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Hackers getting younger

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As a parent here is a headline you don’t want to see every day "A five-year-old boy has found and exploited a password flaw in his Xbox to hack into his father's Xbox Live account". Special irony points for this story comes via the father who is a computer security specialist. Kristoffer, yes you guessed it, from California, broke in by entering the wrong password, navigating to the verification screen and entering spaces before hitting submit. This allowed him entry and exposed a password bug. Microsoft has since fixed the problem and rewarded Kristoffer. As a one-year-old he held down the home key on Dad’s phone to defeat a lockout so it looks like this kid is going places. 

At the recent Build 2014, Microsoft outlined where their Windows software was headed and the negative legacy of Steve Sinofsky, the man who brought us the original Windows 8, is gradually being marginalised.

First off, Microsoft will not be taking royalties for devices using their mobile operating system if it has a screen size of less than 9 inches. This is a departure from the Microsoft business model to date and I suspect it is mostly because Android is free. While the original Windows 8 Metro was supposed to be a friendly technology that required one version, it ended up being three separate APIs requiring three separate approaches to design and build. Under the new technology, developers in future will be able to use "90%" of the same code to create Universal Windows apps. Yes, the 90% comes from Microsoft and as we all know it is that last 10% that can take the longest time to complete and get right.

The future of Microsoft appears to be their Azure cloud service linked to everything else from SharePoint to Visual Studio. Instead of just Windows, the focus now encompasses different devices and other operating systems. To reinforce this the Windows Azure name was changed to Microsoft Azure. So from now on it is cross-platform development with the Cloud and mobiles, just as important as the desktop.

While all of this is going on some are starting to question the security of data put into the Cloud. Readers might remember way back when I pointed out that putting any sensitive data into the Cloud was the same as putting it into public domain. There have been a number of data hacks in the past few months that would appear to support my original doubts. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon and others are asking you to put everything up there including all kinds of personal details. I have argued in the past that only criminals want privacy, but in this case where you are, say, part of a family sharing family photos and so on and the Cloud providers are telling you that it is all protected, then you do indeed have a right to privacy and to have your data protected.

Every now and then I like to check how much of a machine I can get for, say, 60,000 baht. With all of the predictions of lower PC sales this might seem redundant but I still enjoy it. I used to use Gateway but they have scaled back so I looked around the net and it is hard to find any PCs for that kind of price. Instead, I looked at eBay and for this much money you get an Intel i7 3.4GHz quad-core CPU and a 120GB solid state and 2TB hard drive, plus a 3GB video card, 16GB of RAM, 750W power supply and an Intel Z87 Chipset Motherboard. You can play a little within those specs but for even a hard-core gamer this isn’t a bad machine.

Quick survey. What is the most annoying thing about USB plugs? The results are in and as suspected it is that you have to get them the right way up to plug them in, known as the Schrödinger's USB stick problem, look this up. In July, the new USB C standard from Intel should be out ready for manufacturers to start making plugs that work either way up. The new 8.3mm-by-2.5mm connector will be capable of transferring data at 10Gbps at up to 100W. This makes it suitable for charging and data. It is backwards compatible with earlier versions of USB but with an adaptor so the wrong way up syndrome will be with us until we upgrade all of our devices.

What time is it? Some people are very interesting in such things and none more that the engineers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology where they have built an atomic clock accurate to 10 trillionths of a second per day. It’s based on the element Caesium and it will be one second out after 300 million years. Why bother you ask? Computer networks, communications systems, satellite synchronisation, your local power grid, video conferences and technology like the GPS all rely on such accuracy. That’s why.

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years’ standing. You can contact him at jclhein@gmail.com

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