OK Go plans to release an album as DNA

ABC's

Most bands release a new album as MP3s, and on both CD and vinyl. If you caught any of OK Go’s music videos, you know they prefer to do things a little differently. In addition to the aforementioned formats, the band plans release its latest album Hungry Ghosts as DNA. Yep, that’s right, nanograms of Deoxyribonucleic acid will carry the music. With the help of a biochemist from UCLA, the record’s digital files — basically a collection of ones and zeroes — were translated into the genetic code. “Legally speaking, it’s unclear whether we will be able to sell the DNA to anyone, or how we would physically get it to them,” Kulash told The New Yorker. “This stuff is regulated really fucking heavily.” For example, fans may see the DNA version of the album as a small vial with a few drops of water that carry copies of the tunes. “Obviously, it’s an artistic gesture and a scientific project, not the most efficient way to actually buy our album,” explained Kulash.

[Photo credit: Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images]

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Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/11/24/ok-go-dna-album/?ncid=rss_truncated

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Roger Federer Burnishes Legacy as the Swiss Capture a Long-Sought Title

Roger Federer defeated Richard Gasquet of France, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, on Sunday to give the Swiss an insurmountable 3-1 advantage.

VILLENEUVE D?ASCQ, France ? It looked like an ending, with the confetti floating down and a record crowd watching Roger Federer and his Swiss teammates celebrate for the first time with the big, bright and shiny Davis Cup.

It is not the end, of course. Federer might be 33 years old; might have a tricky back, though there was no visible evidence of that on Sunday; and might now have won almost ? almost ? everything a tennis champion could ever care to win.

But he is intent on continuing to work as a master craftsman, testing his skills and his staying power against younger, less decorated tennis talents. He is already signed up to play in India next month in a new Asian team tennis league and in Brisbane, Australia, in the first week of the 2015 season.

He is one of the most remarkable sports figures of any era, and on Sunday, he walked loose-limbed onto the indoor red clay and smoothly secured the final point required to make Switzerland the 14th nation to win the Davis Cup.

Federer?s 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Richard Gasquet, which gave the Swiss an insurmountable 3-1 advantage over France, looked like business as usual unless you remembered seeing Federer practicing tentatively in the chill on the same court on Wednesday night, three days after withdrawing from the final of the year-end ATP Tour championships with a back problem.

?I mean, he played 20 minutes on Wednesday without making one slide,? said Claudio Mezzadri, the former Swiss Davis Cup captain. ?He served, like, 50 percent power and played no points.?

But Federer?s powers of recuperation and adaptation are already well established, and after struggling and losing in a hurry on Friday against Gaël Monfils, he had the bite back in his strokes for Saturday?s doubles victory with Stan Wawrinka. Federer then kicked into something resembling his highest gear on Sunday, never facing a break point against Gasquet and mixing full-force forehand winners with the feathery backhand drop shot winner that he conjured on match point.

Even before the ball bounced twice, he was dropping to his knees, and he then pitched forward onto the clay ? all alone with the moment ? until Switzerland?s captain, Severin Lüthi, arrived to start the party.

Federer was soon teary-eyed ? once a routine occurrence after big matches, but now a rare sight.

?For me, personally, I?m obviously unbelievably happy,? Federer said. ?I?ve been playing in this competition for probably 15 years now, but in the end, I wanted it more for the guys, for Severin and Stan and the staff and everybody involved. This is one for the boys.?

It is also another exhibit in the still-open case concerning Federer?s precise place in tennis history. He already has a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles and has already been ranked No. 1 for a record 302 weeks. He has already won an Olympic gold medal in doubles with Wawrinka and shown a remarkable degree of consistency and durability at the highest level.

Now he has been part of winning the game?s top team trophy as well, and thus joins many of the game?s greatest champions past ? Bill Tilden, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras ? and present ? Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic ? on the list of Davis Cup champions.

?I always said that it was very good for Federer to win the Davis Cup and very good for Davis Cup to have Federer?s name engraved on it,? said Francesco Ricci Bitti, the president of the International Tennis Federation, which organizes the Cup. ?To me, it is magic. And today, though people who are not really following tennis might think Gasquet did not play a good match, I think Gasquet played a very good match. But Federer was so focused. He played like a great champion and didn?t give away anything.?

Federer first played in the Davis Cup in 1999, when he was 17 and Mezzadri was the captain.

?He had never played best-of-five sets before, but he was totally relaxed,? Mezzadri said. ?And when he came off the court, he was telling me all the feelings he experienced on the court: ?This is what it?s like to hear 3,000 or 4,000 people cheering,? things like that. It was like he was recording it all in his mind and then playing it back for me.?

Federer was a Davis Cup regular in his early years and led Switzerland to the 2003 semifinals, where he blew a two-set, 5-3 lead in the decisive match to Lleyton Hewitt of Australia. But in recent years, with Federer focused on individual goals and often available only for relegation matches, Wawrinka has carried the biggest load for Switzerland, using precious energy to play in the competition, whose rounds are usually scheduled a week after Grand Slam events or other top-line tournaments.

This year, Wawrinka, with help from his Swedish coach, Magnus Norman, has taken his game to another level, winning his first Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open and finishing the year at No. 4. And it was he, not Federer, who set the tone for the Swiss team in this final with his cocksure victory over the French No. 1, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in Friday?s opening singles match.

?I?ve been dreaming of this Davis Cup for years,? Wawrinka said. ?I?ve been trying everything I can to win this competition. This year, maybe, was the ideal year. It started off very well in Serbia. It ends up perfectly well here in France. We made many sacrifices during the years to be able to win it. We did it now. We are very happy.?

Very happy indeed, as reflected by the giddy atmosphere in their post-victory news conference.

?We had a good time since match point,? said Federer, who later deflected a question about next year?s Davis Cup plans to Wawrinka, saying to his teammate, ?You speak better French than me.?

Wawrinka?s answer: ?Not when I?m drunk.?

Tipsy or not, it was a sharp contrast with the somber, defensive mood in the French camp as team members filed in to speak with the news media. France had provided a dramatic stage for this final in Pierre Mauroy Stadium, a converted soccer arena, which set a record for a sanctioned tennis match with Friday?s crowd of 27,432 and then broke that record on Sunday with a crowd of 27,448.

But the French hopes of engineering an upset to match the grand setting foundered when Tsonga was unable to play in Saturday?s doubles or in Sunday?s singles matches and was replaced by Gasquet.

After denying that Tsonga was unable to play because of injury, the French captain, Arnaud Clement, acknowledged on Sunday night that Tsonga had aggravated an existing injury in his right arm, feeling fresh pain after the loss to Wawrinka.

?I was just not able to go on the court and be the best chance on the court,? said Tsonga, who, because of a knee injury, also missed the 2010 Davis Cup final, in which France lost to Serbia.

A healthy Tsonga might not have mattered this time in light of Federer?s quick recovery and Wawrinka?s state of grace, but it was still a turnabout from Wednesday night, when Federer still looked unlikely to be effective and there was still ample speculation about the potential fallout from the feisty semifinal in London between Federer and Wawrinka.

?Many things were written about me and Roger, Roger?s back,? Wawrinka said. ?And for the French team, it was, ?Everything is great,? and they were ready to go to war, if I can use their own words. What happened was totally the opposite.?

It made for quite an ending to the 2014 season, even if there is plenty more tennis to come from Federer and Wawrinka.

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New York City FC reveal away jersey for 2015 expansion season

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of New York City FC Communications

Ten days after revealing their home kit for the 2015 season, New York City FC unveiled their away kit for their inaugural season on Monday.

The kit – in a primary color of black, in contrast to the “City Blue” of the primary – has the same shade of blue and orange as secondary colors. It also has several key features and symbols.

Among the features are five stripes across the front of the jersey to represent the five boroughs of New York City, as well as an “Inaugural Season” patch on the bottom of the jersey, and the NYC logo in the team crest on the back neck of the shirt.

And like the rest of the league, the new jerseys will feature the new MLS logo. In this case, the league logo is bordered in orange with text and stars in City Blue on the away jerseys.

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Source: http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/11/24/new-york-city-fc-reveal-away-jersey-2015-expansion-season

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Montreal Impact get their man in new technical director Adam Braz: “It was exactly what we were looking for”

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MONTREAL ? There was only ever one man for Matt Jordan?s old job of Montreal Impact technical director.

So much so that it was practically a done deal after the Impact?s discussions with their first candidate. Montreal were so impressed that while they thought about others, they ultimately only met with one man: former player and team manager Adam Braz.

?For this to go as quickly as it did, we didn?t make a great deal of approaches,? Impact executive vice president of soccer operations Richard Legendre told reporters Monday at team sponsor BMO?s headquarters. ?Very quickly, we saw it was going in the right direction with Adam, that it matched exactly what we were looking for at this point in our organization. We?re building a new three-year cycle, so Adam?s leadership and vision [will be useful].?

After it became clear that Jordan would leave for the Houston Dynamo, director of international business development Nick De Santis contacted Braz, who joined the family business in Florida in 2013 after 10 seasons in Montreal, first as a player and then as part of their technical staff. That previous relationship translated into a positive meeting.

And despite the fact that Braz and head coach Frank Klopas were strangers, a ?synergy? developed between the two when they met, Legendre said. Klopas will report to Braz, who will report to Legendre. While Klopas will have the final say on players, it will be up to Braz to negotiate.

?I?ll never put a player in place that the coach doesn?t want,? Braz said. ?I?m here to put the coach and his staff in the best possible conditions for success and to win. I?ll help find players, identify characteristics to find the best players for each position.?

Braz?s negotiating skills, a result of business studies at St. John?s and Fairfield universities, also charmed the Impact.

The first line of business for Braz will be traveling with Legendre to New York City on Tuesday for a crash course on MLS rules and quirks. But he is confident that, with his knowledge of the club, it will be a smooth transition to a front-office role.

?I think I have a clear idea of where I want to go, and it aligns with the vision of the club,? Braz said. ?I also think I have a clear understanding of the culture and the philosophy of the club because of all the years that I?ve been here. I understand that winning is No. 1, and our fans are extremely important.?

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Source: http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/11/24/montreal-impact-get-their-man-new-technical-director-adam-braz-it-was-exactl

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European Tour 2015 adds six events

Rory McIlroy won the 2014 Race to Dubai

Rory McIlroy won the 2014 Race to Dubai

23 November 2014
Last updated at
20:57

There will be six new tournaments and seven new venues on the 2015 European Tour, organisers have announced.

July’s Paul Lawrie Matchplay is at Murcar Links, Aberdeen, and the European Open is at Bad Griesbach, Germany, in September.

The Thailand Classic, Indian Open, Shenzhen International and Mauritius Open are also new.

And world number one Rory McIlroy hosts the Irish Open at Royal County Down – a new course – in late May.

There will be a minimum of 47 events across 11 months – with a possible return of the British Masters for the first time since 2008, in early October.

The
full European Tour schedule for 2015, 
which was released on Sunday, does not include the date and venue for the World Match Play Championship. It is yet to be decided after Volvo ended its sponsorship following this year’s event at The London Club,
won by Finland’s Mikko Illonen.

Northern Ireland’s world number 15 Graeme McDowell on the European Tour

“We want the revival of the iconic events on the European Tour. It’s been a tough seven or eight years financially, losing events in Spain, Germany and the UK. But, things are changing, we’re getting new sponsors and events like the British Masters and the European Open are going to return.”

Read more in Graeme’s BBC Sport blog

Keith Waters, the European Tour’s chief operating officer, said: “We are pleased that our scheduling has enabled us to create significant clusters of tournaments in the same regions of the world, whether that be in Asia, the Middle East or indeed South Africa where we have six events next season.

“We can all look forward to a strong opening to the 2015 Race to Dubai.”

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Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/golf/30170469

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‘Stealthy’ spyware program uncovered

Passenger jet landing The sophisticated Regin malware had been used to spy on airlines, said Symantec

An “extremely complex” and “stealthy” spying program has been stealing data from ISPs, energy companies, airlines and research-and-development labs, a security company has said.

With a “degree of technical competence rarely seen”, Regin had probably taken years to develop, Symantec said.

And a nation state may have written it to serve its spying agencies’ needs.

The program had been used in “systematic spying campaigns” over the past six years, Symantec said.

Aimed at Windows users, Regin slowly infiltrated its targets, taking care at each stage to hide its tracks, the company said.

“Many components of Regin remain undiscovered and additional functionality and versions may exist,” it added.

Regin cases by country

“Its design makes it highly suited for persistent, long-term surveillance operations against targets.”

Jason Steer, director of technology strategy at security firm FireEye, said: “These types of toolkits have existed for a few years now.”

He added: “It’s a challenge to the whole security industry as to how they find these malicious and sophisticated pieces of code,”

Security firms were better at spotting such things even though Regin and its ilk were built to fool modern-day tools that look for malicious programs and monitor activity to spot anything suspicious. The techniques Regin used to sneak on to a network and communicate with its creators were very complicated, he said.



Symantec researchers likened the bug to Stuxnet, a computer worm that targeted Iran's nuclear program

Vikram Thakur, Symantec: “We don’t believe it is being used… for mass surveillance”

“It’s clearly been written by someone that has much more than making money in mind,” he said.

Mr Steer said the tip-offs about Regin and similarly sophisticated threats often came from government agencies who kept an eye on the cyber spying capabilities of both friendly and hostile nations.

Recovering files

Victims had been infected via spoofed versions of well-known websites and by exploiting known vulnerabilities in web browser software, said Symantec in a detailed analysis.

In a blogpost, security company F-Secure said it had first encountered Regin in 2009 after investigating what was making a server on the network of one of its customers crash repeatedly. Closer investigation revealed the culprit to be Regin which was attempting to insert itself into the heart of the software controlling the server.

Chief research officer Mikko Hypponen said: “Finding malware of this calibre is very rare.

Regin cases by target

“We’re still missing big parts of the puzzle.”

“Nevertheless, it’s obvious this is a very complicated malware written by a well-equipped nation-state.” He added that the malware did not look like it originated in China or Russia – the places suspected of creating many other stealthy, spying programs.

Security firm Kaspersky Lab said it too had spotted Regin being used to infiltrate networks and steal data. In one attack, Regin was used to gather administrative details for a mobile phone network in the Middle East that, if used, would have given attackers control over the system.

Symantec said it had captured the first copies of Regin in a small number of organisations between 2008 and 2011.

Soon after, the malware had appeared to have been withdrawn, but a new version found in 2013 was now being actively used.

Only about 100 Regin infections have so far been identified.

It is believed to provide the ability to:

  • remote access victims’ computers remotely
  • take screenshots
  • control a mouse pointer
  • steal data
  • recover deleted files

Symantec said that Regin had a lot in common with other malicious programs such as Flame, Duqu and Stuxnet, also thought to be written by nation states to aid their spying efforts.

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Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30145265#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Tyron Woodley fires back at ?Mr. Injured? Hector Lombard: ?I?ve never ducked a fight?

Tyron Woodley figured Hector Lombard would move on from the pair’s public spat once either of the welterweights had a fight on the books. That, however, doesn’t appear to be the case.

Lombard continued his interminable crusade against Woodley earlier this month, telling reporters in Mexico City that his American Top Team stablemate shouldn’t be able to pick and choose opponents, and the real reason a fight between the two failed to come to fruition was because Woodley knew he was going to lose.

“Look at my résumé,” Woodley responded on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “Look who I fought. I haven’t fought any scrubs. I’ve had a big break. I fought four times in a year. I fought in November, I fought in March, I fought in June, I fought in August, and I’m supposed to turn right back around and fight in November just because somebody wants to fight me?

“The reasons why I didn’t fight, I stayed true to those things. Me and somebody at American Top Team, whether this person is my best friend or whether this person is a complete idiot, I’m not going to fight that person unless it’s for a world title because we can fight somebody else in the division. The division is stacked.”

For his part, Woodley has remained largely quiet since UFC president Dana White threw him under the bus for rejecting the proposed Australia bout this past August, while the same surely can’t be said for Lombard. And at this point, with a clash against undefeated Kelvin Gastelum locked in for UFC 183, Woodley is sick of hearing about it.

“I don’t think that freakin’ Kelvin Gastelum is anything less dangerous than Hector Lombard,” Woodley said. “I don’t think Carlos Condit was anything less dangerous than Hector Lombard, and I don’t think Rory MacDonald is any less skilled than Hector Lombard. So for someone to say that I’m scared, I’m ducking (him): I’ve never ducked a fight.

“I’ve accepted fights within 10 minutes. ?Hey Tyron, we want you to take Hector Lombard’s fight — Mr. Injured, and then all of a sudden healed — we want you to take his fight (at UFC Fight Night 48), and I said let me go train. I’m in Singapore on vacation, I go train for one hour, I get back on the phone and I miraculously saved a card. People don’t remember that. They’ve got a very short-term memory, they’re very conditional, so you’re right, at a certain point I was about to pop off, because I was getting pissed off.

“If you know where I’m from and you know what I’ve been through in my life, I haven’t always been the person that I am right now. Me being scared of somebody is not very likely, so when people say those things you want to kinda get back at them,” Woodley continued.

“So I just try to stay focused. I was hoping that when I got a knew opponent and when he got a new opponent, maybe people would start focusing on their opponent. But obviously I’m on someone’s mind quite often and my name stays in the same sentence.”

Woodley added that he’s attempted to reach out to Lombard on a personal level, but for better or worse Lombard appears intent on airing his grievances to the media rather than hashing out any issues face to face.

“Up until recently nobody’s really been talking about Hector that much, so he’s enjoying his buzz,” Woodley said. “He’s enjoying, for once, everybody’s not talking about me or everybody’s not talking about Robbie, everybody’s not talking about Thiago.

“He’s probably salty and bitter about that I’m ranked higher than him, that I’m endorsed more handsomely than him, and more people want to work with me because it’s how you treat people. You have to live up to how you treat people. If you treat people a certain way, then people treat you a certain way. If you treat people poorly, then you’re going to be looked as that guy that’s treating people like crap.

“If Hector wants to sit down, if he wants to talk, I’m all good with that. But I know the truth, he knows the truth, and we’ll squash it at some point.”

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First a comet, then Mercury

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • ESA’s next mission, BepiColombo, will explore the planet closest to the Sun, Mercury
  • The probe will launch in 2016 and reach Mercury in 2024
  • It will endure temperatures of 350 degrees Celsius and observe Mercury from orbit
  • The data will be used, among other things, to confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity

(CNN) — After landing a probe on an icy comet and possibly shedding new light on the origins of life on Earth, the European Space Agency (ESA) is now looking at scorching-hot Mercury for its next mission.

The innermost planet of our solar system orbits so close to the Sun that, in some instances, surface temperature surpasses 400 °C. Areas of the planet without sunlight, on the other hand, can become as cold as -170 °C.

No other planet has variations in temperature so severe.

The reason for this is the absence of any significant atmosphere, which Mercury is too hot and too small to retain. With a diameter of just over 3,000 miles, it’s just a third larger than the Moon, and smaller than two other moons in the solar system — Saturn’s Titan and Jupiter’s Ganymede.

ESA’s mission to Mercury will tentatively launch on 21 July 2016, to reach Mercury’s orbit seven and a half years later, in 2024. The spacecraft is called BepiColombo — in honor of Italian space pioneer Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo.

The BepiColombo mission poster
The BepiColombo mission poster

Mercury is the least studied of the inner planets, but it has many peculiarities.

“Mercury is special,” said Johannes Benkhoff, the project scientist in charge of the BepiColombo mission, “It’s the densest planet in our solar system, even denser than Earth – if we consider uncompressed density – and has a magnetic field, like Earth, that no one expected before, so I guess it’s a cool planet to go to.”

There are many challenging aspects to a mission to Mercury, most prominently its proximity to the Sun, with its mighty gravitational pull and intense radiation.

The planet’s high orbital velocity of 48 kilometers per second — compared to Earth’s 30 kilometers per second — is also an issue. Any probe en route to Mercury must not only cover an average linear distance of 48 million miles, but carefully gauge its velocity so that it can catch the fast planet’s orbit without getting sucked into the Sun’s gravitational well.

As a result, only two missions have visited Mercury so far.

Mariner 10, the first probe to reach Mercury, was launched in 1973
Mariner 10, the first probe to reach Mercury, was launched in 1973

The first was NASA’s Mariner 10, launched in 1973. This was the first spacecraft to use the “gravitational slingshot” technique, which uses a planet’s gravity to affect the trajectory and the speed of a spacecraft, saving on fuel and time.

Bepi Colombo’s calculations were used to plot Mariner 10′s trip to Mercury, in a maneuver that has been widely used in space exploration ever since.

The second mission is still underway: it’s called Messenger and it was launched — again by NASA — in 2004. It is currently orbiting the planet and will continue to study it well into 2015.

Nevertheless, ESA feels that there is enough mystery about Mercury to warrant a third mission.

“Messenger found so many surprising, unexpected results that we have a lot of good reasons to follow-up on what they did,” Benkhoff told CNN, “It’s a huge benefit that we have this mission in that stage, because only ten years later we will be at Mercury, follow-up on what Messenger did and get a huge, wonderful exploration of this planet.”

The BepiColombo photographed during the testing of its thruster system in Turin, Italy
The BepiColombo photographed during the testing of its thruster system in Turin, Italy

The mission will, once again, use gravity assists to reach its destination: it will first complete a fly-by of Earth, essentially returning to our planet two years after launch. Then it will perform two fly-bys of Venus, before finally heading toward Mercury.

Upon arrival, a module called Mercury Planet Orbiter (MPO) will separate from the rest of the spacecraft and perform a detailed study of the Mercury system. This module is designed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which jointly conducts the mission along with ESA.

BepiColombo will help us understand how planets can form so close to their parent star, and will analyze Mercury’s geology and magnetic field.

It will also provide further confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Mercury’s strange orbital pattern first puzzled physicists in 1845, when it was discovered that it did not conform to Newton’s theory of gravity. This was later explained by relativity, which revealed that Mercury’s warped orbit was due to curved space and not some unseen object.

BepiColombo will be in an optimal position to gather extremely precise data about the planet’s dance around the Sun, offering the ultimate validation to Einstein’s idea.

Read more from Make, Create, Innovate:

Are obese crash test dummies to key to preventing road deaths?

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An end to all airport security lines?

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TechCrunch Radio On Sirius XM 102 Indie Is Back

TechCrunch Radio is back in full force and that means we need YOU!

What is TechCrunch Radio, you ask? Well, it?s an hour of weekly bliss brought to you by myself, John Biggs, and the kind folks at Sirius XM each Tuesday at 6pm ET/3pm PT. We discuss this week?s news, chat with interesting guests, and then get into our weekly startup pitch-off. If you want to listen in, just head over to TechCrunch.com/Radio for the full deets.

Companies get approximately sixty seconds to pitch their wares, which will then be judged by a guest VC judge, John, and me. At the end of the show, we pick a lucky winner and they forevermore get all the glory they deserve.

We need startups to apply, so if this sounds like something you?re into, keep on reading.

Rules:
1. You must have a product that is available to general users. No sign-up pages or pre-orders with a TBD ship date. There must be a link we can give to listeners/readers where they can access your product, service, what have you.
2. You must be an early stage company. If you have raised a Series A or later, you are disqualified. Bootstrapped or seed stage startups are welcome.
3. You must be able to pitch your product with your words only.
4. You must be able to operate a telephone.

Apply:
Apply here.

It?s going to be a hoot!

Each week, TechCrunch Radio will air Tuesdays at 6:00 pm ET with a replay at 6:00 pm PT, drive time for both coasts, on Indie, channel 102, and through the SiriusXM Internet Radio App on smartphones and other connected devices, as well as online at siriusxm.com. Subscribers will also be able to listen via SiriusXM On Demand through the SiriusXM Internet Radio App for smartphones and other mobile devices and online at siriusxm.com.

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Why Malvertising Is Cybercriminals? Latest Sweet Spot

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Of all the cyber threats driving headlines, malvertising ? seeding malicious code in online advertisements to infect unsuspecting users ? might be the most jarring and difficult for many Web surfers to fathom. No one expects to get infected with malware when they visit trusted sites like YouTube or Reuters ? hardly the seedy sides of the Web. Yet attackers are preying on users? implicit trust of these sites to infect them via the third-party ad content quietly displaying on these pages and sometimes burrowing into viewers? browsers and PCs, before they even click on anything.

Malvertising is a tough problem to solve and its unsettling prevalence requires a concerted defense effort spanning a lot of stakeholders, including Web site operators, ad networks themselves and consumer and business audiences worried about protecting personal information and staving off the next data breach. Before you fire up your browser and jump into your daily bookmarks, it is important to understand why malvertising is a growing ?sweet spot? for cyber criminals who easily turn new aspects of the Web to nefarious purposes.

Hacking Us Softly

Malvertising contradicts basic Web safety tips security experts have drilled into our heads ? such as ?Stay away from ?sketchy? Web sites if you don?t want to pick up malware.? This is because mainstream, high-trafficked Web sites today outsource the ad content on their pages to a vast array of third-party ad networks, including household names like Google (DoubleClick) to start-up providers and others well under the radar. As anyone who has used Disconnect?s browser plug-in knows, when you land on any popular Web site, your device is actually connecting to dozens of other URLs, imperceptibly, as Web browsers accept connections to render popup-ups, video files and even stealthier interactions. Most people would never willfully download all this arbitrary code if blindly prompted by a Web site, but this happens unwittingly or for the sake of convenience every time we go online.

The net effect of advertising?s influence on Web content is that the reputation of destination sites? URLs is almost irrelevant from a security and screening perspective. Malvertising attacks rely on a trusted destination as a lure, before springing attacks from a myriad of other, hidden domain addresses the minute someone lands on a site to catch up on sports scores or movie trailers. Low recognition of this indirect attack method is the first advantage malvertising has in getting a jump on victims.

Attack and Cover Your Tracks

Anonymity is another advantage for malvertisers. If a victim ? or their employer ? even realizes a device has been infected, the forensic trail usually ?goes cold? at the site that served the malicious ads. This is because site operators often have no knowledge of malware on their own domain ? nor visibility into what type of ad content a third-party ad network might have been displaying on their site at any given time. Ad networks rotate content extremely fast and ads can be purchased with stolen or obfuscated account information and funds, so even when a malicious ad is pinpointed in an investigation it can be practically impossible to prove who actually placed the malicious ad order.

Best of Both Worlds

After effectiveness and anonymity, a smart attacker wants to be able to target the ?right? types of victims. Accordingly, it is modern, more sophisticated ad networks? granular profiling capabilities that really create the malvertising sweet spot.

Today ad networks let buyers configure ads to appear according to Web surfers? precise browser or operating system types, their country locations, related search keywords and other identifying attributes. Right away we can see the value here for criminals borrowing the tactics of savvy marketers.

An attacker wishing to go after U.S. federal government employees, for example, could rig a malicious ad that only appears when major ad networks see someone in the U.S. using an older version of Internet Explorer (IE) on Windows XP, for example and typing ?extended support for Windows XP government? or ?government travel allowance? into a search engine. Similarly, an attacker looking to compromise certain high value victims can emplace malicious ads configured to appear in front of attorneys, scientists or other individuals who might be keyword-searching hotel rates at sensitive industry conferences or other gatherings. As the fight against phishing has taught us, if you use familiar and comfortable jargon, geography and other nuances in your socially-engineered attack, you are much more likely to hit the target.

Piggybacking on rich advertising features, malvertising offers persistent, Internet-scale profiling and attacking. The sheer size and complexity of online advertising ? coupled with the Byzantine nature of who is responsible for ad content placement and screening ? means attackers enjoy the luxury of concealment and safe routes to victims, while casting wide nets to reach as many specific targets as possible.

It Takes Money to Make Money

For further evidence of malvertising?s appeal, consider that attackers are actually putting up money for these malicious ad purchases, suggesting they are enjoying lucrative ROI on their ad spending. Cyber crime rings are brutally efficient and do not bother with unnecessary effort, cost and exposure, so we have to assume malvertising offers them an edge they cannot gain elsewhere. One benefit for malvertisers is that almost no organization or security vendor can readily pre-empt a malvertising attack by blacklisting sites like Reuters.com and the same goes for Web portals users visit to access Web applications.

Rahul Kashyap is Chief Security Architect and Head of Research at Bromium.

Part 2 of this two-part series will explore factors required to lessen malvertising?s ?sweet spot? appeal for attackers, and explains why traditional security products typically cannot defend devices from malvertising attacks.

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Source: http://www.wired.com/2014/11/malvertising-is-cybercriminals-latest-sweet-spot/

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