Windows 7 activation key pirated, blacklisted

A product key for Windows 7 Ultimate has been leaked to the Web, leading to the spread of pirated copies a week after Microsoft released the operating system to manufacturers. In response, Microsoft blacklisted the key, which won’t be used in new computers. According to reports, a Lenovo master original equipment manufacturer (OEM) key and activation certificate leaked to a Chinese site and soon became widely available. The crack requires a complex hack into systems’ BIOS, making it difficult for most people attempting to install pirated copies. (Computerworld, BetaNews)

DARPA prepares virtual assistant

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing a virtual assistant for military use that will eventually reach consumers. The six-year project, called Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes (CALO), includes artificial intelligence that can prioritize e-mail, schedule meetings and prepare briefing notes. Developers said CALO is capable of “transfer learning,” the ability the recognize behavior in one area, such as e-mail sorting, and apply it to another, such as scheduling. More than 60 universities and research organizations contributed to the project, and CALO spin-off applications are set to debut on social networking sites and iPhones later this year. (New Scientist)

Skype under reconstruction, could fold

EBay is developing new software for Skype in an attempt to avoid a legal dispute with the Internet-calling service’s founders, who want to use the technology in a new venture. In a US Securities and Exchange Commission regulatory filing, eBay said the its software plans will be expensive and might not work. If it can’t develop new software, the company is likely to shut down Skype. Joltid, the company run by Skype’s creators, retained rights to the service’s underlying peer-to-peer technology when they struck a deal with eBay in 2005. Joltid later terminated Skype’s licensing agreement, claiming Ebay used source code not included in the agreement. Ebay filed a lawsuit in March to have the agreement reinstated. (Bloomberg, Ars Technica)

Complex botnet has massive reach, evades researchers

A security researcher recently found that a sophisticated botnet has stolen  user information from 4,500 Web sites, a number that makes the botnet much more dangerous than others. According to Joe Stewart of SecureWorks, the Clampi Trojan operates like most other malware, monitoring its victims’ Web sessions for information. However, Stewart said that most other botnets target roughly 20 to 30 Web sites. The 4,500 sites targeted by Clampi include banking, brokerage, credit card, insurance, and shopping services. The Trojan, estimated to have infected up to one million computers, also includes complex layers of encryption and encrypts traffic between hijacked systems to safeguard it from investigators. (Computerworld)

Software catches spam based on one data packet

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed software that identifies spam before it enters mail servers, based on a single packet of data. Snare (Spatio-temporal Network-level Automatic Reputation Engine) uses several new techniques to identify spam, including the number of ports kept open by  transmitting computers and the geodesic distance between senders’ and receivers’ IP addresses. According to the software developers, botnets tend to limit open ports to the Simple Mail Transfer protocol, and spam often travels further than regular e-mail. The system reportedly has the same accuracy as current spam filters and puts less of a strain on networks. (Technology Review)

Team sets distance record for quantum keys

An international team of scientists has reached a new distance record for quantum key distribution (QKD), a developing form of cryptography that relies on quantum states. The team, including researchers from the University of Geneva in Switzerland and Corning Incorporated in New York, distributed quantum keys 250 kilometers away, beating the previous record by 50 kilometers. QKD researchers hope to eventually reach 300 kilometers in an effort to set up secure intercity communications. For their breakthrough, the team developed a new optical fiber protocol to distribute quantum keys at 15 bits per second. (PhysOrg)

Young cybersecurity experts recruited in contests

The US government is recruiting aspiring cybersecurity experts through a series of contests intended to find roughly 10,000 students in high school and college. Co-sponsored by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, the SANS Institute, and the US Department of Defense, the program will include three contests that will cover the cybersecurity fundamentals.  The contests include a puzzle challenge that simulates a crime investigation, a competition to set up a network defense, and a capture-the-flag competition called NetWars. (Technology Review)

Microsoft patches IE, Visual Basic bugs

Microsoft issued an out-of-cycle patch for six vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer (IE) and Visual Studio on Tuesday, with the three IE bugs labeled critical. However, Microsoft warned that the Visual Studio bugs, labeled moderate, could be more serious because some developers created applications featuring ActiveX controls with vulnerable code. The vulnerabilities are within the Active Template Library (ATL), and developers who used the ATL should check their applications for possible exploits, Microsoft said. (Computerworld)

Google pushes Wave protocol toward open source

Google released the source code for part of its Wave technology Tuesday, a collaborative communication protocol that  lets multiple users  edit documents concurrently in a single environment. The code for Operational Transform (OT) and a client/server reference implementation were released under the Apache Software License, which will let third-party developers create applications with the Wave Federation Protocol. Google, which is concerned about compatibility with the complex protocol, also said it will provide a testing framework for third-party implementations. (Ars Technica)

Bacteria computer solves complex math problem

A team of US biologists have fashioned a computer from E.coli bacteria, developing a system that solves complex mathematical problems faster than silicon. In findings published in the Journal of Biological Engineering, the team reported how the bacteria can solve the Hamiltonian Path Problem, a graph theory to finding the most efficient route among several points, often characterized as cities. The scientists modified E.coli DNA to glow green, red, or yellow depending on genetic information.  The bacterial computer increases in power over time, as more bacteria is created. (Guardian)

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