Tuesday, November 25, 2014

3 billion people now on the internet — and those in Denmark are most connected

There are now 3 billion people on the internet — and those in Denmark are best at it

By the end of 2014, there’ll be as many phone subscriptions as people, report finds

By Andrew Griffin  

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Denmark is the most connected place on the internet, as the number of people getting online is quickly increasing, a UN report has said.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the branch of the UN that is tasked with looking at computer and telecommunications use, has compiled its annual report looking at the world’s most connected countries as well as the fast spread of internet use across the world.

Denmark came first in the ITU’s ICT Development Index, an annual study of countries’ level of ICT access, use and skills. South Korea came second, with most of the rest made up of European and high-income countries.

The ITU praised other countries including the UAE, Fiji, Cape Verde and Thailand for improving their ranking most over the last year.

By the end of 2014, there will be 7 billion mobile phone subscriptions — as many subscriptions as people in the world.

But while mobile internet has been key in getting many people in rural and developing countries online, much of that number is accounted for by people with multiple subscriptions and often isn’t passed on to people in the very worst-connected areas, the report says. In developing countries there is a sharp divide between rural and urban areas, with connectedness sometimes varying by 35%.

But internet has improved in poorer countries, with developing nations accounting for about 30% of international bandwidth, up from 9% ten years ago.

Internet use is up 6.6% globally in 2014, with most of that growth coming from the developing world. The number of interent users in those countries has doubled over the last five years, meaning that two-thirds of people who are online live there.

Of the 4.3 billion people without the internet, 90% live in developing countries. About 2.5 billion people live in the world’s 42 least connected countries, which mostly have large and rural populations.

The increasing number of people on the internet have brought with them yet more content. That is mostly provided by the biggest websites — more than 100 hours of video is added to YouTube every minute, for instance. Much of that comes from the richest countries, which signed up 80% of new domains in 2013.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sony Paralyzed By Computer Hacker Attack With Ominous Message

Sony Paralyzed By Computer Hacker Attack With Ominous Message

by Mike Fleming Jr

November 24, 2014 10:50am

UPDATE: While it seems that a world-leading tech company would be the last to be brought down by a hacker, this Sony thing is serious. I’ve come across a still photo of the hacked message that appeared on screens, posted by a site called business2community.com. More when it comes in. SPE spokesperson Jean Guerin said “We are investigating an IT matter.” Here’s the still photo:

EXCLUSIVE: Things have come to a standstill at Sony today, after the computers in New York and around the world were infiltrated by a hacker. As a precaution, computers in Los Angeles were shut down while the corporation deals with the breach. It has basically brought the whole global corporation to an electronic standstill. I’d heard that this began with a skull appearing on screens, and then a strangely ominous message telling users they’d been hacked by something called #GOP. It gets more bizarre as the message claims this is just the beginning and then threatens to release documents by 11 PM this evening. There is no reason given why this is happening, and no specific demands.

Mentioned are websites in places around the world, some of which don’t even function. While Sony works this through, there are no corporate emails going in and out and you can’t use your computer and it’s hit or miss on whether calls are going to email. “We are down, completely paralyzed,” said a source. Waiting on reaction from Sony, but if you’re not getting your calls or emails returned from Culver City, don’t take it as an insult or reason to feel small. No comment from the studio.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

World’s most advanced hacking spyware let loose

November 23, 2014 6:29 pm

World’s most advanced hacking spyware let loose

Sam Jones in Vienna and Hannah Kuchler in San Francisco

A cyber snooping operation reminiscent of the Stuxnet worm and billed as the world’s most sophisticated computer malware is targeting Russian and Saudi Arabian telecoms companies.

Cyber security company Symantec said the malware, called “Regin”, is probably run by a western intelligence agency and in some respects is more advanced in engineering terms than Stuxnet, which was developed by US and Israel government hackers in 2010 to target the Iranian nuclear programme.

The discovery of the latest hacking software comes as the head of Kaspersky Labs, the Russian company that helped uncover Stuxnet, told the Financial Times that criminals are now also hacking industrial control systems for financial gain.

Organised criminals tapping into the networks that run industrial companies, alongside the development of the latest online snooping worm, are signs of the increasingly sophisticated nature of cyber attacks.

“Nothing else comes close to this . . . nothing else we look at compares,” said Orla Cox, director of security response at Symantec, who described Regin as one of the most “extraordinary” pieces of hacking software developed, and probably “months or years in the making”.

However, a western security official said it was difficult to draw conclusions about the origins or purpose of Regin. “It’s dangerous to assume that because the malware has apparently been used in a given country, it did not originate there,” the person said. “Certain states and agencies may well use tools of this sort domestically.”

Symantec said it was not yet clear how Regin infected systems but it had been deployed against internet service providers and telecoms companies mainly in Russia and Saudi Arabia as well as Mexico, Ireland and Iran.

The security software group said Regin could be customised to target different organisations and had hacked Microsoft email exchange servers and mobile phone conversations on major international networks.

“We are probably looking at some sort of western agency,” Ms Cox said. “Sometimes there is virtually nothing left behind – no clues. Sometimes an infection can disappear completely almost as soon as you start looking at it, it’s gone. That shows you what you are dealing with.”

As online threats race up national security agendas and governments look at ways of protecting their national infrastructures a cyber arms race is causing concern to the developed world

Meanwhile, Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive of Kaspersky Labs, warned that the computer networks that control energy plants and factories are becoming targets for organised crime gangs armed with skilled hackers. He said there was evidence of “more and more very targeted attacks” of the networks that run industrial companies.

The attacks go beyond recent data breaches at US bank JPMorgan and US retailer Home Depot, in which criminals sought credit card details or personal data to attempt false transactions. Mr Kaspersky said criminals have used hacking for everything from bypassing security at ports to stealing grain from a Ukrainian factory by adjusting the digital scales to read a lower weight.

The most public incident of cyber industrial crime was exposed when Europol smashed a drugs ring last year that was hacking into the control systems of the Belgian port of Antwerp, to move containers holding drugs away from the prying eyes of customs inspectors.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

8 ways Lollipop 5.0 reinvents Android

8 ways Lollipop 5.0 reinvents Android

Enhanced security, improved architecture, extensive APIs -- bold changes make Android 5.0 better for business

By Anndrew Vacca 

InfoWorld | Nov 20, 2014

Android 5.0 Lollipop heralds a new era for the operating system, one aimed at unifying the Android experience across devices and built with business use squarely in mind. While iOS may have enjoyed early darling status in the enterprise, expect business organizations to take Android much more seriously going forward, thanks to a raft of significant improvements, an extensive set of new developer APIs, and clear signals that Google intends to lead the Android ecosystem more intentionally than ever before.

Lollipop is in many ways a reimagining of what Android can be, and Google has rebuilt Android Lollipop from the ground up with the future in mind. Injecting new support for faster and more efficient hardware, Google has laid a strong foundation for developers and device makers to take the platform to new heights in powering the next generation of smartphones, tablets, and wearables.

Lollipop is currently rolling out to most Nexus-branded devices and some Motorola and LG devices, and it's in the hands of device makers like Samsung and HTC for testing and rollout in the coming weeks and months. Here is a look at the improvements to Android Lollipop that make it the most powerful and adaptable Android yet.

Simplified setup

With Lollipop, Google has streamlined device setup, a welcome improvement over previous versions of Android. Connect to a Wi-Fi or cellular network, and Android will automatically download any available updates right out of the box, rather than waiting until the setup process is complete as in versions past. With Lollipop installed, you’ll enter your email address and password, then begin setting up your Google profile on your new device. Android Lollipop’s setup process also now supports NFC transfer which will allow you to tap your previous NFC-enabled device to your new one to transfer your settings, apps, and profiles. (Note: Over-the-air updates will still require manufacturer and carrier approval.)

Android Lollipop’s most notable improvement to the setup process is the ability to restore your device from a specific backup. Rather than automatically downloading every app and setting affiliated with your Google profile, Lollipop now allows you to restore from a particular device’s profile. Simply choose your backup profile, and you can handpick the apps associated with that profile that you want to load to your updated device. This new feature is particularly handy for those who use multiple Android devices, enabling them to keep separate sets of apps on each device.

Material Design: A fresh, new unifying face

Lollipop introduces a complete and aptly named visual overhaul of the Android UI: Material Design. Google’s reimagined look and feel for Android is more vibrant, fluid, and cohesive than in previous versions. The impact of Material Design can be felt throughout the entire OS, from its new navigational buttons and reimagined menus all the way to Google’s portfolio of stock apps. Thanks to this new unified aesthetic, everything about the new Android looks and feels like it fits together seamlessly.

Tap and flick your way around Android Lollipop, and you’ll quickly see that the “surfaces and edges” with “seams and shadows” approach does in fact readily reveal what can be touched to trigger actions, as Matias Duarte, Google’s vice president of design and lead architect of Material Design, said at this year’s Google I/O. This translates into richer, more colorful apps with vibrant transitional animations and visual cues that make navigation more intuitive. It also means a shallower OS, ditching the deep, often confusing menus and rabbit holes of Android’s past and placing more of what you need at the surface.

Google’s Material Design guidelines give developers the tools to create a unified experience across device sizes. It’s true that the Android tablet experience is in some measure that of an enlarged phone, as some have suggested, but it is clear that Google aims to improve this based on Lollipop’s developer guidelines. This emphasis on uniformity is also in evidence in Google’s simultaneous rollout of the Nexus 6 smartphone and the Nexus 9 tablet, enabling developers to target the latest smartphone and tablet at the same time. Material Design should extend that unified experience to wearables and beyond.

For a tour of Lollipop’s new Material Design, check out our first look at Android’s fresh new face.

Some of Lollipop’s most notable improvements can be found among Android’s central elements: its lock screen, notifications bar, and app drawer.

Android’s new lock screen provides a quick view of unread notifications, which can be swiped down to reveal more content, double-tapped to open, or simply swiped away. You can control which notifications, if any, that you would like to be displayed on the lock screen by navigating to the Sounds and Notifications settings.

And if your device is locked with a PIN or password, you can choose to show only the top line of a notification instead of its sensitive content (defined by either the user or the app developer). As in previous versions, the lock screen also provides direct access to the notifications bar, camera, and the device’s various user profiles (more on that in a bit).

Lollipop’s notifications bar can now be swiped down once for a top-line view of your notifications and pertinent Google Now cards or swiped down twice (alternatively, with two fingers rather than one) to reveal Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and location settings, along with toggles for airplane mode, rotation lock, and a flashlight.

The notifications bar also contains a slider to control your display’s brightness and a one-touch button to “cast” (aka share) your screen with any compatible device (such as Chromecast) on the same Wi-Fi network. In addition, the bar provides access to your device’s full settings menu and user profiles.

Lollipop offers several Notifications enhancements to ease your ability to keep on top of important updates.

Notifications have undergone a significant overhaul. Android Lollipop now prioritizes notifications based on what you will likely find most important. These prioritized notifications always find their way to the top of the list, surpassing chronological order in both the notifications bar and on the lock screen.

Lollipop also introduces heads-up notifications -- visual “cards” that appear at the top of your screen for certain real-time alerts that you can chose to interact with or file away for later.

You can also now manage which and when notifications appear through your device’s volume menu: quickly toggle between displaying all notifications, priority notifications, or no notifications at all. Alternately, dive deeper to program specific times to display all information and other times to display only certain information.

The new and improved app drawer feels more connected to the overall Android experience.

Finally, Android’s app drawer has been given a fresh coat of paint for the first time since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, so it seems more connected to your home screen, with a folderlike look and feel, rather than spun off as an entirely separate area of the OS. The app drawer is brighter, offering a white background rather than a black or transparent one, and it is now limited to apps, with access to widgets restricted to a long press on your home screen.

Recents: Reinventing multitasking

Google invented mobile multitasking as we know it. With Android Lollipop, it has pushed the concept further via Lollipop’s new Recents window, which provides access to nearly all your apps rather than a handful of recently used ones, and is now arranged in cards similar to those found within Google Now. These cards scroll through a Rolodex-like motion, providing a shrunken view of your multiple apps and windows.

Recents takes mobile multitasking to a new level.

The Recents UI goes deeper than Android’s previous multitasking solutions, giving you the ability to not only toggle between windows, but also between windows within windows. Suppose you’re composing a message within Gmail; click the Recents button and you’ll be able to access not only other apps but other aspects of Gmail, such as your inbox. It works for Chrome, too, allowing you to toggle between open tabs through the multitasking menu.

The ability to toggle both between and within apps provides an entirely new way to jump from one point to another within Android, drastically cutting back on the amount of times you’ll click the Back button throughout the UI.

Multiple-user profiles: Sharing the power of Android

Another significant feature introduced with Lollipop is Device Sharing, which enables Android Lollipop smartphones and tablets to support multiple user profiles, similar to what Google introduced in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean for tablets only. With Device Sharing, a family or a team of business colleagues can share one device without having to share their personal information.

There are three options for user profiles on a Lollipop-powered device:

An Owner account has access to the entire device and everything within it, as well as control over other profiles on the device.

A User account, on the other hand, has limited access to certain apps and content controlled by the device’s main user, as well as limited calling and SMS capabilities. A User account can, however, download his or her own apps and customize certain settings that remain limited to that profile.

Finally, there’s a Guest profile, which provides access to the core functions of your phone or tablet, including calling, messaging, and core Google apps. Guests can access their Google profiles to sync contacts and even purchased apps, but all information is limited to one session and is wiped upon exiting Guest mode. This is useful for those times that you want to lend someone your phone but don’t want them poking around your own personal messages, photos, call history, or other sensitive information.

In the same vein, you can now “pin” your screen, restricting access to a sole app, window, or piece of content you want to share, thereby preventing your guest from navigating away from the pinned element to anything else on you device.

ART: Shaking up Android to the core

Lollipop’s change log includes a plethora of under-the-hood tweaks, the most substantial of which is an overhaul of Android’s core architecture, with Android Run Time (ART) replacing the Dalvik VM. According to Google, this shift has made Android considerably faster and more powerful. (Various reviewers report that Android Lollipop doesn’t run slower on older Android devices -- a welcome indicator that ART may in fact be faster.)

Whereas Dalvik compiled and processed apps each time they were opened, ART performs ahead-of-time processing, translating an app’s source code on initial installation. The result, Google claims, is device performance of up to four times than that of previous versions with smoother, more visually rich applications that open and operate more efficiently.

This performance boost was noticeable on my Nexus 5 at the outset. As you begin to use Android Lollipop, you will certainly realize that navigating the OS, transitional animations, and app switching is far smoother than before.

Android Lollipop is also the first version with 64-bit support, which Google claims will bring desktop-class CPU performance to the OS. Android’s core applications, including Chrome, Gmail, and Play Music, are now 64-bit-native, as is the Java engine that many third-party applications are built on. The difference won’t likely be felt by users immediately, as nearly all apps are still 32-bit, but it will allow hardware makers to incorporate more powerful yet efficient processors, GPUs, and RAM into the next generation of smartphones and tablets.

Project Volta: Optimizing power use

When we first met what was then referred to as Android L in June, one of the most exciting and promising features was Project Volta, an initiative that Google claimed would yield massive improvements in mobile battery efficiency.

First, similar to a trick already used in Samsung, HTC, LG, and other Android devices, is a new native power-saver mode that helps Lollipop devices limit ravenous background data, haptic feedback, and the like to squeeze extra life out of a nearly empty battery.

Behind the scenes, Project Volta’s Job Scheduler API batches battery-intensive tasks and schedules them for optimal times. Instead of completing each background task immediately, Android can now put off certain functions until a device is connected to Wi-Fi or a charger, thus reducing the number of times the OS draws power from the battery.

Project Volta also provides developers access to a battery historian, which illustrates how and when apps use voltage, as well as how efficiently they’re doing so.

In practice, you might not notice Project Volta right out of the box -- in fact, multiple early reviews of the Nexus 6 and 9 have reported merely average battery life -- but it holds exciting promise once developers and hardware makers begin utilizing its tools.

Enhanced security and Android for Work

Lollipop heralds the first iteration of Android built with enterprise use squarely in mind. Thanks to improved security features such as default encryption on new devices, contextually aware device unlocking, and Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux) malware protection, devices running Android Lollipop are now more enterprise-friendly than ever.

Among the security enhancements is Lollipop Smart Lock, a feature that allows you to associate one or more Bluetooth devices (aka Trusted Devices) as automatic unlocks, such as your key fob in your pocket. Smart Lock also includes Trusted Faces, a previously available feature that uses facial recognition to unlock a device. Look for it now in the Smart Lock group in Settings. Also of interest is the newly available Trusted Locations, which enables you to set locations where your phone could be left open for easy access, such as at home or the office. Trust Locations is currently available through Google Play Services, as opposed to Lollipop itself, so you may need to download and install it yourself.

Most exciting, though, is Android for Work, a dual-persona system Google acquired from Divide last spring that also is said to include Samsung's Knox technology. Google’s Android for Work keeps work and other sensitive data separated from your personal information and media. When Android for Work becomes available in mobile management servers sometime next year, IT personnel will be able to deploy apps in bulk to business-user devices and maintain centralized control over sensitive functions.

Google’s Android for Work is built around three major concepts: device and data security, support for IT policies, and mobile application management. Lollipop implements its multiuser support to create a behind-the-scenes user profile that employs block-level disk encryption to keep sensitive data protected, similar to Samsung’s approach with Knox’s Workspace or BlackBerry’s Balance. With Lollipop’s new enterprise-friendly APIs, IT admins will have more tools than ever to configure system and application settings and restrictions.

Android for Work is part of Android Lollipop, and Google says it will be available as an app for devices running Android 4.0 and later as well. Several mobile management vendors promise support for it.

N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers

N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.

The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target.

The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.

The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of “active defense” against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive. But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level.

Among the most frequent targets of the N.S.A. and its Pentagon partner, United States Cyber Command, have been units of the Chinese Army, which the United States has accused of launching regular digital probes and attacks on American industrial and military targets, usually to steal secrets or intellectual property. But the program, code-named Quantum, has also been successful in inserting software into Russian military networks and systems used by the Mexican police and drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, according to officials and an N.S.A. map that indicates sites of what the agency calls “computer network exploitation.”

“What’s new here is the scale and the sophistication of the intelligence agency’s ability to get into computers and networks to which no one has ever had access before,” said James Andrew Lewis, the cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Some of these capabilities have been around for a while, but the combination of learning how to penetrate systems to insert software and learning how to do that using radio frequencies has given the U.S. a window it’s never had before.”

How the N.S.A. Uses Radio Frequencies to Penetrate Computers

The N.S.A. and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command have implanted nearly 100,000 “computer network exploits” around the world, but the hardest problem is getting inside machines isolated from outside communications.

No Domestic Use Seen

There is no evidence that the N.S.A. has implanted its software or used its radio frequency technology inside the United States. While refusing to comment on the scope of the Quantum program, the N.S.A. said its actions were not comparable to China’s.

“N.S.A.'s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements,” Vanee Vines, an agency spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”

Over the past two months, parts of the program have been disclosed in documents from the trove leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. A Dutch newspaper published the map of areas where the United States has inserted spy software, sometimes in cooperation with local authorities, often covertly. Der Spiegel, a German newsmagazine, published the N.S.A.'s catalog of hardware products that can secretly transmit and receive digital signals from computers, a program called ANT. The New York Times withheld some of those details, at the request of American intelligence officials, when it reported, in the summer of 2012, on American cyberattacks on Iran.

President Obama is scheduled to announce on Friday what recommendations he is accepting from an advisory panel on changing N.S.A. practices. The panel agreed with Silicon Valley executives that some of the techniques developed by the agency to find flaws in computer systems undermine global confidence in a range of American-made information products like laptop computers and cloud services.

Embracing Silicon Valley’s critique of the N.S.A., the panel has recommended banning, except in extreme cases, the N.S.A. practice of exploiting flaws in common software to aid in American surveillance and cyberattacks. It also called for an end to government efforts to weaken publicly available encryption systems, and said the government should never develop secret ways into computer systems to exploit them, which sometimes include software implants.

Richard A. Clarke, an official in the Clinton and Bush administrations who served as one of the five members of the advisory panel, explained the group’s reasoning in an email last week, saying that “it is more important that we defend ourselves than that we attack others.”

“Holes in encryption software would be more of a risk to us than a benefit,” he said, adding: “If we can find the vulnerability, so can others. It’s more important that we protect our power grid than that we get into China’s.”

From the earliest days of the Internet, the N.S.A. had little trouble monitoring traffic because a vast majority of messages and searches were moved through servers on American soil. As the Internet expanded, so did the N.S.A.'s efforts to understand its geography. A program named Treasure Map tried to identify nearly every node and corner of the web, so that any computer or mobile device that touched it could be located.

A 2008 map, part of the Snowden trove, notes 20 programs to gain access to big fiber-optic cables — it calls them “covert, clandestine or cooperative large accesses” — not only in the United States but also in places like Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Middle East. The same map indicates that the United States had already conducted “more than 50,000 worldwide implants,” and a more recent budget document said that by the end of last year that figure would rise to about 85,000. A senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the actual figure was most likely closer to 100,000.

That map suggests how the United States was able to speed ahead with implanting malicious software on the computers around the world that it most wanted to monitor — or disable before they could be used to launch a cyberattack.

A Focus on Defense

In interviews, officials and experts said that a vast majority of such implants are intended only for surveillance and serve as an early warning system for cyberattacks directed at the United States.

“How do you ensure that Cyber Command people” are able to look at “those that are attacking us?” a senior official, who compared it to submarine warfare, asked in an interview several months ago.

“That is what the submarines do all the time,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe policy. “They track the adversary submarines.” In cyberspace, he said, the United States tries “to silently track the adversaries while they’re trying to silently track you.”

If tracking subs was a Cold War cat-and-mouse game with the Soviets, tracking malware is a pursuit played most aggressively with the Chinese.

The United States has targeted Unit 61398, the Shanghai-based Chinese Army unit believed to be responsible for many of the biggest cyberattacks on the United States, in an effort to see attacks being prepared. With Australia’s help, one N.S.A. document suggests, the United States has also focused on another specific Chinese Army unit.

Documents obtained by Mr. Snowden indicate that the United States has set up two data centers in China — perhaps through front companies — from which it can insert malware into computers. When the Chinese place surveillance software on American computer systems — and they have, on systems like those at the Pentagon and at The Times — the United States usually regards it as a potentially hostile act, a possible prelude to an attack. Mr. Obama laid out America’s complaints about those practices to President Xi Jinping of China in a long session at a summit meeting in California last June.

At that session, Mr. Obama tried to differentiate between conducting surveillance for national security — which the United States argues is legitimate — and conducting it to steal intellectual property.

“The argument is not working,” said Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution, a co-author of a new book called “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar.” “To the Chinese, gaining economic advantage is part of national security. And the Snowden revelations have taken a lot of the pressure off” the Chinese. Still, the United States has banned the sale of computer servers from a major Chinese manufacturer, Huawei, for fear that they could contain technology to penetrate American networks.

An Old Technology

The N.S.A.'s efforts to reach computers unconnected to a network have relied on a century-old technology updated for modern times: radio transmissions.

In a catalog produced by the agency that was part of the Snowden documents released in Europe, there are page after page of devices using technology that would have brought a smile to Q, James Bond’s technology supplier.

One, called Cottonmouth I, looks like a normal USB plug but has a tiny transceiver buried in it. According to the catalog, it transmits information swept from the computer “through a covert channel” that allows “data infiltration and exfiltration.” Another variant of the technology involves tiny circuit boards that can be inserted in a laptop computer — either in the field or when they are shipped from manufacturers — so that the computer is broadcasting to the N.S.A. even while the computer’s user enjoys the false confidence that being walled off from the Internet constitutes real protection.

The relay station it communicates with, called Nightstand, fits in an oversize briefcase, and the system can attack a computer “from as far away as eight miles under ideal environmental conditions.” It can also insert packets of data in milliseconds, meaning that a false message or piece of programming can outrace a real one to a target computer. Similar stations create a link between the target computers and the N.S.A., even if the machines are isolated from the Internet.

Computers are not the only targets. Dropoutjeep attacks iPhones. Other hardware and software are designed to infect large network servers, including those made by the Chinese.

Most of those code names and products are now at least five years old, and they have been updated, some experts say, to make the United States less dependent on physically getting hardware into adversaries’ computer systems.

The N.S.A. refused to talk about the documents that contained these descriptions, even after they were published in Europe.

“Continuous and selective publication of specific techniques and tools used by N.S.A. to pursue legitimate foreign intelligence targets is detrimental to the security of the United States and our allies,” Ms. Vines, the N.S.A. spokeswoman, said.

But the Iranians and others discovered some of those techniques years ago. The hardware in the N.S.A.'s catalog was crucial in the cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities, code-named Olympic Games, that began around 2008 and proceeded through the summer of 2010, when a technical error revealed the attack software, later called Stuxnet. That was the first major test of the technology.

One feature of the Stuxnet attack was that the technology the United States slipped into Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz was able to map how it operated, then “phone home” the details. Later, that equipment was used to insert malware that blew up nearly 1,000 centrifuges, and temporarily set back Iran’s program.

But the Stuxnet strike does not appear to be the last time the technology was used in Iran. In 2012, a unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps moved a rock near the country’s underground Fordo nuclear enrichment plant. The rock exploded and spewed broken circuit boards that the Iranian news media described as “the remains of a device capable of intercepting data from computers at the plant.” The origins of that device have never been determined.

On Sunday, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency, Iran’s Oil Ministry issued another warning about possible cyberattacks, describing a series of defenses it was erecting — and making no mention of what are suspected of being its own attacks on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil producer.

A version of this article appears in print on January 15, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers.

Unnervingly human androids coming to a future very near you

The hyper-real robots that will replace receptionists, pop stars... and even sex dolls: Unnervingly human androids coming to a future very near you

  • Incredibly life-like robots are currently causing a storm in Japan where they are being prepared for mass commercialisation
  • With new androids creators have beaten 'Uncanny Valley syndrome' where humans are revulsed by robots that look real - but not real enough
  • Now being put to use as receptionists and newsreaders
  • Predicted that within a decade fully independent 'gemanoids' will be in circulation once advances in artificial intelligence are made 
  • Scientists even talking about humans taking androids as partners 
Chillingly life-like robots are causing a storm in Japan – where their creators are about to launch them as actresses, full-size mechanical copies for pop idol fans, and clones of the dearly departed.
There is even talk that the naturalistic, even engaging, she-droids may be taken up as men as partners in the not-too-distant future.
Android Asuna was a star attraction at Tokyo Designers’ Week showcase earlier this month and she is one of a series of geminoids, as their inventor dubs them, that are ripe for commercialisation say their creator robotics professor Hiroshi Ishiguro.
Eerie: Android engineers have recently been able to overcome the 'Uncanny Valley syndrome', where androids elicit a response of revulsion because they look almost, but not quite, human
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Eerie: Android engineers have recently been able to overcome the 'Uncanny Valley syndrome', where androids elicit a response of revulsion because they look almost, but not quite, human
This is the news: This robot has been deployed to read the news at a Tokyo museum
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This is the news: This robot has been deployed to read the news at a Tokyo museum
Gobsmacked men attending the show told MailOnline that she was well made, very convincing and had a nice voice. One man joked that Asuna would make 'a good date; a cheap date!'
From others, covering their mouths in astonishment at Asuna’s realistic skin and facial expressions, the frequent response from the public was 'sukoi' which translates as 'amazing' in English. 
Asuna is so convincing that many bowed respectfully before requesting politely to take her photo or join a selfie.
Unable, for now, to use some of the advanced artificial intelligence (AI), face and voice recognition systems that some Japanese robots coming on the market now use, Asuna relies on a camera rigged behind her that is relayed to a remote human controller to give her life. 
This so-called tele-presence enables Asuna to come alive, taking on the operator’s personality.
A fully independent version of the geminoid is expected in 10 years using all the above technologies to make her virtually indistinguishable from humans says Mr. Takeshi Mita, CEO of A-Lab in Tokyo, the company working with Prof. Ishiguro to make Asuna and her kind commercial.
'We already have 20 year's experience making androids in the lab. So in 10 years we will marry AI and life like geminoids in perfection,' he told MailOnline. 
'We had been focusing on perfecting her skin, facial expressions, and so on, so for now Asuna is really just a head. Now we are working on her arms and torso to give very natural, fluid body language.'
Darling: Asuna was the star attraction at Tokyo Designers’ Week recently where visitors were floored by her
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Darling: Asuna was the star attraction at Tokyo Designers’ Week recently where visitors were floored by her
Future: A fully independent version of the geminoid is expected in 10 years to make her virtually indistinguishable from humans depending on developments in artificial intelligence 
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Future: A fully independent version of the geminoid is expected in 10 years to make her virtually indistinguishable from humans depending on developments in artificial intelligence 
Meet Asuna, the 14-year-old android girl who looks human
Everything about Asuna’s appearance has been painstakingly honed to make her more life-like. 
From the superior quality of her silicon skin to the secret animatronic muscles that move her eyes and drive her facial expressions.
Previous attempts by Ishiguro's team had been dismissed as unconvincing and prone to what is known as the 'Uncanny Valley syndrome'. 
This is a term coined by another Japanese professor of robotics, Masahiro Mori. It describes the response of revulsion and creepiness when faced with something that looks almost, but somehow not quite, human. 
As robots become as dexterous as Asuna at mimicking humanity, so the theory goes, the syndrome will erase itself.
Being loved by a robot?' Levy says. 'It sounds a bit weird, but someday, for many, many people, being in love with a robot will be just as good as love with a human 
 - Author David Levy
Already Asuna and other androids from A-lab have had a taste of the limelight, appearing on stage and voicing actors lines using tele-presence. 
Asuna's next performance will be in an opera to prove her credentials as a singer. An Ishiguro geminoid is also appearing on stage in Paris now.
'One application we have is to turn her into an international pop idol,' says Mr. Mita.
Already Japan is in thrall to virtual idols such as Hatsune Miku, who is basically a hologram that 'sings' words and music created for her on a computer using 'vocaloid' technology.
Her tunes often outsell those sung by her flesh and blood musical rivals in Japan.
A-lab also hopes to tap into another big business in Japan - the popularity of fantasy figurines that appeal to Japan’s legions of nerdy men or 'otaku'. 
Most such dolls are just a few centimetres high and often represent an idol or a manga character often scantily clad.
Frenzy: Fembots such as these are causing a storm in Japan at the moment because of recent breakthroughs in technology that have made them so life-like. However some work is still to go on artificial intelligence
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Frenzy: Fembots such as these are causing a storm in Japan at the moment because of recent breakthroughs in technology that have made them so life-like. However some work is still to go on artificial intelligence
Have a nice day: An 'Otonaroid' greets guests to Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, making unnerving life-like eye contact as she converses while hooked to a tele-presence system
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Have a nice day: An 'Otonaroid' greets guests to Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, making unnerving life-like eye contact as she converses while hooked to a tele-presence system
Take a look at Japan's scarily lifelike robotic newsreaders
As A-lab is working with highly respected Prof. Ishiguro, Mr. Mita says the company has ruled out producing androids that might be used for sex. 
But a spokesman working with Ishiguro’s lab says it is not a great leap of imagination to think similar robots, given the advancement in robotics and silicone skin technology, will be used for sex.
'Physical relations will be possible in general with such androids,' said Takahashi Komiyama.
'Androids for the sex industry are a definite possibly. Some have even fallen in love with Ishiguro’s geminoids. So we can't rule those relationships out.'
Japan already boasts the world’s most advanced sex dolls from firms such as Kanojotoys or Orient Industries based in Tokyo. 
Around £6,000 buys the very superior Yasuragi 'dutch wife' sex doll with extras such as movable eyes and flexible fingers and a skin texture its makers say is indistinguishable from the real thing.
Lady Gaga was so impressed with their quality that she asked the Japanese firm to make dolls in her own image.
'It is not inconceivable,' said an Orient Industries spokesman, 'that we will be making android life partners in the near future.'
David Levy, author of Love and Sex With Robots predicts that as robots become more sophisticated, growing numbers of adventurous humans will enter into intimate relationships with these intelligent robots.
Speaking at the First International Conference on Human-Robot Personal Relationships, held last week, he says that AI will progress to the point where human-robot dating will be commonplace.
'Being loved by a robot?' Levy says. 'It sounds a bit weird, but someday, for many, many people, being in love with a robot will be just as good as love with a human.
'Real-life loved ones can also be reproduced faithfully by cloning them to comfort the bereaved', Mr Mita pointed out. 
These completely unnerving baby-like telenoids are designed to show the minimum required human-like expressions and are most popular at the museum because they straddle the creepy/acceptable barrier
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These completely unnerving baby-like telenoids are designed to show the minimum required human-like expressions and are most popular at the museum because they straddle the creepy/acceptable barrier
The making of Gagadoll. Creepy life size 'listening station'
Sexbot: Hyper-real sex dolls are already on sale in Japan. Experts say it won't be long before android versions of them will be manufactured
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Sexbot: Hyper-real sex dolls are already on sale in Japan. Experts say it won't be long before android versions of them will be manufactured
Androids can now also take on a variety of human jobs such as receptionist and even news readers. 
To prove the point two fem-bots from Ishiguro’s stable have been working in those posts since June this year at Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.
The more mature 'Otonaroid' greets guests to the museum, making terrifying life-like eye contact as she converses while hooked to a tele-presence system that the public can also play with.
'Kodomodroid' (child android) is viewable at the museum through an art like installation in an all white room where she sits without rest all day lip-synching the day’s news perfectly from an AI source.
They are joined by the most compelling/repelling android of them all who incidentally happens to be the most popular among the Ishiguro droids on show.
The thoroughly unnerving baby-like Telenoid, sports a simplistic mannequin head with stunted arms and legs that also speaks by proxy from a control box maned by museum visitors.
Confronted with the rather formal reception-droid, Japanese housewife Koari IIda says she couldn’t decide if Otanaroid was human or not.
'If you have talk to her getting closer is a good idea, so she seems more natural and less creepy close up,' she said. 'But it’s great fun robo-chatting.'
Asked if she would like Otanaroid at home as a baby sitter if mum was out. Rika replied: 'No, Mum is my robot!'