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In less than two months, online businesses have paid more than $100,000 to scammers who set up a fake distributed denial-of-service gang that has yet to launch a single attack.

The charlatans sent businesses around the globe extortion e-mails threatening debilitating DDoS attacks unless the recipients paid as much as $23,000 by Bitcoin in protection money, according to a blog post published Monday by CloudFlare, a service that helps protect businesses from such attacks. Stealing the name of an established gang that was well known for waging such extortion rackets, the scammers called themselves the Armada Collective.

“If you don’t pay by [date], attack will start, yours service going down permanently price to stop will increase to increase to 20 BTC and will go up 10 BTC for every day of the attack,” the typical demand stated. “This is not a joke.”

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(credit: US DefenseImagery)

Opening a new front in its campaign to defeat Islamic State terrorists, the US military has for the first time directed its Cyber Command to mount hacking attacks against ISIS computers and networks, The New York Times reported Sunday.

While US National Security Agency hackers have targeted ISIS members for years, its military counterpart, the Cyber Command, conducted no virtual attacks against the terrorist organization. The new campaign reflects President Obama’s desire to bring the types of clandestine military hacking operations that have targeted Iran and other nations to the battle against ISIS. According to the NYT:

The goal of the new campaign is to disrupt the ability of the Islamic State to spread its message, attract new adherents, circulate orders from commanders and carry out day-to-day functions, like paying its fighters. A benefit of the administration’s exceedingly rare public discussion of the campaign, officials said, is to rattle the Islamic State’s commanders, who have begun to realize that sophisticated hacking efforts are manipulating their data. Potential recruits may also be deterred if they come to worry about the security of their communications with the militant group.

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter is among those who have publicly discussed the new mission, but only in broad terms, and this month the deputy secretary of defense, Robert O. Work, was more colorful in describing the effort.

“We are dropping cyberbombs,” Mr. Work said. “We have never done that before.”

The campaign began by installing several implants in the militants’ networks to learn the online habits of commanders. Now, Cyber Command members plan to imitate the commanders or alter their messages. The goal is to redirect militants to areas more vulnerable to attack by American drones or local ground forces. In other cases, officials said, US military hackers may use attacks to interrupt electronic transfers and misdirect payments.

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The president’s speech in Europe called for continued vigilance but runs counter to the urging of many E.U. privacy officials for greater restraint.

That’s a lot of hard disks. (credit: Backblaze)

For the last few years, we’ve looked at the hard disk reliability numbers from cloud backup and storage company Backblaze, but we’ve not looked at the systems it builds to hold its tens of thousands of hard disks. In common with some other cloud companies, Backblaze publishes the specs and designs of its Storage Pods, 4U systems packed with hard disks, and today it announced its sixth generation design, which bumps up the number of disks (from 45 to 60) while driving costs down even further.

The first design, in 2009, packed 45 1.5TB disks into a 4U rackable box for a cost of about 12¢ per gigabyte. In the different iterations that have followed, Backblaze has used a number of different internal designs—sometimes using port multipliers to get all the SATA ports necessary, other times using PCIe cards packed with SATA controllers—but it has stuck with the same 45 disk-per-box formula.

The new system marks the first break from that setup. It uses the same Ivy Bridge Xeon processor and 32GB RAM of the version 5, adding extra controllers and port multipliers to handle another 15 disks for 60 in total. The result is a little long—it overhangs the back of the rack by about four inches—but it’s packed full of storage.

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Many of the factors that hurt last week’s earnings will be minor this week, but companies like Apple and Facebook have their own challenges.

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