Ransomware Spreading Through Major Websites Via Infected Ad Servers

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 01:12 AM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malwarebytes, Malware, adware

Compromised ad servers have been pushing out ransomware directly to unwitting users of many popular domains. As reported by Ars Technica (via MalwareBytes and others), whose story is heavily referenced here, the domain list contains a number of high traffic sites.

"It hit some of the biggest publishers in the business, including msn (.com), nytimes (.com), bbc (.com), aol (.com), my.xfinity (.com), nfl (.com), realtor (.com), theweathernetwork (.com), thehill (.com), and newsweek (.com). Affected networks included those owned by Google, AppNexis, AOL, and Rubicon."

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(Image credit: Ars Technica)

Unfortunately, the story doesn't get better from here. The Ars report continues:

"The ads are also spreading on sites including answers (.com), zerohedge (.com), and infolinks (.com), according to SpiderLabs. Legitimate mainstream sites receive the malware from domain names that are associated with compromised ad networks. The most widely seen domain name in the current campaign is brentsmedia (.com)."

The ads have been traced back to multiple domains, including: trackmytraffic (.biz), talk915 (.pw), evangmedia (.com), and shangjiamedia (.com). The report continues:

"The SpiderLabs researchers speculate the people pushing the bad ads are on the lookout for expired domains containing the word "media" to capitalize on the reputation they may enjoy as a legitimate address."

The full article from Ars technica can be found here as well as the source link, and the cited Malware Bytes post can be found here.

So how did they do it? The banner ads themselves contained the malware, which could infect the viewers system undetected.

"When researchers deciphered the code, they discovered it enumerated a long list of security products and tools it avoided in an attempt to remain undetected.
'If the code doesn't find any of these programs, it continues with the flow and appends an iframe to the body of the html that leads to Angler EK [exploit kit] landing page,' SpiderLabs researchers Daniel Chechik, Simon Kenin, and Rami Kogan wrote. 'Upon successful exploitation, Angler infects the poor victim with both the Bedep trojan and the TeslaCrypt ransomware...' "

Of course it goes without saying that advertising online is a sticky issue. It can be intrusive, with ads blocking article text, or autoplay videos creating a cacophony of unwanted noise, somewhere amidst the many open tabs. Of course it can be done with class, respectful of the reader's experience (and I would use our own site as an example).

A large number of web users employ ad-blocking extensions to their browser, though it is often the case that ad revenue pays for the costs associated with keeping such sites online. This outbreak is a further blow to the current financial stability of many sites when news such as today's ransomware debacle hits the tech (and soon the mainstream) press.

Source: Ars Technica

Basemark Announces VRScore Virtual Reality Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2016 - 05:32 PM |
Tagged: VRScore, VR, virtual reality, gdc 2016, GDC, crytek, CRYENGINE, benchmark, Basemark

Basemark has announced VRScore, a new benchmarking tool for VR produced in partnership with Crytek. The benchmark uses Crytek’s CRYENGINE along with the Basemark framework, and can be run with or without a head-mounted display (HMD).

VRScore Screen 04.png

"With VRScore, consumers and companies are able to reliably test their PC for VR readiness with various head mounted displays (HMDs). Unlike existing tools developed by hardware vendors themselves, VRScore has been developed independently to be an essential source of unbiased information for anyone interested in VR."

An independent solution is certainly welcome as we enter what promises to be the year of VR, and Basemark is well known for providing objective benchmark results with applications such as Basemark X and OS II, cross-platform benchmarks for mobile devices. The VRScore benchmark supports the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Razer's OSVR headsets, and the corporate versions include VRTrek, a left/right eye latency measurement device.

Here’s the list of features from Basemark:

  • Supports HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and OSVR
  • Uses CRYENGINE
  • Supports both DirectX 12 and DirectX 11 
  • Features Codename: Sky Harbor, an original IP game scene by Crytek
  • Includes tests for interactive VR (VR game), non-interactive VR (360 VR video) and VR spatial audio (360 sound) 
  • Can be used with or without an HMD
  • Power Board, an integrated online service, gives personalized PC upgrading advice and features performance ranking lists for HMDs, CPUs and GPUs
  • Corporate versions include VRTrek, a patent pending latency testing device with dual phototransistors for application to photon latency, display persistence, left and right eye latency, dropped frames and duplicated frames testing

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VRScore Trek eye latency measurement device, included with corporate version

VRScore is currently available only to corporate customers via the company’s early access program and Benchmark Development Program. The consumer versions (free and paid) will be released in June.

Source: Basemark

Oh snap, old phones and new IoT devices just sprung another leak

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2016 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, security, iot

TrendMicro discovered vulnerabilities in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series, including the 800, 805 and 810 on devices running a 3.10-version kernel.  They have privately discussed the issue with Google who have since pushed out updates to resolve these issues on their phones, preventing attackers from gaining root access with a specially crafted app.  Unfortunately that is the tip of the iceberg as according to Qualcomm more than a billion devices use Snapdragon processors or modems, many of them IoT devices which have not had this update.  With the already fragmented market getting worse as everyone and their dog are now creating IoT devices the chances are very good that your toaster, fridge and other random internet connected devices are vulnerable and will remain so. 

You should think twice when considering the balance of convenience and security when you are purchasing internet connected household appliances and other IoT devices.  You can see what Slashdot readers think about this here if you so desire.

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"Security experts at Trend Micro have discovered a vulnerability in Qualcomm Snapdragon-produced SoC devices. In fact, it is the same vulnerability that cropped up earlier in the month, affecting Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy Edge Android handsets. This in itself is concerning as these are devices that are no longer in line for security updates, but more concerning is the fact that the same chips are used in IoT devices."

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Source: Slashdot

Zalman's ZM-M600R gaming mouse, a simple mouse for simple people

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2016 - 05:32 PM |
Tagged: ZM-M600R, zalman, input, gaming mouse, ambidextrous

There are those for whom more is always better, even when talking about buttons on a mouse.  There are also those who prefer simplicity and have no interest in a mouse with well over a dozen buttons.  The Zalman ZM-M600R gaming mouse is very much made for the latter type of user, be they left or right handed.  There are three buttons in total, along with a scroll wheel; the third button on the top is a back button for when you are browsing.  DPI and polling rates are controlled by physical switches on the bottom of the mouse as the mouse does not have software to control it.  It does have a way to turn the mouse into a storage device for saving a 'profile', you should read about the process over at Overclockers Club, it is certainly ... unique.

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"In the end I wasn't sold on the Zalman ZM-M600R gaming mouse. I can carry on the rant from the testing pages on my annoyance with the lack of buttons on this mouse, but I'm sure that's been stated enough throughout the review. It's apparently becoming a popular choice for some professional gamers, and it's hard to say if they honestly like them or, like most people, like to get free stuff."

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Live in the US and are looking for a new router? Don't buy TP-Link

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2016 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: tp-link, dd-wrt

The US FCC backed off on preventing users from flashing the firmware on their routers, as long as they do not operate outside authorized radio frequency band, not that this had anything to do with why users wanted to flash to DD-WRT.  This has not stopped TP-Link from doing so, as of now they will not sell routers which allow a user to install customized firmware.  Assumedly this is a CYA move to ensure that they cannot be sued if someone does change the frequency limits, output power, country codes or other banned modifications but is more likely to cause a decline in their sales.  The Register has more on the decision from the FC and TP-Link here.

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"In a brief statement and FAQ published this week, TP-Link – which is based in Shenzhen, China – said the FCC's revised rules on radio-based equipment makes user reprogrammable firmware illegal in America, and therefore it cannot sell in the US routers that can be re-flashed by their owners."

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Source: The Register

AMD Announces the Sulon Q: First Wireless VR Headset

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2016 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: wireless vr headset, vr headset, VR, virtual reality, Sulon Q, FX-8800P, amd fx, amd

AMD is powering the world's first truly self-contained VR solution, the Sulon Q, a wireless headset with a powerful computer built in.

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AMD has partnered with Sulon Technologies, an startup based in Toronto, to produce this new headset, which seems to have the potential to disrupt the fledgling VR market. The idea is simple, and unique; unlike existing designs that require a VR-ready PC (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) or the latest smartphone (GearVR) to work, the Sulon Q VR headset incorporates a full gaming PC inside the headset, allowing for the first actually wireless experience in this young technology's existence.

As Ars Technica notes in their post on the Sulon Q this morning:

"According to the announcement, that 'wear and play' untethered design makes the Sulon Q quite different from competition like the Oculus Rift or SteamVR-powered HTC Vive, which both need a relatively high-end PC to actually generate the images on the headset. With the Sulon Q, the Windows 10 PC hardware is built into the unit, including an expected four-core AMD FX-8800P processor with a Radeon R7 graphics card."

Who wouldn't want to wear an entire PC on their head? Thermal (and other health) concerns aside, just what sort of hardware is under the hood (so to speak)? According to the report published at VideoCardz this morning, it will offer a new AMD FX processor (the FX-8800P) and overall specs that look like they belong more to a gaming laptop than a VR headset.

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(Quoting directly from the report on VideoCardz via this Reddit post):

Experiences: VR, AR, and spatial computing Ergonomics Lightweight, comfortable, ergonomically designed all-in-one tether-free form factor

Processors: AMD FX-8800P processor at up to 35W with Radeon R7 Graphics leveraging AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture 4 compute cores and 8 GPU cores unlocked through Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Sulon Spatial Processing Unit (SPU)

Memory: 8 GB DDR3 Memory

Storage: 256 GB SSD

Display: 2560×1440 OLED display at 90 Hz 110-degree Field-of-View

Audio: 3D spatial audio powered by GenAudio’s AstoundSound® technology Built-in 3.5 mm audio jack Custom spatially-optimized Sulon Q earbuds Dual noise-cancelling embedded microphones.

Tracking: Sulon Spatial Processing Unit combining real-time machine vision technologies and mixed reality spatial computer for real-time environment mapping and tracking from the inside outward, dynamic virtualization for VR/AR fusion, and gesture recognition

Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, SPU

Software: Microsoft Windows® 10 “Project Dragon” application for spatial computing AMD LiquidVR technologies for ensure smooth and responsive VR and AR experiences

Peripherals: Wireless keyboard and mouse provided in box Any other Windows 10-compatible controllers and joysticks

Connectivity: WiFi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.1, 2x USB 3.0 Type A, Micro HDMI OUT

A video for the Sulon Q is also up on YouTube this morning:

The two biggest questions that always accompany any new hardware announcement - how much will it cost, and when is it available - have not been answered just yet. We'll await further information as GDC has just begun, but it seems very safe to say that 2016 will be focused very heavily on VR.

Source: VideoCardz

The Daring Young Bits on the Flying Trapeze

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2016 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: koruza, infrared, LiFi

Transmitting data over light beams is not a new idea, we've even covered flourescent light LANs in the not too distant past, however these solutions have tended to be expensive. Over at Hack a Day is news about a project working on a less expensive solution, beaming data over infrared light.  They use Raspberry Pi powered machines with motorized lenses in a 3D-printed chassis to project the signal.  A green light is used for rough aiming of the devices, once they are pointed at each other a web interface allows you to fine tune the IR emitter and receiver, with real time feedback to show how the signal is changing.  As with other LiFi networks you are limited by line of sight and people walking in between the transmitter and receiver can cause dropped packets but it is still a lot cheaper than running fibre optics through your building.  Check out this project and several other similar solutions over at Hack a Day.

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"The Koruza project is an open-source, “inexpensive” system that aims to transmit 1 Gb/sec over distances around 100 meters, using modulated infrared light. The intended use-case is urban building-to-building communication at speeds that would otherwise require laying fiber-optic cables."

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Source: Hack a Day

Splitting the difference, Corsair's Void Surround

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2016 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: audio, corsair, VOID Surround, 7.1

The new VOID Surround from Corsair sits between the Void Stereo and Void USB in price, but has some features which might make it more appealing to a wider crowd.  It ships with both a four-pole 3.5-mm jack for mobile devices, consoles and PCs as well as a Dolby Headphone USB adapter for which supports Dolby 7.1 virtual surround.  The mute button and volume wheel are on the left side of the headset as opposed to being on the cord which is a handy design, although it does make confirming you are muted a bit difficult.  The Tech Report tried it out and found it usable, albeit they were not overly fond of the microphone or the virtual Dolby 7.1 implementation.  Check out the full review before you decide if you like this headset or not.

corsair void surround.png

"Corsair's Void Surround headset promises universal device compatibility and surround-sound immersion, thanks to an included Dolby 7.1 USB dongle that works with Corsair's CUE software to do its thing. We put the Surround to the test with games and music to see whether it offers a more immersive experience than the average stereo headset."

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Just when you thought Patch Tuesday couldn't get any more absurd

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2016 - 04:32 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, patch tuesday, windows 10

Microsoft is trying a lot of new things with Windows 10, unfortunately they seem to be things no one has asked for.  We have seen them about face on providing Knowledge Base information on updates, from hiding the actual updates which were being installed to providing a way for admins to actually see which updates were being pushed.  Then they tried out reinstalling and resetting default programs during updates, again something not particularly well received and so was discontinued.   Now Microsoft has found yet another trick to advertise the availability of Win10 to those who have not yet upgraded.  After this latest patch opening a new blank tab gives you a nice blue bar with the text 'Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 10.' ... because the pop up and emails were apparently not enough.

The Inquirer might be stretching it a bit when they refer to it as adware but it is certainly not the security patch it is billed as.  For a bit of added class you will never see KB3146449 in your list of installed updates, the only way you will know is if you get that message.  The hidden update is the real worry here, if a patch is released which you cannot determine is actually installed the difficulty to troubleshoot problems is vastly increased.  Advertise if you want but please don't make a habit of pushing hidden updates, OK?

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"JUST WHEN YOU thought Microsoft had stooped as low as it could with Updategate, along comes another low blow. This time it's an advertising payload hidden in a security patch."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #390 - ASUS Z170 Sabertooth Mk1, Corsair Carbide 400C, more about Windows Store Games, and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2016 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, asus, z170 sabertooth, corsair, carbide 400c, Windows Store, uwp, dx12, amd, nvidia, directflip, 16.3, 364.47, 364.51, SFX, Seagate, OCP, NVMe

PC Perspective Podcast #390 - 03/10/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS Z170 Sabertooth Mk1, Corsair Carbide 400C, more about Windows Store Games, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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