Lady Gaga And Eric Schmidt Invest In New Social Networking Platform For Celebs

Popstar Lady Gaga and Google chairman Eric Schmidt have invested around a million dollars in a company started by Gaga’s manager Troy Carter that will be launched by the end of the month, The New York Times reports.

Tomorrow Ventures has led a round of angel funding worth more than $1 million. Lady Gaga, who is acting as an advisor, has also invested in the company and owns a 20 percent share in the start-up.

Backplane will allow communities of musicians, sports teams and other celebrities to communicate with their fan base from a single platform and will incorporate feeds from Facebook, Twitter and .

The idea for the start-up apparently came from a meeting that Troy Carter and Lady Gaga had with Apple CEO Steve Jobs when he asked for their feedback on Ping, Apple’s social music-centered social network. Carter asked fellow tech investor and entrepreneur Matthew Michelsen to look for a platform that celebrities could use, but Michelsen suggested starting a new platform from the ground up.

With this fresh round of funding, that platform might get launched by the end of June.

Carter, apart from being Lady Gaga’s manager, has also invested in tech start-ups like, Lumier and TinyChat.

Read more:

Is My Ex Spying on Me?

A reader’s estranged husband told her he’s spying on her email. Could this be true?

It’s possible, but unlikely. And if he’s doing it, it’s almost certainly illegal.

My hunch is that he’s lying in order to mess with your head. After all, it’s much easier to tell someone that you’re spying on them then to actually do it. And it doesn’t carry the same legal ramifications.

Besides, if he was really spying on you, why would he tell you? Doing so would likely make you more careful about what you do online, get you to take steps to block his surveillance, and possibly get him arrested.

But what if he really is spying on you? After all, you want to be sure.

If he has–or might have–your email password, you should assume that he’s reading your mail. But this is easy to fix. Simply change your password.

You might also consider your presence on social networking sites. If you haven’t done so already, unfriend him in Facebook. Consider the possibility that one of your other “friends” may be sharing information with him, or might actually be him using an alias. Weed out any that you’re not sure you can trust. Then check your privacy settings to make sure you’re not letting out unwanted information. Do the same for any other social networking sites.

I very much doubt that he put surveillance software on your PC. I took a close look at one particularly well-respected program, Spector Pro (no relation to my family). Intended for employers who need to keep tabs on the use of company computers, and for parents protecting their children, Spector Pro can report back on just about anything done on your PC. You can install it in stealth mode, which allegedly hides it very effectively.

But Spector Pro wouldn’t do him much good, and not only because such a use violates the licensing agreement. For one thing, monitoring your computer use would only be possible with physical access to your PC or to a PC on the same local network. For another, I found that the program’s stealth mode isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The free SUPERAntiSpyware Portable Scanner identified and disabled SpectorPro easily.

The lesson: If your regular security software doesn’t find surveillance software, try a few other malware scanners and run them in Safe Mode. If they don’t find anything, it’s probably not there.

But if you’re still scared, there are two sure ways to free your PC of spouse-installed spyware:

1) Reinstall Windows from scratch. See Reinstall Windows Without Losing Your Data for details.

2) Get a lawyer.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter.

Are big companies actually adopting cloud computing?

Banks, manufacturers, utilities and professional services companies have the most pronounced concerns when it comes to adoption of cloud services.
The concerns of large companies are not markedly different from those of SMBs. Those concerns are security, data governance, loss of control, SLAs, use of the public internet, lack of standards and missing industry road maps. Yet despite these concerns among Multi-National Companies, adoption of Cloud computing is up 61% from last year. APAC countries are leading, with the US and Europe lagging behind.
The time frames for adoption make for interesting reading.
In a global survey of over one hundred C level executives at large Multi-National Companies, market watcher Ovum asked about what was being deployed now and what was stopping companies moving.
The analyst asked which applications would companies consider moving. There were no great surprises. Messaging, CRM and document management are viewed as cloud ready or soon to be cloud ready while Business Intelligence, ERP and finance are much more likely to be kept in house.
Findings on benefits again threw up no great surprises with performance, productivity, scalability, elasticity and flexibility all cited as key.
The list of what is shifting over to the cloud includes: Applications software (SaaS), HR, ecommerce; Networking e.g. VPN connectivity management, network sharing and provisioning; Corporate IT systems e.g. OS, servers, desktop; Communications e.g. hosted IPT, hosted contact center, web conferencing, hosted UC applications; Data management e.g. security, data backup, storage.
In each of the categories listed above the cloud adoption rate hovered around 50%. Ovum also asked if there were plans to move these to the cloud in the next six months or if the expectation was to use cloud in the next 6-24 months.
In the six month bracket, moving communications to the cloud ranked highest but only by fewer than 10% of those questioned.
For each category listed there was significantly more interest in shifting to the cloud in a six to 24 month time frame. The highest at over 30% was for data management, back up and storage and almost as high for corporate IT systems and operating systems.
These findings suggest that after the initial flurry of activity we can now expect a pause followed by a surge of activity from 2012 onwards.
Large banks, manufacturers, retailers and utilities have high expectations that within the next two years many of their key processes will be delivered via the cloud while they retain their core applications in owner managed facilities. This is the definition of a hybrid cloud model.

Adoption rate
The interesting point about this research is that it was conducted among multi-national companies. SMBs are viewed as being key targets for cloud because they are unlikely to have large existing infrastructure investments(Microsoft conducted its Global SMB Cloud Adoption Study which found that within three years, 43% of workloads will become paid cloud services, but 28% will remain on-premises, and 29% will be free or bundled with other services). Multi-nationals, however, have large data centers and significant IT assets.

But whereas these would once have acted as a barrier to change, what we are now seeing is that companies are already migration planning.
What this illustrates is a world where large companies are planning to shrink their data center footprint, possibly by adopting modular data center solutions and moving to buy services. Internal systems will shrink and the emphasis will shift to ensuring SLAs are met and additional services are considered.
We could actually be at the inflection point of large companies deciding that growing business no longer needs growing data center floor space or number of sites. Look at our news pages to gauge how many new builds are being undertaken by service providers.
Supply side
Analyst Frost and Sullivan says: “The rapid increase in the adoption of cloud computing will encourage IT service providers to introduce new services and business models that meet the end-user requirements. With the increase in complexity of services being offered, this in turn is expected to provide a growth opportunity for the test equipment companies to increase their product offerings and add new customers in this market.”
So we have cloud suppliers attempting to differentiate themselves with value added services, lots of activity in modular data centers and now major companies considering moving the majority of their IT to the cloud in the next 6-24 months. It takes many factors to reach an inflection point.

This article first appeared in FOCUS magazine, issue 16, out now.

Week in review: PBS, Sony hacks, disruption of Chinese Google phishing attack

Here’s an overview of some of last week’s most interesting news and articles:

Fake YouTube notifications doing rounds
YouTube users are targeted with notifications supposedly sent by YouTube administrators and containing links to Canadian pharmacy sites, warns BitDefender.

Backdoor instructions for Allied Telesis switches leaked
A simple categorizing mistake has resulted in the publishing of an internal Allied Telesis document that reveals how to set up backdoor accounts for the company’s switches. Indexed by Google, it was spotted, downloaded and posted to a file sharing site.

PBS website hit by hacktivists, its database leaked online
The hacktivist group behind the Fox breach seems to have made good on its promise to “own more things next week” – they have targeted the PBS website during the weekend. The hit was made in retaliation for the PBS’ Frontline documentary about Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks, which they feel has not done justice to the young army private.

25 years of mobile security
This year marks the 25th anniversary of my first foray into mobile security. True story.

Phishing forms on Google Docs
Google Docs is a handy online service for creating various types of documents that are hosted by the company in their cloud and can be made accessible to the greater public. But, as it turns out, the service is not only handy for regular users, but for phishers as well.

Data center IT departments fear targeted attacks
IT departments are now turning to virtualization, with half of the respondents having either implemented or are planning to deploy private clouds, according to a McAfee study.

Iran aims to exchange the global Internet for a national one
The Iran government is increasingly unsatisfied with the influence the Internet is exercising on the country’s citizens despite its censorship efforts and is planning on setting up a national Internet disconnected from the World Wide Web, reports the Wall Street Journal. The initiative is the result of government’s deep-seated belief that the West – especially the US – are using the Internet to insidiously “poison” Iranian minds with Western ideas and culture.

Romanian president declared dead by e-mail scam
BitDefender discovered a spam wave using the Romanian president’s image to help spread malware. The unsolicited e-mail relies on a classic combination of social engineering tricks: promised photo content and attention-grabbing events.

Social networking safety tips for kids
ESET’s seven golden rules for parents and children for online security.

Employee-owned mobile devices are riskiest
More than half of information technology leaders in the US believe that any employee-owned mobile device poses a greater risk to the enterprise than mobile devices supplied by the company, according to a new member survey by ISACA. Yet 27 percent still believe that the benefits outweigh the risks.

US will consider cyber attacks as acts of war
The US is finally working on a formal strategy on how to deal with cyber attacks against its networks, systems or infrastructure, and so far it seems it is one that will concentrate on deterrence.

Facebook users targeted with OS aware fake AV attack
Fake AV peddlers have begun using Facebook to drive traffic to the malicious site that tries to trick users into believing their computer is infected.

Google disrupts phishing attack against government officials, political activists
An attack apparently coming from Jinan – the capital of China’s Shandong province – against personal Gmail accounts belonging to hundreds of users has been spotted and disrupted by Google.

More US military contractors hit by cyber attacks
It seems that the floodgates have opened. Following the confirmed attack against Lockheed Martin’s computer networks comes the news that two more US military contractors have suffered attacks to their systems.

26 trojanized apps pulled from Android Market
26 applications containing a variation of the DroidDream Trojan have been found on the official Android Market and are believed to have been downloaded by at least 30,000 users. Lookout researchers believe that they were created and uploaded by the same developers who were behind the original DroidDream onslaught back in March.

Auto-dialing Trojans migrate to Android devices
Auto-dialing malware has migrated from Symbian devices to Android ones, warns NetQin Mobile researchers. The Trojan has been spotted embedded in over 20 Android applications offered for download on various online forums, including Donkey Jump, Jungle Monkey, Gold Miner, Voice SMS, Drag Racing and others.

Apple security update bypassed after 8 hours
It took only eight hours for the malware developers behind the MacDefender and its variants to come up with a way to bypass the security update pushed out by Apple. The malware developers have changed tack: a downloader program is installed first, and it then retrieves the actual malicious payload.

Sony hit again, data from 1 million user accounts leaked
LulzSec, the hacker group behind the Fox and PBS breaches, has struck again. This time the target was

Stolen passwords used as bait in malware spam run
At the rate at which databases of various online services are currently being compromised, I expect that emails such as this latest one spotted by Symantec will become a common occurrence.

Cloud Computing and Hacking

Hacks such as that which took place against Gmail and the Sony Playstation gaming network are threatening to dampen the take off of Cloud Computing. Such set backs will slow the growth of the ever-expanding Cloud market which is expected to exceed $55 billion by 2014 according to IDC.

The outstanding security issues with Cloud Computing will need to be addressed accordingly if users are going to trust its implementation. This is especially apparent when considering the corporate space and it doesn’t bode well when consumer data is being lost left, right and centre.

“Many enterprises have reservations about the security of cloud computing because of the multi-tenant architecture and the fact that cloud providers are big targets” Steve Hodgkinson, IT research director at UK-based research firm Ovum.

Cloud providers have a huge incentive to put in place the very best security and such measures may make them arguably more secure than most corporate networks.

It is thought that hardware based security is the route to go with regards to high levels of protection. Software based security is not as effective according to analysts.

“We have to do a combination of mitigating things like building more and more security in the infrastructure.” Boyd Davis, speaking at the chipmaker Intel Corp Computex computer show in Taipei this week.

Despite software and hardware vendors alike working tirelessly in order to make the cloud infrastructure more simplified, secure and efficient there are crippling issues with compatibility.

Apple’s iCloud may prove to be a rare exception however because they are a vertical organisation and build everything in-house. There is no cross pollination of tech meaning that applications can talk to each other.

A delicate balance must be struck between having a high level of compatibility and not creating an environment where it actually becomes easier for hackers to gain access.

Analysis: The hidden cost of cybercrime

The first three months of 2011 has seen a record number of new malicious software, or "malware," released on the internet. Accounting the cost of cyber attacks, however, remains difficult as the crime is underreported, analysts say.

(CNN) — A few years ago a disgruntled employee for a large multinational automotive firm left the company — but when he walked out the door, he also walked out with plans for a new car model under development on a cheap USB drive.

When the plans were leaked, the cost to the company was an estimated $1 billion in lost sales and increased research and development costs, according to a security expert who worked on the case.

“The information ended up being published, which saw sales plummet for the existing model as customers decided to wait for the new model,” said the expert, who asked not to be named due to confidentiality agreements with the automaker.

Yet that theft will never showed up in criminal statistics, nor will the cost be listed in public ledgers as cost due to “cybercrime.” Murky by nature, cybercrime losses are difficult to categorize. That helps keep them hidden from the public eye by companies leery of publicizing breaches in corporate security.

The cost of cybercrime has come into focus due to a recent spate of high profile computer crimes: a hacker attack on Sony in May took its PlayStation Network down for 23 days after confidential information on tens of millions of network subscribers was breached; the company estimated the cost of that attack will total $171 million.

The aerospace and defense titan Lockheed Martin announced it had “a significant and tenacious attack” on May 21 using data stolen from security token maker RSA, which was hacked itself in March. Google last week announced a scam that appeared to emanate from China that stole Gmail passwords in a targeted attack of hundreds of high profile U.S. and South Korean government officials, as well as journalists and Chinese activists. more

Can video games help theatre reach the next level?

From digital characters to plays set on Facebook … playwrights could do with young people’s technical support

LA Noire

Game on … Rockstar Games’ LA Noire fuses real acting and gaming technology – why can’t theatre be as innovative? Photograph:

For the past week, I’ve been captivated by Rockstar Games‘ latest release LA Noire. I’ve been wondering if I’m the only playwright to have been. Somehow I doubt it. The game’s fusion of real acting and gaming technology uses facial scanning of actors to produce the most emotionally textured, lifelike world modern consoles have yet seen. It’s been hard not to feel like it leaves my own art form standing in the dust.


I’ve also been having stimulating chats with director Ellie Jones, a longtime collaborator, for whom the gaming/theatre fusion is a real passion. She directed The New World Order, a walkthrough site-specific version of Pinter recently finished at the Brighton festival, and we’re developing a new play for next year’s festival together, to be performed in a real hospital, where the audience get “cast” as either patients or medics.


True, some companies have been doing this for years. Many will be familiar with the usual list of ConeyPunchdrunkdreamthinkspeak,Stan’s Cafe and others who are pushing the theatrical form in this way. But more traditional, playwright-led theatremaking seems a little reticent in this respect – with one exception.


I have a theory that when it comes to single-authored plays, it’s those which have involved young people in their process that most organically embed film, new media and gaming in their theatricality. Half Moon Young People’s Theatre recently fused abstract projections and physical theatre to access interior worlds in David Lane’s Begin/End. Paula B Stanic’s forthcoming Under a Foreign Sky for Theatre Centre uses a video link across continents to capture the dislocation of a young migrant. While Kenny Baraka’s extraordinary The Rememberers for Birmingham Rep used hip-hop and projected animation to bring an entire graphic novel to life on stage. I’m becoming more and more convinced that theatremaking with and for young people gives writers a freedom to innovate with form in a way not available to them elsewhere.


In March I blogged about a new scheme for playwrights I was starting up, in my role as associate artist at Tamasha. We recruited eight playwrights to come into Mulberry School for Girls in east London, take part in a series of structured workshops with the students, and write a short play in response. Part of the offer for our writers was to work with my colleague, film-maker Tanya Singh, on including a multimedia element to their play ideas. Many of the writers have enthusiastically taken this up – and not just to augment their stories, but to shape the very concept. We’ve got plays set entirely within Facebook, or in Blade Runner-style dystopian futures, on live TV talk shows, or which feature a character which is a digital double, or show how innocent smartphone film clips of a dead friend can unhelpfully prolong the grieving process.


These playful works-in-progress will be showcased at a scratch performance, involving the students performing alongside professional actors – and projected footage – at Soho Theatre this Friday. Many of the ideas have come directly from the students themselves, with the writers explicitly acknowledging that not only would they not necessarily have come up with these fusions themselves, but that even if they had, they would think twice before pitching these technologically ambitious and formally innovative ideas at a mainstream theatre company. As one of them put it, working with young people at Mulberry has “freed us up from the curse of naturalism”.


This approach isn’t without its complications, of course. We’re going to have to try to do justice to some demanding technical effects at a script-in-hand reading. Throw in a cast of mostly teenage actors and the potential for hiccups increases exponentially. And, were these ideas to be developed further – as I hope they will be – any future productions would also come with increased costs.


But the level of formal innovation which our writers are striving for was not an outcome I had anticipated when we started the course. It’s exciting that it seems to have caught the imaginations of both playwrights and students. Perhaps this approach could offer some inspiration to the mainstream theatre industry on how it could respond to changing technology, whilst also attracting the next generation of young people – for whom it is such second nature. If we allow playwrights to tap into young people’s expertise, a theatrical equivalent of LA Noire could be closer than we think.


• The Tamasha-Mulberry scratch performance takes place at Soho Theatre Upstairs on Friday 10 June at 2.30pm. Tickets are free but need to be reserved through Tamasha. Please email “Soho Theatre” in the subject line

Acer Europe Servers Hacked, Personal Information Of 40K Users Compromised Read more:

Pakistan Cyber Army, a hacking group from Pakistan has reportedly breached in to an Acer Server in Europe and got away with sensitive personal information of over 40,000 users.

Adding more to the worries of the company, the group also revealed that the hackers got their hands on numerous source codes stored in the breached systems.

The news first surfaced on The Hacker News (THN), where samples of the stolen data, including names, addresses, email ids and even phone numbers, were shown using screenshots of the server’s storage space.

THN also claimed that it was contacted by the Pakistan Cyber Army members to inform these onslaughts on the PC and laptop maker’s systems.

When asked for comments, Lisa Emard Acer’s American unit’s director of media relation claimed that the US operation of the company was yet to get any news about the breach. However, she assured that they were putting efforts to get an update on the issue from their officials in Europe.

Unfortunately for Acer, which also happens to be the second largest computer manufacturer in the world, this latest security breach has taken place at a crucial time when the company was already going through an eagle-eyed scrutiny over the way it submits its financial reports.

Read more:

China paper warns Google may pay price for hacking claims

A photo of the Google Inc. logo is shown on a computer screen in San Francisco, California July 16, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

(Reuters) – Google has become a “political tool” vilifying the Chinese government, an official Beijing newspaper said on Monday, warning that the U.S. Internet giant’s statements about hacking attacks traced to China could hurt its business.

The tough warning appeared in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, the leading newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, indicating that political tensions between the United States and China over Internet security could linger.

Last week, Google said it had broken up an effort to steal the passwords of hundreds of Google email account holders, including U.S. government officials, Chinese human rights advocates and journalists. It said the attacks appeared to come from China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected those accusations, and the party newspaper warned Google against playing a risky political game.

By saying that Chinese human rights activists were among the targets of the hacking, Google was “deliberately pandering to negative Western perceptions of China, and strongly hinting that the hacking attacks were the work of the Chinese government,” the People’s Daily overseas edition, a small offshoot of the main domestic paper, said in a front-page commentary.

“Google’s accusations aimed at China are spurious, have ulterior motives, and bear malign intentions,” said the commentary, written by an editor at the paper.

“Google should not become overly embroiled in international political struggle, playing the role of a tool for political contention,” the paper added.

“For when the international winds shift direction, it may become sacrificed to politics and will be spurned by the marketplace,” it said, without specifying how Google’s business could be hurt.

The latest friction with Google could bring Internet policy back to the foreground of U.S.-China relations, reprising tensions last year when the Obama administration took up Google’s complaints about hacking and censorship from China.

Google partly pulled out of China after that dispute. Since then, it has lost more share to rival Baidu Inc in China’s Internet market, the world’s largest by user numbers with more than 450 million users.

Google last week that the hacking attacks appeared to come from Jinan, the capital of China’s eastern Shandong province and home to an intelligence unit of the People’s Liberation Army.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates over the weekend warned that Washington was prepared to use force against cyber-attacks it considered acts of war.

In February, overseas Chinese websites, inspired by anti-authoritarian uprisings across the Arab world, called for protests across China, raising Beijing’s alarm about dissent and prompting tightened censorship of the Internet.

China already blocks major foreign social websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy.)

Beware of Skype Voice Spam

My Skype line rang the other day. The caller was listed simply as “Online Help.” Curious, I picked up the line.

On the other end I heard a robotic voice telling me my PC security had been compromised, viruses were detected on my computer, and that I needed to visit to download software that would fix it. It then continually repeated this message until I hung up.

I thought: Skype voice spam. That’s a new one. And then I thought: Oh god, is that what we’re all in for from now on?

[ See also: Anatomy of a Privacy Nightmare. ]

I immediately blocked the number and checked Skype’s Report Abuse box. Then I searched Skype’s directory for callers using the name “Online Help” and found more than 100.

Skype Directory filled with bogus malware profilesSkype Directory filled with bogus malware profilesSkype Directory filled with bogus malware profiles

Some were legitimate online support numbers for legitimate companies. But dozens were exactly like the one that called me — using what was obviously a randomly generated nonsense user name like “draimxconlinek1” or “dreimdcimcvixmc.”

It gets weirder. My Skype history shows no record of this call at all. So whoever is behind this scam managed to engineer a sophisticated bot-driven attack that compromised Skype’s usual procedures.

It turns out I am not alone in receiving this call. I found a string of users on Yahoo Answers who’d received similar calls. Though the site was no longer operating by the time I looked for it, some of them managed to reach it. Apparently visitors to that site were prompted to download “security software” that would infect their PCs with malware.

A responder named Zeke wrote:

Do NOT go to the site! I downloaded the program onto a safe computer (no Internet, and some fake contacts, emails, and a few fake passwords saved in Firefox.) I then went to monitor it and it was taking the passwords, emails, and contacts and trying to send them to a weird website. I wasn’t able to get [to the site], as it crashed the computer. When I got it back up [the software] turned Windows to frappe and nothing worked right. Happily that was a isolated computer with a backup Windows disk, so I was able to restore it.

Well, isn’t that special. While I’m sure readers of TY4NS know better than to fall for this kind of ruse, I’m sure many out there don’t. Skype has infiltrated the newbies camp in sufficient numbers to become an attractive target for this kind of thing.

What’s troubling me is that it’s unclear what Skype is doing to stop this problem. I reported several of these numbers as abusive two days ago. Yet when I search today there are more of them, not less.

Skype support is notoriously hard to contact — a problem, I think, for a service that charges actual money — and that is something that needs to change. Paying customers (like me) deserve actual support, not FAQs and a “feedback” option.

I find it ironic this happened two weeks after Microsoft announced its intention to buy Skype. I doubt those two things are related. I would not be surprised if the attack were related to Skype’s log-in snafus last week, however.

Skype security — or lack thereof — is now yet another thing we need to worry about. Let’s hope voice spam doesn’t turn into the next malware epidemic.

When not bitching about Skype’s lack of support, TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan tends his eHumor empireeSarcasm. Follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech.