‘Phantom Menace’ Hack Strikes Oil Industry Computers – NBCNews.com

What looked to be an ordinary malware attack on a computer at an oil-trading firm turns out to have been part of a targeted attack on the industry at large, according to a report from Panda Security. It began, as it so often does, with someone on their work computer opening an email attachment they shouldn’t have. This attachment, instead of producing one of the many trojans, worms or viruses already watched for by antivirus programs, merely unpacked a few common scripts and tools often used by Windows programs — thus avoiding detection. These scripts request credentials from various places on the computer, send what they find home via a File Transfer Protocol connection, then rename themselves just in case the computer starts getting suspicious. And that FTP server was full of data from other oil companies that had been targeted.

Panda Security

A diagram from Panda Security illustrating how they tracked down the perpetrator of the hack through credentials used for a free service and a scrambled email address.

Panda Security found an associated account registered by someone in Ikeja — a suburb of Lagos, the most populous city in Nigeria. And Nigeria, of course, is practically synonymous with email fraud, usually someone claiming to need your money to access millions from corrupt banks or free a royal family member. Panda’s theory is that these oil industry credentials would be used in a version of that scam, offering oil for sale at enticing prices and using legitimate-looking contacts and documents. But we’ll never know for sure — the companies targeted have opted not to press charges, perhaps wary of looking vulnerable to such simple (but clever) cyberattacks. “If our theory is correct, the information stolen from these companies has not been used against them, but to defraud other people, oil buyers,” the Panda Security report said. “It is for that reason that the companies which have had their credentials compromised prefer not to report the attack for fear of having their name in the spotlight.”

You can read the full story of the hack Panda has dubbed “The Phantom Menace” at the company’s website.

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—Devin Coldewey

First published May 18 2015, 11:54 AM


Lakers hoping Tuesday’s draft lottery is the right ticket – OCRegister

As the Lakers look to the future, they can’t help but lean on the past. But when it comes to Tuesday’s draft lottery, which will either lead the way to a key roster upgrade or serve as a gateway to disappointment, 16 championship banners don’t help.

They just need a bit of good fortune – something that has eluded the franchise over the last half decade.

After finishing 21-61 last season, the Lakers are slotted fourth in the 14-team lottery. Their odds give them an 11.9 percent chance of moving up to No. 1 in the June 25 draft, allowing them first pick from a group of stars that includes Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns, Duke center Jahlil Okafor and Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell.

As appealing as moving up in the draft might be, the more important thing to watch for the Lakers is that they don’t slide beyond the fifth pick. The potential to add a cornerstone piece to a roster that is either young or barren, depending on your perspective, would vanish.

There is a 17.2 percent chance that the Lakers will not have a lottery pick at all.

The Lakers traded a protected first-rounder to Phoenix in 2012 as part of the package for Steve Nash. The Suns subsequently shipped that pick to Philadelphia. That pick is top-five protected this year, and top-three protected in 2016.

That makes the percentages of the lottery, the luck, all the more important to the Lakers. The Lakers also hold picks No. 27 (acquired from Houston) and 34 (a second-rounder). This draft, however, is considered heavy at the top, and to have questionable depth.

Losing out in the lottery would be an incredible gut punch to the Lakers. If that happens, they will either have to get creative in free agency or hope to duplicate their success from a year ago with Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson was the No. 46 pick last season, but played his way onto the All-Rookie first team, which was announced Monday.

If the Lakers do manage to hang on to all three of their picks, General Manager Mitch Kupchak indicated at last week’s combine that the team could either package picks in a trade to move up or out of the draft, or to add a veteran. Kupchak said “it may be a little much” to add three more young players a roster that already has Clarkson, Julius Randle and one cantankerous veteran named Kobe Bryant.

They also could opt to use one of their picks on an international project they could stash in a foreign league for a couple of seasons.

Coach Byron Scott will represent the Lakers in New York City for the lottery, which will be broadcast at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN.

A year ago, Lakers legend James Worthy sat on the podium for the Lakers, who were slotted sixth, but dropped to seventh when ninth-slotted Cleveland leapt to the top of the lottery.

The Lakers subsequently used that pick on Randle, who missed 81 games after breaking his leg in the season opener against Houston. At the time the Lakers made Randle their highest draft selection since choosing Worthy No. 1 in 1982.

History is somewhat encouraging for the Lakers. Only occasionally have teams slotted fourth fallen to sixth or worse. In 2011 and 2010, Washington and Golden State both fell out of the top five, as did Vancouver in 2001. In 1993 Sacramento had the rotten luck of seeing Orlando, Golden State and Philadelphia leap-frog it into the top three.

In 1988 and 1985, the first year of the lottery, the Clippers and Sacramento dropped from fourth to sixth, but that was in a seven-team lottery.

Every other year – the other 25 since the system was implemented – the fourth-slotted team has remained in the top five. Three times it has jumped to No. 1: New Orleans in 2012 (Anthony Davis), Milwaukee in 1994 (Glenn Robinson) and San Antonio in 1987 (David Robinson).

Obviously, the Lakers would prefer an outcome similar to the latter cases. But there is no accounting for the random.

And history offers little comfort.

Contact the writer: boram@ocregister.com


Even without malware infestation, XP computer may be terminal – Houston Chronicle (subscription)

Q. Our desktop, we believe, has been taken over by malware or spyware even though McAfee security software is running. We are able to open websites or applications only sporadically. We are using Windows XP with Google Chrome as default browser. Has our computer become a lost cause or are there options for regaining control of it?

A. If the problem truly is malware or spyware, the PC is not a lost cause. Mainstream antivirus programs like McAfee, however, are not well-equipped to prevent this type of malicious program. You will need a specialized tool to attack the infestation.

As I have written here often, programs like Malwarebytes and Spybot Search and Destroy seem to be effective in removing this kind of thing. I outline my suggested plan of attack at geekradio.com under the Spywarez link.

It can be challenging to remove these infections, even with the right tools. If you find you are fighting a losing battle, you always have the option of wiping the computer clean and reinstalling the factory software or restoring from a backup (assuming you keep backups) which would allow you to have a fresh start.

Reinstalling the software will make the computer seem new again – although it also will remove any programs or settings you’ve added since the machine really was new.

A computer running XP, however, is getting on in years and going through the effort of reinstalling everything may not be worth your time. You would still be left with a vulnerable operating system that Microsoft no longer supports and a computer that is several generations behind in terms of processing power.

If your finances allow it, you might find the acquisition of a more modern piece of hardware with an updated software load to be quite welcome in terms of productivity and experience.

Q. How do I change the default font in Microsoft Excel?

A. To change the default font in Excel, click the File tab and select Options. In the General section you will see the option to set the font for new workbooks. You can select the font and the size you prefer. You might also want to look around in this menu to see if there are any other customizations you would like to setup.

Once you have everything selected just close and restart Excel and you will be on your way.

Keep in mind that this will not change existing workbooks. If you want to apply your new default settings to pre-existing documents you will need to move worksheets from existing workbooks into new workbooks.


Blue Jay's Donaldson has words with Angels in dugout – OCRegister

TORONTO – Josh Donaldson got into a shouting match with the Angels during the sixth inning of Monday’s game.

Apparently, some from the Angels dugout had been talking to plate ump Manny Gonzalez, unhappy that he had called a ball on a pitch they thought Donaldson ducked under.

Donaldson then responded to the Angels dugout, prompting more back and forth.

“A lot of guys in our dugout took exception to him yelling at our dugout,” Scioscia said. “We weren’t even talking to him. We were talking to the umpire.”

Gonzalez eventually came over to Manager Mike Scioscia and the two had an animated conversation.

Donaldson, who played against the Angels frequently as a member of the Oakland A’s the past few years, said he got caught in the heat of the moment.

“I’m not here to try and throw anybody under the bus but there was obviously something said to me and I don’t just banter or go on a rant like that for anything,” he said. “At the end of the day, you try to turn the page from it. We’ll see what happens.”


Speed-of-light computers made possible by ultra-tiny 'beamsplitter' – Mashable

A new beamsplitter developed by computer engineers at the University of Utah creates beams of line 50 times thinner than a single strand of hair.

Image: University of Utah College of Engineering, Dan Hixson

Computer engineers at the University of Utah announced a breakthrough on Monday, potentially paving the way for supercomputers that process data thousands of times faster than they do now.

Traditional computers process data by way of electrons, which travel through wired connections. But the engineers have developed an “ultracompact beamsplitter” that uses photons instead, creating light beams 50 times thinner than a strand of hair.

And because the beamsplitter itself is so small, millions of them could fit on a single computer chip.

Light is the only constant when it comes to measuring speed. There is nothing faster in existence. (There are some theoretical ways you could beat the speed of light, however.)

But for all practical matters, “light is the fastest thing you can use to transmit information,” computer engineering professor Rajesh Menon explained in the group’s report, which appeared Monday in the journal Nature Phototronics. “But that information has to be converted to electrons when it comes into your laptop. In that conversion, you’re slowing things down.

“The vision is to do everything in light.”

And the secret to doing that: The smallest polarization beamsplitter ever demonstrated.

Manon, who led the effort, estimates the beamsplitter technology could be used in supercomputers and large data processing centers in as little as three years, which would be spectacular if true. Further down the road, imagine consumer-friendly phones and tablets that are exponentially faster — yet have longer battery life because they need less power.

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