Obama Signs Executive Order to Up Information Sharing Between Government, Corporations – President Addresses Cyber-Security Reform in State of the Union Address

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Cyber-security reform is a key issue for Barack Obama.

The U.S. president in his State of the Union address Tuesday night (Feb. 12) confirmed he would sign into law an executive order to increase information sharing between the government and private companies and organizations.

Obama, who signed the executive order following the speech, said it is a move to force Congress to pass wide-ranging cyber-security legislation.

Dubbed Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyber-Security, the executive order addresses protocol during cyber-threat situations as well as a number of privacy concerns.

“The cyber threat to critical infrastructure continues to grow and represents one of the most serious national security challenges we must confront,” the executive order reads.  “The national and economic security of the United States depends on the reliable functioning of the Nation’s critical infrastructure in the face of such threats. It is the policy of the United States to enhance the security and resilience of the Nation’s critical infrastructure and to maintain a cyber environment that encourages efficiency, innovation, and economic prosperity while promoting safety, security, business confidentiality, privacy, and civil liberties.

“We can achieve these goals through a partnership with the owners and operators of critical infrastructure to improve cyber-security information sharing and collaboratively develop and implement risk-based standards.”

The executive order says the government will increase the volume, timeliness, and quality of cyber threat information it shares with private corporations so they are better able to protect themselves against cyber threats.

However, the government has woven enough privacy protection into the executive order to impress the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“The president’s executive order rightly focuses on cyber-security solutions that don’t negatively impact civil liberties,” ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson says in a press release. “For example, greasing the wheels of information sharing from the government to the private sector is a privacy-neutral way to distribute critical cyber information. More encouragingly, the adoption of Fair Information Practice Principles for internal information sharing demonstrates a commitment to tried-and-true privacy practices — like consent, transparency, minimization and use limitations.”

Section seven of the executive order concentrates on building a framework to reduce cyber risk to critical infrastructure.

The framework is to include “a set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks.” The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology is to “engage in an open and public review and comment process” while the framework is being put together.

Although it will be compulsory for government agencies to implement the framework, it is voluntary for private critical infrastructure operators. To motivate private bodies to take part, the Obama administration plans to create an incentive program to be implemented by the president in 120 days, as long as it does not require any news laws be passed. If new laws are needed, Obama will then take it to Congress.

Under the executive order, the Secretary and the Attorney General must identify infrastructure at the greatest risk of cyber-attacks. The government will then work with the identified organizations to diminish cyber-attack risks. The organizations will have a chance every other year to plead their case if they feel the cyber-security standards placed upon them are “excessively burdensome.”

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Obama Signs Executive Order to Up Information Sharing Between Government, Corporations

FIDO Alliance Developing Authentication Protocol to Replace Passwords – PayPal, Lenovo, Other Companies Officially Launch Group This Week

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Internet companies, system integrators and security providers are banding together to launch an authentication protocol that will replace passwords, fostering a higher level of online security.

Dubbed the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance — which includes PayPal, PC-maker Lenovo, Infineon TechnologiesNok Nok Labs, Validity and Agnitiothe group is currently developing specifications and FIDO-compliant products. FIDO officially launched this week, although the group was formed last July.

“Current password authentication is weak due to reuse, malware and phishing, and leaves enterprises and end-users vulnerable to financial and identity theft,” the group says in a press release.

“FIDO’s standards-based approach automatically detects when a FIDO-enabled device is present, and offers users the option to replace passwords with authentication methods that are more secure and easier to use. The FIDO Alliance encourages and invites participation from all companies and organizations that want simpler, stronger authentication.”

FIDO will support a variety of technologies, but the main types include:

Biometrics — fingerprint scanners, voice and facial recognition.

Authentication solutions and communications standards — Trusted platform modules (TPM), password-protected USB sticks, near field communication (NFC) and one time passwords (OTP).

The ability to use multiple tokens means the system should be usable by one individual on many devices.

The protocol is also being created to service both existing and future technologies.

“The FIDO protocol allows the interaction of technologies within a single infrastructure, enabling security options to be tailored to the distinct needs of each user and organization,” the press release says. “As more organizations join the FIDO Alliance, more use cases and technologies will become part of the solution.”

Sites that implement FIDO will endorse it as a safer way to login, and then coordinate with third-party token issuers to validate logins.

“The Internet — especially with recent rapid mobile and cloud expansion — exposes users and enterprises, more than ever before, to fraud. It’s critical to know who you’re dealing with on the Internet. The FIDO Alliance is a private sector and industry-driven collaboration to combat the very real challenge of confirming every user’s identity online,” says Michael Barrett, FIDO Alliance president and PayPal chief information security officer. “By giving users choice in the way they authenticate and taking an open-based approach to standards, we can make universal online authentication a reality. We want every company, vendor, and organization that needs to verify user identity to join us in making online authentication easier and safer for users everywhere.”

For FIDO to be a success, it needs more members. The group is holding a seminar in California Feb. 21 to introduce the concept to interested companies and organizations.

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FIDO Alliance Developing Authentication Protocol to Replace Passwords

Yahoo Adds Alike to the Fold to Bolster Its Mobile Offerings

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Yahoo is on an acquisition roll.

CEO Marissa Mayer is making good on her pledge to beef up Yahoo’s mobile division with the purchase of Alike, a mobile app that recommends new places to visit based on users’ interests. The cost of the acquisition was not released.

“The Alike team created an app that focuses on personalization — using the restaurants and places you like to find the ones you’ll love,” a Yahoo representative told CNET in an e-mail.  “We were very impressed by the team and their approach to building personalized experiences. The entire Alike team will join Yahoo’s mobile organization in San Francisco and Sunnyvale.”

The app allows its users to rate restaurants, clubs and retail outlets.

Alike made the acquisition announcement on its blog, describing the move as a “big step.”

“At Alike, we’ve spent the last couple of years working hard to build amazing mobile experiences to delight our customers, which is why we’re thrilled to announce some big news: we’re joining Yahoo Mobile,” the blog post reads. “We’ve always been passionate about the growing power of intelligent mobile experiences. We believe that distilled information, deeply personalized and made accessible anytime and anywhere, is what makes mobile experiences a part of our customers’ daily lives.

“In Yahoo we’ve found a team as excited about this vision as we are, and who are serious about making it real. We’re super excited to join Yahoo’s mobile team, where we can march toward that vision faster than ever.”

Alike also said it would no longer support its iPhone and Web browser applications.

Mayer has been busy since October of last year when she announced big changes were on the way for the floundering search engine company.

Mayer, a former Google executive, is determined to work her magic on Yahoo by focusing on users’ “daily habits” such as e-mail, the home page and Internet search as well as mobile devices.

“While we have a lot to do, the future of Yahoo is incredibly bright,” Mayer said during her Oct. 22 conference call with analysts, adding Yahoo is “well-positioned in the era of tablets and Smartphones” because of its content leadership.

She said small acquisitions to acquire talented staff members will be part of Yahoo’s plan to bolster its mobile and social offerings.

Yahoo, in recent months, has also, for $10 million, acquired Snip.it, a social platform for collecting, organizing and sharing articles, videos and images on the Web and OnTheAir, a small startup specializing in broadcasting video chats or interviews to online audiences.

TV Guide.com, reportedly, is also on Mayer’s radar. Yahoo is rumored to be one of the companies in the running to purchase the company, owned by Lionsgate. Deadline Hollywood reported late last year that Lionsgate is in “advanced negotiations” to sell the online entertainment listings, video and news site and mobile app to one strategic bidder for $20 million to as high as $25 million.

Yahoo has also recently partnered with NBC Sports Group to form a content and promotional alliance.



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Yahoo Adds Alike to the Fold to Bolster Its Mobile Offerings

Technology News Briefs — Feb. 13, 2013

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Intel Takes Leap Into Internet Television

Chip-making king Intel will debut an Internet television service with live and on-demand content this year — a move that means the company will be going head-to-head with Apple, Amazon and Google.

Vice-president and general manager of Intel Media Erik Huggers said he is currently in talks with content providers.

Huggers said hundreds of employees and their families are testing Intel’s new set-top box, which will be part of the service.

“We have been working for (the past) year to set up Intel media, a new group focused on developing an Internet platform,” Huggers said during the AllThingsD Dive into Media conference Feb. 12. “It’s not a value play, it’s a quality play where we’ll create a superior experience for the end user.”

Offering live programming as well as on-demand content would give Intel a leg up on Apple, Amazon and Netflix which do not currently offer live shows.

“There is an opportunity to offer a bundle that can be curated by the consumer, an opportunity to create smarter bundles,” Huggers said, adding the set-top-box will feature a camera that can be used to gear content and ads toward specific users.

Investors Want Bigger Buyout From Michael Dell

T. Rowe Price Group, Dell’s third-largest shareholder has joined an ever-increasing number of investors asking Michael Dell and partner Silver Lake for a bigger buyout.

Dell signed a merger agreement Feb. 5 under which founder and CEO Michael Dell will acquire the company for a cool $24.4 billion — the largest leveraged buyout since the financial crisis six years ago.

Investors, however, want more.

“We believe the proposed buyout does not reflect the value of Dell, and we do not intend to support the offer as put forward,” T. Rowe Chief Investment Officer Brian Rogers said in a statement to Reuters.

As of last fall, T. Rowe Price Group controlled 4.4 percent of Dell shares, Reuters said.

Dell requires a majority of investors, not counting Michael Dell’s 14 percent stake, to give the transaction the green light.

Southeastern Asset Management, the firm’s second-largest investor, with an 8.5 percent stake had already spoken against the deal. Now that T. Rowe has joined the group of naysayers, at least six investors with more than 18 percent of Dell shares — excluding Michael Dell — are voicing doubts about the deal.

Under the proposed deal, Michael Dell, in partnership with global technology investment firm Silver Lake and with a $2 billion loan from Microsoft, will dole out $13.65 in cash for each share of Dell common stock held. The price represents a premium of 25 percent over Dell’s closing share price of $10.88 on Jan. 11, the last trading day before rumors of a possible going-private transaction were first published.

Team of 100 Working on iWatch, Sources Say

Apple has a team of 100 people, including some prominent employees, hard at work on its newest product — the iWatch, anonymous sources say.

Two people familiar with the company’s plans told Bloomberg the size of the team is an indication the Smartwatch has passed the experimentation phase and is in development.

The team, the sources said, includes Apple’s senior director of engineering James Foster and Achim Pantfoerder, a program manager with 13 Apple patents under his belt, including an electronic sighting compass and ambient light sensor. Managers, members of the marketing group and software and hardware engineers who previously worked on the iPhone and iPad round out the team.

Anonymous sources told The New York Times earlier this week the firm is working on a curved-glass watch that will operate on Apple’s iOS platform.

The Times report also said Corning’s Willow Glass could be used to make the watch. Corning, the maker of the Gorilla Glass used in the iPhone, said last year it had created Willow Glass, which can bend as easily as a piece of paper without breaking.

It is thought the iWatch will feature a navigation system, fitness monitoring abilities and a Siri-like personal assistant.


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Technology News Briefs — Feb. 13, 2013