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Oct 10, 2011

Smartcard Encryption Crocked by German Scientists

Researchers from the Ruhr University in Germany found a way to get past the encryption that protects the chip cards considered up until recently to be unbreakable, allowing potential villains to replicate and alter them as they please.

The Register reveals that the equipment required for the operation costs around $3,000 (€2100), a small amount for someone out to do some damage.

So far, these smartcards were used to safeguard almost anything, from homes, office buildings, and credit for all sorts of services and now David Oswald and Christof Paar show the world that the time for an upgrade has arrived.

This is not the first successful attempt of crocking such a card, but it comes to prove even further that these security means are not to be trusted entirely. In this case, the secret key that blocks the information was obtained, thus making it possible for anyone to assume the identity of the smartcard's owner.

Cryptographer Nate Lawson, the principal of Root Labs, after reading the research, revealed that the operation, as described by the German scientists, is easy to replicate by anyone with money and time to spend.

"It provides a recipe for how to extract the secret key material non-invasively, basically by pointing a radio probe at the card and monitoring it as it performs a transaction," he revealed.

Now comes the techie part. How did they achieve the stunt?

Using an oscilloscope, they recorded the card's electrical emissions while being read by a radio-frequency identification reader. By monitoring electromagnetic radiation and other characteristics, over time, they could recover the encryption key that protects the information on a DESFire card.

Fortunately, steps are already being taken to prevent from potential fraud attempts and the company that supplies these smartcards announced that the model that can be crocked will soon be replaced with a more advanced version that is not susceptible to the attack.

Nokia N9 Offers Fast and Easy Internet Connectivity

Nokia N9 is the first and only MeeGo-powered handset that the Finnish mobile phone maker has brought to the market.

The smartphone has already started to arrive on shelves in various countries around the world, and should hit even more of them soon.

The handset comes with a brand new operating system on board, and with new and appealing features as well, starting with that all-touch design, which eliminated the need of hardware buttons on the front.

However, Nokia N9 also arrives with some capabilities that are quite common to smartphones these days, such as Internet connectivity.

To learn how you can connect to the Internet on your new Nokia N9 smartphone, simply have a look at the video embedded above. The one thing that is certain is that accessing the Internet on this MeeGo beauty is no rocket science.

BlackBerry Network Down (almost) Worldwide - 10/10/2011

BlackBerry users have just started to report issues with BlackBerry Messenger and email, which suggest that the network is down.
This is not the first time that users complain of BlackBerry outage, but this time seems to be a global issue as we've seen reports from all over the world and BlackBerry owners in our team seem to be affected as well.

BBM, Facebook, MSN Messenger and Twitter are not working, as well as any other applications that require data connection, including AppWorld.

In addition, sending or receiving emails, regardless of the account, is impossible at the moment. However, the BlackBerry outage does not affect Internet browsing.

Although RIM has yet to make any official statements, the issue has been confirmed by Vodafone Egypt via Twitter: “There is Blackberry outage, it's from RIM side (Blackberry Manufacturer), stay tuned with us till further updates.”

If you're affected, let us know in the comments and make sure you state your location.

UPDATE: According to one of our readers, it seems that a datacenter issue on RIM's side is to blame.

UPDATE 2: RIM has aknowledged the issue and has initiated an investigation. It also claims that only users in EMEA are experiencing these issues: "Some users in EMEA are experiencing issues. We're investigating, and we apologise for any inconvenience," via Twitter.

UPDATE 3: Reports from our Facebook followers state that RIM's service is down in Indonesia and India as well.

UPDATE 4: Outage affects South Africa as well.

UPDATE 5: Reports start pouring in from the UK as well (London, Essex, Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Derbyshire, Oxford, Glasgow, Cheltenham, Ipswich)

UPDATE 6: BBM is also down in the Netherlands and is causing some confusion in Kuwait and the UAE.

UPDATE 7: Looks like the outage has hit parts of North America, too

UPDATE 8: Starting around 5PM UTC we're seeing BBM working sporadically but still no email.

UPDATE 9: Some BlackBerry users now report that Internet browsing is affected as well. We're unable to confirm this as we're able to access web sites without using WiFi or other alternative connections. The latest update from @BlackBerryHelp is little more than a renewed apology to customers.

UPDATE 10: At 5:30PM UTC, outage reports start coming in from South America (Brazil and Chile), Belgium and Malaysia.

UPDATE 11: The USA seem largely unaffected according to users from the NYC and SoCal areas.

UPDATE 12: (Bucharest) I just got a bunch of emails at  6:58PM UTC on my Orange Torch 9800 but nothing more after that. Apps still fail. Can anyone confirm BB services coming up and back down intermittently?

UPDATE 13: Disgruntled readers start drawing analogies between this and the infamous and extended Playstation Network outage earlier this year.

UPDATE 14: A reader from Croatia reports all BB services are back up. Still down for me though, in Bucharest.

UPDATE 15: Intermittent BB services confirmed by users in SA

UPDATE 16: At 6PM UTC services are coming back up at Orange Romania. Tons of emails have arrived, apps and AppWorld are working, but not BBM. Anyone else seeing services being gradually restored?

UPDATE 17: 6:15PM UTC - UK apparently next in line to BB services recovery. Still down in Austria

8-Core AMD FX-8120 Put Through Some Tests

AMD is just about ready to launch its 8-core FX-Series central processing units and, in the meantime, the lucky few who got it early have supplied the web with benchmarks.
A certain user from Overclockers.ua, going by the handle of blood_angel, put the soon-to-be launched AMD FX-8120 CPU through some benchmarks.
For those that don't know, this item is an 8-core beast with a total of 16 MB of cache memory (8 MB L2 and 8 MB L3).

During the tests, it had a clock speed of 4 GHz (4,003 MHz) and a multiplier of 20x.

The results were fairly impressive in AIDA64 (see the high-resolution screenshot) and, in Cinebench R11.5, the score was of 6.55.

One might look oddly at the 6.55 number (OpenGL score was 46.82), but they should remember that, unlike in 3DMark programs, where scores reach thousands of points, Cinebench returns much lower renders.

Indeed, the highest achieved, according to this list, is 27.20, and that belongs to a system with 48 cores (Opteron 6174) and just as many threads. Meanwhile, top OpenGL render is of 56.04 (Xeon X5680 12-core system).

Go here to check out the discussion that these latest shots spawned (it is many forum pages long already).

For those who want to know what the chip's base settings are, it is an 8-core model with a base clock of 3.1 GHz and a Turbo Core limit of 4 GHz.

Of course, enthusiasts are free to start meddling in those settings and push it even higher, though it falls to them to make sure meltdown, so to speak, is avoided.

The CPU also boasts a dual-channel DDR3 memory controller that handles frequencies of 1,866 MHz.

Other specifications include a TDP (thermal design power) is 125W, or only 95W (for the energy efficient version).

AMD will have the Bulldozer units out in two days (October 12, 2011, Wednesday).

Asus P9X79 Deluxe Motherboard for LGA 2011 CPUs Gets Pictured

In mid-November Intel will release its first desktop processors based on the high-performance Sandy Bridge-E architecture and Asus' is getting ready for this launch with the P9X79 Deluxe LGA 2011 motherboard based on the Intel X79 chipset.

Just as most other Sandy Bridge-E boards, the P9X79 Deluxe will also come as a high-end solution and it sports support for technologies such as SLI and CrossFireX as well as SSD caching.

The motherboard also includes no less than four PCI Express x16 slots, two of these featuring 16 lanes of PCIe bandwidth, and these are accompanied by two additional PCI Express x1 slots.

As far as storage is concerned, Asus' latest creation comes with four SATA 3Gbps ports and four SATA 6Gbps port, two of the latter being driven by a third party controller.

The Intel X79 chipset is cooled by a large aluminum heatsink, while the VRM and Power Phase components are also equipped with their own heatsinks connected together through heatpipes in order to transfer the heat load.

Moving to the back of Asus' creation, users get the usual assortment of ports and connectors, including a pair of USB 3.0 ports, 7.1-channel audio with S/PDIF out, two eSATA pots, and dual Gigabit Ethernet.

Two additional USB 3.0 ports are available through a on-board header installed to the left of the 24-pin motherboard power plug.

As most other LGA 2011 motherboards, the P9X79 Deluxe also includes a series of overclocking friendly features such as on-board Power and Reset buttons, a Debug LED, and a rear mounted Clear CMOS switch. Asus' own TPU and EPU technologies are also includes together with an UEFI BIOS.

No information regarding the price of the Asus P9X79 Deluxe is available, but the motherboard is expected to come out in November of this year. (via XFastest)

ASRock X79 Extreme7 LGA 2011 Motherboard Pictured in Full

ASRock is preparing a new flagship motherboard for the launch of Intel's Sandy Bridge-E processors, the X79 Extreme7, which was just pictured in full by a Chinese website who has received a series of images with the final revision of this board.

The most striking feature about the Extreme7 is the inclusion of six memory slots, which is a strange decision when considering that Sandy Bridge-E CPUs includes a quad-channel memory controller.

Right to the left of the memory slots, users will find no less than five PCI Express x16 slots, which ASRock states can support 3-way SLI and CrossFireX setups.

These are accompanied by a 32-bit PCI slot to provide support for legacy add-on cards.

As far as storage is concerned, ASRock decided to provide its customers with seven SATA 3Gbps slots and another four SATA 6Gbps ports. Two of these are controller by the Intel X79 chipset while the other two by a third-party controller.

Speaking of the X79 chipset, this is cooled by an aluminum heatsink topped by a small diameter fan. While we don't know anything for sure, it's highly improbable that the X79 actually required this type of cooling, which we thought it was finally abolished a couple of years back.

The rest of the board layout is not too surprising for a flagship product and it carries the usual Power and Reset on-board buttons as well as a debug LCD and an additional MOLEX power plug for multi-GPU setups.

Moving to the back of ASRock's creation, users get the usual assortment of ports and connectors, including a pair of USB 3.0 ports, 7.1-channel audio with both optical and coaxial S/PDIF out and a Clear CMOS button.

Two additional USB 3.0 ports are available through a on-board header placed between the seventh SATA 3Gbps port and the 24-pin ATX power connector.

No information regarding the price of the ASRock X79 Extreme 7 is available, but the motherboard is expected to come out in November of this year. (via XFastest)

CyanogenMod-7.1 Now Available

A new CyanogenMod official release is now available for download for Android users who like installing custom ROMs on their devices, with full support for a number of 24 new devices, and currently in testing for some other handsets. 

The team behind CyanogenMod took the time to come up with the new release, but now the new CM 7.1 is out, and it offers support for building ROMs for a number of no less than 68 devices, it seems. 

There has been a long time between the last two CM releases, yet the development team is set to speed up the release process a bit, it seems. 

“It’s been far too long since our last official release, but I’m happy to present CyanogenMod-7.1! I apologize for the long delay, and I hope to speed up our release process in the future,” CyanogenMod notes in a blog post

“You’ll find many new features and support for building on 68 devices! Upgrading from any previous CM-7 release or nightly build should be smooth and no wipe should be required.”

As stated above, there are a series of devices that are currently in a beta flavor, including the HP Touchpad and the LG Optimus 3D, among others, but either official releases or release candidates for them will arrive in the next few weeks. 

To install the new CyanogenMod-7.1, one can use the ROM Manager. However, the new release was also made available for a manual download, and can be found here

CM has just added support for a series of new devices, including Sony Ericsson's Xperia devices. As reported not too long ago, Sony Ericsson themselves provided support and assistance, and also provided the CM team with a number of no less than 20 devices. 

“Head over to our forums to discuss the release or get help. Installation instructions and other information can be found on our wiki,” CyanogenMod notes. The full release notes for the new release is available here

“Thanks again for the support, and for making CyanogenMod the #1 community Android distribution. We’ll be following up with a few minor releases and soon it will be time to start work on CM9,” CyanogenMod concluded.

HP and Hynix Start Using Memristors for Real

Memristors may still be a work in progress, but Hynix and HP seem to have reached the point where they can give a time frame, of sorts, for when products based on them will appear.

Memristor is a shortened form of Memory Resistor, which has two distinct advantages over what is used on today's flash drives and solid state drives.

The first advantage is the fairly obvious one, that of reduced power consumption (pretty much every advancement nowadays has energy efficiency factored in somewhere).

The second advantage is in how memristors do not lose the information stored on them when power is cut.

Granted, SSDs don't have much issue with storing data when not plugged into anything, but this second ability of memristors, coupled with their ability to perform logic, means that, one day, chips will be able to both store and process data.

In other words, memristors could be the missing link towards computing where central processing units, CPUs as they are understood today, are unnecessary.

HP and Hynix are researching the technology, but it will still take a while for all their efforts to bear fruit.

While the team did manage to provide a vague time frame, it is, in the end, a fairly long one: 18 months, give or take, before the first memristor-based resistive random access memory (ReRAM) product is ready.

The two also refused to say what capacity and performance people can expect, except for saying that the first actual product will have multiple layers.

"We have a lot of big plans for it and we're working with Hynix Semiconductor to launch a replacement for flash in the summer of 2013 and also to address the solid-state drive market. [There is no definitive memristor product roadmap as yet], but HP has a goal to see memristor products by the end of 2013,” said Stan Williams, senior fellow at HP Labs, at a conference.

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