in all research into individual molecules, but the Aarhus group uses it to look at biological processes in the body.
“A molecule is very, very small, but it’s no longer just a dot. We can see its structure and how it behaves, and try to understand why it does what it does,” says Associate Professor Birkedal.
The next step is to control the molecule’s structure so as to get it to behave in a particular way – something that can be used in targeted medicine.
Democratic software
The group has decided to make its software freely available to everyone. “We’d like to democratise access to data,” says Associate Professor Birkedal, who is pleased that the software opens up for easier opportunities to work together at a distance. The program has been well received wherever it has been presented.


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