Thursday, January 17, 2008

Symantec releases online cyber-security quiz

n the realm of companies I wouldn't expect to release an online game, Symantec is right up at the top of the list.

But that's just what the security software firm has done with its Cyber Smackdown online quiz, a Web-based game that tasks players with answering questions related to cyber security.

It's a good idea, and if Symantec had bothered to come up with some difficult questions or even a few dozen different questions, it would have also been a nice manifestation.

Unfortunately, it seems--from my multiple tests of the game on both Safari and Firefox, at least--that the game's creators only bothered to write 12 questions, and so if you take the quiz multiple times, you just get the same questions in a different order. How challenging!

I scoff because, let's be honest, how hard would it have been to write, say, 24 questions? Or 36? Or 48? So that if someone felt like taking the quiz again, they might find new questions.

As it is, the list of questions runs along the lines of "What percentage of those surveyed said they have received a fraudulent email from someone pretending to be a real institution asking for personal information?"

There's also questions that ask for a definition (from a multiple choice list) for malware or typo-squatting.

The questions themselves weren't all that bad, though for the most part the answers were rather obvious. I just wish there had been way more of them.

I suppose, in the end, this exercise wasn't really about presenting players with any kind of real challenge, but more just to get Symantec's Norton brand name in front of people who like to play games. Symantec released the game at CES this week, so it was obviously counting on passers-by getting excited by the game.

But sitting here at my desk at CNET, I have to say I'm not so impressed.

Update at 2:49 PM: I just heard from Symantec, and the deal is that the company plans to release a full version of the game on Jan. 10 which will have 120 questions. The version with 12 questions is a CES-only version.

Symantec's Norton 360 Version 2.0 Beta to Include Browser Protection, Norton Identity Safe, and More Backup Options

NEWS FACTS - Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC) today announced that version 2.0 of its market leading all-in-one security solution, Norton 360, will be available by early-January 2008.

Most Successful Norton Product Line Launch

Norton 360 has proven to be the most successful new PC security suite product line launch.[1] Since its inception in February 2007, Norton 360 continues to win praise from customers and the industry. Norton 360's popularity stems from its "silent security" approach, providing strong protection with minimal interruption.

Norton 360 version 2.0 Continues to Deliver With Key New Features

Browser Protection - More online threats are occurring through drive-by downloads, where cybercriminals exploit browser vulnerabilities on legitimate sites and inject threats onto visitors' computers. Norton 360's browser protection technology secures your browser against attacks, proactively blocking new, unknown malware before they hit your PC.

Norton Identity Safe - Secure password and form auto-fill, along with a password vault, combine with Symantec's advanced antiphishing technology to offer protection against online fraud and a convenient way to manage your identities.

Backup to Blu-Ray and iPod - More options for backup destinations, including Blu-ray, iPods and shared drives. Now you can choose the backup method that best suits your data protection needs.

Advanced Protection That's Simple and Unobtrusive

Norton 360 version 2.0 includes additional new features fueled by the need to provide computer users with the latest advanced protection against online threats and our customers' feedback. Norton 360 version 2.0 not only secures your online activities and data, it also makes protection simple and unobtrusive. For those who want more interaction with the product, Norton 360 version 2.0 makes it easier to navigate settings.

Additional new features in Norton 360 version 2.0 include:

PC Security

  • Intelligent background scanner silently automates security and performance tasks
  • Home network map checks the status of wireless security, maps connected devices, and provides expert advice to help users manage network security settings
  • Manually scan individual files and folders with a simple right click and select

Identity Protection

  • Antiphishing protection combined with Web site authentication for Firefox
  • One-click login to trusted sites with Norton Identity Safe


  • Tighter integration with Windows Explorer, allowing backup status for each document, music file and photo to be easily viewed in Windows Explorer
  • Add a file for backup by right clicking and selecting

PC Tuneup

  • Ability to optimize PC performance by removing unneeded registry files, which can build up over time and slow down your computer
  • Option for automatic shutdown upon task completion
  • Diagnostic report for easy system troubleshooting and problem solving
  • Internet browser cleanup capability extended to the Firefox browser

Once available, public beta can be downloaded at

[1] The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, based on data ranked on dollar sales in retail and through Symantec's online store after 1995.


Rowan Trollope, senior vice president, Symantec Corp.

"A complete security solution must provide multiple layers of protection in order to truly secure consumers from today's threats. Norton 360 version 2.0 offers Symantec's award-winning signature based technology as well as new proactive, heuristic-based technology that prevent threats from ever reaching the system."

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president, Symantec Corp.

"Norton 360 version 2.0 makes it more convenient for consumers to backup and restore the valuable files they have on their PC - whether it's documents, music or photos. We offer you several options to choose from when it comes to backing up, including Blu-ray, HD/DVD, your iPod, or shared drives."

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president, Symantec Corp.

"With the first version of Norton 360, we really listened to our customers' feedback, and we found that ease of use was what they appreciated most. We continued the same customer focused approach for version 2.0 to ensure we met their needs and expectations. In the newest version of Norton 360, we focused on providing the innovative protection technologies Symantec is known for while ensuring the product continues to be unobtrusive and easy to use."

Sibal launches web portal for PIOs

he Centre on Wednesday, launched a web portal to enable professionals of Indian origin in the US exchange ideas and forge partnerships.

Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal launched where details of where details of more than 200 groups of professionals have already been collected.

"Information has also been collected on more than 20,000 records of innovations and patents in the last few years that include large number of professionals of Indian origin," Sibal said.

He said this data will be useful to identify innovators and their technologies to build partnerships.

The members joining this initiative on a voluntary basis will have the benefit of interacting with the professionals in their areas.

The portal will also help in providing timely information to the members on important happenings and events in their professional fields both in India and the US.

Sibal said the government has spent one lakh dollars on the initiative and expects the portal to be a self-financing one in the next year.

US businesses warm to Vista

Uptake of Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system is starting to pick up among US businesses.

Just under half (48 percent) of US IT decision makers are using or evaluating Vista, according to a poll by IT services firm CDW.

This is CDW's third Windows Vista tracking poll since October 2006 and shows a 19 percentage-point increase in uptake since February 2007.

Vista migration is also increasing, with more than a third (35 percent) of those surveyed saying they are in the process of moving to Vista. In comparison, just 12 percent said this last February.

Thirteen percent of these migrations are complete and another third are due to be finished by May 2008.

CDW claimed this shows Microsoft's latest operating system is now seen as a more viable option in the mainstream business market.

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Of those still testing and migrating to Vista, almost half said its performance and key features are "above expectations" with the top-rated features being security, performance, productivity, search and updates.

Mark Gambill, CDW vice president, said the past year was one of "adaptations and learning for Microsoft, industry partners and adopters alike".

Gambill added that, since people have begun to understand the benefits of the operating system, there has been a "steady move towards adoption".

The CDW survey also found an increase in Microsoft Office 2007 adoption, with almost a quarter (24 percent) of businesses saying they'd made the move, compared to just six percent in the last survey.

The poll was conducted by Walker Information and covered 772 IT decision makers.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Beta Opens Up

Are you a Windows Vista user? If so, Microsoft has opened its beta release of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) up for the public to download, following several months of private beta testing. You can download it now at Microsoft’s site.

As has been true of previous Service Packs for Windows, Vista SP1 is focused on fixing bugs, improving performance, and other under-the-hood enhancements. Installing the Service Packs as they are released has become a widespread practice, and Microsoft’s Service Packs for Windows XP have been notable for fixing many security problems in the operating system. However, it is worth noting that Vista SP1 is still pre-release software, and you will want to evaluate some issues pertaining to how you install it.

Note that if you are going to download and install Vista SP1, you can choose either of two ways to do so. You can install it using an Automatic Update process (listed as Method 1 at the link above), or to install it as fast as possible you can perform a manual installation using Windows Update (listed as Method 2). If you choose the Automatic Update process, your complete installation will actually take several days, because prerequisites for the Service Pack and the components themselves will be added incrementally, not in one download and install process.

Windows Vista is available in several versions. These are the supported versions for Vista SP1: Windows Vista; Windows Vista Business 64-bit edition; Windows Vista Enterprise 64-bit edition; Windows Vista Home Basic 64-bit edition; Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit edition; and Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit edition.

If you want more enhancements for Windows Vista, you may want to download Tweak VI from TotalIdea software, which can automatically provide performance and efficiency improvements. Also, the Tweakguides Tweaking Companion for Windows Vista makes it easy to customize many aspects of the operating system.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bonjour, iPhone!

On Wednesday night, following a now-familiar ritual, French consumers lined up outside shops to snap up Apple's sleek iPhone handsets as soon as they hit shelves. Orange, France Telecom's mobile subsidiary, which was tapped by Apple to be the phone's exclusive operator in France, kept its Parisian flagship store open until 2:30 a.m. to handle the traffic.

France Telecom (nyse: FTE - news - people ), which has priced the phones at $589 with a two-year contract and $1,106 without a contract, expects to sell 100,000 by the end of the year and 400,000 to 500,000 by the end of 2008.

The French launch has left iPhone enthusiasts wondering where the sleek handset is likely to pop up next. This fall, Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) announced that the phone, which debuted on June 29 in the U.S., would subsequently arrive in the U.K., Germany and France in October and November. So far, Apple has kept quiet about the phone's next destination, other than noting that it wants to start selling in Asia some time next year.

The lack of news has left fans, analysts and media outlets devising their own theories. With the three largest European markets already taken care of, the rest of the globe appears wide open. (iPhone launches have thus far proceeded country by country, despite the option of partnering with multi-national carriers like Vodafone (nyse: VOD - news - people ).)

How about China? Italy? Portugal? Or even Austria? Apple is mum.

Here are the factors that likely weigh into the decision: The deals Apple is striking with carriers are believed to include provisions for sharing revenue, which are more generously tilted toward Apple than is the norm for handset makers in the mobile industry. The fact that the iPhone has been priced differently in each of the three foreign markets it has entered thus far points up the complexity of the agreements. (The iPhone sells for $399 in the U.S. and $555 in the U.K. In Germany, "locked" versions of the phone that work only on T-Mobile's network are $589; unlocked versions are $1,478.)

That means Apple's first order of business in selling the iPhone abroad is identifying carriers that are willing to meet its terms. The company lacks the close carrier relationships and extensive distribution networks that more established handset makers, such as Motorola (nyse: MOT - news - people ), have. While it could sell direct to consumers in the 26 countries where it has stores, it still needs to hammer out network agreements. "If Apple is running into any impediments, it's probably on the business side, making deals with operators," says Charles Golvin, a principal analyst with Forrester Research. "As it looks abroad, Apple needs to do much more lengthy negotiations than its peers do."

Next, Apple is also likely to target markets where its brand is particularly popular. "One might imagine they would go after countries where they have found success with the iPod or the Mac," says Golvin. That could favor countries like the Netherlands, which is a strong market for Apple goods. D.P. Venkatesh, chief executive of mPortal, a Washington D.C.-based mobile software manufacturer, thinks Apple may analyze iTunes usage for leads, since iTunes, like most cellphones, is sold by subscription, making it a more relevant business model.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs has said he aims to sell 10 million iPhones worldwide in 2008, a figure equal to 1% of the global mobile phone market. In October, Apple announced it had sold 1.4 million handsets through the end of September.

That aggressive sales goal points to big markets, say, China and India, the world's largest and fastest-growing cellphone markets, respectively. The Chinese market is currently double the size of the U.S., with lots of room to grow. Fewer than half of China's 1.3 billion people currently own a cellphone. Wang Jianzhou, the chief executive of China Mobile Ltd. (nyse: CHL - news - people ), the country's largest mobile phone operator, was quoted earlier this month saying the company was in talks with Apple.

India, on the other hand, boasts a large population with a voracious appetite for mobile devices, but fewer people who can afford the pricey phone. Venkatesh estimates the Indian iPhone market at 25 million people, about 2.2% of the country's population. In a country with an estimated per capita income of $964, and where many phones sell for less than $50, the iPhone would have to go in as a premium product, limiting its sales, says Venkatesh.

"It doesn't seem like a great fit for the Indian market, given the kind of premiums they're trying to charge for the phone itself," says Golvin. But Venkatesh points out that Apple could link up with advertisers and mobile content providers to subsidize the phone's cost.

Australia, Brazil and Russia are also good bets for Apple, as all have enough potential customers to form a solid user base for the iPhone, says Venkatesh. Dubai and the United Arab Emirates could be attractive, given their skyrocketing levels of disposable income, he says. And Hong Kong and Singapore, where the population is considered particularly gadget-savvy, would also be a natural fit.

Now the hurdles. First there's the not-so-small issue of standards. For now, the iPhone works on a kind of technology called GSM (Global System for Mobile communications), which isn't available in the gadget-friendly markets of Japan and South Korea.

AT&T (nyse: T - news - people ), Apple's iPhone partner in the U.S., recently confirmed that Apple will launch a 3G iPhone next year. That change will help: Europe has enthusiastically taken up the 3G standard with about 45 million subscribers as of this spring, according to, a Web site that tracks 3G news. The high-speed Internet technology is particularly popular in Italy, Portugal and Sweden. "We'll look at the iPhone when it becomes 3G," says Boris Nemsic, chief executive of Telekom Austria Group, a European telecom company with 11 million mobile customers.

But even 3G still leaves the iPhone an awkward fit into Japan and South Korea.

Then there are those pesky consumer laws. Belgium, Finland and Italy restrict carriers from offering exclusive, or even favored, access to a particular device. Apple has grappled with similar policies in France and Germany. Its solution--an "unlocked" phone that can be used on any mobile network for a hefty premium--has drawn criticism from some consumers.

World domination isn't here yet. But Apple's persistence and marketing muscle mean the sun may never set on the iPhone--some day soon.