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Paul Merrell

Leaked docs show spyware used to snoop on US computers | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Software created by the controversial UK-based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia, Iran, and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica. It's not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer e-mail addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer, and the Qatari government.
  • The leaked files—which were posted online by hackers—are the latest in a series of revelations about how state actors including repressive regimes have used Gamma's software to spy on dissidents, journalists, and activist groups. The documents, leaked last Saturday, could not be readily verified, but experts told ProPublica they believed them to be genuine. "I think it's highly unlikely that it's a fake," said Morgan Marquis-Bore, a security researcher who while at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto had analyzed Gamma Group's software and who authored an article about the leak on Thursday. The documents confirm many details that have already been reported about Gamma, such as that its tools were used to spy on Bahraini activists. Some documents in the trove contain metadata tied to e-mail addresses of several Gamma employees. Bill Marczak, another Gamma Group expert at the Citizen Lab, said that several dates in the documents correspond to publicly known events—such as the day that a particular Bahraini activist was hacked.
  • The leaked files contain more than 40 gigabytes of confidential technical material, including software code, internal memos, strategy reports, and user guides on how to use Gamma Group software suite called FinFisher. FinFisher enables customers to monitor secure Web traffic, Skype calls, webcams, and personal files. It is installed as malware on targets' computers and cell phones. A price list included in the trove lists a license of the software at almost $4 million. The documents reveal that Gamma uses technology from a French company called Vupen Security that sells so-called computer "exploits." Exploits include techniques called "zero days" for "popular software like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and many more." Zero days are exploits that have not yet been detected by the software maker and therefore are not blocked.
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  • Many of Gamma's product brochures have previously been published by the Wall Street Journal and Wikileaks, but the latest trove shows how the products are getting more sophisticated. In one document, engineers at Gamma tested a product called FinSpy, which inserts malware onto a user's machine, and found that it could not be blocked by most antivirus software. Documents also reveal that Gamma had been working to bypass encryption tools including a mobile phone encryption app, Silent Circle, and were able to bypass the protection given by hard-drive encryption products TrueCrypt and Microsoft's Bitlocker.
  • The documents also describe a "country-wide" surveillance product called FinFly ISP which promises customers the ability to intercept Internet traffic and masquerade as ordinary websites in order to install malware on a target's computer. The most recent date-stamp found in the documents is August 2, coincidung with the first tweet by a parody Twitter account, @GammaGroupPR, which first announced the hack and may be run by the hacker or hackers responsible for the leak. On Reddit, a user called PhineasFisher claimed responsibility for the leak. "Two years ago their software was found being widely used by governments in the middle east, especially Bahrain, to hack and spy on the computers and phones of journalists and dissidents," the user wrote. The name on the @GammaGroupPR Twitter account is also "Phineas Fisher." GammaGroup, the surveillance company whose documents were released, is no stranger to the spotlight. The security firm F-Secure first reported the purchase of FinFisher software by the Egyptian State Security agency in 2011. In 2012, Bloomberg News and The Citizen Lab showed how the company's malware was used to target activists in Bahrain. In 2013, the software company Mozilla sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company after a report by The Citizen Lab showed that a spyware-infected version of the Firefox browser manufactured by Gamma was being used to spy on Malaysian activists.
Gary Edwards

Google Unveils Native Office Editing to Google Docs and Android for Work - 0 views

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    "Google today announced that it will bring native Office editing to its Google Docs cloud service. The company also unveiled a new Android for Work program that will help enterprises deploy devices." ....... What? This is huge but the article only provides the announcement.
Gary Edwards

Microsoft Office whips Google Docs: It's finally game over | Computerworld Blogs - 0 views

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    "If there was ever any doubt about whether Microsoft or Google would win the war of office suites, there should be no longer. Within the last several weeks, Microsoft has pulled so far ahead that it's game over. Here's why. When it comes to which suite is more fully featured, there's never been any real debate: Microsoft Office wins hands down. Whether you're creating entire presentations, creating complicated word-processing documents, or even doing something as simple as handling text attributes, Office is a far better tool. Until the last few weeks, Google Docs had one significant advantage over Microsoft Office: It's available for Android and the iPad as well as PCs because it's Web-based. The same wasn't the case for Office. So if you wanted to use an office suite on all your mobile devices, Google Docs was the way to go. Google Docs lost that advantage when Microsoft released Office for the iPad. There's not yet a native version for Android tablets, but Microsoft is working on that, telling GeekWire, "Let me tell you conclusively: Yes, we are also building Android native applications for tablets for Word, Excel and PowerPoint." Google Docs is still superior to Office's Web-based version, but that's far less important than it used to be. There's no need to go with a Web-based office suite if a superior suite is available as a native apps on all platforms, mobile or otherwise. And Office's collaboration capabilities are quite considerable now. Of course, there's always the question of price. Google Docs is free. Microsoft Office isn't. But at $100 a year for up to five devices, or $70 a year for two, no one will be going broke paying for Microsoft Office. It's worth paying that relatively small price for a much better office suite. Google Docs won't die. It'll be around as second fiddle for a long time. But that's what it will always remain: a second fiddle to the better Microsoft Office."
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    Google acquired "Writely", a small company in Portola Valley that pioneered document editing in a browser. Writely was perhaps the first cloud computing editor to go beyond simple HTML; eventually crafting some really cool CSS-JavaScript-JSON document layout and editing methods. But it can't edit native MSOffice documents. It converts them. There are more than a few problems with the Google Docs approach to editing advanced "compound" documents, but two stick out and are certain to give pause to anyone making the great transition from local workgroup computing, to the highly mobile, always connected, cloud computing. The first problem certain to become a show stopper is that Google converts documents to their native on-line format for editing and collaboration. And then they convert back. To many this isn't a problem. But if the document is part of a workflow or business process, conversion is a killer. There is an old saw affectionately known as "Reuters Law", dating back to the ODF-OXML document wars, that emphatically states; "Conversion breaks documents." The breakage includes both the visual layout of the document, and, the "compound" aspects and data connections that are internal to the document. Think of this way. A business document that is part of a legacy Windows Workgroup workflow is opened up in gDocs. Google converts the document for editing purposes. The data and the workflow internals that bind the document to the local business system are broken on conversion. The look of the document is also visually shredded as the gDocs layout engine is applied. For all practical purposes, no matter what magic editing and collaboration value is added, a broken document means a broken business process. Let me say that again, with the emphasis of having witnessed this first hand during the year long ODF transition trials the Commonwealth of Massachusetts conducted in 2005 and 2006. The business process broke every time a conversion was conducted "on a busines
Gary Edwards

The NeuroCommons Project: Open RDF Ontologies for Scientific Reseach - 0 views

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    The NeuroCommons project seeks to make all scientific research materials - research articles, annotations, data, physical materials - as available and as useable as they can be. This is done by fostering practices that render information in a form that promotes uniform access by computational agents - sometimes called "interoperability". Semantic Web practices based on RDF will enable knowledge sources to combine meaningfully, semantically precise queries that span multiple information sources.

    Working with the Creative Commons group that sponsors "Neurocommons", Microsoft has developed and released an open source "ontology" add-on for Microsoft Word. The add-on makes use of MSOffice XML panel, Open XML formats, and proprietary "Smart Tags". Microsoft is also making the source code for both the Ontology Add-in for Office Word 2007 and the Creative Commons Add-in for Office Word 2007 tool available under the Open Source Initiative (OSI)-approved Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) at http://ucsdbiolit.codeplex.com and http://ccaddin2007.codeplex.com,respectively.

    No doubt it will take some digging to figure out what is going on here. Microsoft WPF technologies include Smart Tags and LINQ. The Creative Commons "Neurocommons" ontology work is based on W3C RDF and SPARQL. How these opposing technologies interoperate with legacy MSOffice 2003 and 2007 desktops is an interesting question. One that may hold the answer to the larger problem of re-purposing MSOffice for the Open Web?

    We know Microsoft is re-purposing MSOffice for the MS Web. Perhaps this work with Creative Commons will help to open up the Microsoft desktop productivity environment to the Open Web? One can always hope :)

    Dr Dobbs has the Microsoft - Creative Commons announcement; Microsoft Releases Open Tools for Scientific Research ...... Joins Creative Commons in releasing the Ontology Add-in
Gary Edwards

DocVerse: Former Softies aim to make Office work like Google Docs | All about Microsoft... - 0 views

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    Two former Microsoft employees have started a company aimed at making Microsoft Office more like Google Docs - at least on the online-collaboration front. DocVerse - a stealth startup formed by Shan Sinha, a former Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server strategist, and Alex DeNeui, also formerly involved with SQL strategy at Microsoft - has begun offering beta invitations to a few hundred interested testers.
Gary Edwards

Can the cloud save Windows Mobile? | TalkBack on ZDNet .. ge comment - 0 views

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    Because of the MSOffice desktop monopoly, Microsoft can afford to be behind the curve.
Gary Edwards

Bad News for SaaS: The Microsoft Office Barrier Locks in Business Processes | "RE: Why ... - 0 views

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    I doubt that MSOffice ODF will make a difference. ODF was not designed to be compatible with MSOffice, and conversion from native binary to ODF will result in a serious loss of fidelity and business process markup. If the many ODF pilots are an indication, the real killer is that application specific processing logic will be lost on conversion even if it is Microsoft doing the conversion to ODF. This logic is expressed as scripts, macros, OLE, data binding, media binding, add-on specifics, and security settings. These components are vital to existing business processes. Besides, Microsoft will support ISO 26300, which is not compatible with the many aspects of ODF 1.2 currently implemented by most ODF applications. The most difficult barrier to entry is that of MSOffice bound business processes so vital to workgroups and day-to-day business systems. Maybe the report is right in saying that day-to-day business routines become habit, but not understanding the true nature of these barriers is certain to cloud our way forward. We need to dig deeper, as demonstrated by the many ODF pilot studies.
Gary Edwards

Microsoft: Google Apps No Threat (MSFT, GOOG) - 0 views

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    How is Microsoft (MSFT) responding to Google's (GOOG) new initiative to recruit salespeople for Google Apps, the cloud-based word processing and spreadsheet suite? We reached out to Microsoft to ask Alex Payne, a director on the Office team, for his view. As far as Alex is concerned, Google Apps is no threat at all. Follow up on the story; "The Google Apps Revenue Myth: $10 mm in 2009
Gary Edwards

After Bill Gates, five possible futures for Microsoft | InfoWorld | Analysis | 2008-06-... - 0 views

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    For most people, Bill Gates and Microsoft are one and the same. Gates has led Microsoft to global dominance in the 33 years since its founding, combining a strong opportunism -- getting the code for DOS to sell to IBM for the first PC and aping Apple's visual interface for the first Windows are the two best examples of Gates' moving where the wind was soon to blow -- with a steady vision of desktop computers being as powerful as the mainframes that captured techies' imaginations in the 1970s. This is the intro and overview into a series of articles describing the future of Microsoft through five possible scenarios. The series includes under the lead article, "The Future of Microsoft"; * The "Borvell" scenario * The "slow decline" scenario * The "streaming" scenario * The "Oort services" scenario * The "Gates was right" scenario ]
Gary Edwards

The Belgian Desktop Office Productivity Study: Huysmans - 0 views

  • Conversion and compatibility
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    the Belgian Federal Public Service (FPS) Economy which considered the use of OpenOffice.org, but eventually decided not to adopt OpenOffice.org as their primary office suite. This decision was to a large degree influenced by the fact that a large number of users within the FPS Economy perform data-intensive tasks such as statistical data analysis and reporting on a daily basis. Notwithstanding the fact that several reasons were actually in favor of the migration, we have identified several barriers that may discourage the use of OpenOffice.org in similar environments.
Gary Edwards

Google Apps no threat to Microsoft? Too Little Too Late - 0 views

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    The race is on. Google will win the consumer Web. Microsoft will win the business Web. Sadly i don't think there is any way for Google to challenge Microsoft with regard for the privilege of transitioning existing MSOffice bound workgroup- workflow business processes to the Web. Even if Google Docs could match MSOffice feature to feature, cracking into existing MSOffice workgroups is impossibly hard. Anyone who doubts this ought to take a second look at the Massachusetts ODF Pilot Study, or the recently released Belgium Pilot results. Replacing MSOffice in a workgroup setting is simply too disruptive and costly because of the shared business process problem.
Gary Edwards

Fighting Government Waste One Google App At a Time - CIO.com - Business Technology Lead... - 0 views

  • Vivek Kundra, CTO of the District of Columbia, says he found two compelling reasons to switch the D.C. government over to Gmail and Google Apps: first, its cheap cost would save the taxpayer money by avoiding bloated software contracts. Second, he believes Google technology will help ensure business continuity and the safety of data in the event of a disaster or disruption.
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    Vivek Kundra, CTO of the District of Columbia, says he found two compelling reasons to switch the D.C. government over to Gmail and Google Apps: first, its cheap cost would save the taxpayer money by avoiding bloated software contracts. Second, he believes Google technology will help ensure business continuity and the safety of data in the event of a disaster or disruption. ......... Now we know why Google needs Chrome: they have the killer apps but are in need of a high end Web-App browser to run them in. Otherwise they can't begin to solve the problems of security and business continuity.
Gary Edwards

InformationWeek 500: Monsanto's Collaborative Growth Plan -- Emerging Technology -- Inf... - 0 views

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    "By combining unified communications, IM, SharePoint, and blogs and wikis while protecting its IP, Monsanto is advancing teamwork." InformationWeek has posted a number of technology innovation-implementation profiles. Monsanto is one of the best "collaborative" examples, although it's very similar to the model GE presented at Office 2.0. These colalborative concepts go back 1998, and the early work Ars Digita was doing with the first "Knowledgeware" - wiki applications. The first "use case" to be published was that of the global electronics giant, Siemanns. Notice the SharePoint - MSOffice integration as a key element in the Monsanto collaboration strategy. That connection "forced" Monsanto to rebuild their document databases and portals using SharePoint and SQL Server.
Gary Edwards

Microsoft's Response to Google Chrome... - Google Docs - 0 views

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    Matt Assay has posted an interesting article arguing the point of view that Google Chrome will have a difficult time catching up Microsoft SharePoint. While everyone is moving to the Web, many will be surprised ot find that Microsoft is already there. Very surprised.
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    Good article from Matt Assay
Gary Edwards

The real reason Google is making Chrome | Computerworld Blogs - 0 views

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    Good analysis by Stephen Vaughan-Nichols. He gets it right. Sort of. Stephen believes that Chrome is desinged to kill MSOffice. Maybe, but i think it's way too late for that. IMHO, Chrome is designed to keep Google and the Open Web in the game. A game that Microsoft is likely to run away with. Microsoft has built an easy to use transiton bridge form MSOffice desktop centric "client/server" computing model to a Web centirc but proprietary RiA-WebStack-Cloud model. In short, there is an on going great transtion of traditional client/server apps to an emerging model we might call client/ WebStack-Cloud-RiA /server computing model. As the world shifts from a Web document model to one driven by Web Applications, there is i believe a complimentary shift towards the advantage Micorsoft holds via the desktop "client/server" monopoly. For Microsoft, this is just a transtion. Painful from a monopolist profitability view point - but unavoidably necessary. The transition is no doubt helped by the OOXML <> XAML "Fixed/flow" Silverlight ready conversion component. MS also has a WebStack-Cloud (Mesh) story that has become an unstoppable juggernaut (Exchange/SharePoint/SQL Server as the WebSTack). WebKit based RiA challengers like Adobe Apollo, Google Chrome, and Apple SproutCore-Cocoa have to figure out how to crack into the great transition. MS has succeeded in protecting their MSOffice monopoly until such time as they had all the transtion pieces in place. They have a decided advantage here. It's also painfully obvious that the while the WebKit guys have incredible innovation on their side, they are still years behind the complete desktop to WebStack-RiA-Cloud to device to legacy servers application story Microsoft is now selling into the marketplace. They also are seriously lacking in developer tools. Still, the future of the Open Web hangs in the balance. Rather than trying to kill MSOffice, i would think a better approach would be that of trying to
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    There are five reasons why Google is doing this, and, if you read the comic book closely - yes, I'm serious - and you know technology you can see the reasons for yourself. These, in turn, lead to what I think is Google's real goal for Chrome.
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    I'm still keeping the door open on a suspicion that Microsoft may have planned to end the life of MS Office after the new fortress on the server side is ready. The code base is simply too brittle to have a competitive future in the feature wars. I can't get past my belief that if Microsoft saw any future in the traditional client-side office suite, it would have been building a new one a decade ago. Too many serious bugs too deeply buried in spaghetti code to fix; it's far easier to rebuild from the ground up. Word dates to 1984, Excel to 1985, Powerpoint to 1987, All were developed for the Mac, ported years later to Windows. At least Word is still running a deeply flawed 16-bit page layout engine. E.g., page breaks across subdocuments have been broken since Word 1.0. Technology designed to replace yet still largely defined by its predecessor, the IBM Correcting Selectric electro-mechanical typewriter. Mid-80s stand-alone, non-networked computer technology in the World Wide Web era? Where's the future in software architecture developed two decades ago, before the Connected World? I suspect Office's end is near. Microsoft's problem is migrating their locked-in customers to the new fortress on the server side. The bridge is OOXML. In other words, Google doesn't have to kill Office; Microsoft will do that itself. Giving the old cash cow a face lift and fresh coat of lipstick? That's the surest sign that the old cow's owner is keeping a close eye on prices in the commodity hamburger market while squeezing out the last few buckets of milk.
Gary Edwards

The Monkey On Microsoft's Back - Forbes.com - 0 views

  • The new technology, dubbed TraceMonkey, promises to speed up Firefox's ability to deliver complex applications. The move heightens the threat posed by a nascent group of online alternatives to Microsoft's most profitable software: PC applications, like Microsoft Office, that allow Microsoft to burn hundreds of millions of dollars on efforts to seize control of the online world. Microsoft's Business Division, which gets 90% of its revenues from sales of Microsoft Office, spat out $12.4 billion in operating income for the fiscal year ending June 30. Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ), however, is playing a parallel game, using profits from its online advertising business to fund alternatives to Microsoft's desktop offerings. Google already says it has "millions" of users for its free, Web-based alternative to desktop staples, including Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint software. The next version of Firefox, which could debut by the end of this year, promises to speed up such applications, thanks to a new technology built into the developer's version of the software last week. Right now, rich Web applications such as Google Gmail rely on a technology known as Javascript to turn them from lifeless Web pages into applications that respond as users mouse about a Web page. TraceMonkey aims to turn the most frequently used chunks of Javascript code embedded into Web pages into binary form--allowing computers to hustle through the most used bits of code--without waiting around to render all of the code into binary form.
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    I did send a very lenghthy comment to Brian Caulfield, the Forbes author of this article. Of course, i disagreed with his perspective. TraceMonkey is great, performing an acceleration of JavaScript in FireFox in much the same way that Squirrel Fish accelleratees WebKit Browsers. What Brian misses though is that the RiA war that is taking place both inside and outside the browser (RIA = fully functional Web applications that WILL replace the "client/server" apps model)
Gary Edwards

Atlassian Confluence Connects with Office, MOSS - 0 views

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    Atlassian has released the latest version of their Confluence enterprise wiki software, officially releasing their SharePoint Connector and a new Connector that will make many MS Office and Open Office users happy.
Gary Edwards

Does your OS matter in a cloud? | It's the Business Process - not the Application! | Ta... - 0 views

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    The question proposed is tha tof how OSS will be impacted by SaaS and Cloud Computing? My position, as stated in this reply, is that OSS will become even more important going forward. The comment includes WebKit, XAML, Client/Server, and the great transition to Client/ Web-Stack /server models.
Gary Edwards

Microsoft Unleashes Stream of Docs in the Name of Interoperability - 0 views

  • Yesterday, Microsoft announced the release of Version 1.0 technical documentation for Microsoft Office 2007, SharePoint 2007 and Exchange 2007 as an effort to drive greater interoperability and foster a stronger open relationship with their developer and partner communities. They also posted over 5000 pages of technical documentation on Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint binary file formats on the MSDN site royalty-free basis under Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise (OSP).
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Paul Merrell

Understanding Microsoft SharePoint in a Web 2.0 World - CIO.com - Business Technology L... - 0 views

  • While analysts say the social software in SharePoint lacks the functionality and usability of competitor products, its tight integration with existing Microsoft systems such as Exchange and Office makes it an attractive buy for IT departments looking to capitalize on the Web 2.0 movement while still utilizing the technology tools they already have inside their companies.
  • For its part, Microsoft boasts a staggering rate of adoption for SharePoint. According to Rob Curry, director of SharePoint, Microsoft has sold around 100 million licenses of the product
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    Good article about Sharepoint, although it does not capture the breadth of the Microsoft assault on the Web.
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