China’s Government Takes On Microblogs, Blogs, Online Forums

With ever-increasing restrictions on online activity, Chinese authorities are trying to make Internet service providers act as Web police for the government.

Last month it was blog users, this month it’s blog owners. The Chinese government announced today that it will tighten restrictions on all Internet service providers for blogs, microblogs, and online forums — forcing them to act as Web police, according to the Associated Press.
This is just the latest in a long list of restrictions that the government is enforcing on its citizens. According to the Associated Press, China began requiring real-name registration on all microblogs in December. However, people still seem to be sneaking under the radar.

The new restrictions entail making the Internet providers act as regulators in for real-name registration, according to the Associated Press. The blogs and microblogs are now required to work with the police and warn users of criminal punishment if they don’t follow the rules and use their real identities. Additionally, all providers must be licensed and keep logs for a year that will serve to “provide technical assistance” to the authorities.

China is a blogging and microblogging powerhouse with hundreds of millions of people using those sites daily. Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service, has more than 300 million users, which is far more than Twitter’s active users. The growth of blogging sites has resulted in a rapid expansion of places where Chinese people can express themselves — something the government has long viewed as a threat.
At the end of April, Sina Weibo came under fire by the government for fueling “toxic rumors” about a possible political coup and the social network was punished by having user comments deactivated for three days.

Just a couple of weeks later, in May, the Twitter-like service announced plans to establish a “user contract.” The contract, which has dozens of rules, bans “promoting evil teachings and superstitions,” “spreading rumors,” and “calling for disruption of social order through illegal gatherings.”

Dell says XPS 13 ultrabook exceeds sales expectations

Dell’s first ultrabook is off to a strong start, offering some hope for the new class of skinny laptops.

The XPS 13 ultrabook is selling well above expectations, a Dell executive told CNET this week, offering some hope for the new class of skinny laptops.

“We can’t build enough of them at the moment,” said Sam Burd, vice president of Dell’s Consumer and SMB (small and medium business) product group, speaking about the higher-end laptop announced back in January.

“A little bit less than 3X the expected demand,” he said. Burd declined to be more specific, saying Dell “never” discloses numbers.

Still, an upbeat statement about sales — however nonspecific — is good news. Industry observers are watching the category closely to see if it can succeed and take some of the wind out of the sails of the MacBook Air and iPad. The latter is selling at a blistering pace of more than 10 million a quarter.

“I’m optimistic in the long run about ultrabooks,” said Stephen Baker, an analyst at the NPD Group.

He says PC makers and retailers need to get off the “$399 treadmill” by cutting back on the number of models and making more money off the ones that remain. “Look at the iPad. People are willing to pay $600 or $700 for something that gives them a great experience. Something that looks good and makes them feel comfortable and confident,” he said.

The XPS 13 passes the good-looks test. And it’s thin and light (0.71 inches, 3 pounds).

But it’s not cheap, starting at $999. So, why is it selling so well? “Half the sales of the XPS 13 are coming from enterprise [large corporate] customers. That’s a lot of its success,” Burd said.

And that’s one of the bigger challenges for Dell — to straddle the consumer and corporate markets with a single design. For those who haven’t noticed, Dell is becoming more of a corporate enterprise-centric company and less of a consumer outfit. So, designs like the XPS 13 that appeal to both sets of customers are an imperative.

This trend is sometimes referred to as the “consumerization” of IT: employees bringing their personal devices — like iPads — to work.

Burd says the XPS 13 inherits some of the traits that make the iPad and smartphone so popular. “We took the things that an iPad or smartphone does well, in terms of booting up quickly, being highly mobile…and then took that even further. You can do productivity and not lose anything,” he said, referring to common business tasks like word processing and spreadsheets.

But it’s still corporate-capable. “We can load a company’s image on the system, we can put custom BIOS settings on the system, an asset tag so they can track it,” he said.

This is a different tack than the company took with its original ultrathin laptop, the Adamo. That aluminum-clad, 0.65-inch thick design — announced back in early 2009 — was the first thoughtful response to the MacBook Air from a first-tier PC maker. But it was not marketed alternatively as a corporate workhorse like the XPS 13.

“The [Adamo] design was cutting edge [and] ended up being great looking but an expensive system with less power. It was run off ULV [ultra-low-voltage] processors that at that time were a lot slower,” he said. The XPS 13 — designed in Austin by Dell — uses much faster Sandy Bridge processors today.

What’s next for Dell? “We think touch becomes a pretty interesting option for products that have Windows 8 loaded on them,” Burd said. But that won’t happen automatically. “Touch adds cost…part of it becoming standard is that people need to see the value of that. It’s still a pretty significant added cost, adding capacitive touch,” he said.

And expect more XPS and Inspiron (Dell’s consumer brand) models later. “We’ll have sister, brother products to the XPS 13 that will build out that portfolio and we’ll have a new design language for the Inspiron too,” he said.

Android vs. iPhone: How to choose

In many ways, today’s smartphone era is a two-party system. While Windows Phone is finally starting to pick up a little speed, and there are BlackBerry devotees among us, smartphone shopping often boils down to picking between Android and the iPhone. Sure it’s true that they’re head-to-head competitors in many respects, but the two mobile juggernauts offer very distinctly different experiences. We’ll break down what they have in common and where they differ, so you can size up your own needs and find your smartphone soulmate.

The iPhone: The one and only

When people talk about something “on the iPhone” they’re usually referring to a feature of the iPhone’s software, known as iOS. Unlike other smartphones, there’s really just one iPhone, though older versions of the same phone do exist. Apple is also on-point about keeping its devices up to speed on the same software, so it’s way less confusing across the board than Android. Apple’s current generation of iPhone is the iPhone 4S, and before that we had the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and so on. While there’s just one (current) iPhone, you can buy it in black or white, and you can choose how much storage space to spring for.

The many faces of Android

The term Android refers to both Google’s mobile operating system as well as any device running Android. This gets tricky: some Verizon Android phones are branded as “Droids” but Android owners occasionally refer to any Android device as a “Droid,” regardless of carrier. There are Android phones of all shapes and sizes from all four major mobile carriers.

The App Store vs. the Android Market

Getting down to it, apps are the reason most of us buy a smartphone these days. Apple’s App Store is a bustling hub of downloadable games and tools, and it’s widely regarded as the biggest, best app marketplace to date. Apple is known for having a relatively strict and at times arbitrary approach to the apps it lets into the App Store, which has resulted in some controversies in the past. Still, the App Store remains king of the hill.

From the beginning of Android, Google emphasized the “openness” of its mobile OS, and the company doesn’t have the same kind of strict app approval process for its own app hub, the Android Market. Critics of Google’s approach suggest that this system fails to filter out malware, while Android evangelists believe that the laissez-faire approach works itself out.

Either way, the app stores are quite comparable. The iPhone OS has been around for longer, so the iPhone’s store naturally boasts more apps than the Android Market. But increasingly, new and popular apps are being developed in parallel for both platforms, and very few big hits remain exclusive to one store or the other.

Android advantages

A unique advantage afforded by Android is its integration with Google. Gmail’s ubiquity means that just about everyone can benefit from Android’s superior native Gmail app. Beyond Gmail, Android’s version of Google Maps offers some unique and extremely useful features like Google’s Navigation, a GPS-driven, turn-by-turn directions app for the car that’s a solid substitute for a stand-alone GPS system. If you’re plugged into Google’s Web world, you’ll feel right at home on Android.

On the whole, Android is a more flexible OS. If there’s something that bugs you about your phone or some setting you’d like to tweak, odds are an app on the Android Market does just that. Even a simple setting on the phone itself may control what you need. A set of slick apps known as “launchers” can even modify the look and feel of Android entirely. Truly, no two Androids are alike.

Android drawbacks

A criticism frequently leveled at Android is the issue of “fragmentation.” Android fragmentation refers to the existence of multiple versions of Android across many different phones. The current version of Android is nicknamed Ice Cream Sandwich and also commonly called Android 4.0 or “ICS”, but many relatively new devices still run an older version of the operating system.

But the plot thickens even further: Android device manufacturers usually offer their own interpretation of Android, via a layer of software known as a “skin”. Skins can come with their own unique look and even skin-specific apps that you wouldn’t find on a phone by a different manufacturer, meaning that a Motorola Android phone will look and function a bit differently from a comparable Android phone made by HTC.

Some of the best known skins include HTC’s Sense, Motorola’s Motoblur, Samsung’s TouchWiz. Unfortunately, it’s these skins that exacerbate the Android fragmentation problem, by making universal, across-the-board Android updates impossible. Since manufacturers need time to make their own twists on “vanilla” Android (a common term for non-skinned Android software), it can be a waiting game when it comes to software updates.

Only one phone family circumvents this entire problem: devices in Google’s Nexus line (most recently the Galaxy Nexus) offer a vanilla Android experience delivered straight from Google. Nexus devices are always first to new Android software.

iPhone advantages

Apple remains firmly confident in its ability to craft the best possible experience for its customers, and as a result, the iPhone is extremely polished. Apple offers a sleek aesthetic and a cohesive, seamless experience on all of its devices, from the iPhone to the iPad and its myriad computers and accessories. This emphasis is very apparent on the iPhone, which is a breeze to use. And it’s no secret that the iPhone 4S (and its predecessor) are arguably the best-looking phones on the market.

With the last-generation iPhone 4, Apple introduced its Retina display technology, making the iPhone the most pixel-rich display on a phone to date. That means an extremely crisp display for web browsing, e-reading, and multimedia. Another iPhone exclusive is Apple’s FaceTime app, which facilitates seamless video chatting between Apple devices. And with the release of the iPhone 4S, Apple has debuted a comprehensive, at times hilarious voice command and search system known as Siri.

While these features are certainly perks, owning a phone that looks great and “just works” is the real winning formula behind the iPhone’s overwhelming success.

iPhone drawbacks

Apple’s general attitude toward its products can prove to be a turn-off for some. The iPhone is less customizable because Apple purports to know exactly what will make your mobile experience the best it can be — and it’s usually right. Naturally, this paternalistic view can rub some would-be iPhone owners the wrong way, particularly when Google espouses the opposite attitude toward Android.

Beyond its approach, the iPhone has now debuted across three of the four major carriers, but T-Mobile loyalists are still out of luck. And to date, no iPhone supports any carrier’s next-gen 4G network, though 4G capability is widely rumored to be built into the next generation device. The iPhone is powerful, but if you’ve got a real need for speed when it comes to surfing the web from the palm of your hand, you’d be well served to look to one of the myriad Android 4G phones. 3G just can’t keep up.

Which is right for me?

Ultimately, making the choice between Android and the iPhone comes down to personal taste. For those who value a high level of customization, an Android device will open up an amazingly flexible mobile world. If you’re seeking a polished smartphone experience at the cost of some flexibility, the iPhone won’t disappoint.

KISS YOUR 3D IPHONE 5 GOODBYE!

Rumors of Apples focus on 3D technology have been given credence by an intriguing job posting, however signs do not point towards these features appearing on the coming iPhone 5.

Recently, website 9to5Mac posted an article highlighting a job posting from Apple’s careers website for a ‘Computer Vision specialist to strengthen its multi-view stereo research group.’ The posting seems to indicate that Apple is finally making the move towards putting 3D technology, which as of yet they have yet do do despite several Android devices already making strides in that area.The Apple 3D rumor has been around for some time, as the company has bought a long list of 3D patents over the last 12 months, and this latest addition to the rumor mill leads many to believe that the move is now imminent. The form of this technology remains unknown, however. It could follow the moves of HTC and LG by incorporating a 3D camera and displays, or it could move into a more unknown area such as holographic interface.The downside though, is that the rumors do not signal a feature on the iPhone 5 according to those familiar with Apple. Unlike leaked photographs and insider info, speculation based off patents and postings do not typically result in immediate results, and in this case, it appears as though we will have to wait to see what Apple is planning with 3D technology.

 

New Third Quarter Mini iPad Rumor Supports June iPhone 5 Release Speculation

According to new rumors from Asia, the Mini iPad is set to be released in the third quarter of this year and at a lower price point than expected, which all adds strength to the notion of a sooner iPhone 5 release date.

Net portal NetEase has revealed a story outlining the rumored details of the forthcoming mini iPad, indicating that it will hit shelves at the third quarter of this year, and in order to compete with the upcoming Windows tablets, set for a price of $249 to $299. The consensus on the specs hint that it will feature a 7.85 screen, to meet the competition from Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

 

These details have possible implications for the release of he iPhone 5, given their release patterns in the past. Typically, Apple releases its smaller devices months in advance of its larger models to avoid an overlap and conflict in sales. In this instance, it could hint at a release date for the iPhone 5 as early as June of this year, if patterns hold true. Not only this, but given its release pattern, we could expect the official announcements for the iTV in 2012 as well.

The smaller screen size of the Mini iPad could hint at another significant feature in the iPhone 5. Steve Jobs has long been known to be skeptical of tablets with small screens, because it positions the product between tablet computer and smartphone, with possible implications on each item’s sales. However, since Samsung have moved into this area without serious effects, it looks like safe ground, but it may mean that the iPhone 5 will not see a screen size increase. Either way, it is exciting news for Apple fans in 2012.

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IPHONE 5 CLOSER THAN WE THINK? JUNE 2012 MAY BE YOUR LUCKY DAY!

Millions of Apple fans were disappointed last year when the fabled iPhone 5 actually turned out to be the iPhone 4S, instead of a completely new model. Up until then, the company was faithfully and predictably releasing a new iPhone model every year. Fortunately for Apple lovers everywhere, we could be finally back on track, as a Foxconn recruiting officer hinted at a confirmed release date for the iPhone 5.

Looks like we’ll have our hands on a shiny new Apple phone in June, or so the rumor states. One of the recruiters for Foxconn, the Chinese company that makes the hardware for the iPhones, told the Japanese TV program World Business Satellite that they are “looking for 18,000 new workers for a fifth-generation phone.” Afterwards, the reporter clarified that the recruiter was indeed talking about the iPhone 5, adding that it will be released in June. While this isn’t an official iPhone 5 release date from Apple itself, it’s certainly a claim that deserves some credit, coming from the manufacturer of the phone itself.

The hardware and physical specifications of the phone are just as much of a mystery as the release date, but what we should expect is a completely new look, as Apple introduced in the iPhone 3 and 4 over their predecessors.

Concerning the iPhone 5 release date, this news from Foxconn should be taken with a grain of salt (just like any non-Apple announcement), since similar rumors have been going out as soon as 2 weeks after the iPhone 4S was released. What we do know is that Apple needs to make a strong move with their fifth phone, to recover from the somewhat lukewarm reception of its 4S version. And with Android phones becoming more advanced (and reasonably priced), the pressure is on Apple to really impress with the iPhone 5.

So, while the June rumor for an iPhone 5 release date is certainly exciting, we’ll hang tight until an official notice comes out.

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Microsoft makes Windows 8 name official, three editions only

Windows 8 is the official name of the next version of Windows client. Here are details on the three SKUs that are in the pipeline.

Those hoping for fewer Windows editions than in previous versions, your prayers have been answered.

It’s official as of today, April 16: Windows 8 is the name for the next version of x86/64 edition of Windows. And there will be three SKUs only.

According to a blog post on the Windows Team Blog, there will be two editions of Windows 8 for x86/64 processors: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.

Windows 8 is the consumer SKU. It will include the updated Windows Explorer, Task Manager, better multi-monitor support, and the ability to “switch languages on the fly,” which previously was only available to those purchasing the Enterprise and Ultimate Editions of Windows .

Windows 8 Pro is for tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals, and adds features for encryption, virtualization, PC management, and domain connectivity. The Windows Media Center functionality will be available as an add-on to Windows 8 Pro, known as the “Media Pack.”

Here’s the complete feature chart from Microsoft as to which features will be included in which SKU. The WindowsUnleaked.tk site revealed previously the details of these new Windows 8 SKUs.

Microsoft is naming the Windows on ARM (WOA) version Windows RT. Yes, another WinRT — which is the Windows Runtime (WinRT), the new Windows Runtime which is at the heart of the Metro-Style side of Windows 8. The WinRT version is for WOA tablets and PCs only. I guess that means Windows 8 on Intel and AMD processors fall under the two SKU rule: it will be either Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro if you are gravitating toward one of those devices due out later this year.

This story was first published as “Microsoft: Here are the three editions of Windows 8” on ZDNet’s All About Microsoft blog.

Will Lulzsec Arrests Stop High-profile Hacks? Don’t Bet On It

The group of hackers known as “LulzSec” frequently taunted government pursuers over the last year as they published sensitive data snatched from myriad public and corporate Web sites.

Tuesday, we may have learned what happens when you mock the feds for too long. Authorities announced that five men in the U.K., Ireland, New York, and Chicago had been charged with hacking-related offenses. They also said the alleged LulzSec leader, known as Sabu, had entered a guilty plea on August 15 to 12 counts of computer hacking conspiracies and other crimes. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, Hector Xavier Monsegur, 28, was arrested and released in June on $50,000 bond. One of the men charged, Jake Davis, also known as Topiary, was arrested in the United Kingdom last July.

The alleged members of LulzSec are accused in computer attacks against Fox Broadcasting, PBS, and global intelligence firm Stratfor. The group is accused of stealing confidential information–including passwords–and releasing it publicly, hijacking e-mail accounts and even secretly listening in on a conference call in which the FBI and Scotland Yard talked about trying to catch them.

But for all the media excitement generated by the arrests, their impact is likely to be minimal. LulzSec may be silenced–at least for now- but network security experts believe the LulzSec crackdown is unlikely to spell the end of the spate of high-profile, politically motivated hacks carried out by LulzSec’s brethren in the online activist collective Anonymous.

Even law enforcement officials who had been taunted for so long by their suspects were reluctant to call their news a major blow to Anonymous. Indeed, speaking with CNET on condition of anonymity, a member of Anonymous downplayed the impact of the arrests.

“People get arrested from Anonymous all the time, including 25 last week,” by Interpol, he said. “It’s not like these arrests will bring the entire group down. They were involved but they weren’t kingpins like the FBI says.”

In search of Sabu

Officials have declined to comment on a Fox report that Monsegur served as an informant after he was arrested, but there had been rumors that he was snitching. A hacker using the moniker “Virus” posted a chat log to Pastebin on August 16 between Sabu and others that Virus claims is proof that Sabu had snitched after he was tricked. “Be careful who you are friends with because they will sell you out very quickly,” Virus warns.

Sabu dismissed those claims in a subsequent post in October, saying “Am I snitch/informant? Let’s be real–I don’t know any identities of anyone in my crew… And the last thing I’d ever do is take down my own people. I am a grown ass man I can handle my own issues,” he wrote. “I’ve been to jail before–I don’t fear it. In fact there is very little I am afraid of especially these days.”

Monsegur, an unemployed father of two, would have had plenty of time to spend boasting of activities and dissing the feds via his Twitter account, “The Real Sabu.” “The federal government is run by a bunch of [expletive] cowards. Don’t give in to these people. Fight back. Stay strong,” the account tweeted yesterday.

Sabu was so high profile and antagonistic that other hackers tried to uncover his identity last summer. In fact, a Pastebin post from last June named Monsegur as Sabu, so it could be that rival hackers did the leg work for the feds. Other chat logs that have been posted publicly revealed that Sabu was the leader. “He was the Pablo Escobar of the LulzSec team,” famed hacker Kevin Mitnick said.

Monsegur is accused of being the “rooter,” the hacker who identifies vulnerabilities in computer networks that can then be exploited. And despite officials referring to the group’s “sophisticated hacking” skills, the group relied mostly on run-of-the-mill SQL injection and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

“They were pretty stupid about a lot of things,” said Scot Terban, a security analyst and consultant. This included using a stolen credit card number to order car engines and having them delivered to his home address, logging into Internet Relay Chat with his real IP address instead of going through a proxy like TOR, and using aliases that could be linked to him on the Web from other activities, Terban said, referencing court documents.

Josh Corman, director of security intelligence for Akamai who has been studying the hackers, said it was too soon to tell if this is going to hurt the Anonymous movement long term or help it.

“It may improve their operational security” to keep identities more hidden in case of infiltrators, he said.

Mitnick knows from first-hand experience just what hacker groups like Lulz and Anonymous are up against. One of the most celebrated early hackers, Mitnick got busted on hacking charges after leading the FBI on a goose chase about 25 years ago.

“If you poke the tiger, eventually the tiger is going to bite you,” Mitnick said. “When you screw with law enforcement, they take it personal–and these guys were doing that, compromising police Web sites and publishing home addresses and phone numbers.”

Recounting his personal chronology of being on the lam, Mitnick recalled that he kept his circle of acquaintances to one or two hacking partners at most, and he still wound up getting informed upon.

“The larger your circle the greater your risk…If I was a member of Anonymous, which I’m not, I would be really concerned about the same thing happening to me. How many people know my real world identity?”

Below is a timeline of major LulzSec events. Dates may be approximate as it is often difficult to determine exactly when a network was compromised:

  • February 2, 2011 – Anonymous hacks HBGary Federal site
  • May 15 – LulzSec claims credit for hacking UK ATMs and Fox Network’s X Factor site
  • May 23 – LulzSec leaks data from Sony Music Japan
  • May 30 – LulzSec defaces PBS.org
  • June 2 – Group leaks customer data from Sony Pictures
  • June 3 – Hacks on Nintendo and InfraGard Atlanta
  • June 6 – Sony Entertainment source code and Sony BMG hacks
  • June 7 – Monsegur, aka Sabu, arrested on identity fraud charges
  • June 9 – LulzSec compromises U.K. National Health Services site
  • June 13 – Data stolen from videogame maker Bethesda Software
  • June 14 – Senate site compromised
  • June 15 – DDoS on CIA site
  • June 16 – Thousands of passwords dumped
  • June 20 – DDoS on U.K.’s Serious Organized Crime Agency
  • June 21 – British police arrest 19-year-old Ryan Cleary
  • June 23 – Arizona law enforcement sites compromised
  • June 25 – LulzSec announces that they are quitting after 50 days
  • June 28 – Zimbabwe, Brazil, UMG, Viacom hacked
  • June 29 – Arizona Dept. of Public Safety data dump
  • June 29 – FBI searches home of Ohio man
  • June 30 – another Arizona law officer data dump
  • July 4 – Apple server targeted
  • July 8 – Chilean government site, IRC Federal hacked
  • July 11 – hackers claim Booz Allen Hamilton hack
  • July 18 – LulzSec deface Murdoch’s The Sun
  • July 19 – 16 arrested in U.S.
  • July 22 – U.S., Italian cyber crime site hacked
  • July 27 – Topiary arrested (Identified this week as Jake Davis)
  • August 6 – Italian police sites attacked
  • August 15 – Monsegur pleads guilty to computer hacking charges
  • August 18 – Hackers claim data stolen from Vanguard Defense Industries
  • September 22 – Arrest of Cody Andrew Kretsinger, 23, of Phoenix
  • December 25 – Stratfor data stolen

Microsoft Moves To Disable Zeus Botnet

Cyber-criminals suffered a serious setback on Friday, when command-and-control servers running some of the most notorious Zeus botnets were seized by authorities. Accompanied by U.S. Marshals and working in collaboration with partner organizations in the financial services industry, Microsoft raided hosting locations in Scranton, Pa., and Lombard, Ill., seizing servers and IP addresses associated with at least 800 domains. The raid was codenamed Operation b71.

Zeus is one of the most prolific forms of malware on the Internet today. Available on the black market as a cybercrime toolkit, Zeus is used by hackers to infect Windows PCs with keylogger software that is designed to capture users’ confidential financial information. Each network (or “botnet”) of infected computers transmits the stolen data back to the hackers via a command-and-control server.

“With this action, we’ve disrupted a critical source of money-making for digital fraudsters and cyberthieves, while gaining important information to help identify those responsible and better protect victims,” Richard Boscovich, senior attorney for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, said in a statement.

According to Microsoft, the company has detected over 13 million suspected Zeus infections worldwide since 2007. While there are multiple variants of Zeus in existence today, the Microsoft-led raid focused on the core Zeus, SpyEye, and Ice-IX variants that the company says may already have caused $500 million in damages.

The concern over Zeus is widespread in the security industry. VeriSign’s iDefense security business unit recently identified the Zeus botnet as one of the top cyber security trends of 2011. A major reason: Over the course of the last year, Zeus has evolved into an open source crimeware kit.

“We’ve always seen a steady evolution of new techniques and tactics by malware authors,” said Rick Howard, General Manager of Verisign iDefense. “But the fact that the owner of Zeus released it to the wild, means that now it’s out there and every malware author on the planet can learn from it.”

Howard noted that any malware author can now put Zeus-like functionality into their own code. He expects that a large amount of malware this year will converge on the same capabilities that are included in Zeus.

In terms of Zeus malware itself, Howard noted the difference between Zeus variants and Zeus augmentations.

“There are people that just take a copy of Zeus and maybe tweak it a little bit for their own purpose and that stuff will be picked up by antivirus engines, so that’s the good news,” Howard said. “The bad news are the augmentations, where malware authors research Zeus and then just take the functionality and put it in their own malware.”

Howard warned that Zeus augmentations are more difficult for antivirus software vendors to detect and prevent.

“There is no silver bullet here,” Howard said. “Antivirus catches up eventually for the new augmentations, but they won’t be good out of the box. Zeus is a unique event, only because it is one of the most efficient and effective pieces of malware out there and it’s available to anybody.”